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Bongos: Drums Along The Hudson (1982), 7/10
Richard Barone: Primal Dream , 5/10
Richard Barone: Clouds Over Eden , 6.5/10
Health & Happiness Show: Tonic , 5/0
Health & Happiness Show: Instant Living , 5/10
Health & Happiness Show: Sad And Sexy , 6/10

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. I Bongos di Richard Barone, originari di Hoboken, nel New Jersey, vengono alla ribalta con un pop-folk eccentrico che sta fra i Devo, i Modern Lovers e i DB's. Dai primi ereditano la passione per un power-pop devoluto, che e` alla base di Telephoto Lens (il primo singolo del 1980), dell'incalzante surf-rockabilly Video Eyes, di Time And The River, della dance-trance alla B52's Automatic Doors; dai secondi la passione per ibridi goliardi e iconoclasti, come nell'incalzante e tribale In The Congo (sull'omonimo EP del 1981), con un principio di voodoobilly alla Cramps, lo strumentale etnico Burning Bush e l'epilessi demenziale di Zebra Club; dai terzi la passione per il folk-rock piu` "acido", come in Clay Midgets, con il suo fitto sottofondo chitarristico, per i coretti Merseybeat e le cadenze marziali, come in Bulrushes. I brani del primo periodo daranno vita all'album Drums Along The Hudson (PVC, 1982).

Poi Barone incontro` Steve Almaas e James Mastro dei Beat Rodeo e li aiuto` a registrare un EP. Mastro si uni` a Barone e insieme i due registrarono Nuts And Bolts (Passport, 1983). Mastro divenne un membro a tempo pieno dei Bongos a partire dall'EP Numbers With Wings (RCA, 1983), sul quale brillano la title-track e Barbarella.

I Bongos si trasformarono in un combo di rock and roll con Beat Hotel (RCA, 1985), i cui brani migliori sfoggiano addirittura una produzioni da heavy metal (Space Jungle, Beat Hotel, Apache Dancing).

Barone e` il piu` personale e complesso dei cultori del revival perche' utilizza anche il vocabolario dei complessi "progressivi".

Richard Barone continued solo with Cool Blue Halo (Passport, 1987), a live set of old Bongos songs and covers with Jane Scarpantoni on cello. The new approach to music consists mainly in classical-sounding arrangements and angelic singing (Silent Symphony being the standout). Among the old songs, Flew A Falcon is particularly effective, even adding martial tom-toms.

This was followed by the keyboard-heavy Primal Dream (Paradox, 1990), whose Mr Used To Be and Where The Truth Lies, marred by a loud and quasi-metal production, are meager reminders of past glory. I Only Took What I Needed even flirts with the heavy beat of dance music. In reality, Barone was beginning to develop a new voice, the voice of a popsmith raised at the school of the Beatles and the Byrds, as one can guess from the catchy and driving Before You Were Born, from the soothing River To River, and from Native Tongue, clearly inspired by REM's The One I Love and by the Beatles' Here Comes The Sun.

Barone was ready to deliver his masterpiece. Despite the chamber-orchestra arrangements, Clouds Over Eden (Line, 1993) is his equivalent of Neil Young's Tonight's The Night: from the solemn, string-laden hymn Within These Walls to the half-whispered, mournful Beatles-ian elegy of Clouds Over Eden, from Miss Jean, a touching, romantic lied accompanied by cello and acoustic guitar filled of drama, to Beautiful Human, a rousing cry that fuses the emphatic tone of David Bowie and the neurotic tone of Neil Young, this song cycle stands as a subdued requiem for a dead friend, ending with the terrible, Peter Gabriel-esque whirlwind of Law Of The Jungle.
At the same time, the album is the synthesis of Barone's melodic influences: Paper Airplane boasts frantic funk strumming, Byrds-ian jingle-jangling guitars and Merseybeat harmonies (perhaps his pop masterpiece). Nobody Knows Me is equally indebted to Mr Tambourine Man-era folk-rock. Waiting For The Train is an exuberant funk/soul/caribbean shuffle that would befit Paul Simon (and vaguely reminiscent of Crosby Stills & Nash's Love The One You're With).
All in all, this was one of the most overlooked albums of the year from a singer songwriter.

The first three Barone solo albums have been collected on The Big Three (Line, 2000).

Between Heaven And Cello (Line, 1994), is another cello-driven live album similar to Cool Blue Halo.

Barone also composed a feature film score and was musical director and orchestrator of an off-Broadway musical.

James Mastro, l'altra meta` dei Bongos, torna sulle scene alla testa degli Health & Happiness Show, con i quali suona un country-rock un po' parodistico, tutto sommato nella tradizione dei Beat Rodeo (altra sua creatura di dieci anni prima): Drunk-Eyed Waltz e The Man Who Married The Moon salvano Tonic (Bar None, 1993). The band raves up for Instant Living (Bar None, 1995), with frantic and forceful romps like Sugar In Your Eyes and Tossing Like A Stone. Second guitarist Ivan Julian joins Mastro, drummer Vinnie DeNunzio (Feelies) and bassist Dave DeCastro for Sad And Sexy (Cropduster, 1999) and it makes a difference. Mastro pens his best compositions in a while: How To Breathe, Love Sounds Like Rain and Don't Give Me Lonely Tonight.

James Mastro collaborated with Karyn Kuhl of Gut Bank on the EPs The Stars Will Bring You Home (2016) and Hey Kids (2019).

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