Richard Barone

Big Three

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The Big Three is a welcome reissue, a box set that brings together Richard Barone's first three post-Bongos solo albums, all of which had been out of print and next to impossible to find. 1987's Cool Blue Halo is the masterpiece of the lot, a live recording at the Bottom Line in New York City featuring the singer/songwriter on vocals and electric guitar, backed by an idiosyncratic trio of acoustic guitar, percussion (not drums), and cello. Old Bongos songs, new material, and an oddball trio of covers are all revitalized in this chamber pop setting, and Barone's singing is the best of his career. It's a classic. 1990's Primal Dream, unfortunately, isn't a worthy follow-up; slickly produced and suffering from an uncharacteristic drought in terms of songwriting (the single "River to River" is the best track, and it's far from one of Barone's finest), it's the worst record of Barone's entire career. Barone righted himself beautifully on 1994's Clouds Over Eden. An uncharacteristically somber meditation on the death of his longtime friend, Nicholas Schaffner (a best-selling music writer who had contributed liner notes to Barone's previous two albums), Clouds Over Eden returns to the simple chamber pop sound of Cool Blue Halo, though with an added richness that makes the album sound not unlike Hunky Dory-era David Bowie. The albums have not been remastered and liner notes are minimal, but just having these records (well, two of them, anyway) available again is enough.