Klaatu : Klaatu (aka. 3:47 EST)
(Capitol - 1976)
Category : misunderstood
Why is this album in the misunderstood category? Actually, it's not the album but the musicians themselves that were in a way misunderstood. When this album appeared, there was no information on the sleeve about them. When a bit later a music critic noticed the similarites with The Beatles (well, they weren't hard to miss, really), he launched the idea that Klaautu might actually be The Beatles in disguise. Conspiracy theorists immediately found clues everywhere in details of the sleeve art (which only they could interpret "correctly"), in backward messages or hidden morse code (that only they could hear), etc... Klaatu sailed on the hype thus created, until their true identity was revealed, and all of a sudden everyone lost interest in their work. As a result their albums failed to sell, and the band eventually broke up.
How's that for an injustice? If this album would indeed have been made by McCartney & Co. it would've been a classic, but when it turned out they were just a bunch of unknown Canadian studio musicians, suddenly it was nothing more than a curiousity due to that little Beatles-story surrounding it.
Saying that Klaatu are Beatles-imitators is a huge mistake though. Sure, there's songs that sound like forgotten Fab Four miracles, with a sound and especially a feel that's reminiscent of the best material found on their late 60's albums. The melodies, vocal melodies and orchestral arrangements are elaborate and perfect into the smallest detail. Only The Beatles had indeed done something similar at the time.
In other words, stylewise it's accessible slightly Psychedelic Pop & Rock. But there's just as much Progressive Rock influences on this album. Their Progressive side comes closest to early Genesis but in a smoother alltogether more pleasing fashion. But no matter what references were made to other bands, in the end this is still a Klaatu album where each song has a different personality. It's an album with lots of variation that'll keep your attention going from the edge of the platter to that little hole in the middle.
Above all it's awe inspiring in the sense that if their attention to detail, their ear for sonic texture and their ability to come up with song structures like this would've been magically transferred to another band, the album of that band would've been a pompous monstrosity, to be enjoyed only by brainiacs, highbrowed idiots and insane undersized dogs with very short legs. Klaatu's genius lies in the fact that they manage to make it all digestible for your regular Pop fans, but also to beings of superior taste and intelligence like myself.
In short, if you have never heard this album, it's certainly one to discover, because it's a unique document and a masterpiece. And those of you that remember the 1977 hit 'Calling occupants of interplanetary craft' of The Carpenters will also be able to discover the superior original that's opening this album.
Footnote: While you're at it, if you ever get the chance, listen to their follow up album 'Hope' as well. It's slightly more complex sounding, but from a Progressive fan's point of view, just as interesting. After 'Hope' the band made a shift in style towards less complexity and an easier digestible sound & feel.