Richard Barone – Glow (CD review)

Richard Barone – Glow (Bar None Records) – CD review –

After fronting the New Wave band, the Bongos, in the early Eighties, Richard Barone released a trio of critically-acclaimed solo albums that were later dubbed “chamber pop,” for his use of non-traditional instruments (primarily cello) and intricate melodies.  Glow is Barone’s first record of new material in a long time, seventeen years to be exact, and it’s the finest thing he’s ever done.

Every track, no matter how strange it starts out, features an incredibly melodic chorus.  Take the very odd “Candied Babes,” with its strange, rhythmic “hey, hey hey,” and processed vocals, it segues into this heavenly chorus.  He’s joined by legendary producer Tony Visconti, whose long resume includes T.Rex, Badfinger and David Bowie (Barone tips his hat, by covering the Marc Bolan classic “Girl”).  Barone makes good use of technology to keep things interesting — he’s always been fond of the E-bow, a handheld device that, when held close to guitar strings, vibrates them, creating an effect similar to using an actual bow.  He uses this to great effect on several tracks, including “1,2,3…Infinity.”

And then there’s Barone’s latest toy, the Digital Les Paul, which gives each string on the guitar its own separate track.  He uses this on the gorgeous title track, where the strummed guitar goes from left to right across the speakers.  No surprise that he reprises this for the instrumental “Glow Symphony.”  Barone even teams with legendary songwriter Paul Williams (“Rainy Days and Mondays,” anyone?) for the gentle piano track “Silence is Our Song.”  Finally, there’s “Sanctified,” which is possibly the greatest piece of music Barone has ever created: it begins with a gentle strummed guitar, where he earnestly sings “I believe I was born sanctified / but I forgot,”  then switches suddenly to a fuzzed out slide guitar, with a church choir in the background.  The contrast is jarring, but amazing as well.  A triumphant return.   Let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for his next one.  –Tony Peters