KALEIDOSCOPE – Sky Children: The Best Of Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour (Beyond Before BB114)

Sky ChildrenLet me tell you a  story. A couple of years after leaving sixth form, I went back to visit my old English teacher. He showed me a book of poems his class had produced and was particularly impressed by one’s boy’s contribution titled ‘Emily Brought Confetti’.  He was rather less so when I told him that this was actually the lyric of a song called ‘Emily’ by Fairfield Parlour. I, however, was very impressed by the fact that some kid of about 15 knew about one of the 70s cult psychedelic bands  and by his balls in submitting the song as one of his own under what would otherwise have been a solid assumption nobody would know. Unfortunate for him then that I had been a huge fan of the work of Eddie Pumer and Peter Daltrey since I first encountered them in 1967 via their debut Fontana single as Kaleidoscope, the mantra-like psychedelic gem ‘Flight From Ashiya’, and had proceeded to collect subsequent singles and their two albums, Tangerine Dream and 1969’s Faintly Blowing.

Sadly, critical acclaim didn’t translate to commercial success and, in 1970, now managed by Radio One DJ David Symonds, they changed their name to Fairfield Parlour, releasing the undervalued classic Bordeaux Rose, followed later in the year by their sole album From Home To Home on Vertigo. Two decades later emerged White Faced Lady, a concept album that had been gathering dust since 1971 when its planned release fell apart.

This latest newly remastered  collection brings together material from all three albums along with standalone singles, opening with title track from the second album which perfectly captures their melodic sensibilities with its psychedelic and folk infusions,  tumbling chords, chorus hooks, sense of dramatics and often enigmatic poetic lyrics. That albums further represented by ‘(Love Song) For Annie’, ‘Snapdragon’ and ‘Music’, the six minute epic of phased guitars, keyboard swirls and repeated ‘and life goes on’ refrain, ending with an orchestral crescendo.

From the debut album, alongside that firsts ingle, there’s a further three tracks. With its drums and tinkling piano, the eponymous ‘Kaleidoscope’ is another choice example of psychedelic pop and fine  harmonies with the title forming the sole lyric of the chorus. Extending to eight minutes ‘The Sky Children’ is a kind of flower power era fairy tale although lines about candy forests and turtles making lemonade, evoking thoughts of Donovan’s A Gift From A Flower To A Garden to be fair, haven’t  aged well. The other track, however, is the chiming guitars accompanied and quite magnificent ‘(Further Reflections) In The Room Of Percussion’. The album has been compared to Nirvana’s The Story Of Simon Simopath and Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, but this track surely more suggests Love’s Forever Changes.

Prior the name change are also included the non-album singles ‘A Dream For Julie’, ‘Do It Again For Jeffrey’ and the more prog-inclined ‘Nursey, Nursey’ although that was only ever available as a freebie from Bucketfull of Brains magazine in 1989 before resurfacing on that belated final album. The same source provides ‘Long Way Down’ (Bee Gees influences evident as on other earlier tracks), likewise ‘Diary Song: The Indian Head’.

Along with their debut single,  there’s a further two Fairfield Parlour tracks, the jaunty strummy single ‘In My Box’ and, bringing me back to where I started, the quite brilliant ‘Emily’, which, opening with churchy organ and  bells that shift from wedding peals to funeral tolls, is essentially their equivalent of ‘Eleanor Rigby’.

The album’s rounded out with the garage band-like ‘What Can I Do’, a 1964 demo from their days as The Sidekicks and also comes with a DVD of unreleased footage  featuring appearances on French TV, an unaired 1970 recording for Germany’s Beat Club and two songs from the  final reunion show in 2017 at Hoxteth Hall.

Disappointingly, it doesn’t include Kaleidoscope’s chuggingly catchy single ‘Jenny Artichoke’, inspired by Donovan’s ‘Jennifer Juniper’, their skipalong final single ‘Balloon’,  or ‘Baby Stay For Tonight’, the B side of the 1976 reissue of ‘Bordeaux Rose’, and, sadly there was no room for such album cuts as ‘The Murder Of Lewis Tollani’ or ‘Black Fjord’. A pity too it couldn’t have included bonus tracks of their 1971 pseudonymous single as I Luv Wight, ‘Let the World Wash In/Medieval Masquerade’, intended (but never used) as the theme for that year’s IOW Festival, but otherwise this is a solid introduction to one (two?) of the finest bands to have been part of the UK’s psych-folk scene and who deserve much greater recognition. Oh, and I should say sorry to that schoolboy for revealing his cheeky plagiarism.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.facebook.com/peter.daltreykaleidoscope

‘Flight From Ayesha’ – live on TV way back when: