The Kingston Trio

The Final Concert

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There has to be some symbolism inherent in the fact that, on June 17, 1967, as the Kingston Trio performed their final concert at San Francisco's Hungry i nightclub in San Francisco -- the city that always served as the folk group's de facto home -- a couple of hundred miles south the Monterey Pop Festival was mapping out the future of music. Whether they would ever admit it publicly or not, for many of the Monterey acts, from Jefferson Airplane to the Association to the Mamas & the Papas, the Kingston Trio had served as a primary influence. While some purists felt that the trio had watered down folk music to make it palatable to the masses, there was no denying that they had, indeed, brought it to the masses and become stars along the way. The trio had recorded at the Hungry i before, so it was a natural step for them to close out their successful ten-year run there as well. By this point in their career, only two of the original three remained: Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane. Dave Guard, the third founder, had left several years earlier, and John Stewart, who would go on to a very successful solo career after leaving the trio, had long been ensconced. The aural evidence shows that, up till the last minute -- before the inevitable reunions and "new" versions of the group involving one or more original members snuck back in with a much lower profile -- the Kingston Trio remained as engaging as they'd been from the start. Their brand of folk was never too heavy on the brain -- when they dove into the then-popular protest music, they treaded lightly -- and their live show was peppered with comedy bits that ensured they were as much about entertainment as they were about conveying any particular message (the first few minutes of the album are filled with uproarious laughter because one member came out wearing a chicken suit). The trio's vocal leads and harmonies are excellent throughout and they more than hold their own instrumentally. Their set, at this point, featured both the songs that had established them as the preeminent folk revivalists of the day -- their 1958 number one hit "Tom Dooley," the 1963 Top 10 "Reverend Mr. Black" -- and perennials such as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Scotch and Soda," "Greenback Dollar," and "M.T.A.," all of which placed fairly high in the singles chart back when folk songs could still do that. But even more interesting, perhaps, was the trio's choice of new-ish covers. While Bob Dylan represented everything the striped-shirted trio did not -- the serious, socially conscious, edgy, poetic folk song -- the trio was not averse to airing his songs, and both "One Too Many Mornings" and "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" are rendered with care, beautifully sung. Eric Andersen's "Thirsty Boots" is another highlight, as is Donovan's "Colours." The Kingston Trio's June 1967 farewell was perfectly timed to mark the end of an era, and they went out in style.

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