Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Texas Freak Out n' the Familiar Ugly

My older cousins George n' Phil had the record collection I envied as a kid of no income in '66. My Sunday visits with the relatives were mostly spent spinning new records that leaned stacked, lining the baseboards of their room. 'The 13th Floor Elevators' wobbling organ sound lifted me off the carpet... 'Yea, they're from Texas', George said, as his brother danced, cupping his mouth to create the elevating keyboard sound.
Later, a familiar feral harmonica wormed into my ear out of my friend Wally's family stereo console. He played me The Red Crayola's 'Parable of Arable Land'.

 Another psychedelic band from Texas who's 'Free Form Freak Out' tracks were joined by 'The Familiar Ugly';  friends and followers including Roky Erickson, singer, harmonica, guitar of The 13th Floor.
These 'free form' tracks were with layers of instrument and vocals atop electronic tape loops inspired I'm sure by the American minimalist composer, Terry Riley (who I much later discovered). It seemed many were inspired and experimenting with looping, from The Beatles and The Soft Machine in the UK to Zappa in L.A.

I was happy to see that Mayo Thompson, the leader of The Red Crayola (now Red Krayola) was still active and continuing his 'Familiar Ugly' collaborations with the likes of Jim O'Rourke to John McEntire of Chicago's 'Tortoise'. The Newer releases of RK can be found on the Drag City label in the good company of The Sun City Girls, another 'non conforming' favorite of mine.

There have been many bands covering the early work of The Red Krayola.
From their first '66 release, 'Parable of Arable'...
                              so nice to hear 'Transparent Radiation' done densely by Spaceman3.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The '69 Gumbo Variation

I was taken off guard when I first heard the Mothers of Invention.
L.A.'s  '66 soundscape was expanding far from the Beach Boys' pleasant harmonies and scenery.
Bands like Love and the Doors were surfacing and painting with a much different palette as the psychedelic era rolled in.
The sixties' album cover art was getting more adventurous as well; Cream's 'Disraeli Gears', The Jimi Hendrix Experience's 'Axis Bold as Love'... but 'Freak Out' by the Mothers of Invention was one that stared at me from the record store wall saying, 'Hey kid, we're some real crazy Mothers'.
And upon listening they were.
Lead by Frank Zappa, the music covered a spectrum from fifties' Do-wop to do-acid. Sometimes with a tongue firmly planted in cheek, these guys showed talent and had something to say 'bout the present situation. Zappa became a new found hero for me.
The Mothers soon disbanded (for the time being) and Zappa released his first solo album, 'Hot Rats'. This was a record that spent a good amount of time spinning in my room during my high school years and became my inspirational drawing/painting soundtrack. This was the record where I recognized Zappa as truly a new American composer and guitarist to follow... and it 'Jams like a Mother'.

A remix of 1969 Hot Rat's 'Gumbo Variation' can be found on FZ's 'The Lost Episodes', a release of basement tapes and remixes with artwork by Gabor Csupo.