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During his career with the seminal group The Bongos and as a restlessly ambitious and eclectic solo artist, Richard Barone's gift for rich, lasting melodies and inventive song structures has gone hand in hand with a wildly artful approach to the guitar. Whereas most musicians use an EBow as a gimmicky effect, Barone employs it as a vital, resonant voice in his enveloping soundscapes. And in 1987, his majestic, acoustic-based album Cool Blue Halo, predating MTV's Unplugged by two years, resulted in the phrase "chamber rock."
Barone formed many of his ideas about how guitars should sound by the Beatles records he heard as a kid. "Those compressed Rickenbackers through Vox amplifiers had such an impact on me," he says. "But they were also playing Gibson J-160Es through the same Vox amps. That particular sound, with that certain kind of jangle to it, became the base foundation of what I started working on."
In compiling his list of 10 essential guitar albums, however, Barone concentrated on the wholly electric side of things. "Things can get a little too 'all over the place' when you try to put everything together, the acoustics and the electrics," he explains. "I think it's unfair, really, because they’re really two different animals. A Bob Dylan album is not a Led Zeppelin album, so you can’t put them in the same competitive field, no matter how much you might love them."
On the following pages, Barone runs down his choices, singling out records that, in his view, spread the waters of sonic experimentation. "I can appreciate virtuosity, but if an album doesn’t take me to somewhere unexpected, it’s not going to be one of my favorites," he says. "Every record I listed here was a game-changer when it came out, and if you put it on now and heard it for the first time, it still could be.”