The Essential Kingston Trio

by: The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio were the planet's most successful vocal group from 1958 until around 1962, and if they didn't exactly start the urban folk revival, they were instrumental in its sudden accessibility, as labels scrambled to sign up every acoustic player in sight to cash in on the Trio's marketability. This was a group that placed four albums concurrently on Billboard's Pop Top Ten, after all, a feat not even the Beatles or Elvis Presley ever accomplished, and it all started in 1958 with a smoothed out and understated cover of an old Appalachian murder ballad. Critics have long attacked the Kingston Trio (the original lineup consisted of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Guard) for lacking any grit or authenticity, but the group's version of "Tom Dooley," although it did indeed have all its rough edges knocked off, was immediately infectious, and since it only had two chords and an easy to sing melody line, even beginning guitarists could handle it with a minimum of practice. A cottage industry in urban folk was born, and while there is no denying that the Trio watered down their folk material to fit mass consumption, the group became a very powerful catalyst for public interest in the real stuff. This two-disc set has virtually every key track from the Kingston Trio's two main incarnations, with hits like "Tom Dooley," "M.T.A.," "A Worried Man," and "Tijuana Jail" from the original lineup, and later hits like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Greenback Dollar" from the John Stewart era lineup (Stewart replaced Guard in the trio in 1961). The Kingston Trio officially disbanded in 1967, although re-formed versions of the group in various configurations have toured and recorded since. The truly essential stuff is all here, though, and if the Trio's shined up folk material sounds a good bit tame and unassuming by 21st century standards, it was a revelation in its time. Think about it. You could actually make a fortune off an ancient Appalachian murder ballad. There's gold in them there hills, and the Kingston Trio discovered it. ~ Steve Leggett

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