The New Christy Minstrels

Live from Ledbetter's

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In April 1964, when the New Christy Minstrels recorded three nights of performances at Ledbetter's, a Los Angeles club owned by their founder, Randy Sparks, they were at their commercial apex. Their fourth album, 1963's Ramblin', was on its way to becoming their only gold record, and their just-released fifth album, Today, was on its way to becoming their only Top Ten hit. That must have seemed like an ideal time to return to a concert format for the first time since their second album, In Person. After all, they were a dynamic live act, their nine members combining and separating in a variety of ways on-stage for a diverse show. In his extensive liner notes, Tom Pickles suggests that this mixture of group and solo performances was what led Columbia Records to reject the proposed live album on the grounds that it was "too much of a departure from the material that the record-buying public had come to expect from the New Christy Minstrels." That may be. Or it may be that, in the wake of the British Invasion, the label simply didn't want to risk a live album on a group that appeared to have peaked commercially. In any case, the album sat in Columbia's archives for 35 years. Unearthed at the end of the century, it proves to be prime Christys, with Barry McGuire roaring through the group's then-recent hit "Saturday Night," singers Karen Gunderson ("Listen, I'll Sing You the Blues") and Ann White ("Jamie") getting solo showcases, and members Clarence Treat ("That Choc'late Ice Cream Cone"), Paul Potash ("Good-Time Joe"), Art Podell (a hilarious "[The Story Of] Waltzing Matilda"), and Barry Kane ("Tani") all getting turns on folk songs from around the world and inside the mind of Randy Sparks. The 13 live tracks are augmented by five studio recordings from 1964, either previously unreleased ("Oh, Miss Mary," written by the Kingston Trio's John Stewart and future founder of the Mamas & the Papas, John Phillips), seeing their first U.S. release ("Hoy," a Spanish-language version of the hit "Today"), or rare ("All the Pretty Horses," actually by the duo of Art Podell and Paul Potash and taken from one of their pre-Christys albums).

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