14 Songs, 51 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Recorded in the winter of 1986 as the band was falling apart, Phantom Train is like a "lost" fourth album from The Bongos—a group that was among the earliest on the Hoboken underground rock scene, which also brought the world The Feelies and, later, Yo La Tengo. Though less frenetic than The Feelies, The Bongos made ‘60s-influenced power pop with a touch of now-dated ‘80s new wave production flourishes (though head Bongo Richard Barone remixed this album in 2013). Here, The Bongos' cover of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” sounds like an early Let’s Active record—fittingly, since Mitch Easter of Let’s Active had collaborated with two key Bongos—Barone and James Mastro—on their Nuts and Bolts project. All these groups shared a common love for traditional guitar pop that, R.E.M. aside, had trouble catching on commercially at the time. Several tunes here—“I Belong to Me,” “Tangled in Your Web”—found new life as chamber pop tunes on Barone’s Cool Blue Halo solo album, while “River to River” and “Roman Circus” appeared on Barone’s Primal Dream album in arrangements closer in tone to these recordings.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Recorded in the winter of 1986 as the band was falling apart, Phantom Train is like a "lost" fourth album from The Bongos—a group that was among the earliest on the Hoboken underground rock scene, which also brought the world The Feelies and, later, Yo La Tengo. Though less frenetic than The Feelies, The Bongos made ‘60s-influenced power pop with a touch of now-dated ‘80s new wave production flourishes (though head Bongo Richard Barone remixed this album in 2013). Here, The Bongos' cover of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” sounds like an early Let’s Active record—fittingly, since Mitch Easter of Let’s Active had collaborated with two key Bongos—Barone and James Mastro—on their Nuts and Bolts project. All these groups shared a common love for traditional guitar pop that, R.E.M. aside, had trouble catching on commercially at the time. Several tunes here—“I Belong to Me,” “Tangled in Your Web”—found new life as chamber pop tunes on Barone’s Cool Blue Halo solo album, while “River to River” and “Roman Circus” appeared on Barone’s Primal Dream album in arrangements closer in tone to these recordings.

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3:47
3:38
4:12
3:13
3:03
3:30
5:15
3:25
3:51
4:05
2:56
2:48
3:58

About The Bongos

Hoboken's Bongos -- founded as a trio consisting of Richard Barone (guitar, vocals), Rob Norris (bass), and Frank Giannini (drums, vocals) -- made no pretense of being anything other than a pop band; fortunately, they were a good pop band, covering guitar pop from the Byrds to T. Rex, all of it pulled together by Barone's original songs. Although he was the focal point, the other members were by no means peripheral. After their first full-length album, Drums Along the Hudson (1982), James Mastro joined and contributed some stellar hooks. After releasing a series of singles and an EP on tiny Fetish Records in 1980 and 1981, the Bongos signed to independent PVC Records. Drums Along the Hudson compiled all their previously released tracks. They then moved up to major label RCA and released the five-song Numbers With Wings (1983) and the album Beat Hotel (1985), before leaving RCA and splitting up. (Later, Drums Along the Hudson and a two-fer of Numbers With Wings and Beat Hotel were reissued on CD by Razor & Tie.) At their best, the Bongos made some irresistible guitar pop. ~ William Ruhlmann

ORIGIN
Hoboken, NJ
FORMED
1979

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