I recently picked up a decent copy of their third album, SIR ARMY SUIT, at a dollar sale. Their name was familiar but I couldn't remember why. For a short time I thought they were STARSAILOR, a group that Rolling Stone once termed a ripoff of YES.
However, SIR ARMY SUIT - while having proggy tendencies - actually sounded more like the Beatles. Then I remembered that in 1970 there were rumors Klaatu were actually the Beatles recording under a different name. Since both bands were on the same American label, Capitol records did nothing to dissuade listeners from this belief, and in fact encouraged it. This was the era of PAUL IS DEAD (which I found fascinating at the time) so it wasn't hard for people to believe crazy shit about their artists.
My dollar copy of SIR ARMY sounded pretty good, and I was able to clean up much of the record ghosting from the white cover, so it's selling at my Amazon store for $9.48. However, I like the music enough that I might be taking it back, or buying a better copy.
When I read the Wikipedia page for KLAATU I realized that I had heard one of their only hit songs back in the 70's: "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft." Since this track opens their first album, I found an "almost Near Mint" copy on Discogs for about $6 to get acquainted with the band.
Though the vinyl LOOKS clean, there's unfortunately a lot of surface noise; however the full dynamic range of the music makes it a worthwhile purchase for now. I've only played it once through but will have more to say when I get back to it; but for now, I found it very engaging in a Beatles Abbey Road sort of way, and with a more progressive feel overall than Sir Army Suit.
Updating on January 4, 2019
I'm now playing this album through for the third time. Since I started this post, I'm finding that it probably won't reward repeated listenings as I'd hoped. It's nice music but not quite essential.
I do love the opening track "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" though I'm not sure if it's the music or the fact that I'd head it a few times before. This is also the first time the Beatle influences crop up, especially in the piano, keyboards, vocals, and production. The Mellotron, Moog, organ, and treated pianos really do summon the Mystery Tour-era Fabs. However, these singers are clearly not John and Paul, and that should have been obvious even in the 70s!
"California Jam" immediately channels Paul, but again, not him! I doubt if this song refers to the Rock festival of that name - too early by a few years. Nice Beatle / Beach Boy style harmonies and interesting production on this one. However, they end with the cheesy trick of a live audience cheering (I've done it twice myself!)
"Anus of Uranus" - cringeworthy title and a pretty standard rock song.
"Sub Rosa Subway" - if we're keeping score, this one gets a very high Paulie Soundalike Score, as well as a veritable wall of Mystery Tour / Penny Lane horns and keyboards. There's even some George Harrison-style guitar and a Megaphone-enhanced Lennon voice. It finally cascades to a finale that sounds almost exactly like "It's All Too Much" from the Yellow Submarine, with handclaps and vocal hoots and bells and horns and wailing guitars... you get the idea.
And onto side two!
"True Life Hero" is pretty standard 70s Cock Rock style.
"Doctor Marvello" is an Indian-influenced tune in the style of a forgettable George Harrison song.
"Sir Bodsworth Rubblesby" is the kind of old-timey 40's style song that Paulie loves, with the exception that the vocalist sounds like an English Grover (from Sesame Street). Very goofy and very much of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Bonzo Dog Band - Van Dyke Parkes retro style of the 70's. It's a fun and creative tune, certainly a stylistic change from the rest of the LP.
"Little Meutrino" - no, computer, that is NOT a typo - ends the album with a ominous synth fragments fading in and out, until the acoustic guitars come in: suddenly we're in SUPERTRAMP or early GENESIS territory. Very cool, robotic vocal. Heaviosity. Dramatic chord crashes. Tons of sound effects across the soundscape as we draw to a close. I like it!
So the question remains: my copy has a lot of surface noise, and there are moments on this LP where a quiet platter would help a lot. Is it worth hunting down a better copy? Maybe I'll find one at a dollar sale!
Also, am I intrigued enough to bridge my KLAATU collection with the 2nd album, before getting back to the third?
Magic 8 Ball says All Signs Point To Yes.