The production staff included producer Voyle Gilmore (whose relaxed, hands-off approach to the tracks won praise from all three of the original Trio members), associate producer Curly Walters, recording engineer Pete Abbott, and remixing engineer Rex Uptegraft. As my recently-purchased vinyl re-issue of T996 attests, these gentlemen did an absolutely superior job in Capitol Studio B of recording and mixing those tracks, in a high fidelity presentation so aurally brilliant that I for one have never regretted that the album wasn't done in stereo, the recording of which in those early days was still fairly primitive as opposed to the mastery of hi-fi that these pros had perfected over the years.
We all have our favorite KT albums, perhaps one or two or three that we tend to return to again and again over many of the others. I have said for years in writing and conversation that my #1 was Here We Go Again! on the strength of performances, recording, harmony, and song selection. I think, though, that I would have to revise that to say that I think that the group's potential was most fully realized on that album, an accolade that Dave Guard awarded to At Large. That latter album was the first KT recording that I ever heard, and it remains one of my favorites - but I think that a couple of the tracks are less than stellar, and the exponential growth of the three originals as musicians and singers album by album manifests itself in the six to eight month gap between getting At Large out and then recording HWGA.
But over the many decades since, no other Kingston Trio album has ever hit my turntable or tape deck or CD player with more frequency than T996, and those twelve tracks would all be in my top 25 of all time as recorded by the KT. It's rough around the edges (I'm sure we all noticed the out-of-tune banjo on "Little Maggie"), and polish and professionalism increased with each subsequent release. But there is an undeniable energy to it and a remarkable vocal blend, and few other debut albums can equal it for flat-out quality. It's also significant that Voyle Gilmore to the end of his days always said that it was his single favorite of the more than 20 he produced.
T996 also provided me with plenty of material for Comparative Video 101. You have to remember that YouTube was in its early days when I began the blog in 2008 and KT videos were initially hard to come by - which is a partial explanation for some of the lameness of this attempt of mine from May 2009 when I tried to include a video for each of the 12 songs on the first Best of LP:
CV101 T996 Videos
Within three more years, however, I was able to present the piece I am reprinting here, a series of links to articles that I had written about each of the 12 songs on T996 over a five year period. This was a kind of quiet personal victory for me. I had never thought that it would be possible to do, and it wouldn't have been except for a fortuitous stroke of luck that occurred in early September of 2012 when Tom Guard and his son Pascal posted a spot-on rendering of the KT version of the song "Banua" on which I could anchor my essay a week later. A couple of years afterward, Capitol allowed the posting of a YT video of the original track, and I added it into the article.
Several other KT albums have 10 or 11 articles on my site (11 for At Large ["I Bawled" remains a challenge] and Last Month), but only T996 is fully represented. Some of the 12 essays linked below are just OK, but the best of them IMO - "Bay of Mexico," "Sloop John B," "Coplas," and "Fast Freight," I would say - are maybe worth another look, or a first one if you weren't around Xroads from 2008-2012 when I posted them for the first time here.
Please consider this as my anniversary salute to what is - yes - my favorite Kingston Trio album. It was posted originally on September 27, 2012.
The origin of my Comparative Video 101 blog and all that it has led to, including my co-host spot on KPFK radio's Roots Music And Beyond show, performances with the Chad Mitchell Trio's Joe Frazier, George Grove of the Kingston Trio and Art Podell of Art and Paul and the New Christy Minstrels, a "professorship" at the KT at Fantasy Camp, and much much more, was in a couple of innocent postings I made on the KT message board in May and June of 2008. I'd found in the still fairly early days of YouTube that there were several interesting and different versions of "Scotch and Soda" and "Tom Dooley" on the video site, so I embedded them in separate posts with a few comments. Well, a lot of readers seemed to enjoy the idea and the KT board didn't archive, so I saved them on this blog and began to do more and more of them, hitting a stretch of 28 consecutive weeks at one point in 2009 - no mean feat considering that I was working both daytime and evening teaching jobs and was usually writing the damn things after I got home at 10pm on Thursday nights.
Nearly 4 1/2 years later and with 173 articles/posts - after battling through copyright issues with Capitol and profiting from the exponential growth of YouTube with thousands of people uploading videos of songs and performances - I reached a milestone of sorts a couple of weeks back. With the publication of the September 15th piece on "Fast Freight," the CompVid101 blog now has a separate article on each of the 12 songs on the original Kingston Trio's self-titled first album, the legendary Capitol T996 - a record that reached #1 on Billboard's album charts in late 1958 and stayed in the Top 100 for 195 weeks, unheard of in those early days of LPs.
This wouldn't have been possible in 2008 when this blog began - given the approach I've taken of picking a KT song, writing about it, and then presenting a number of alternate versions. My recent "Banua" post wouldn't have been possible until about a month ago, when within five days two cover versions of the KT arrangement appeared, giving me the four alternates I've regarded as the minimum. And I doubt that it will be possible for any other single album by the group - there will always be a song or two on each of the rest that only the Trio ever recorded. I've had 10 song articles from the At Large album for over a year but despair of finding cover versions of two worthy songs, "The Seine" and the silly but fun "I Bawled."
Some of these posts are pretty pedestrian, and some of the songs on this, my favorite KT album 1A with Here We Go Again, deserve better treatment than I was able to give them in the early years (and I may get back to them and give them an upgrade). Some, on the other hand, I think are really good - I'd nominate "Bay of Mexico," "Saro Jane," and "Coplas" as the best of this lot.
It's been quite a bit of really enjoyable work, and I hope it's been an equally enjoyable ride for the few hundred people who click and read here on CompVid101 and on Kingston Crossroads. As always, I thank all for the attention and for sharing my enthusiasm for this great music.
The Kingston Trio
Recorded February 2-4, 1958
Released June 2, 1958
Three Jolly Coachmen
Bay of Mexico
Hard, Ain't It Hard
Sloop John B
Scotch and Soda