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Klaatu - 3:47 E.S.T. CD (album) cover

3:47 E.S.T.

Klaatu

 

Prog Related

3.26 | 75 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars This is the debut album by the legendary Klaatu, the band whose fifteen minutes of fame was mostly due to the rampant rumor in the mid 70s that they were the incognito reformation of the Beatles. Not true of course, and I won’t belabor the story – Google will tell you all you care to know. The tracks here are a bit disjointed, with no particular overriding theme other than the simple joy of crafting well-arranged and even better produced studio music at a time when producers had to settle for sweat rather than highly-evolved electronic gadgets like those readily available today. The results are some pretty good tunes that still pop up from time to time today.

“Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” is just a wonderful song. Vocalist Terry Draper must have made androgynous stars like David Bowie and Marc Bolan jealous with his lighter-than-air delivery, and the Mellotron augmented by a grand piano give the work an other-worldly feel that would have been much more difficult to achieve at the time than today without the benefit of extensive computerized electronic equipment. Like all the other songs on this album, much of the texture of the music is a result of extensive double-tracking of mellotron, moog, hammond, and piano, with this particular song having heavier drum tracks than most of the rest of the album. The theme is supposedly inspired by an activity by the little-green-men-chasing ‘International Flying Saucer Bureau’, who issued a challenge to their members in 1953 to support World Contact Day by all telepathically transmitting this plea into the stratosphere simultaneously –

“Calling occupants of interplanetary craft”.

Much of the world actually discovered this charming tune when it was covered as a hit single by brother and sister duo the Carpenters in 1977, but I much prefer the original for its complex production, simple rhythm, and simply spectacular vocals.

“California Jam” is a Beach Boys-inspired piece with Beatles-clone vocals, silly beach-bum lyrics, and a foreboding message about that west coast state’s inevitable fate (ie., slipping away into the Pacific when “the Big One” hits the San Andreas Fault). This is one of two songs by the band (the other being Sir Army Suit’s “Juicy Lucy”) to feature female session vocalist Laurie Hood. A light, poppish, and endearing work.

The guitar and bass tracks of “Anus of Uranus” are closer to a rock song than a pop one, not unlike some of the more street-wise Eagles tunes like “Life in the Fast Lane” or “In the Long Run”. The central character is Anus, a happy-go-lucky alien swinger from the planet Uranus who drops by Earth for a night of partying. Again, nothing too deep here, but it’s a nice bass-driven tempo and an enjoyable listen.

Engineer Alfred Beach builds the original New York City subway in “Sub-Rosa Subway”, the first of two songs about decidedly non-pop topics on the album (the other is “Little Neutrino” with its physics theme at the end of the album). Some trumpet and metal percussion adds a festive flair to suggest the opening of Beach’s work, although the lyrics reveal the public’s initial impression is less than favorable –

“As for America's first subway, the public scoffed, "It's far too rude";

One station filled with Victoria's age from frescoed walls and goldfish fountains....

To Brahmsian tunes”.

Apparently the subway fashion equivalent of wearing black after Memorial Day.

The “True Life Hero” is a beach lifeguard, the first man on the moon, anyone who takes a risk and makes an impression on those around him. Bassist Dee Long sings lead for one of the few times in the band’s brief career, and the result is a largely pop tune leaning toward heavy rock. This one kind of reminds me of some of the stuff Kiss did around the same time, although Long’s vocals are nowhere near as memorable as Paul Stanley’s. This one actually yielded an early video, although I’m not sure it was ever seen outside of Canadian television, or if it survives today.

“Doctor Marvello” features a rather exotic-sounding electric sitar and maracas, giving the song a unique sound that is not quite eastern, not quite psychedelic, but also a little bit of both. Like many Klaatu songs this one is heavy on the keys, featuring a Mellotron, Moog, and a Rhodes piano, along with some brass (trumpet I think) and acoustic guitar. This is a silly love song of sorts about a young couple who conjure up the shaman doctor to cure them

The vocalist on “Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III” sounds more like Grover from Sesame Street than a masquerading Beatle.

Except for a bass drum and acoustic guitar, all the sounds on “Little Neutrino” were created or enhanced with a Moog synthesizer (including vocals), overdubbed repeatedly to create a lush spacey tune about a particle – probably the only modern musical work around dedicated to the subject of particle physics! This song is more impressive for the level of studio complexity than for the actual music or lyrics.

This is a collection of trivial works that lean heavily toward pop, but have a place in the progressive world simply for the impressive studio shenanigans required to produce the wide variety of sounds and the eclectic topics. The next album “Hope” would show the band maturing their sound, and adding a unifying theme to that album as well, to produce a true classic of progressive history. 3:47 E.S.T. doesn’t quite rise to that level, but it’s close. I have a hunch many progressive music fans will at least find this a very nice and worthwhile diversion. 3.47 stars.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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