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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Klaatu

Endangered Species

Review by Gary Hill

You really have to love the wisdom of record label executives. Let's say you are one of these guys and you sign a band like Klaatu for the unique sound and songwriting skills that they possess. Then almost immediately you begin putting pressure on them to sound like everyone else so that they can get radio airplay. When that doesn't help over the course of three albums, you fire their producer and replace him. Then on that fourth disc, you have most of the parts the band played replaced by session musicians and the whole album reworked without their consent after they are done recording. Then when it bombs you dump them from your label. It makes perfect sense doesn't it? Well, not so much as I can see, but that's exactly the story of this Klaatu's fourth album. While there is some good material here, and nothing is really "bad," it's certainly the weakest effort from the band. And considering that although it bears their name they had only marginal say in the final result, that's a really sad moment for them. This is all fairly generic pop rock, but Klaatu's genius still manages to show through at points. Some of these songs, in their original format, surfaced on their Sun Set, and I can tell you that in all cases where the band was going with these was superior to what the label's group of hired guns came up with. This is worth having for Klaatu completists, and also for those looking to hear the difference. It is definitely listenable; it's just that they have so much better material available.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Can't Help It
Feeling a bit like ELO meets Sweet, this one has some prog tendencies, but overall it's an exceptionally strong pop rock number. This one is one of the winners on this set, and holds up reasonably well against some the band's other material. The chorus is quite potent.
Knee Deep In Love
Acoustic guitar starts this in a pretty ballad like style. When the vocals enter this becomes solidly a Beatles-like number. It has some Hollies thrown in, and the chorus line is catchy and very familiar sounding. This one is good, but just not that great. It's too generic to really rise above.
Paranoia
This one has perhaps the most generic late '70's pop rock sound of all. It feels a lot like Fleetwood Mac. Still, it does have its charms and works pretty well overall. The chorus has much of that Sweet type sound to it. There is also a Cheap Trick like break thrown in here.
Howl at the Moon
This has a nice mysterious texture that seems part "Dr. Marvello" and part "Season of the Witch." The track works fairly well, but not nearly so well as the one that shows up on Sun Set. This is a fairly stripped down track. A tango is thrown into the midst of this one here, and out of that come some of the tracks only prog elements. It's one of the brighter points on the CD.
Set The World On Fire
Coming in like a bluesy take on Sugarloaf's "Don't Call Us - We'll Call You," this one loses much of the more unique qualities found in the Sun Set version. Instead horns lend an almost soul texture at times. While this one has a great riff and some other nice elements, the producer and session musicians managed to suck a lot of the character out of the piece. The smoking guitar solo is nice, though.
Hot Box City
The intro on this one feels a lot like Ted Nugent meets Kiss, but then the horns that enter as the arrangement fills out change it around drastically. The cut is another with a very generic pop-rock take. This isn't bad; it's just nothing special.
Dog Star
While the version on Sun Set is a very cool, King Crimson like number, this is a stripped down, overly poppy track. This one has a few nice touches, but overall is too generic to really hold up well. It has a definite New Wave sound to it.
Sell Out Sell Out
Another example of how the producer and others ruined a good song. The truth is, though, this dig at just such corporate mentality is such a strong composition that they can't suck all the charm out of it. This one works better than most of the material on show here. It's bouncy and fun, just not the number that the Sun Set version is. Fortunately, they left some of the talk box guitar work intact.
All Good Things
This acoustic guitar based Beatles-like ballad is a tribute to Dee Long's dog. Although they seem to have monkeyed around with the arrangement a bit here, it remains fairly close to the original and is a strong track. It's one of the better ones on the disc, and while a more high energy track might have been better for the closing shot, this one works well.
 
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