The Chad Mitchell Trio jumped to Mercury Records in 1963, in the wake of the decision by their previous label, Kapp, to delay issuing their version of "Blowin' in the Wind" as a single, which gave Peter, Paul & Mary the opening for a hit with the song. This 25-track compilation features the most enduring work off of Singin' Our Minds, Reflecting, The Slightly Irreverent Mitchell Trio, and Typical American Boys. The selected numbers, a mix of singles and notable album tracks, are all memorably melodic, sung with beguiling spirit and seductive elegance -- what's more, they've aged well. The range of subjects and material is also well chosen, to represent the period -- "Alma Mater" is a savagely wry commentary on the civil rights movement and the strife at Ole Miss; "Bonny Streets of Fyve-O" and "The Tarriers Song" dealt with Irish sensibilities on both sides of the Atlantic; the vaudeville-influenced "Barry's Boys" and the folky-singalong "What Did You Learn In School Today" were topical political commentary very well set to music; and "The Banks of Sicily" is a touching song about a near-forgotten episode involving Scottish soldiers after World War II. Tom Paxton is well represented as songwriter ("I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound," "The Marvelous Toy," "The Natural Girl for Me"), while Phil Ochs is covered on "The Draft Dodger Rag," but it is a medley, the Kretzmer-Lee "In the Summer of His Years," written in the wake of Kennedy's assassination, and "Rally Round the Flag," which comprises the most moving political commentary by the group. The post-Chad Mitchell, John Denver period in the group's history is represented by a trio of cuts off of That's the Way It's Gonna Be and Violets of Dawn, the last two Mercury albums by the Mitchell Trio (as they were rechristened in 1964) -- one of them, "For Bobbi," was Denver's songwriting debut. One can scoff at the trio's short hair and well-arranged harmonies, but the fact is that they were always pushing the edge of acceptable popular folk songs, as demonstrated by "Your Friendly, Liberal, Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan" from Violets of Dawn. Their elegantly sung, tastefully orchestrated cover of "She Loves You," buried in the vaults until 1974, closes the collection; it may be worth the price of this disc.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder