Journeymen

The Journeymen

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This is the debut effort from the Journeymen, a folk trio consisting of Dick Weissman (banjo/vocals), Scott McKenzie (guitar/vocals), and future Mamas & the Papas founder John Phillips (guitar/vocals). The combo got their first big break in 1961 after gigging throughout the northeastern United States. After a successful audition with the Kingston Trio's management team of Frank Werber and Rene Cardenas, the Journeymen were signed to Capitol Records. By February of that year they were on the bill with the likes of Bob Dylan and Lightnin' Hopkins at venerable folk venues such as Gerde's Folk City in New York. In fairly quick order they assembled enough material to record this long-player. Immediately evident are the combo's finely honed harmonies, which Phillips arranged much in the same complex and jazz-infused style as the Four Freshmen. This was also a precursor to his landmark work constructing and perfecting the Mamas & the Papas sound. Many of their melodies comes courtesy of the fertile folk and blues scenes of the era. Although credited to Phillips and Weissman, tracks such as "River, She Come Down" and "Fenario" were considered repertoire standards at the time. The latter is also known under the name(s) "Peggy-O" and "Pretty Peggy-O," while "River Come Down" is of Bahamian origins. "Black Girl" borrows heavily on the traditional bluegrass tune "In the Pines," as does Weissman's astute banjo-pickin' on "Rock Me Lord," which was derived from the old spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." That caveat aside, musically the Journeymen's straightforward delivery as well as their collective and individual instrumental and vocal prowess lend an undeniably distinct air of authenticity to every selection. Collectors' Choice Music released The Journeymen (1961) on CD with an additional half-dozen titles, including the monaural version of the 45 rpm-only side "Kumbaya," as well as a pair of previously unearthed performances on "The Ballad of the Shape of Things" and a studio take of "Jack the Sailor."

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