by Mitch Myers
The legendary Red Crayola band was originally an obtuse psychedelic trio that emerged fully formed deep in the heart of Texas in 1966. While the group went on to manifest itself in a variety of permutations with founding member Mayo Thompson at the helm, these early live recordings capture the original ensemble at its outrageous best. Certainly, Frederick Barthelme, Steve Cunningham and Mayo Thompson looked just like typical hippie musicians when they arrived in California to perform at the Berkeley Folk Music Festival and Venice's Angry Arts Festival, but they weren't. This challenging two-CD set reveals the Red Crayola guys to be classic avant-gardists who used conventional rock instrumentation as a potent musical weapon. The performances on these previously unreleased recordings range from frantic discourses in feedback to primitive tribal chants and beyond. As the iconoclastic threesome created music that was completely in the -- acid-flashback -- moment, their sound turned out to be quite removed from the typical '60s psychedelia that reigned at that time. While the band did nothing but confuse and alienate the majority of their laid-back audiences in 1967, history -- and a little music theory -- has taught that us that there was actually some beautiful noise hidden in their sound. While not overtly political, the Crayola's sonic exhibitionism was clearly a robust social statement reflecting a dire need to break down the barriers and stereotypes that our country's counterculture had already unconsciously devised. Aurally intimidating but ultimately transcendent, Live 1967 reveals clever dissension within the ranks of the tragically hip.