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“Drums Along the Hudson” Beat Again with Reissue of Expanded Album

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Drums Along the HudsonWhen Jem Recordings – the famous import distributor (located in the author’s hometown!) – was reborn last year, at its front and center was The Bongos, the incredible Hoboken-bred pop-rock band who were the first and last act to play the town’s legendary venue Maxwell’s when it closed last year. Jem issued on CD an unreleased Bongos album, Phantom Train, as well as a physical release for frontman Richard Barone‘s superb Cool Blue Halo 25th Anniversary Concert. Last week, Jem added another Bongos treasure to their catalogue: an expanded edition of Drums Along the Hudson, the band’s first LP from 1982.

Originally released on Jem’s PVC label, Drums Along the Hudson was The Bongos’ breakthrough to audiences and critics beyond the Tri-State area. In a retrospective review for The Chicago Sun-Times, Jim DeRogatis wrote, “The initial impression of naivete is offset by deceptively simple lyrics that actually hint at deep, dark mysteries and unfathomed mystical enigmas.” A cover of T. Rex’s “Mambo Sun” peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard dance charts, and the band gained enough momentum to sign with RCA Records for two releases, 1983’s Numbers with Wings EP (the title video of which was an early MTV hit) and 1985’s Beat Hotel. (Phantom Hotel would follow, albeit unreleased until last year.)

Drums Along the Hudson was reissued by Cooking Vinyl in 2007 with a host of extras: an unreleased studio song, “Nuts & Bolts,” excerpts from two live shows in New Jersey and London in 1979 and 1981 and what was the band’s first newly released recording in over 20 years: a revisiting of signature track “The Bulrushes” produced by iconic dance artist and Bongos fan Moby.

If you missed out on Drums Along the Hudson either in 1982 or 2007, make now the time to catch up. It’s available now at the Amazon links after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 18, 2014 at 13:28

Posted in News, Reissues, The Bongos

Interview: Going Full Circle with Richard Barone of The Bongos

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Phantom TrainRichard Barone, frontman for New Jersey-based power-pop act The Bongos, describes his career as centered around the theme of “full circle.” This year, Barone has revisited a lot of captivating and familiar territory from his lengthy career.

The Bongos were the closing act at legendary Hoboken club Maxwell’s in July, having (as members of the band “a”) been the venue’s first act. Onstage, they announced the release of a “lost” Bongos album, Phantom Train, recorded primarily at Compass Point Studios with producer Eric “E.T.” Thorngren in 1986 but unreleased until this week. The album was released by the reactivated Jem Recordings, whose founder, Marty Scott, first distributed the band in the United States through the original Jem’s PVC label. (Jem also released this week physical CD reissues of Barone’s acclaimed 1987 solo debut Cool Blue Halo and a 2CD/1DVD concert/documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary of that album in 2012 – all of which was a real treat for Barone, whose birthday was the same day as the October 1 release date.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Richard about Phantom Train as well as his storied past, present and future in the business. I hope you enjoy it, and heartily recommend giving Phantom Train a spin. It’s a killer pop record from the past that doesn’t require a time machine to enjoy.

Before Phantom Train, The Bongos spent time on both an independent label (U.K. based Fetish Records, distributed in the U.S. by Jem’s PVC label), and later signed to RCA.

It seemed like a long time at the time. We signed with RCA in 1982 and stayed with them for about three years. During that time we recorded two albums and toured constantly – 300 shows a year. It seemed like a decade!

What was the major label experience like, compared to being independent?

Oh, it was all good. I’m an indie person, and if you look at my catalogue, you’ll see I bounce back and forth between majors and indies. There’s a best of both somewhere in there – I like working with labels that have a huge team, so you can really reach all over the country. There’s benefits to both, and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to experience both kinds of labels. My students [Barone teaches at New York University] are just breaking into the industry, and I’m able to share a lot of experiences on both sides of that coin.

The indie scene is fantastic, I love it and support it in every way, but it’s also a vortex. You start thinking in small terms, but music can be very widespread. You can really reach a lot of people with your music. So it’s kind of good to apply what the majors do and play their game, but on a scale that puts you in control.

Phantom Train was recorded at Compass Point Studios, owned by Chris Blackwell. Were you near a deal with Island instead?

We were never signed to Island. It came out of friendships and associations that you build along the way. The Bongos are very spontaneous guys, still. Someone said, “Oh, you should go to Compass Point and record.” We’d just come off a tour, and it sounded like a great idea. But there was nothing on paper. There was no formal arrangement.

Tell us a little bit about the album.

Phantom Train is my favorite of our albums, in a few ways. We were just experimenting and were able to do whatever we wanted without any kind of restraints. We wanted to just play music in great studios.

It’s the only album where we recorded songs many different ways. We give fans a taste of that with “My Wildest Dreams” beginning and ending the album two different ways. We labeled the last one “demo” for indexing purposes, but it really was a different take on the song. The hardest thing about putting this together now was to choose which versions are on the album. It was very diverse.

