Salsa pianist, vocalist, composer and arranger Ray Pérez, acquired his nickname "Loco" by being a free, independent spirit, an innovator and iconoclast who was initially branded as "crazy" for the freshness and audacity of his sound. Amazingly, he is not that well known in the US, where he spent some time in the late 1960s and salsa was king during the 1970s. Yet he was quite popular in his home country from the beginning, especially amongst the working class of Caracas and Maracaibo, who adopted Cuban music played by New York Puerto Ricans as their own and called it "salsa" years before the term was employed by US labels like Fania as a marketing tool. Pérez is revered in Venezuela, as well as in Mexico and Colombia, and his storied career, which spans seven decades and thousands of concerts, has yielded more than 35 albums recorded by his various bands, including Los Dementes, Los Kenya, and Los Calvos. At the start of 1967 Pérez debuted Los Dementes, with vocalists Claudio Zerpa and Perucho Torcat backed by an ace band featuring only trombones in the brass section. Titled ¡Alerta mundo! Llegaron los 'The Crazy Men' the record was released on the small Venezuelan label Prodansa. Soon after, Prodansa folded and Los Dementes were left without representation or much compensation for their efforts, being paid only in records. In the end of February of that year, Pérez returned to Caracas from a stint in Maracaibo in order to finish his first LP with the well-established and larger Velvet label, entitled Manicomio A Locha. The LP begins appropriately with the boisterous title track, written by the band's conguero Carlos "Nené" Quintero. Torcat describes a jam session in mental institution and introduces the band, with tasty solos by trombonist Rufo García followed by Ray on piano. Already you can hear something was different about Ray and his "Crazy Men" -- a sound as wild and innovative as what was happening in New York with Eddie Palmieri, but with a more unhinged, raw feeling in line with Willie Colón and other younger Nuyorican bands. "Puerto Libre", sung by Torcat, is dedicated to the Venezuelan island of Margarita in the Oriente region, and the independent spirit of its working people. The rhythm changes from guaguancó to guajira and back again but remains danceable all the way through. "3 in 1" is a medley inspired by the popular formula of the mosaicos of Billo's Caracas Boys, seamlessly knitting together several different tempos, rhythms, moods and compositions. The funky "Guajira Con Boogaloo" echoes the sound of young Latin New York, pointing out the connection between Cuban and African American soul music.