A look back at the “other” Kaleidoscope

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After 40 years of fans being forced to listen to bad vinyl rips or pay 8,000 dollars for one of the 600 copies in existence, Kaleidoscope’s eponymous debut album has been reissued. I know, I know, Kaleidoscope isn’t the most original name for a psychedelic band (considering that there were already American and British bands called Kaleidoscope), but their San Francisco-via-the Domincan Republic sound is certainly unique.

Although they sing in English, they’re music is marked by their multinational backgrounds, with members coming from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Spain, with the album itself being recorded in Mexico. Yet, their sound is still more informed by American and British psychedelic than other Latin American bands of the time like Brazil’s Os Mutantes or Chile’s Los Jaivas, who fused traditional and contemporary sounds. Kaleidoscope comes from a different lineage; their lead singer started out in a surf rock band and was inspired to play guitar by the Beatles, and their fuzzy, organ heavy style is closer to the San Francisco Sound than other Latin bands of the time.

“Let Me Try,” one of the highlights of the album, is a psychedelic dirge that shows off their varied influences. It starts off with an uplifting, almost-eastern guitar, but the song gets darker due to Francisco Tirado’s melancholy vocals. He cries out that “You think I’m foolish/but I can do it/if you would let me, let me try,” and “This world is breaking/and soon the feelings will be gone/my heart destroyed/but I keep trying/just maybe soon I can be loved.” The pulsing organs add even more tension, driving the song forward as Tirado laments that he is going nowhere. “Let Me Try” is all the sadder because this is their only album. Tirado may have seen his own potential, but he also prophesied his own future; after a small tour through the US, Kaleidoscope disbanded, making this angst-ridden song too true.

Kaleidoscope, “Let Me Try”

Kaleidoscope is available through Now-Again.