From The Desk Of Richard Barone: Donovan

Richard Barone is an example to all of us who get trapped in our daily grind. He seems to be the perpetual glass-half-full kind of guy. He admits he feels pretty much the same way he did 30 years ago when Barone on lead vocals and guitar along with bassist Rob Norris and drummer Frank Giannini gave birth to the Bongos, a wonderful, jangly power-pop combo that could light up any room with its overflowing energy. It’s difficult to believe that their new album, Phantom Train (Jem), is not really new at all. With guitarist James Mastro added to the band, it was cut in 1985 and 1986 and has languished on the shelf ever since. Barone has also kindly agreed to serve as guest editor for all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him.


Barone: Can I just say that I think Donovan is one of the most important artists who came out of the 1960s and one of the least appreciated? Sure he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame last year, but he deserves more. Knighthood or sainthood or his picture on a stamp. When he first emerged at age 19 or so, he was accused of being an imitator of Dylan. So wrong. The similarities end with the guitar and harmonica. While it’s clear he appreciated Bob, his voice is so much sweeter, so much more sensual. And he explored in his music and image levels of androgyny that few male artists would dare, then or now. As Donovan would evolve—quickly, quickly evolve—his songs and arrangements grew and, yes, flowered into new and exciting hybrids of genre mixing. Besides his folk roots there were touches of classical harpsichords, Indian sitars, jazz quartets all melding into a singular experience that was Donovan. The Beatles might have done some of that, too, and very well indeed. But Don’s Sunshine Superman album touches on all those sonic ideas and more, and came out a year before Sgt. Pepper. Just sayin’. Of course, by the time the Beatles were making The White Album, there he was, teaching John and Paul the finger-picking techniques that weave through that LP. They knew. And don’t get me started on “Hurdy Gurdy Man” or “Barabajagel” (which featured Jeff Beck). OMG, he surrounded himself with the best musicians around, and made some of the best records of the era, records that inspired other artists. He didn’t hold back. A personal favorite of mine is Open Road, a more stripped-down trio sound with a Celtic-rock focus, and featuring my pal Candy John Carr on drums. But that was not the end of the story, there was so much more, and he still sings with one of the sweetest and most sensual voices that pop has ever produced.