Richard Barone of The Bongos taps the best qualities of his 1980s output | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Richard Barone of The Bongos taps the best qualities of his 1980s output 

Somehow, The Bongos' Drums Along the Hudson has largely escaped the attention of a new generation fascinated by underground hits of the early 1980s. Reissued in 2007 by Cooking Vinyl, the album is a must-have for anyone interested in either guitar-based New Wave or second-generation power pop.

Like their Hoboken neighbors The Feelies, The Bongos played hopped-up rock riffs, veering more toward Byrds guitar pop than the Velvet Underground minimalism of their friends. Frontman Richard Barone's sincere voice and melodic guitar created hard-to-forget melodies like "In the Congo" or the moody "Hunting"; a cover of T. Rex's "Mambo Sun" replaced the original's swagger with a stripped-down, yet natural, sensuality.

When the Bongos disbanded, Barone continued on the same path, now as a solo artist. His live album Cool Blue Halo predated the chamber-pop style, with his guitar and voice backed by little more than cello and percussion. His newest album, Glow, incorporates a full-band sound and fulfills Barone's long-standing dream of working with Tony Visconti, veteran producer of classics by T. Rex and David Bowie.

Glow includes collaborations with diverse songwriters Paul Williams (best known for writing hits like "We've Only Just Begun" for The Carpenters) and Jill Sobule, both of which succeed for different reasons. Glow sounds as potent and irresistible as Barone's earliest work; one song even begins with a sample from the Bongos' debut, and on the opener, "Gravity's Pull," Barone still sounds like a searching twentysomething.


Richard Barone with The Fleshtones and The Cynics. 9 p.m. Fri., Oct. 22. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $10 ($12 at the door). 412-391-8334 or

Still hunting: Richard Barone
  • Still hunting: Richard Barone


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