Parties seeking a more or less comprehensive assessment of Kaleidoscope's mid- to late-'60s Epic Records output are encouraged to locate 2004's Beacon from Mars & Other Psychedelic Side Trips compilation. As might be surmised by the name of this package, the bulk of the material originally came from the Side Trips (1967), A Beacon from Mars (1967), Incredible Kaleidoscope (1969), and Bernice (1970) long-players. Although each is represented, only the debut affair is offered in its entirety. Their initial inventive synthesis of straight-ahead rock, ragtime, and Eastern influences was a product of the times, as well as the undeniable and considerable talents of Solomon Feldthouse on saz, bouzouki, dobro, vina, oud, dumbek, dulcimer, fiddle, guitar, and vocals; David Lindley on guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin; Chris Darrow on bass, guitar, mandolin, and vocals; Chester Crill on violin, viola, bass, keyboards, and harmonica; and John Vidican on percussion. The decidedly ethereal "Egyptian Gardens" and Darrow's noir-tinged "Keep Your Mind Open" contrast with Lindley's earthy retro readings of "Hesitation Blues," "Come On In," and Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher." While there isn't really a bummer on the whole Side Trips platter, other standouts are the acidic "If the Night" and the pop harmonies of "Pulsating Dream." They followed with the even stronger collection, A Beacon from Mars, ranging in styles from the extended psychedelia of the title track and the folk-flavored "Life Will Pass You By" to the zany "Baldheaded End of a Broom." Deserving particular mention is their gritty reworking of Willie Cobbs' R&B classic "You Don't Love Me," rivaling Quicksilver Messenger Service's early live versions. Incredible Kaleidoscope provides the group-penned jam "Lie to Me," Lindley's inspired instrumental raga "Banjo," and a heavy adaptation of "Cuckoo," a traditional tune that was interpreted to great effect by Janis Joplin on Big Brother & the Holding Company (1967). Fittingly, the sole Bernice-era cut is also among the better ones in the form of the funky "To Know Is Not to Be."
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer