Goldberg / Barry Thomas Goldberg

Misty Flats

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Arriving unheralded and under-promoted in the autumn of 1974, Misty Flats was the product of a young Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Barry Thomas Goldberg. Just 23 years old, Goldberg had already blown through a couple of Twin Cities rock bands, most recently a harmony-drenched power pop group called the Batch, which had folded earlier that year. Uncertain of his next move, he was convinced by longtime friend Michael Yonkers to record some acoustic songs in mono to an old Ampex tape machine using just a handful of overdubs. Produced by Yonkers, an experimental guitarist and songwriter who would later become a cult figure himself, Misty Flats had an untethered lone-wolf mystique but little commercial appeal, and with a limited pressing of 500 copies, it quickly fell into obscurity. Unlike many other low-key independents from the '70s, Goldberg stuck around, forming another rock band that became regionally popular and has continued to release solo albums under his full name. But Misty Flats, with its youthful, lost-summer haziness, remained an anomaly, unlike anything else in his catalog. Rescued in 2015 by Seattle-based cult album rehabilitators Light in the Attic Records, it was labeled as an "unhinged loner-folk gem," which is partly true. With its hand-lettered, sepia-photo cover and organic looseness, it does have a sort of rough-hewn folk feel to it. But in the liner notes to the 2015 reissue, Goldberg himself states that "I wanted to make the first punk rock album," citing John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band as a major inspiration. More than anything else, it's his power pop influence that dominates Misty Flats, and songs like the bittersweet ballad "Cry a Little Bit" and especially the hooky "Pop and Ice," with its stacked pop harmonies, could have been wildly transformed with a Stratocaster and a rhythm section. In their naked form, though, these tracks are almost more effective, recalling some of Alex Chilton's vulnerability on acoustic Big Star cuts like "I'm in Love with a Girl" and "Thirteen." Other highlights include the beautiful "Stars in the Sand" and the wistful title track, which finds its pensive young author wondering what will become of his future. That his lovely lost album is finally getting its due four decades later makes Goldberg's soul-searching all the more poignant, and his themes of being young and adrift are as relevant in 2015 as they were in the waning days of the Vietnam War. With luck, this record will find the audience it justly deserves.

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