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Friday, 11 February 2011

~Nippy Sweeties~#6: Kaleidoscope

As you may know by now, the whole point of our Nippy Sweeties section is to bring to the attention of younger (or less spoddish) readers, songs or artists from the 1960s who rather shamefully never achieved the kind of success some of their less talented contemporaries managed. In fact we really should have called this section 'Songs Our Parents Were Too Stupid To Buy'.
And never was this more so than with Kaleidoscope, an English Psychedelic band who released not only two of the greatest albums of the genre, but of all time...
Relax your eyes
For after all

We can but share these minutes.....

If you bought Record Collector magazine in the early to mid 80s, then you would know Kaleidoscope from the astronomical prices their two albums had acquired. You see both albums sold so poorly upon release that no second pressings were made. So, when word of mouth spread about how fantastic the two records were, they became VERY desirable and the prices shot through the roof.
Around 1986 reissue specialists Edsel Records re-released both albums to great acclaim, and now they can be purchased easily on CD or download, and word of mouth continues unabated. This really was a fantastic band, and these are two genuine classic albums.
Let's explore further....
Kaleidoscope started out as far back as 1965 but only settled upon their desired sound and of-it's-time name in January 1967. The band consisted of Peter Daltrey (vocals and lyrics), Eddy Pumer (guitar and music), Danny Bridgman (drums) and Steve Clark (bass).
Their debut single, 'Flight From Ashiya' set out their stall beautifully, a pounding psychedelic stormer with dreamy lyrics predicting a plane crash. The band's sound suited the multicoloured, acid drenched Summer Of Love perfectly and soon Kaleidoscope were sharing the bill with Pink Floyd, and had celebrity fans in Paul McCartney and Pete Townshend.

The band's debut album 'Tangerine Dream' (and yes, they had the title before the Krautrock legends) is simply one of the greatest albums of all time. That it failed to sell in any great quantities is baffling for, in my opinion, it is a better album than 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' or that ragbag of EP tracks and B-sides 'Magical Mystery Tour'.
With a sleeve that echoes 'Piper....', all Paisley shirts and serious expressions, 'Tangerine Dream' is more of a trip, in all senses of the word. It reflects suburban Swinging Britain through an acidic lens bathed in the lyrical images of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis, and feels like a journey from beginning to end. The greatest Pop Music creates it's own world and that's exactly what Kaleidoscope do here. Take the majestic 'Dive Into Yesterday' with its references to water pistols full of lemonade and Mardi Gras at midnight:

There's also stupendous second single 'A Dream For Julie' released before Pink Floyd's similarly titled 'Julia Dream', with its cute sotto vocce intro "The tangerine wizard turns purple for Julie".

And the album culminates in the full blown Psychedelic, brain melting, surprisingly touching 'The Sky Children' which really should be part of everybody's musical education.

Sales of the album were disappointing, but the band carried on regardless plunging almost immediately into the equally breathtaking 'Faintly Blowing'.
As with many purveyors of Psychedelic music, all of the acid sparkle of 1967 was replaced in 1968 with a more back-to-nature vibe. The music became more rustic, more pastoral, more whimsical and indeed more folksy....and Kaleidoscope were no exception.
'Faintly Blowing' has a more folkish feel, from it's Olde Faery Worlde sleeve inwards. The music is more acoustic, and the lyrics more like folk tales rather than the children's stories of the debut.
Many regard 'Faintly Blowing' as the superior of the two albums, but I'm afraid I don't concur. Whilst I still love the album, I find it a bit of a jarring listen at times. I think this is because it sounds like the lyrics were written away from the music, so we often find Peter desperately trying to make his lyrics scan to the music's odd time signatures. This leads to some very strange phrasing which is exacerbated when you read the lyrics they provided on the inner sleeve. A minor quibble of course, and I still think it's a wonderful album, but the debut still does it for me.
Stand out tracks for me are the title track with it's doomy atmosphere, ominous minor chords and weird phasing effects:

Another cracker is the jaunty 'Snapdragon' which although one of my favourites, is one that suffers most from the lyrical phrasing I mentioned earlier:

'Faintly Blowing' sold even more poorly than it's predecessor and pretty much was the final nail in the coffin of Kaleidoscope.
All four musicians regrouped in the early 70s as the slightly more successful Fairfield Parlour, seeking a more Prog Rock direction.
Peter Daltery himself has kept on releasing records right up to the the present day and often gets involved in the reissues of Kaleidoscope's music and of keeping their legacy alive.

If you want PURE English Psychedelic music then look no further than Kaleidoscope and in particular the 'Tangerine Dream' album, and if you're feeling up to it, I'll leave you with their greatest statement, 'The Sky Children'....

Pleasant dreams kiddiewinks!

Keep Your Mind Open!


You can download the albums below:

Tangerine Dream

Faintly Blowing

(please note: these are not my links so I have no control over them if they fail to download. If anyone connected with Kaleidoscope objects to these downloads, please contact us and we will happily remove them).


  1. Thankyou for your support...

    Peter Daltrey

  2. @art miller.
    Wow! Can't believe you're actually on here, that's amazing.
    You're very welcome. Thanks for all the brilliant music.

  3. Beautiful piece about a brilliant band.
    With a supportive comment by the great Peter Daltrey himself. Man, if it were me who wrote this, it would probably make me cry.