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Live At the Ice House 1978

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Album Review

The folk boom of the 1960s had its fair share of progressives, but few were able to lay four-part harmonies over odd time signatures and 1940s jazz motifs as well as the Modern Folk Quartet. While their two "official" albums for Warner Bros. followed the model set by artists like the Chad Mitchell Trio and the Kingston Trio, the Modern Folk Quartet maintained enough of a mischievous edge, despite relying almost exclusively on covers. That said, the records themselves were mostly forgettable exercises in genre banality, but the quartet was a veritable force of nature in front of an audience. Varèse Sarabande has managed to pull from the ashes a 1978 concert at the famed Ice House in Pasadena, CA — now a comedy club — where the group often served as the house band. It's here that their strengths are on full display. Whether they're goading the audience into a Hawaiian singalong ("Aloha Oe"), ripping through a sea shanty ("Bonnie Ship the Diamond"), or adapting a Bach chorale ("The Sun Is Like a Big Brass Band"), it's hard not to wish that the Modern Folk Quartet had brought a live audience along with them into the studio.

Customer Reviews

Best harmonies ever!

First time I saw MFQ live was back in the mid-'60s at a club in Orange County. Their music, their harmonies, their on-stage presence was mesmerizing. This album has some of their "good stuff" but not the "great stuff." It lacks their adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Bells" into music, and I think that song is their best work. You can almost literally hear the "...rhyming and the chiming of the bells..." in their 4-part harmony! Poe would have been proud (if he had been sober enough to hear this).


Formed: 1962 in Honolulu, HI

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s

More notable for their later achievements and peripheral connections to important industry figures than for their music, the Modern Folk Quartet made commercially minded folk in the early '60s with an emphasis on group harmonies. They were not far removed from the Kingston Trio in sound, though they were mildly hipper than the most mainstream outfits like Chad Mitchell. Each of the quartet would go on to make a significant mark in music or media that had little to do with the folk revival. Jerry...
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Live At the Ice House 1978, The Modern Folk Quartet
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