In the annals of rock history, the “unreleased final album” syndrome is a rather common malady. Such was the case for 1980s college rockers The Bongos. Signed to a major label, there were hopes of banking on the burgeoning college-rock/alternative rock scene. It’s not hard to understand why a label would want to take a chance on the band; the band is tight, lead singer Richard Barone has a great voice, and the tunes are catchy. Yet Phantom Train, the band’s swan-song, went unreleased. Of course, when a band splits, what is the impetus for a label to promote or release a record that the band cannot promote? That was then, this is now, and this release rights that wrong. Phantom Train is not a bad record, in any sense of the word, so it’s puzzling why any label would shelve it. The only answer that makes sense is the “why waste money on a dead band” theory, because it’s not hard to imagine songs like “Diamond Guitar,” “My Wildest Dreams,” or the title track being played on college radio stations or 120 Minutes. The trippy cover of Donovan‘s hit “Sunshine Superman” is a lovely little surprise. Though it’s hardly revelatory, Phantom Train is a strong, enjoyable record; it’s a pity that they didn’t last, but it’s a good thing that the world is now able to hear this endeavor.
EDITORS NOTE: Please see the comment from Mr. Barone clarifying the reason the final album went unreleased. Thanks, Richard, for your insight!