Back in Town was the last new Kingston Trio album released by Capitol Records, recorded at the Hungry i in March of 1964, six years after the original trio lineup (Guard, Reynolds, and Shane) did its first official live recordings. And what a different that passage of time makes -- whereas the original group, at the outset of its history, could do little wrong on-stage, the Shane/Reynolds/Stewart trio, apparently scheduling and recording these shows in order to deliver a final album to Capitol, shows little care here. The singing is often ragged and the performances sloppy (some lyrics are quoted incorrectly), and little of what's here would qualify as representative of the trio's best work. "Ann," with John Stewart singing lead, shows their vocal range and dexterity, while "Let's Get Together" might even have put them out in front of the folk-rock pack, had Capitol gotten either this performance or the trio's studio recording of the same period (which wasn't heard until the mid-'90s) out as a single. Another interesting track is "Ah, Woe, Ah, Me," a calypso number that recalls the old Sir Lancelot song "Scandal in the Family," and their version of Rod McKuen's "The World I Used to Know," with Bob Shane on lead, actually got airplay as an LP track for the very good reason that it's an excellent song and the trio does good things with it. But "Salty Dog" and "Farewell Captain" are more ponderous than spirited (especially the jocular verse added to the latter by Nick Reynolds), and the group doesn't do much with the break on either. And they're just sloppy on "Tom Dooley," which they were probably doing for the thousandth time.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder