The New Christy Minstrels

Land of Giants

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American folk heroes are the focus of this album from the New Christy Minstrels, with special emphasis on the working men who connected the coasts with railroad tracks and forged the steel girders to erect skyscrapers. While these subjects might sound tailor-made for a little lefty political tweaking, the Minstrels, as was their wont, reject any possible editorializing in favor of rousing, joyful arrangements suitable for any audience (except perhaps a coffeehouse full of folk purists). So instead of the likes of Joe Hill, the Minstrels celebrate fictional or mythologized figures like John Henry, Paul Bunyan, and Casey Jones, portraying the laborer as a strong-willed, yet stoic hero who usually works himself to death. Regardless of the material's surface-level patriotism, the arrangements are clever and the melodies are undeniable. The vigorous title track introduces the Minstrels' patented "Greenwich Village meets Broadway" style, then segues nicely into the album's best cut, the relatively rough-hewn "Joe Magarac." Other highlights include a pensive a cappella tribute to the mythical sailor Old Stormalong ("Stormy") and the bluesy "Natural Man." Land of Giants was recorded during the tenure of celebrated future Byrd Gene Clark, though for fans of the late singer/songwriter this amounts to little more than trivia, as no sonic hint of his involvement is evident. Shortly after the sessions that produced this LP (the group's seventh in three years), Clark moved on, as did bandmate Barry McGuire, who soon found himself charting solo with his big protest hit "Eve of Destruction."

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