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When the Bongos split in the mid-80s, they left behind a respectable but small catalog of sparkling guitar pop that’s held up nicely over the years (when it’s in print). But the band had recorded another record prior to dissolution, its release scuttled, and that album now sees the light of day at last. Phantom Train continues the thread that began weaving on its previous record Beat Hotel, adding touches of now-period production but keeping the Hoboken quartet’s glam/power/jangle pop intact. A few of these songs – “Tangled in Your Web,” “I Belong to Me,” the glorious “River to River” – would (re)appear on the chamber pop solo records of leader Richard Barone, though they’re given more rhythmic readings here. But those aren’t the only tunes that were worth rediscovery – “One Bold Stroke,” “Diamond Guitar” and “My Wildest Dreams” bounce giddily through the band’s signature hooks and groove, while “Roman Circus” and “Saturn Eyes” enter into moodier territory that presages Barone’s Cool Blue Halo project. The LP ends with a worthwhile trio of demos, including a cleaner take on “My Wildest Dreams,” a rocking “Town of One” and a shimmering “Under Someone’s Spell” (another later Barone solo resurrection). Easily as strong as any of the band’s previous records, Phantom Train might well have pushed the band forward had it stayed together long enough to enjoy the fruits of its labor.
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