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White Star presents
The Kingston Trio and Friends Reunion (1982)

"Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry,
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Poor boy you're bound to die."

- The Kingston Trio

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: September 11, 2003

Stars: Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane, Dave Guard, John Stewart, George Grove, Roger Gambill
Other Stars: Tommy Smothers, Mary Travers, Lindsey Buckingham
Director: John Robins

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01h:12m:03s
Release Date: May 13, 2003
UPC: 032031166899
Genre: folk

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AB-B+ D-

DVD Review

Although it's a little early to be picking favorites for the best theatrical films of 2003, one movie that's a sure bet for my personal top ten list is Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind, a project with roots dating back to the director's involvement with another brilliant musical parody, This Is Spinal Tap. Long time fans of Guest and collaborators Michael McKean and Harry Shearer will recall around the time of that 1984 classic when they were plugging Tap with concert performances, the trio would also serve as their own opening act: The Folksmen, a three man acoustic trio that was about as far away from the likes of Big Bottom and Hell Hole as you could get. Nearly two decades later, this threesome received similar big screen treatment as part of a psuedo-documentary centering around a joint public television special, uniting them with two fellow imaginary folk groups.

Although I could be wrong, I'm willing to bet the ranch that a real-life PBS television performance with a similar concept started the wheels of inspiration rolling inside Guest's head.

In 1982, after not performing together for over 20 years, the original members of The Kingston Trio (Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds, and Bob Shane) reunited for an unforgettable performance that proved so popular that it became a PBS pledge drive mainstay for a number of years. Now making its DVD debut, The Kingston Trio and Friends Reunion is an embarrassment of musical mainstays from The Beatles of folk, with a legacy that inspired legions of similar groups (The New Christy Minstrels, The Limelighters, Rooftop Singers), a who's who of future rock legends—including Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson, amongst others—and of course, that very affectionate comedy mentioned above that nails the feel of its genre.

Hosted by comedian and long time Trio fan Tommy Smothers, this 70-minute special features guest appearances by Mary Travers (the better third of an equally influential folk trio), Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, fellow Kingston alumni George Grove and Roger Gambill, as well as singer-songwriter John Stewart (of Gold/Daydream Believer fame), who took over for Dave Guard in 1961. Each incarnation of the group gets lengthy mini-sets that cover virtually every hit of note (Greenback Dollar, Scotch and Soda, and their chart-topping classic, Tom Dooley) along with fan favorites like Chilly Wind and Zombie Jamboree. Though such moments are mesmerizing, the invitees come precariously close to stealing the show at times (Travers' note-perfect Leaving on a Jet Plane and gorgeous harmony on Where Have All the Flowers Gone; Smothers' humorously off-kilter medley of Blowin' in the Wind/Lonesome Traveler/Hangman).

Not everything works; an attempt at Smothers Brothers-flavored funnies during Chilly Wind falls flat, and Stewart's more rock-oriented solo turn on You Can't Go Back to Kansas seems wildly out of place against the likes of Early Morning Rain. Such disappointments quickly disperse, thanks to a rousing finale that gathers all the King(ston)'s men with standing ovation worthy performances of A Worried Man and Sloop John B.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Owing to age and production techniques of the era in which Reunion was produced, anomalies such as grain, ghosting and good old-fashioned light glare are unavoidable. Despite these flaws, the picture is pretty acceptable, considering the circumstances, and is probably the best it can ever be.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Even in the age of Dolby Digital and DTS, this sprightly, perfectly balanced wide Dolby Stereo mix still swings with nice response in the lower frequencies while not losing anything at the top end; love those isolated, alternate speaker-placed vocals when Trio members trade verses at opposite ends of the screen.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: I know it's not a manly thing to admit, but the lack of goodies made me want to "hang down my head and cry..."

Nah, not really. We're lucky that White Star thought enough of this special to at least get it out in digital form. But its my hope that if the rights to Reunion become available again to a company with bigger pockets, songs that were possibly edited from the final cut and/or some sort of retrospective tribute or feature will be included (and if any group deserves a documentary treatment as a way of saying thanks for bringing this genre to a larger audience, it's this one).

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Whether you loved the music of A Mighty Wind or are just a long time fan of the group that inspired its creation, The Kingston Trio and Friends Reunion is a fun ride back to the era. With most of their classic repertoire represented (but hey, what about Reverend Mr. Black?) and sublime guest star support, this PBS musical classic remains an essential view.


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