During this year’s Ponderosa Stomp conference, Gloria (“Tainted Love”) Jones told interviewer Ann Powers that she had opened a music school in Africa in the name of Marc Bolan, her long-time companion and the man who effectively was T. Rex. People greet each other saying, “Marc Bolan” there, she said. That could just be more of the wacky things musicians say, but I love the notion that somewhere in the world, people greet each other with the name of an elfin glam rock star.
The occasion for this brief, curious tidbit is the recent release of Glow by former Bongo Richard Barone. The Bongos covered T. Rex’s “Mambo Sun” in 1982, and Barone covers “Girl” on Glow, an album produced by Bolan’s producer, Tony Visconti. Barone shares Bolan’s love of the elliptical lyric, but Bolan’s subtext was always stardom, and that was the thing that animated his performances – that and sex. Where he wanted to be a jeepster for your love, Barone wants to hold your hand and talk deep into the night, even when the words go in circles. In the best songs on Glow, that earnestness gives weight to his ethereal imagery and sweet, gentle tenor; on “Silence is Our Song,” it falls on the track and pins it to the ground.
Barone and Visconti seem be to working on a version of glam for 2010, but the album sounds futuristic by 1985 standards. The synths sound small, thin and retro, which I personally like—it gives “Glow Symphony” a zippy buzz —but since the heyday of glam envisioned a moment 10 years away, it’s hard to believe that Barone thinks referring back to a similar target date is a progressive idea.
Still, even when things aren’t quite working, there are melodies worth revisiting. He crafts melodies reliably, and he supports them lushly with strings and sustained, sweeping notes that lend drama to Beatlesque tunes. I’ll put five songs from Glow on my iPod when I’m done, figuring I’ll enjoy the album’s first three tracks when they come up, and that context will help me get to “Sanctified” and “Yet Another Midnight.” And his experimentation with the marriage of psychedelic folk-pop, rock and technology interests me. It would be nice if it would pay off more often next time.