We were experimenting with different tape formats. We of course did 24 and 48-track, but we really also liked the sound of eight-track tape. Songs like “Run to the Wild” and “I Belong to Me,” those were done on eight-track.

We spent the summer at Shelter Island going through all these tapes. They all had to be baked, and there were hundred of takes on these tapes. Maybe about 30 or 40 reels of tape. But it all came together – I think it might be our most consistent record.

There’s more from Richard after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 3, 2013 at 15:24

Release Round-Up: Week of September 30/October 1

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Most titles this week are already out in the States, on account of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 hitting stores on Monday. So without further ado…

Rush_TheStudioAlbums_ProductShotRush, The Studio Albums 1989-2007 Vapor Trails Remixed (Atlantic/Rhino)

All of the Canadian rock gods’ albums for Atlantic in one box, with 2002’s Vapor Trails newly remixed (and available separately).

The Studio AlbumsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vapor Trails Remixed: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Phantom TrainThe Bongos, Phantom Train / Richard Barone, Cool Blue Halo: 25th Anniversary Edition Cool Blue Halo: 25th Anniversary Concert (Jem Recordings)

The Hoboken power-pop group releases a lost classic – an album recorded with Eric “E.T.” Thorngren in 1986 – and frontman Richard Barone reissues his deluxe packages of 1987 solo debut Cool Blue Halo (and a 2012 2CD/1DVD concert in tribute of that album) through the recently reactivated Jem Recordings, which once distributed The Bongos’ earliest works. (Coming later this week: an interview with Richard Barone on Phantom Train and more!)

Phantom Train: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cool Blue HaloAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cool Blue Halo 25th Anniversary Concert: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Real Gone September 30 GroupPatti Page, The Complete Columbia Singles 1962-1970 From Nashville to L.A. – Lost Columbia Masters 1963-1969 / Perry Como, Just Out of Reach – Rarities from Nashville Produced by Chet Atkins / The Lords of the New ChurchThe Lords of the New Church / Is Nothing Sacred? The Method to Our Madness / Billy Preston16-Yr. Old Soul / The Grateful DeadDick’s Picks Vol. 21 – Richmond, Virginia 11/1/85

The latest Real Gone batch includes hits and rarities from Patti Page, long out-of-print albums by punk group The Lords of the New Church and more!

Andrew GoldAndrew Gold, Andrew Gold/What’s Wrong with This Picture?/All This and Heaven Too/Whirlwind…Plus (Edsel)

Edsel thanks you for being a friend by packing up, in one set, all of Andrew Gold’s pop albums for Asylum and all of the bonus tracks on previous Collector’s Choice reissues. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Patrice Rushen Edsel 1Patrice Rushen, Patrice/Pizzazz/Posh Straight from the Heart/Now (Edsel)

Speaking of Edsel sets collecting an artist’s discography, “Forget Me Nots” hitmaker Patrice Rushen has two sets out featuring all of her albums for Elektra plus rare 12″ remixes.

Patrice/Pizzazz/Posh: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Straight from the Heart/Now: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Old 97's & Waylon JenningsOld 97’s, Old 97’s & Waylon Jennings (Omnivore)

An astounding four-track EP (previously a Record Store Day exclusive) featuring collaborative demos between the Dallas alt-country group and one of the genre’s finest outlaws. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

John Martyn box frontJohn Martyn, The Island Years (Universal U.K.)

The U.K. folk star’s entire discography for Island is expanded and collected in a mega 17CD/1DVD swag-filled box. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gladys Knight - ImaginationGladys Knight & The Pips, Imagination: Expanded Edition Life: Deluxe Edition (Funkytowngrooves)

The first of several expanded Buddah/Columbia-era albums from FTG; Imagination has immortal hit “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Imagination: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Life: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Rush Hemispheres SACDHybrid SACDs from Audio Fidelity: America, America / Sarah McLachlan, Touch / Poco, Pickin’ Up the Pieces / Rush, Hemispheres

In Your Wildest Dreams: Lost Bongos Album Ready to Be Found

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Phantom TrainThis summer, we interviewed Marty Scott of Jem Recordings, the newly-reactivated New Jersey label which released the first recordings by Hoboken group The Bongos. Scott told us that a vintage unreleased Bongos LP would be the label’s first release – and we now have some details about the disc for you.

Phantom Train was recorded by The Bongos over 1985 to 1986, primarily at the famed Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. After several years on RCA Records, the band had been wooed to Island Records by its founder, Chris Blackwell, but his interest in other projects (namely the fledgling Palm Pictures studio) put the record on the back burner. Ultimately, The Bongos would split, with frontman Richard Barone releasing a critically acclaimed live solo album, Cool Blue Halo, in 1987. (Two of those tracks, “I Belong to Me” and “Tangled in Your Web,” came from the Phantom Train sessions.)

