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Klaatu - Endangered Species CD (album) cover




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1.96 | 48 ratings

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2 stars This album was a source of frustration to pretty much everybody involved – the fans, the label, its producer, and especially the band. Capitol had hired Hall & Oates producer Christopher Bond to craft a commercially-viable fourth album from the band. By now the rumors of Klaatu being a stealth incarnation of The Beatles had been pretty much debunked, and coming off the lackluster Sir Army Suit, Capitol was looking to reap some financial reward from the band’s contract, or part ways. In the end the label would pull this record from American distribution and drop the band, but not before shipping them off to Los Angeles under the watchful and dictatorial eye of Bond to produce Endangered Species.

It’s not that this is a terrible album, but it is worlds away from what Klaatu fans had become accustomed to, and it certainly was not progressive by any stretch of the imagination. This is a purely pop album in the same mold as what the aforementioned Hall & Oates were churning out at the time, as well as other glossy pop acts like Orleans and the Bay City Rollers. The label was looking to leverage the band’s name and creative lyrical style, as well as their distinctive vocal sound, but packaged into marketable singles and easily digestible formula hooks. To do so they brought in not only Bond, but a host of uncredited American west coast studio musicians as well. The band wrote all the songs, and John Woloschuk did manage to lay down some bass, piano, and electric guitar on a few tracks. But Dee Long played almost no part in the studio work, and a large part of Terry Draper’s recordings were removed from the final released mixes.

While the band didn’t officially reveal themselves on this recording (that would come on their final release Magentalane), there is a short note on the inner sleeve that is signed “Terry Draper, Dee Long & John Woloschuk), with no further explanation. The band members are also credited in the liner notes for the lyrics, but no other credits are offered.

While their three previous albums were recorded in Toronto, mostly on 16-track tape and produced mostly by the band themselves with support from friends and area musicians, this one was completed in a Los Angeles studio over the winter of 1979 and released in early spring, Christopher Bond was solely responsible for overseeing the recording sessions and final production, and even played on a number of tracks. The three band members themselves were rarely ever even in the studio at the same time, and to a man they were frustrated, fed up, and ready to pack it in and head back north for home. They would never release a studio album for Capitol Records again (Magentalane was bankrolled and distributed by Capitol Canada).

The band wrote a couple dozen songs for the album, from which Bond selected the nine that finally made it onto the album, odd in itself because this left the record at a scant thirty-three minutes. “Knee Deep in Love” was released as a single but failed to garner any notice; “Hot Box City/Dog Star” was promoted as a single but pulled. “I Can’t Help It” charted briefly in Canada, but when rumors that “Sell Out, Sell Out” was actually a disparaging song directed toward Klaatu fans, the album faded there as well.

“I Can’t Help It” is a straightforward pop tune that sound very much like a John Hall Band album that was released by Capitol about the same time, another attempt by the label to leverage the name of the band leader’s former band, Orleans. It’s pretty much a throwaway love song with no real distinguishing characteristics worth noting.

“Knee Deep in Love” is a bit closer to the band’s sound off their debut album, but is uncharacteristically depressing and describes a “Dear Jane” (or Joan in this case) breakup phone call. I would say that the guitar work was pretty decent, but since it was undoubtedly done by an unnamed studio musician, I won’t. All three band members manage some pleasant harmonic vocals, but here again this was engineered to be a pop single.

Woloschuk penned “Paranoia” and the lyrics are clever in describing the mental anguish of a guy suffering from clinical paranoia, but framed in a pop tempo and danceable drums it loses quite a bit in the translation.

“lately when I’m talkin’, I’ve been talkin’ to myself. My friends say they don’t notice – but they do ‘cause I can tell”

“Howl at the Moon” is a bizarre attempt at a “Devil Woman”-like tune that comes off flat. ‘Nuff said about that one.

Woloschuk later admitted that the lyrics and strident rhythm of “Set the World on Fire” was partly an expression of frustration with the situation he and the rest of the band found themselves in with the label. The highly repetitive lyrics and almost atonal vocal delivery were probably an intentional attempt to spite the label, but these are really nice guys and they would never admit that even if it were true.

“Hot Box City” is a blatant attempt at a pop single, complete with horns, simple guitar riffs, and Ric Ocasek-like vocals. It’s what the Beach Boys would have sounded like if they’d been from Canada instead of the States.

Dee Long wrote “Dog Star”, and this is as close as the band would come to the astral themes of 3:47 E.S.T. and Hope. If I thought the band actually played on this track I’d say it was decent, probably a three star effort.

Then comes “Sell Out, Sell Out”, the about – well, just what the title suggests. This is the Klaatu version of indignity toward their label and the music business in general. Woloschuk went to far as to state later that the band was really just trying to send a message to their fans that they were as disappointed with the record as they knew their fans would be, but it backfired a bit. At one point the band even managed to get Capitol executive Rupert Perry to record himself telling the band to “sell out”, making this a rare case where a record executive was a willing participant in panning himself!

Most fans interpreted “All Goods Things” as a swan-song for the band, and it was probably intended to be just that originally. Unfortunately Woloschuk’s family dog died during the recording sessions and he tweaked the final version to be a tribute to his lost pet.

This is probably the most disappointing Klaatu album, and it wouldn’t surprise me if even the band discouraged people from buying it. But it has some value to fans, and the music isn’t bad, it just isn’t progressive, and to a large degree it isn’t even Klaatu. Two stars are probably generous, but it feels right.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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