Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For the latest edition, we’re looking at a fantastic new boxset of ’60s psych and freakbeat gems.
The Psychedelia boom of the mid to late ’60s produced a quantity of obscure, short-lived acts rivalled by very few other genres in the history of popular music. To say that psych was wildly popular in its heyday would be an understatement; even now it’s a genre that has its talons firmly sunk into the DNA of rock. That, of course, was even more the case 50 years ago. While the late ’60s landmarks of the genre have largely been reissued and re-examined to near-death, the bands included in this set remain genuinely niche and under-heard. To be fair, that could well be down to the fact that many of the acts included on ‘A Kaleidoscope Of Sounds (Psychedelic & Freakbeat Masterpieces)’ split up before they even had time to record an album. Indeed, of the fourteen bands featured on this set, only two – Kaleidoscope and The Open Mind – stuck around long enough to bring out even one longer player. It’s perhaps no surprise that they’re arguably the two best-known bands on the roster, although they’re still relatively unknown outside of psych-collector circles. If bands such as Sands, Wimple Winch or The Eyes don’t ring any bells, then not-to-worry because they wouldn’t for most people either. After all, the singles featured here are, in original pressing form, rare enough to command prices well into the triple (and occasionally quadruple) figures – so they were hardly best-sellers. The great, and often fascinating, thing about the songs featured in this set is that they’re not the work of a few also-rans who deserved to eat dust; they are, bar a couple of exceptions, all excellent and not uncommonly brilliant. While the simplistic and sexist ‘Take Her Any Time’ by The Longboatmen doesn’t get close to earning it’s £700+ pricetag, and Fleur-De-Lys’ ‘Mud In Your Eye’ doesn’t quite hit the right vibe either, they’re exceptions to what is generally a hugely compelling selection of psych rarities. The selection is split between genuinely trippy fuzz-rockers (such as The Open Mind’s ‘Magic Potion’); airy, quintessentially British love-in jams (The Fairytale’s ‘Guess I Was Dreaming’); right through to mean, hard-edged garage rock infused with the strut of the early Stones (The Eyes – ‘When Night Falls’). ‘A Kaleidoscope Of Sounds (Psychedelic & Freakbeat Masterpieces)’ is a hugely enjoyable romp that will doubtless introduce even the most ardent of psych-heads to some new favourites and, considering how genuinely ultra-rare almost all of these songs are on wax, it’s a real kick to have them back in print for the first time in 50+ years.
The approach taken with this set is quite unusual; instead of fully reproducing seven rare, sought-after psych 7″s with B-sides included, the compilers have instead opted to select the standout song from fourteen such releases and press one per side. While purists may grumble at having only the A or B side of any given title rather than the full release, we think it’s a good idea. It certainly allows for the set to cover a wide and surprisingly varied roster of bands, making for something approximating a Nuggets-style psych sampler. The pressings themselves are excellent – made by Germany’s Optimal Media. The company demonstrate their generally reliable quality control here. With seven individual records to look at, the chance for pressing flaws inevitably rises, but playback across the set is impressive. The fourth 7″ of the set does have some small warpage from new – though nothing that affects play – and two or three of the singles do have some very minor background surface noise, but that’s the full extent of the flaws on our copy. By and large, the singles in this set play damn-near perfectly, with a low noise floor and clean sound. The mastering is really solid throughout the set, with clear, defined sound that sheds a very favourable light over these often fairly lo-fi recordings. We did find that the bass was occasionally a little booming but we were able to fix that with some minor EQ adjustment and even if that’s not something everyone can do, the sonics on the set are impressive regardless.
The packaging and presentation on this release is quite fantastic. It’s clear that a real attention to detail went into the visual component of the boxset, as this is clearly made for and by collectors. Each label is an authentic reproduction of the various labels from the original ’60s releases, even down to correctly reproducing the font. While there are, inevitably, some small differences (such as updated copyright credits and catalogue numbers) these are minimal differences and this set provides the closest thing you can get to owning the original singles without selling an organ for funds. The vintage company inner sleeves are also faithfully reproduced here, adding a further degree of authenticity to the project. They’re well printed, with vivid colours and sharp print quality. They’re non-polylined, so for everyday usage we’d advise slipping the records themselves in something more protective – but it’s a really thoughtful, well executed addition to the overall presentation. Topping off the contents of the box is a full-colour 8 page booklet. It gives a track-by-track rundown with full line-up details and a short history of each band. It’s enlightening stuff; especially considering that the bands included here range from niche to practically unheard of, so information on them is generally in short supply. The boxset itself is really appealing as well. Constructed with a lift-off lid, print quality is constantly good throughout and boasts fittingly trippy art on both the inside and outside. It’s sturdy and well made; as a purely functional means of protecting the contents inside it does a great job but also as an extension of the presentation and aesthetics, it’s a fitting, attractive addition. A download code redeemable through the Sound Of Vinyl website is also included.
‘A Kaleidoscope Of Sounds (Psychedelic & Freakbeat Masterpieces)’ is a really great set through-and-through. Pressing quality is generally excellent, presentation is top notch and the selection of the songs – although not quite impeccable – is, at the very least, great fun and really illuminating. Those who want to dig a bit deeper into the rabbit hole of ’60s Psychedelia would do well to pick this one up.