Bobby Beausoleil is best known for his association with the Manson Family. He's currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of Gary Hinman, widely recognized as the first victim in the spree killings masterminded by Manson that would culminate in the Tate/LaBianca murders that shook the nation and destroyed the psychedelic/hippie movement in one fell blow. Hinman's murder was the result of a drug deal gone bad (presumably)-he burned Beausoleil on some bad acid which Baausoleil sold to a dangerous third party, who demanded their money back. When he went to collect from Hinman, Hinman refused, and from there things took a dark, tortured turn, resulting in Hinman's death at Beausoleil's hand. He was arrested a few days later and charged with the murder; only aways afterwards did his connection with Manson surface. It's a connection that has haunted and ruined Beausoleil ever since.
Just prior to the Hinman killing, Beausoleil was a San Francisco artist/musician, a visionary of sorts dedicated to consciousness exploration, free-form musical improvisation and all around habadashery, often dressed in velvet finery and top hats, looking like some sort of hippie ringmaster. He was a known presence in artistic circles and had been commissioned by avant filmmaker Kenneth Anger to start in and produce the soundtrack for Anger's upcoming celluloid brainfuck "Lucifer Rising" (it would be years before the film and soundtrack were completed-the two artists had a falling out and Beausoleil made off with the film, supposedly burying it in the desert; Anger recommissioned Beausoleil to produce the soundtrack in the 70's after Jimmy Page failed to deliver the goods, apparently turning in 25 minutes of agonized, useless droning. Beausoleil completed the soundtrack in prison-it's a true masterpiece, which i may or may not review later on.) Beausoleil at this time was also playing with/conducting this group, the Orkustra, a very loose assemblage of five core players intent on co-opting eastern-flavored modalities and fusing them with the rock aesthetic of the dominating musical landscape. The Orkustra was unlike anything going at the time and even today sounds remarkably forward-thinking.
Spread across four sides of wax, Mexican Summer's reissue is a patchwork of live performances and rehearsal tapes, many of which are not audiophile quality but have a keen magic all their own regardless. Magic is not an inappropriate descriptor for the music on display here-there's a heavy mystical vibe to all of these tracks and an obvious appreciation for occult sensibility. This is the sort of music you would expect to hear playing inside a hazy back-alley opium den in the darkness of Calcutta, all winding go nowhere snake charmer melodies backed by an ultra-stoned rhythm section intent on telling you they KNOW how to play jazz-you just don't know what you're supposed to be hearing. At times playful ("Dancing in the Park"), at times given over to psychedelic art rockers that rival the Amboy Dukes ("Flash Gordon", "Bombay Calling") the Orkustra, under Beausoleil's guiding hand, do it all with aplomb and a wink and a nod to perhaps darker forces. As amateurish and stumbling as this music is, there is also a visionary aspect mentioned earlier-while the techinical abilities of the players may have been limited, the wealth of ideas they had and their willingness to explore them were inexhaustible. This was a total belief in art and individualism and was as much a communal quest for enlightenment and cosmic communication as it was five guys getting together and rocking out hard. Nowhere is this melding better displayed than on the album's obvious centerpiece, the 25 minute live epic "Gypsy Odyssey." Here the Orkustra completely gives in to the darkness lurking at the outer edges of their music and invites in, weaving a thick syrupy sonic tapestry of jittery South Pacific exploration and mountainous walls of goopy, resiny clatter. The thing becomes this giant stormcloud of menace, a big seeping ooze of shattered consciousness. Never once do you feel the band isn't in control-while certainly given over to abandon, the structure and flow of the piece is never lost and you're pulled ever deeper under by the Orkustra's outstretched hand.
The occult has always held sway because it's a door-if you leave fear behind and walk through with an open mind, there's no telling what secrets may reveal themselves. Bobby Beausoleil and the Orkustra strove to open that door just a crack with these recordings, maybe enough to let something slip out or to let someone peak in...and there are untold delights hiding in there. Don't be scared.