The Fairfield Parlour Years

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Kaleidoscope's From Home to Home coupled with White Faced Lady comprise this double-CD box entitled The Fairfield Parlour Years, a reference to the band's name change when it shifted from "psychedelic" to "progressive rock." The cardboard box cover is fascinating, a quasi-psychedelic mural drifting in from some Star Trek-inspired nebula, a bit like a photo from an actual kaleidoscope without using the instrument. Very nice. Inside the box are the two discs, the first being the band's debut under the new Fairfield Parlour name entitled From Home to Home, with a succinct history of the band packaged in silver and white liners. The music is lilting pop leaning more toward psychedelic than progressive. The word "progressive" evokes thoughts of Yes, ELP, and Triumvirat-type groups with more bombast injected into the mix than most fans of underground rock desire. Thankfully, the members of Fairfield Parlour/Kaleidoscope are immersed in the Syd Barrett-pop era of Pink Floyd, but with impassioned vocals (as on "Soldier of the Flesh").

With America having its own Kaleidoscope, name confusion may have inhibited this group's work from making its mark in the U.S. (Motown's Spinners, it is said, were called the Detroit Spinners in England because of another band with the same name.) However, with the Internet, the British Kaleidoscope's work should find a new audience -- one that appreciates superb pop hooks found in songs like "I Will Always Feel the Same." The 13 tracks on From Home to Home are augmented by an additional nine. The new version of "Bordeaux Rose" from these nine bonus tracks is as striking a pop tune as one could ever hear. It has "hit" written all over it, and perhaps in the circa-2000 climate of important music being rediscovered for use in films, "Bordeaux Rose" will deservedly launch from this box into the ears of the masses. In fact, skipping around to pretty much anywhere on this disc will reveal a tune with great pop sensibilities -- "Free," with its modulations and repetitive long fade -- is just another example.

After gorging on all 22 of these tracks, one arrives at White Faced Lady, originally a legendary concept double-album, with its 28-page booklet. Together on one CD are White Faced Lady's 18 more titles written by the team of Eddie Pumer and Peter Daltrey, bringing this box to a whopping 40 titles. This is a delight for fans of British pop, and the fact that none of this material gets beaten into the ground on "classic-hits radio" in America is just another reason to listen to the sterling vocals and lush production. The band not only opened for Van Morrison's Them, but also for the Who, where Pete Townshend's operas Tommy and Quadrophenia tended to bog down with too much of a good thing (though there is no denying the incredible performance of the Who on both double discs); this concept album by Peter Daltrey and Eddie Pumer has a greater focus. Titles like "The Matchseller" and "The Coronation of the Fledgling" have their own identities, but there are also flavors of the Small Faces' Beatlesque pop. Anyone who remembers the Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake or the Move's pop experimentation ("Coronation" is a subdued "Blackberry Way") should find this entire disc a delight to discover years after its creation.

The Fairfield Parlour Years collection is a real treasure, underscored by the silver and white packaging of From Home to Home contrasting with the black packaging of White Faced Lady, together wrapped up in a colorful box. Kind of like finding a lost masterpiece in the time capsules that CDs truly are.

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