Hey, have you heard about Klaatu?
My dad had this group's first album ("3:47 EST") on vinyl, and he'd occasionally play it. He told me about how there was some belief for a while that Klaatu was the reformed Beatles. He told me about all the little hints and suggestions and played some tracks that were supposed to be Beatlesque. But other than "Sub-Rosa Subway," I don't hear anything that truly sounds like the Beatles.
And to give Klaatu fair credit, they never claimed to be the Beatles and didn't try to ride that easy wave of promotion. So there you have it. They're not the Beatles.
That doesn't stop this from being a great album, though.
Klaatu was a Canadian group that started in 1973, consisting of John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper. Their name came from the being featured in the film "The Day the Earth Stood Still." The album's title of "3:47 EST" reflects the time that Klaatu arrived in Washington in the film.
(Ringo Starr would take a still from this movie, pasted a cutout of his head onto Klaatu's body and released that as the album cover to his "Goodnight Vienna" album.)
Song by song, there aren't really any clunkers here. The album is progressive pop, with sci fi and weird history weaved throughout. It's psychedelic at times, and uses studio trickery masterfully, and just tends to be a great listen time and time again.
"Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" is pure cheese, but it's so much fun and harmless, and it has a great groove. The Carpenters covered it, unfortunately, so yet another poor cover version of a great song entered the world. (I'm not a fan of the Carpenters or their covers, though I admit they do have a couple good songs ... I can't dismiss their whole body of work.)
"California Jam" is fantastic, probably my favorite track on the disc. I love the sound. This is almost 1970s Beach Boys, only more fun than what the Beach Boys were producing at the time. Check out that "doot doo doo" intro. The imagery is good, the feelings that the song captures and the "summer fun" vibe are perfect. The harmonies are pretty good for rock, too. "One day you're gonna be one sweet memory," indeed.
"Sub-Rosa Subway" is great fun, and the vocals definitely sound Paul McCartneyish. And the subject matter is pretty odd and daffy. I could hear this as a "Magical Mystery Tour" era song, or a track off Paul's solo "Venus and Mars." How often do you hear songs about how subways are developed? And did you think a song with that kind of subject matter could be cool? Klaatu pulls it off.
"Sir Bodsworth Ruggelsby III" is another of my favorites. It's so weird and daffy and delightful, and would be the "Ringo" track if this was a Beatles representation of the album. The vocal is gruff, and kind of reminds me of an older, hoarse and gravelly Grover from Sesame Street (yeah, seriously ... not as dorky as Grover, but that kind of vocal quality). And hey, "Sir Bodswroth Ruggelsby III" is the only man who's been to hell and come back alive.
There are other highlights, too. Just song title-wise, "Anus of Uranus" is sure to catch the attention. And the production and material of the song are actually really good. Sure, the title is provocative, but the actual song is about an alien and his computer. The guitar riffs are crunch, and the vocal processing is great. "Hey meet my computer / he's a friendly son of a gun / and we're having fun!" (See? Sci fi meets childish humor in a pop setting, what can be better?) This song sounds like a Tommy Shaw special (would love to see him do something like this at a Styx concert).
Actually, in retrospect, I think this album sounds quite a bit like prog-rock era Styx. Heck, one of their biggest hits ("Come Sail Away") is about a starship. And if you listen to the Klaatu song "True Life Hero," that sounds kind of like Tommy Shaw on vocals. The crunchy guitars and the aaaaaa-aaaah-aaaaah vocal hook is almost garage punky. It's good rock, the kind of stuff Shaw favors.
Maybe this band is what 1967-era Paul McCartney and 1976-era Tommy Shaw would have sounded like had they teamed up for some reason. Or maybe not. Still, it's the kind of rocking groove that is fun to drive to (or work to).
Really, the rest of the tracks on the album are interesting, different, provocative ... They may not be my favorites, but there isn't a bad one in the lot. "Little Neutrino" is the most out of it, very atmospheric and would suit a space movie soundtrack very well. Kind of reminds me of late Sixties Pink Floyd, a bit.
And as for the album ending with a mouse squeak ... I dunno. Maybe that's the anti-"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" ending? Rather than the piano chords that crash on forever, you get a tiny mouse squeak. I doubt it was an intentional parallel ... but who knows?
"3:47 EST" may never make it to a top albums list by anyone, but it's very much worth a listen, and if you can find it in stores, snatch it up. It's one of those oddities you can be proud to have in your collection.
1. "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft"
2. "California Jam"
3. "Anus of Uranus"
4. "Sub-Rosa Subway"
5. "True Life Hero"
6. "Doctor Marvello"
7. "Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III"
8. "Little Neutrino"