Ever had the idea that up there in those old hills of psychedelia,in some old worked out creek you might just find one of those overlooked and leftbehind nuggets? Well here it is - psychedelia meets Beatles meets mountain music. Add a few tracks of Arabic/gypsy music that sometimes get hijacked by psychedelia and as Brian Hinton* says 'This was world music years before its time.'
So who are / were this Kaleidoscope?
Who they weren't was the 'Tangerine Dream' English psychedic band.
Kaleidoscope emerged out of various U.S.string bands in the late 60's and didn't last very long so like me you may never have heard of them. The ubiquitous David Lindley is in there (Jackson Browne's great 70's fiddle player & steel guitarist,) so too the 'beatnik' David Feldthouse,whoever he was, of Turkish origin and musical inclinations, and a vanload of instruments between them - oud, bouzouki, mandolin,banjo, violin and more. Actually this is a compilation from the four late sixties albums with about half of the tracks from 'Incredible' about which Brian Hinton* has much of interest to say.
So what is this strange brew?
Think of the Beatles, Country Joe 'Electric Music' acid love songs,
Buffalo Springfield, Beefheart, a bunch of music-loving freaks and mix it all up with an Arabic thing and some deadly serious American mountain music and you are getting somewhere near, not forgetting hot bluegrass and other streams that fed into the folk creek. It's not just eclection; this band was the sum of its parts and forges a music that was more than likely unique and very short-lived.Twenty-three tracks and barely a weak one on it.The sheer musical confidence these guys had was of its time, so too the musical open-mindedness,and the freakiness about it all which was maybe a measure of how they couldn't really believe it either. One minute they're like college boys doing a take on a Cab Calloway song, the next they are a blues-band but then the harmonica solo veers off into space (Were they listening to 1960's Ornette Coleman?) and then there is something menacing building like the Doors 'Strange Days'. And it all has that sound of not being interfered with in the studio that music had then.
Yes this album might be strange if you have only grown up with the last 30 years of music industry 'product' but STRANGE was OK then. And they really could play that amazing vanload of stringed instruments. It'd be worth it just for David Lindley's banjo solo or the 12 minute title track which has you reaching for your Hendrix and Doors albums in short order. But there are a few traditional folk songs too; lovely, simple, love songs like Beefheart or Buffalo Springfield did, harmonising like the Beau Brummels; Byrdsy stuff. And more than likely half of that is wrapped up in one song.
Git it, and you got youself a nugget!
*NB.Brian Hinton's book 'Country Roads - How Country Came to Nashville' devotes about 3 pages to this Kaleidoscope.For anyone prospecting in the Celtic-sourced backwaters of American music this book is a gold-miner's map. Git it too.