The Kingston Trio

Kingston Trio & Friends: Reunion [Video]

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Recorded in 1981 by KCET-TV of Los Angeles, this wasn't just a performance but a genuine musical event, reuniting for the first time all of the current and former players in the Kingston Trio over the years: Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, Dave Guard, John Stewart, George Grove, and Roger Gambill. The re-release on DVD coincided with both the theatrical run of Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind -- which poked fun at the same musical milieu out of which the Trio came -- and the release of a new Fleetwood Mac album and tour; featuring Lindsey Buckingham, who was a special guest for the KCET-TV performance (it seems that Buckingham, one of the few guitar heroes of the 1970s who didn't play in a metal band or come out of a specific blues background, found his initial inspiration for picking an instrument -- the banjo -- from the Trio). The concert opened with the then-current Kingston Trio, consisting of founding member Bob Shane, George Grove, and Roger Gambill (who has since passed on), doing spirited versions of "Three Jolly Coachmen" (the exact kind of repertoire that Guest's film has the most fun kidding), "Early Morning Rain," and "Scotch And Soda." The real treat is when Dave Guard (who has since passed on) and Nick Reynolds, the other two founding members, join Shane for renditions of "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (on which Guard shows off his banjo playing), "Zombie Jamboree," and "Tom Dooley." Tom Smothers did a witty send-up of Bob Dylan's early sound as part of a short solo medley with "Lonesome Traveler" and "Hangman" -- he's sort of a Victor Borge of early-'60s folk-pop, never quite finishing a number, but so funny in his digressions that one never seems to mind. Mary Travers, in particularly bold voice, joined the modern Kingston Trio for an especially poignant rendition of "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" (a song the original group learned from Peter, Paul & Mary's stage act and got an unusually topical hit from), and did a solo rendition of "Leavin' On A Jet Plane" that is surprisingly good. And speaking of surprises, John Stewart comes on stage with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane to represent the second incarnation of the Kingston Trio. They were joined by Lindsey Buckingham on electric bass, on "Reuben James," "Chilly Winds," and "Greenback Dollar," and, as a solo, "You Can't Go Back To Kansas" -- he and Buckingham do "Spinnin' Of The World," before the contemporary Trio return for "Hard Travelin'." And then, in a sort of precursor to the 1990's ten-man "mega-Yes" formation, Guard, Reynolds, and Stewart join the current Trio on stage for sextet renditions of "Sloop John B," "A Worried Man," and "M.T.A." that actually give the players the chance to show off some of their best work. The packaging gives a 90-minute running time for the show, but the actual length is 70 minutes -- the sound has been remastered very well and boosted to a higher volume than one remembers it from the broadcast; with lots of detail but all very natural. Each song has been given a chapter marker on the DVD; and the latter opens to a very enjoyable menu-loop featuring "Three Jolly Coachmen."