The Last Month Of The Year (CD Reissue) By The Kingston Trio

April 25, 2015


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.


Tom Dooley by The Kingston Trio

February 11, 2014

The Kingston Trio were one of the connectors between what can be called traditional folk music and modern folk-music of the 1960s.

The group was formed in San Francisco by Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Guard. They were quickly signed to a recording contract by Capital. It was a good move as in the late 1950s-early 1960s pre-Beatles era, their albums consistently reached number one and sold tens-of-millions of copies.

“Tom Dula” was a mountain man hanged for murder in 1868. A folk tune was written about his death. Nearly a century later, The Kinston Trio resurrected the song and took it all the way to number one on the BILLBOARD hot 100 for the week of November 17, 1958.

John Stewart replaced Dave Guard in 1961 and remained with the group until 1967. There have been reunions and Bob Shane fronted the band for decades.

Tom Dooley 45 by The Kingston Trio

June 29, 2011

While The Kingston Trio had a number of chart single hits, it was their album sales that made them superstars of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Five of their first six album releases reached number one and combined, occupied the top spot on the charts for 46 weeks. They were a folk group consisting of banjo player Dave Guard, and guitarists Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds.

Their first single was released September 29, 1958. “Tom Dooley” was based on an American folk song written during the late 1860s. It would become their biggest hit reaching the number one spot on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Chart for one week.

They were one the leading leading artists in the ressurrection of folk music during the pre-Beatles era.

The Kingston Trio Remembered

February 7, 2009

The Kingston Trio return with the release of two CDs of rare live material. Once Upon A Time and Twice Upon A Time were created from The Kingston Trio’s performances at the Sahara, Tahoe in July of 1966.

The Kingston Trio was formed in 1957 by Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Gard. John Stewart replaced Gard in 1961. The group released 18 albums between 1958 and 1964. These albums sold in the millions. The Kingston Trio rank fourth in the number of weeks their albums have spent at number one on the national charts. Only The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson have spent more weeks atop the music charts.

The Kingston Trio was an important American folk group. They took traditional folk songs that told stories and moved them in a pop direction. They were the bridge between such early folk artists as Woody Guthrie and the Weavers and later artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

The Kingston’s Trio’s position as hit makers ended in 1963. The British Invasion took away many of there younger fans. In addition the protest movement took folk music in a different direction that made the songs of the Kingston Trio obsolete. The group soldiered on until 1967 and then disbanded. Bob Shane reformed the group in 1969 and a number of revolving members have kept the group alive into 2008.

Once Upon A Time and Twice Upon A Time were recorded near the end of the Kingston’s Trio’s original run. By this time they had perfected their concert sound. Their vocals were strong and the harmonies precise. They backed themselves primarily with acoustic guitars, banjo and a stand up bass. The musicianship of the group’s members was superb.

Once Upon A Time, recorded at the Sahara in 1966, was originally released in vinyl LP form on the Tetragammaton label in 1969. The label went bankrupt and these performances disappeared from public view for decades.

Once Upon A Time is a must for Kingston Trio fans and folk aficionados. It catches the group at their best. I was smiling two songs into the set. The patter between songs is worth the price of the CD.

Their classic material is presented effortlessly. “Tom Dooley,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Scotch and Soda,” “Greenback Dollar,” and M.T.A. all transport the listener back to a simpler time when the song’s story was important and entertaining.

It is interesting to hear the Kingston Trio tackling songs of the time. Such Bob Dylan songs as “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “One Too Many Mornings,” and “Baby You Been On My Mind” are changed and made simpler under the musical direction of the Kingston Trio. The group had the good sense to avoid Dylan’s overtly protest songs as they did not fit their style. Gordon Lightfoot’s, “Early Morning Rain,” and Donovan’s, “Colours,” are given sensitive treatments. The rousing harmonies of “Wimoweh” show years of practice.

The audience reaction is sedate at first and gradually builds until they are totally invested and clapping and cheering.

Once Upon A Time is a fitting conclusion to the first Kingston Trio era and should not be missed.

Twice Upon A Time came to life as a result of Once Upon A Time being reissued. It was found that the original tapes included a number of alternate performances and even some songs that were not included on the original release. These performances were gathered together and released as a separate CD, appropriately titled Twice Upon A Time.

There is a lot of repetition on this companion CD. Once Upon A Time may be enough for many people and it does have a better feel for being an actual concert. If you are a Kingston Trio fan who wants every song the group ever produced or are just plain curious, then this second CD is for you. Live versions of Tom Paxton’s, “Where I’m Bound,” Eric Anderson’s, Thirsty Boots,” plus “The Spinning Of The World,” “Little Maggie,” “Reuben James” and more all make their Kingston Trio debuts.

The real gem contained on Twice Upon A Time is a live video version of Bob Dylan’s, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” This rare video shows how dynamic and polished the Kingston Trio were in concert.

Once Upon A Time and Twice Upon A Time would be welcome additions to any person’s musical library.