The passage of time has dimmed the legacy of the Kingston Trio. They were one of the groups that were responsible for the folk revival of the late 1950’s and were recognized stars in the pre-Beatles era. Five of their albums topped the Billboard Magazine album chart for a total of 46 weeks, which still ranks in the top ten all-time.
Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds were college students in the 1950’s when they formed the Kingston Trio. While their greatest popularity was during the first half of the 1960’s, a version of the group is still on the road today.
The Last Month Of The Year was released in late 1960. It ranks as a unique holiday offering as the material is drawn from English and European folk songs and spirituals of the southern United States rather than traditional Christmas fare.
The music of the Kingston Trio always had an easy going and spontaneous feel to it. The Last Month Of The Year was different from that norm as it was the result of an extended recording process. The instrumental backing has a very technical quality and the harmonies are polished. Despite being one the better and most creative albums of their career, it did not sell as well as their other releases at the time and was quickly pulled from circulation by their label. It has only rarely made an appearance in print during the last half-century. It now returns as a reissue by Real Gone Music with a crystal clear re-mastered ound and an excellent booklet, which presents a history of the music and band.
It is a folk album first and foremost. “All Through The Night” is an 18th Century Welsh folksong, while “Go Where I Sent Thee” is from the American South of two centuries ago and fuses gospel and traditional folk. “A Round About Christmas” was originally a song that was sung as a round, while “Last Month Of The Year” is an up-tempo jaunt with a jazz feel to it.
The harmonies on “Follow Now Oh Shepherds” and “Bye Bye Thou Tiny Little Child” are some of the best of their career. “The Snows Of Winter” is music from the fourth movement of Brahms First Symphony with lyrics co-written by Bob Shane.
The Last Month Of The Year is a holiday album that takes the road less traveled and is all the better for it. It is many times a forgotten holiday masterpiece and a must listen for the season.