Read my reviews of albums by the American psychedelic band Kaleidoscope. (Not to be confused with the British band of the same vintage, or the Puerto Rican band of the same vintage, or the hardcore band.)
Full disclosure: This was once one of my favourite bands, but I’ve written my reviews since I started to see their flaws more honestly.
Kaleidoscope albums from 1967:
Side Trips (8/10)
Okay, let’s get two things out of the way:
First, there are no truly charismatic or appealing singers in the band. Sure Feldthouse can sing, but his voice is not appealing. The other guys are less appealing.
Second, these guys are not great songwriters. Only a couple of these songs are good or great. They would be so much better known if they’d been able to write some memorable songs.
But holy shit are these guys cool: the genre fusion, the shit-ton of instruments, many of which had never been heard on “rock” recordings previously.
“Egyptian Gardens” is worth the price of admission alone. It may be the first time “Middle Eastern” music was ever fused with rock music, nearly 10 years before Peter Gabriel started his “world” music stuff.
I also think “Please” is a pretty good folk rock song, even if the lyrics are a little too reminiscent of another, more famous song.
Too much old timey music, sure. But some of this stuff is revolutionary. Basically the birth of world music, for better or worse.
A Beacon from Mars (8/10)
With the exception of the two longest tracks, this record is a bit of full-on commitment to the more old timey side of the band, which is not something that’s super welcome. Though the band are excellent performers, and their version of “Greenwood Sidee” is classic, they are too talented to spend all their efforts on that music.
Fortunately “Taxim” and the title track are here to save us from believing they forgot how to play the psychedelic music that made them one of most out-there bands of the era.
The older I get, the more I’m torn with this one: I like the epics (though the title track is a little too long) and I would strongly suggest listening to them if someone was wondering what Kaleidoscope were about; and I like “Greenwood Sidee,” as I mentioned already, and would put that up against any other band’s version. But I can’t say I love how much of this record is devoted to very well-played but old timey (or old timey-sounding) music at the expense of their other styles.
The Incredible Kaleidoscope! (7/10)
I first listened to this record as part of their boxed set, and I’m pretty sure one reason I thought it held up to the standard of their previous records is because I never paid attention to where they ended and this one began.
This is a band I have long overrated simply because, just like for Jimmy Page, they are in some ways “my ideal band”. There are so many things I find appealing about them that when I first heard them I just wouldn’t accept that they may not be perfect.
Their biggest flaw was always a lack of consistently strong material and that’s true on this record as it is for their first two records. Their second biggest flaw, that they lacked a truly charismatic lead singer, is also still true. (Feldthouse is talented but hardly a rock star.)
The material is arguably a little weaker this time out – did we really need them to do “Killing Floor”? – though there are still some highlights like there always are, particularly the jam (as usual).
I really love this band and I wish they had just had a little more luck. This is not their best record.
1970: Bernice (8?/10)
For years, I understood this as their worst album of their original era. Then I went to grab the review and I saw an 8/10. But I found no review. I cannot defend this. I’ll have to listen to them all again and see what the hell happened.
1976: When Scopes Collide (???)
I have never heard this. I listened to David Lindley’s debut solo album and it scared me off. I know he’s not on this one, but apparently it did the trick.