Michael Yonkers

Goodby Sunball

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Michael Yonkers' small cult following is mostly based on a record he cut in the late '60s (though it wasn't released until 2003), Microminiature Love, which is hard psychedelic rock so raw it verges on outsider music. Recorded several years later in his home studio and issued as a private pressing in 1974, Goodby Sunball is an entirely different proposition that might be surprisingly better or worse than listeners familiar with Microminiature Love expect, depending upon their tastes. There's no hard rock at all here; instead, it's haunting, even spooky acid folk, rather quiet and subdued in tone, though no less intense than what he'd been laying down in the late '60s. Perhaps the slightly disturbing, distraught ambience of the LP could be put down in part to Yonkers having written the material on acoustic guitar while he was making a difficult recovery from serious spine surgery. What's undeniable is that his music underwent a considerable change, Yonkers offering tremulous tunes with an off-kilter fragility and spiritual bent that makes some of these compositions sound almost like hymns, if of the spacy hippie folk variety you'd rarely hear in churches. The basic home fidelity, with vocals recorded in an actual bathroom for echoing ambience, adds to the strangeness, the tunes also sounding on occasion like holiday carols by and for celebrants not quite certain they'll live to see another Christmas. Though not every fan of rare psychedelia will agree with this assessment, it sounds immeasurably better than Microminiature Love, as the songwriting is substantially superior; the melodies far more varied and affecting; and the vision far more likably personal. There's no need to worry that it's far more mainstream, either; while the playing is certainly competent and the fidelity OK if basic, it's probably way too strange to have attracted the interest of any sizable major or indie label back in 1974, though not quite eccentric enough to qualify as outsider stuff. The closing, nearly eight-minute version of the title track (also presented in a very short rendition to open the record) is the only one that's self-consciously weird and experimental, and not to good effect. Very difficult to find in its original pressing, the album was reissued as an LP in 2010 in an edition limited to 500 copies.

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