Former Bongos frontman Richard Barone wasted no time in going solo after the sudden demise of his band. While Phantom Train found Barone and company honing its college-rock chops, Cool Blue Halo was a completely different kind of record. Stripped down to a four-piece, with no fancy production tricks, one might be tempted to call this an “unplugged” record, as the haunting, stripped-back production (tempered by the solemn string accompaniment of Jane Scarpantoni and twinkling percussion of Valerie Naranjo) accentuates Barone’s songwriting, especially on the haunting “Silent Symphony” and his take on The Beatles‘ “Cry Baby Cry,” while closing number “Numbers With Wings” feels almost prog-rock a la Bill Nelson. The whole affair is hushed and sedate, and is a pleasant listening experience. The bonus tracks found here are also of some interest; demos of “I Belong To Me” and “Love Is A Wind With Screams” highlight a definite Bongos style, leaving one to wonder if Barone was trying hard not to make a record that reminded of his earlier work. Cool Blue Halo was an auspicious, lovely start to a long, continuing solo career.
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