But The Bongos didn’t stay away too long, regrouping in 2006 for a reissue of the band’s first album, Drums Along The Hudson, and have toured steadily ever since. Most recently, they were the final act to play Hoboken’s famed venue Maxwell’s in July 2013 – a fitting occurrence, as they were (in the band “a”) the first band to play the same stage.

And now, more than 25 years later, Phantom Train will be released on CD in its entirety – featuring the original 11-track program produced by The Bongos and Eric “E.T.” Thorngren, parts of it newly remixed, as well as three demos and outtakes from the album sessions.

The disc is available to order now, and will be available on October 1.

Phantom Train (Jem Recordings MVD6036A, 2013)

  1. My Wildest Dreams
  2. I Belong to Me *
  3. Sunshine Superman
  4. Diamond Guitar
  5. Run to the Wild *
  6. River to River *
  7. One Bold Stroke
  8. Phantom Train
  9. Tangled in Your Web
  10. Saturn Eyes
  11. Roman Circus
  12. Under Someone’s Spell (Demo) *
  13. Town of One
  14. My Wildest Dreams (Demo) *

* new mixes by Richard Barone and Steve Addabo

Written by Mike Duquette

September 11, 2013 at 16:09

Posted in News, Reissues, The Bongos

INTERVIEW: Excavating Jem with Marty Scott

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JEM Recordings469BrnThe list of American cities tied to record labels is small, but certainly notable. Memphis has Stax and Sun, Detroit is defined by Motown, Sub Pop defined the Seattle sound…and then there’s Jem Records, which made its home in the middle-class borough of South Plainfield, New Jersey.

Jem, as well as its sub-labels like Passport (a joint venture with Seymour Stein of Sire Records) and PVC, became something of a cratedigger’s dream in the 1970s and 1980s, licensing content from all over the world and getting it into stores across America, effectively breaking bands that may have never been heard otherwise. Boys Don’t Cry, the American debut album by The Cure, was a Jem product. So were albums by The Good Rats, The Bongos, several spinoffs of Genesis (co-founder/guitarist Anthony Phillips; jazz-fusion combo Brand X, for which Phil Collins played drums), Judas Priest, King Crimson, Siouxsie & The Banshees – even, for a time, huge sellers like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and – when Epic first passed on a domestic release – Cheap Trick’s At Budokan.

The original incarnation of Jem folded in 1988, after nearly 20 years in business, but co-founder Marty Scott is about to resurrect the label – and the timing couldn’t be better. Tonight, as Hoboken rockers The Bongos take the stage as the final act at the venerable rock venue Maxwell’s (as members of local band “a,” they were the first act on the stage in 1978), they will announce the new Jem’s first release – a new Bongos album, Phantom Train, recorded in 1986 for Island Records but unreleased until this year.

As a catalogue enthusiast who grew up mere miles away from Jem’s original headquarters, I am very pleased to present – as we remember a monumental place for rock music in New Jersey – this brand-new, exclusive interview with Marty Scott on the past, present and future of Jem Recordings.

What made you decide to get back into the music business after so much time away?

Over the years, people always said, “Well, why don’t you get back in [the business]?” And I always say, “Well, the business has changed.” I believe there’s very little artist development and it’s all very song-driven, or producers are making the music and the singers are overlaying tracks. A little more than a year ago, Richard Barone contacted me about getting involved in a documentary being filmed for the 25th anniversary of Cool Blue Halo, which we had put out in 1987. That was a seminal record – the beginning of what later became the unplugged era.

So I did the documentary around May of 2012, and I got to talking to Richard again. I’d found out there was an unreleased Bongos record – a record I never even knew existed. It was recorded for Chris Blackwell at Compass Point after they’d left RCA, but Blackwell had left to form Palm Pictures, and the record sort of languished. I’d said, “Well, let’s do something with this.” Richard had the tapes, we listened to them, and they sounded pretty damn good. He and Steve Addabbo at Shelter Island Sound started to rework the tapes – they had to bake them! Steve’s the best baker in the business – he just worked on the next Bob Dylan Bootleg Series that’s coming out. I should give him a chef’s hat next time I see him! [laughs]

Bongos My Wildest DreamsThe record, Phantom Train, is going to come out October 1. The band is going to announce from the stage of Maxwell’s, that they’ll be releasing a track the next morning, called “My Wildest Dreams.” And the band will be touring to back it up.

What was it that drew you to importing?

I was really big into The Who, and I had found out that there was a Who record available only in England, called Direct Hits. I still have that record, which I went to England to buy, in my office at home!

In college, we were selling American records near our colleges – I went to Franklin & Marshall College, and my two childhood friends and partners went to Cornell and Wesleyan. As soon as we’d get them from the post office, we were outselling the record stores nearby. After we graduated, we went to Europe to sell records to other college kids. And I got Direct Hits and thought, well, if I want this record, there’s got to be other people that want this!

There’s more Marty Scott after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 31, 2013 at 13:00