A box of seven of the UK’s rarest and most expensive freakbeat and psych sevens.
One of the nice things the consolidation of the music industry has given us is projects like this. Fifty years after they were barely available on varying imprints, Universal Music can gather long-lost gems from Decca, Deram, Fontana et al, and turn them into a magical cardboard box with facsimile seven-inch paper sleeves and an informative booklet.
This artefact has been compiled by journalist, historian, designer and freakbeat aficionado (and former Record Collection subject in this very mag) Phil Smee, the man behind the Bam Caruso label, whose 20-volume Rubbles series covers similar ground. So similar, in fact, that nine of the 14 tracks on show here featured on Rubbles, while the other five have previously appeared on compilations such as A Perfumed Garden, Chocolate Soup
For Diabetics and Treacle Toffee World.
It’s a lovely package, and if you’re into this sort of thing you’ll have all these tracks already. But who cares? Not you! It’s from an era when ambition frequently outstripped ability and it didn’t matter a jot, lending much of this collection a bamboozling, demented charm. Take Jason Crest’s Black Mass, which is almost entirely comprised of tape spools spun backwards, maniacal shrieks and chanting monks. It’s great! Or The Fairytale’s cobwebby Guess I Was Dreaming, which tells tales of one-eyed midgets and was later covered by The Kingsmen.
Then there’s Say Those Magic Words by Birds Birds, a clattering chunk of primitive mod R&B featuring Ronnie Wood. Or Listen To The Sky by Sands, an ambitious arrangement that peaks with an extended instrumental section reminiscent of the Battle Of Britain.
That this was originally on the
B-side of a song called Mrs. Gillespie’s Refrigerator reveals much about the state of A&R in 1967, but that’s A Kaleidoscope… for you: beguiling, mostly without precedent, occasionally hilarious and always entertaining.