Our top 10 Red Krayola songs list presents the best releases of an American band whose music blends Avant-rock, post-punk, psychedelia, and underground rock elements. The band was formed in 1966 at a time when the Texas psychedelic scene was flourishing. Red Krayola signed a recording contract with International Artists, where the band released its debut album, The Parable of Arable Land (1967). The album prominently featured mellow psychedelic elements, which can be vividly heard in songs like “Hurricane Fighter Plane.”
While the band established itself as a psychedelic rock act, its impact in the genre was not as striking as that of The 13th Floor Elevators. Red Krayola starting its music career with many psychedelic elements in its songs. However, its sophomore album recording departed from the psychedelic vibe. The band’s record label International Artists rejected the recording, citing that the band’s musical style shift would not be a success. This forced the band to shelve the Coconut Hotel recording, only to have it released in 1995.
Red Krayola was a resilient act having the band face some other trying times after the rejected recording. After the record label rejected their sophomore recording, Red Krayola performed alongside fingerstyle guitarist John Fahey with whom the band recorded a full studio album. Country music legend Kenny Rogers’ brother Lelan Rogers was the record label’s head to International Artists. He demanded to be in possession of the collaborative recording by Red Krayola and guitarist John Fahey. Shockingly, the whole recording has gone missing since then.
The band didn’t give up and soon released the album God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail with It (1968). Listening to the songs in the album, you can feel the band trying hard to maintain the same psychedelic vibe exhibited in the debut album The Parable of Arable Land (1967). Unfortunately, the album was poorly received, having it gain poor sales compared to the debut album. The result of this was the disbanding of the band in the late 1960s.
Vocalist Mayo Thompson was passionate about the band having him release music under his name and as Red Krayola. Soon after, Mayo linked up with drummer Jesse Chamberlain with whom he recorded several songs for Red Krayola. The duo recorded the punk-rock album Soldier Talk featuring cameos by members of Pere Ubu and British saxophonist and artist Lora Logic. Mayo Thompson stopped not at that having him collaborate with quite a catalog of avant-garde musicians in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the greatest collaborations for Red Krayola was teaming up with Art & Language.
Vocalist Mayo Thompson joined the band Pere Ubu for a short while in the 1980s, helping the band release two studio albums. Mayo took on a producer role where he interacted and assisted several acts, including Primal Scream, The Raincoats, Blue Orchids, The Fall, and Stiff Little Fingers. Red Krayola released several EPs and albums during this period. Here are the top 10 Red Krayola songs sampled from the band’s sixteen studio albums.
#10 – Breakout
Ushering us to the top 10 Red Krayola songs is the hit “Breakout.” The song is featured on the band’s album Introduction (2006), which is by far one of the most accessible Red Krayola album releases. Vocalist Mayo Thompson rolls his sleeves for some early rock vibes in the delivery of this song. The song feels more like a jazz tune delivered with some psychedelic pop elements. Without a doubt, the band, especially singer Mayo Thompson, exhibits nothing less than persistence despite the tough time trying to follow the band’s constantly evolving sound.
#9 – Old Tom Clark
Coming in at number nine on our top 10 Red Krayola songs is the single “Old Tom Clark.” The intro sounds a little like Tom Waits. The song presents to us to one of the first alternative/insurgent country sounds released for commercial purposes. You can almost feel the band detach from experimental sounds to some thin texture which prominently feels more country. The song’s instrumental feel quite soothing thanks to the slow tempo yet melodic tune it exhibits.
#8 – Pink Stainless Tail
The album The Parable of Arable Land (1967) brought the best psychedelic sounds by the band. Thanks to songs like “Pink Stainless Tail” that Red Krayola had in the mid-1960s become the lifeblood of International Artists record label. However, Red Krayola would soon fall out of favor having the band change its musical sound while The 13th Floor Elevators did well on the then-flourishing psychedelic scene. “Pink Stainless Tail” presents to use some of the best psychedelic sounds by the band.
#7 – Dairymaid’s Lament
“Dairymaid’s Lament” is one of the best songs from Red Krayola’s album God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail with It (1968). Like most of the songs in the album, “Dairymaid’s Lament” finds the band shifting to some more conventional rock sound compared to the debut album The Parable of Arable Land (1967). The song features clear instrumentation (though not the best) that makes the song sound something close to grunge.
#6 – The Parable of Arable Land
Number six on our top 10 Red Krayola songs is the album titled song “The Parable of Arable Land.” Despite being released on an album full of psychedelic and rock elements, “The Parable of Arable Land” lacks psychedelic elements. Unlike most of the songs by Red Krayola, “The Parable of Arable Land” contains no vocals but just a blend of uncluttered melodies. The song also communicated the band’s soon-to-follow shift from psychedelic vibes to experimental classical sounds.
#5 – Victory Garden
“Victory Garden” is by far the most beguiling song on the band’s album God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail with It (1968). Vocalist Mayo Thompson teamed up with Steve Cunningham in penning the lyrics to this song. The song alludes to lost love having the guy wish that the lady doesn’t quit or, rather, say goodbye. This melancholic ballad was covered by the alternative rock band Galaxie 500 on the album On Fire (1989).
#4 – War Sucks
“War Sucks” is one of the greatest Red Krayola songs released on the band’s debut album, The Parable of Arable Land. The song references the thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, who drew criticism for embroiling the US into the Vietnam War. This was opposed to withdrawing US troops from the battlefield, which at the time, felt like rational thing to do. “War Sucks” takes a dig at the president by referring to him as a good general. This was ironic since Lyndon regretted having commanded troops to the war only to meet their untimely death.
#3 – Born in Flames
Coming in at number three on our top 10 Red Krayola songs is the political anthem “Born in Flames.” The song was featured in Born in Flames, a movie whose major themes are ideal feminism and women’s labor. While there were other songs in the film, “Born in Flames” by Red Krayola provided the perfect thematic structure for the film. Red Krayola might not have been so successful, but having this song used for a film proved how influential some of the band’s songs were.
#2 – Transparent Radiation
“Transparent Radiation” is one of the most memorable songs from the band’s album The Parable of Arable Land (1967). The song is among the few songs that Kenny Rogers’ brother Lelan Rogers produced. “Transparent Radiation” was covered by Spacemen 3 in the album The Perfect Prescription (1987).
#1 – Hurricane Fighter Plane
Number one on our top 10 Red Krayola songs list is the hit “Hurricane Fighter Plane.” The song is featured on the band’s album The Parable of Arable Land (1967). “Hurricane Fighter Plane” features some quavering percussion which complements the song’s instrumentation perfectly. Vocalist Mayo Thompson’s croons in this ballad complement its instrumentation (probably the best instrumentation in the band’s career).
Top 10 Red Krayola Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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