Monday, July 28, 2008

Red Crayola - The Parable Of Arable Land (1967)


Personnel:
RICK BARTHELME drms A B
STEVE CUNNINGHAM bs A B C
BONNIEE MERSON gtr A
DANNY SCHACT hrmnca A
MAYO THOMPSON gtr, vcls A B C
TOMMY SMITH C
JESSE CHAMBERLAIN
GUY CLARK

ALBUMS:
1(B) THE PARABLE OF ARABLE LAND (International Artists 2) 1967
2(C) GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA AND ALL WHO SAIL WITH IT (International Artists 7) 1968
NB: (1) reissued on Radar (RAD 12) 1978 and Decal (LIK 20) 1988. (2) reissued on Radar (RAD 16) 1979 and Decal (LIK 29) 1989. (1) and (2) have also been issued together on a European CD and in the U.S. by Collectables. Later releases include:- Soldier Talk (Radar RAD 18) 1978, Black Snakes (with Art and Language) (Recommended) 1983; THREE SONGS ON A TRIP ACROSS THE U.S. (mini) (Recommended) 1985; The Male Factor Die (Glass) 1989. There is also a very strange, live album recorded in 1967, (B) Coconut Hotel (DC 62) 1996.

Red Crayola were established in Houston in September 1966. line-up 'A' was very much embryonic. They began playing straight rock numbers like Hey Joe but by December 1966 they had developed the improvised music style - the Freeform Freak-out - that they are best remembered for. All interested parties were invited to perform in their shows and in effect a companion group (known as The Familiar Ugly) was established. When International Artists invited Thompson, Barthelme and Cunningham to record their debut album in March 1967 The Familiar Ugly were featured in the Freeform Freak-outs between each track. Quite aside from the Freak-outs the album included some very strange material - formless and improvised, the psychedelia of tracks like Hurricane Fighter Plane (which Roky Erickson played organ on), Transparent Radiation (which Roky played harmonica on) and Pink Stainless Tail was very different to that of other Texas bands of the era. On stage, too, the Red Crayola were very much an acquired taste.

Lacking natural rhythms and structure their music was practically impossible to dance to. They were once paid ten dollars (to split three ways) and asked to leave a gig at the New Orleans House in Berkeley after 20 minutes! They were, however, invited to play at the Berkeley Folk Festival in the Summer of 1967. Once again their performance did not go down well and the band fell apart with Thompson spending time in New York and Los Angeles. One of their live performances was released in the nineties as Coconut Hotel, but it isn't recommended unless you're into avant garde/ambient noises.

In 1968 Thompson and Steve Cunningham returned to Texas and along with a new drummer Tommy Smith, who had briefly played with Bubble Puppy, began recording their second album, which consisted of numerous one and two minute tracks of simple but experimental acoustic weirdness. They were now spelling Krayola with a k. Surprisingly perhaps, this album was even less successful than their first and the band became dormant for many years. They did apparently record a double album with guitarist John Fahey but the tapes were lost.
Mayo Thompson has continued to enjoy an active solo career. He fronted a temporary group called Saddlesore and recorded a solo album. He met Jesse Chamberlain in New York in the Winter of 1974/75 and later reformed Red Krayola with Jesse as a two-piece. This line-up gigged in London in 1978. The band were signed by Radar who reissued (1) and (2) and put out (3), an album of new wave material. On (3) the two-piece was assisted by Lora Logic and Pere Ubu. Indeed Thompson went on to join Pere Ubu until they temporarily dissolved. Thompson has also worked as or with Art and Language who straddle his other projects, indeed Art and Language assisted on their fourth album Black Snakes which is full of Thompson's dramatic vocals and included Allen Ravenstine (of Pere Ubu) on sax and synthesizer.

Compilation appearances have been confined to:- Hurricane Fighter Plane on Austin Landing (LP) and Born Bad, Vol. 4; Hurricane Fighter Plane (demo) on Acid Dreams Vol. 2 (LP); plus five cuts on the Epitaph For A Legend (Dble LP) compilation. Two - Nickle Niceness and Vile Vile Gross - were previously unissued. The other three were different recordings of Hurricane Fighter Plane, Pink Stainless Tail and Transparent Radiation. They do also have Hurricane Fighter Plane on a 7" flexi-disc (Radar SFI.347) issued in 1978. The other three cuts are by the 13th Floor Elevators. They also have one cut Pink Stainless Tail on a 7" promotional release (Radar SAM-88) that came out the same year. Copies were given away at a 1978 reunion concert along with the magazine 'Howdy From Texas The Lone Star State'.
Jesse Chamberlain is also a member of Necessaries and Steve Cunningham later played for Malachi.

Tracks:
1. Free Form Freakout: Hurricane Fighter Plane
2. Free Form Freakout: Transparent Radiation
3. Free Form Freakout: War Sucks
4. Free Form Freakout: Pink Stainless Tail
5. Free Form Freakout: Parable Of Arable Land

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I might be one of the five or ten people who actually bought the later Krayola stuff, but i like it.