Forgotten series: Kaleidoscope – Egyptian Candy: A Collection (1991)

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Bearing no connection to the equally great British band of the same name, these guys operated out of Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1966, Kaleidoscope was so far ahead of the curve that they made movers and shakers such the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Doors and the Byrds seem rather conservative by comparison.

Splashing their material with a wild mishmash of styles, the band was simply too sonically schizophrenic for the public to relate to.

Despite the serious lack of interest, Kaleidoscope refused to nix their mission. Enthusiastically marching on, they waxed four albums, Side Trips (1967), A Beacon From Mars (1968), The Incredible Kaleidoscope (1969) and Bernice (1970) before expiring. A reunion of sorts took place in 1976, resulting in When Scopes Collide, which proved to be yet another undeservedly ignored effort. However, in hindsight, the genius of Kaleidoscope has been recognized and appreciated. Music historians and record collectors eventually discovered the band, granting them a whole new generation of fans. It’s no exaggeration to say Kaleidoscope is more well known today than they were when they were together.

What particularly separated the band from the crowd was their imaginative selection of instruments. Joining a customary rock and roll line-up consisting of guitars, bass, keyboards and drums, were banjos, violins, ouds, sazs, bouzoukis and mandolins, leading to a spellbinding, exotic and spectacularly strange repertoire. Spiky Middle Eastern motifs regularly dwelled within Kaleidoscope’s musings, giving off a potent psychedelic odor. A potent psychedelic odor mixed with hearty helpings of blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, rock and folk that is. The band also had a keen ear for melody, prompting plenty of their songs to blink with catchy pop elements.

By no means does Egyptian Candy (Epic Legacy) feature Kaleidoscope’s entire catalog, but it is a nifty overview of some of their best moments. For instance, there’s “Pulsating Dream,” which weds stark folk structures to a burning acid rock mobility, crowned by curtains of absolutely delirious choruses. Emboldened by a brace of manic belly dancing rhythms, “Egyptian Gardens” adds a super-size shot of lightning speed bluegrass pickings to the hallucinogenic hoedown, where “Keep Your Mind Open” is a haunting, meditative piece of delicate psychedelic splendor. “Elevator Man” crunches with intent, while “Why Try” and “Love Games” capture the Kaleidoscope in a pop state of mind, aided by a couple of kooky kinks of course. Both these songs actually kind of sound like what the Monkees might have sounded like had they been born in a Haight Ashbury garage instead of a Hollywood television studio!

Measuring nearly 13 minutes in length, “Beacon From Mars” twists and turns to an enchanting showcase of blues, rock and jazz, as “Baldheaded End Of A Broom” favors a goodtime jug band angle ala the Charlatans and the Lovin’ Spoonful . Teeming with power, the hard-driving electric blues of “You Don’t Love Me” throbs with an urgency so loud and intense that it threatens to blow your stereo system to smithereens and “Sefan” is a mystical, mesmerizing raga rock instrumental. Parallel to their music, Kaleidoscope’s vocals were just as compelling, as they ranged from gritty and graceful to moody to merry.

Sheets of stunning harmonies, columns of colorfully creative arrangements and a sense of smarty pants humor further characterized the band’s ventures. But attempting to describe the music here in cyberspace honestly doesn’t do the band justice. You’ll have to experience the songs yourself to hear how remarkable they were, and Egyptian Candy is a fine introduction to Kaleidoscope’s artistic brilliance.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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