Pros: some fabulous songs
Cons: some real stinkers
I'm really not sure what to make of The Kingston Trio and Friends Reunion. It has some moments that are pure magic and others that make me want to cringe or wince or both.
Filmed in front of a live audience in California in 1981, the concert was the first stage reunion of the original members of the Kingston Trio (Bob Shane, Dave Guard, and Nick Reynolds). It also featured then current Trio members George Grove and Roger Gambill (Shane was the third member of the group; he remained a constant figure among a rotating door of other members until his recent retirement) and former Trio member Jon Stewart. The friends come in the form of Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary and Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. Tommy Smothers is the emcee (a role that's become very familiar to folk fans; he seems to emcee a lot of PBS folk concerts) and he's actually fairly funny much of the time.
The show begins with the 1981 Kingston Trio, moves on to the original members of the group, then to the second generation (Shane, Reynolds, and Stewart) and finally everyone playing at once. In between, we get visits from Mary Travers and Lindsay Buckingham as well as a solo number from Tommy Smothers that's possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen him do (a medley of songs in Bob Dylan style greatly exaggerating many of Dylan's mannerisms).
This mix and match style can be a bit disconcerting; not only are band members changing every couple of songs, but so too are the styles and the fidelity to the original versions of the songs. Jon Stewart tends to get a teensy bit too cute toward the end of the songs he plays, Dave Guard tends to go overboard with accents at times (he practically ruined one of my favorite Kingston Trio songs, "Zombie Jamboree", by going too far with a very bizarre attempt at what I have to believe he thought was a Caribbean accent), and every so often there are so many voices moving about that someone loses track of who's doing what and sings over the top of someone else.
When everyone's on the same page, though, the music here is fantastic. Mary Travers joins the 1981 Trio on stage for an absolutely fabulous version of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" after a very funny spiel about how the Trio stole the song from PP&M. The Kingston Trio version of the song is my favorite and this was very true to their original recording but with the addition of Mary singing along in perfect harmony and occasionally taking lead on a line or two. My one disappointment here is that Mary began by stating the song was "a medley of our greatest hits" so I expected "Lemon Tree" to follow closely behind. It never materialized. Instead, we Mary singing a lovely solo version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane." I have no complaints about that song, but I'd have loved to hear "Lemon Tree" as well.
"Lemon Tree" does not appear in this concert, nor do "Tijiana Jail" or "500 Miles" or "Scarlet Ribbons". Many other Kingston Trio hits do including "Tom Dooley", "Scotch and Soda", "A Worried Man", "MTA", "Greenback Dollar", "Reuben James", and "Zombie Jamboree" among others. The show also includes some songs not particularly associated with the Kingston Trio. While I liked many of these songs, it seems like a reunion concert should be geared a bit more toward the well known numbers than this concert was.
On the whole, I think I enjoyed The Kingston Trio and Friends Reunion, but I was certainly disappointed in several of the included songs. Still, fantastic songs like the "duet" with Mary Travers on "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and Tommy Smothers' hilarious Dylan impressions make the concert worth watching at least once. Check it out for yourself.