Liner Note Author: Tom Pickles.
Photographer: Tom Pickles.
Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Randy Sparks had a vision for a "folk choir" in 1961, a group that would, in his words, combine elements of the Norman Luboff Choir with the Kingston Trio, and named after Edwin Pearce Christy's Christy Minstrels, a black-faced minstrel troupe active in the mid-1800s, the New Christy Minstrels were born. Sparks didn't just add individual performers to his new undertaking, he added whole groups of them, and in their '60s peak, the New Christy Minstrels stood ten strong on-stage, with almost that many acoustic guitars going at once. Always designed as a commercial venture, the Minstrels were really more a revue than a group, with individual singers stepping forward and performing a song or two, and then stepping back into the ensemble as the next singer stepped forward. It was an innovative idea at the time, and the Minstrels had tremendous success and television visibility in the group's initial configuration, scoring big hits with a version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," "Green, Green," and other songs. Members kept entering and exiting the group, though, and the alumni list for the New Christy Minstrels is a long one, including such future stars as Barry McGuire, Gene Clark, and later, Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes, among others, and in many ways, Sparks' greatest accomplishment with his ensemble was as a launching pad for solo careers. This 25-song set includes the Minstrels' signature tracks and is a fine single-disc survey of the group's commercial run between 1962 and 1970. ~ Steve Leggett