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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Klaatu

Sir Army Suit (Reissue with Bonus DVD)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a reissue of Klaatu’s third disc. It’s not just a reissue, though. The whole thing has been remixed from the master tapes and the packaging has been reworked. If that weren’t enough, it includes a DVD, too. This package is top-notch. Mind you, I’ve reviewed the album before, and I’ll include that review here for the sake of consistency, but let’s focus on what’s changed here. First, the sound is incredible. This sounds so full and clear. Things jump out that I don’t remember hearing in the mix before. Secondly, the huge booklet is great, too. The DVD is exceptional, too. It features interviews, video clips from an animated film that was partially finished and much more. It’s worth having all by itself. Then when you consider how great this album sounds, it’s even better. This is a “must have” in this configuration – no question about it. Even if you have an earlier version, get this. And, with that in mind, what follows is my original review of the album. Mind you, some of what I had believed about the album seems to be contradicted in the interviews with Terry Draper on the DVD. Still, this is my original review.

With their third album the signs of trouble were really beginning to show. The label was putting the band under a lot of pressure to get on the radio. So, they were struggling for the "big hit." It's so frustrating when labels sign a band based on their sound, but then want to change that sound to fit their ideas. The truth is, if a band is good, and you let them create, they will generate a lasting and real fan base. Well, that's my soap box appearance for this review. In any event, the music on here is much less progressive in approach and far more pedestrian. Still, there are some highlights to be found. In some cases the versions found here don't differ significantly from those found on Sun Set. Since I already reviewed that album when this is the case here, I will use that track review for sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Routine Day

Starting with the sounds of rain, this one comes in as a piano based ballad like the Beatles, then grows into a very potent prog rock take on Sgt. Peppers territory. This moves through several changes and variations in a killer complex, yet catchy arrangement.

Juicy Lucy

Where the version on Sun Set seemed a lot like Sweet, the one here seems to come across more like Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom." It has a bouncy, mellow rock texture. It's not bad, and includes a few nice touches, but it's just way below what the band was capable of doing. They turn it into a major funky breakout later. It almost feels more like Earth Wind and Fire than Klaatu at that point.

Everybody Took A Holiday

This is bouncy and quite Beatles like. I like the harpsichord (or synthesizer pretending to be harpsichord) on this track. Add to that the cool chorus, and this one is saved from pure mediocrity. I have to say that the video game keys are a step in the wrong direction, but the arrangement pulls in enough oomph to do the job.

Older

This hard rocker isn't very prog, but it's still quite cool. The main riff, I think, was requisitioned by Spinal Tap for one of their stompers. This feels part Bowie and part Sweet. They spacey effects on some of this are a nice touch. While not the proggiest number on show here, this one is definitely a standout of the disc. This one almost qualifies as metal.

Dear Christine

This pretty cut is a Beatles-like and quite effective ballad.

Mister Manson

This suitably dark (it is about Charles Manson) rocker has some of the more proggy stuff on the disc, but mostly in the form of a weird slowed down psychedelic space segment. Otherwise it's a bouncy hard rocking cut that is pretty meaty. It's another highlight of the disc. This has some cool enveloped guitar sounds.

Tokeymore Field

This a bouncy little Beatlesesque pop outing. It has its moments, but is not all that special.

Perpetual Motion Machine

Coming in with an electronic beat that is too lightweight, what happens here is rather intriguing. This cut, delivered with a little more oomph would really feel a lot like The Moody Blues. Surely the chorus has that band's sound written all over it. This one is fast paced and fun. I just wish they had put a little more bite into it. The bass solo is a nice touch as is the weird carnival music that comes after to end the piece.

Cherie

Starting with strings, this feels a lot like a mellow acoustic Beatles number. It really has all the earmarks of Paul McCartney's songwriting. Some cool baroque elements are added in for nice measure and strings weave waves of sound over top of much of this track. I like this one quite a bit. It's a very effective pop ballad.

Silly Boys

I've heard people slag this song, but frankly it's my favorite on the album. This is a rather weird one with all the vocals backwards, but that sort of sense of the strange is a nice touch. Otherwise it's a fairly standard 70's rocker through much of its length. Still an awesome instrumental break, with lots more backwards sounds adds a definite prog touch here. This to me seems like the band showing off what they would have liked to have produced for this album. Now, with all that said, he's the real story behind the song - and it's even more amazing. This is actually the original version of "Hanus of Uranus" played backwards. They found that listening to the tape it seemed to have different lyrics when reversed. So, what they did was reverse the song, take out some of the tracks and record new ones to go in with it in this format. The result is an incredibly cool piece of music. They even include the lyrics, what they feel the song sounds like it is saying, written backwards on the sleeve. Whatever the story, I like this one a lot. This cool cut alone is worth the price of admission.

 
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