I recently had the opportunity to listen to and review the latest
Klaatu release from BGO records in the U.K. They've put Sir Army
Suit and Engangered Species on a single disc together, with a deluxe
slipcover around the jewel case and a booklet with liner notes by John
Tobler and complete lyrics to the two albums.
I was immediately struck by the high quality of the sound on this disc. It's fantastic! Unlike their previous Klaatu release (a 2-fer of Klaatu and Hope) which had horrible sound and misplaced track indices, this disc is truly great.
However, there are some issues that I have with the BGO 2-fer's liner notes:
Again, John Tobler seems to be stuck on the fact that it was once rumored that Klaatu were the Beatles. He opens his liner notes with a discussion of this rumor, quoting the Klaatu web page.
He goes on, though, to totally mess things up. He mentions that the name of the band wasn't a name invented by the band (true) but was also a part of the "let's pretend that we're the Beatles" plot (very untrue). To back up his claim he mentions the Ringo Starr album from 1974, "Goodnight Vienna" which uses an image from the movie "The Day The Earth Stood Still", stating this was pre-Klaatu. What he seems to be completely unaware of (or intentionally dismissing of) is the FACT that Klaatu released singles as early as 1973 under that name, prior to the "Goodnight Vienna" album by Ringo. Mr. Tobler states this is "a connection with one of the Beatles". (Sorry, John, no matter how much you write it, that doesn't make it true.)
Mr. Tobler also goes on to state that the publishing credit to Klaatoons "could be a Beatle joke". Um, excuse me, is there an inside joke there? (and by inside I mean strickly inside Mr. Tobler's head!) I see nothing about the word "Klaatoons" which could remotely make me think of anything connected to the Beatles. Am I missing something significant here? Or for that matter, am I missing something insignificant here?
Mr. Tobler states that the back cover of the debut album shows TWO SUNS which might be "a reference to McCartney's 1975, 'Venus & Mars' album". Sorry, I've just looked at the back cover of the first Klaatu album to double check what I thought I already knew and there are zero suns, not two. Mr. Tobler may be guilty of something he states many were in the latter half of the 1970s, specifically being "in any kind of altered state", or else he's never seen the back cover of the first Klaatu album and wanted to make up some "facts". Either way, this should never have gotten past the editors checking the liner notes for BGO.
Mr. Tobler also points out to us that the first two Klaatu albums had the sun as part of their artwork (a connection to the Beatles rumor because of the Sun King song on the Abbey Road album), but fails to notice that the sun is also on the front covers of Sir Army Suit and Endangered Species, the two albums on the CD he's writing about (!) as well as Magentalane, Klaasic Klaatu and Peaks.
Mr. Tobler also seems to believe that Klaatu launched their "career with a campaign of Chinese whispers which soon prove to be completely untrue", seeming unable to understand that this is NOT how Klaatu launched their career and that they did not start, nor perpetuate the Beatles rumor.
Half way through the third page of his five page liner notes, John Tobler begins to finally discuss the two albums that this CD represents, Sir Army Suit and Endangered Species. He begins that part of his discussion by calling Sir Army Suit "oddly-titled", apparently not realizing, or completely ignoring the fact that this is taken from the lyrics to Silly Boys (which are printed in the lyric section later in this same booklet).
He states that neither Sir Army Suit nor Endangered Species have ever been previously available in the UK. I've been able to locate both albums on vinyl pressings from the U.K. on e-bay, so I'm not sure where Mr. Tobler gets his information.
He calls the line in "A Routine Day" that asks "What's the bloody point?" a slightly odd line in the lyrics, which tells me he hasn't bothered to listen to what the song is even about.
Unable to leave the Beatles rumor alone, Mr. Tobler goes on to compare the experimentation on Sir Army Suit to that of the Beatles and George Martin. He calls Everybody Took A Holiday "Beatlesque", states Dear Christine may have been a likely candidate for a "Paul McCartney recording", calls Tokeymor Field "Beatlesque" but says it isn't much like "Strawberry Fields Forever" (? should it be ?), says Perpetual Motion Machine sounds like "Fixing A Hole" and points out that "'Cherie' is a French name just like 'Michelle' while the use of Harpsichord in 'Cherie' sounds rather like something that The Beatles might have done." Er, um, has anyone told Mr. Tobler that the Harpsichord was around for centuries before the Beatles and told him about the style of chamber music that this piece is written to resemble which also predates the Beatles by centuries?
Mr. Tobler makes a point of stating that Sir Army Suit was "apparently produced by Terry Brown" and that may be a reason for the experimentation, while ignoring the fact that the first two albums were also produced by Terry Brown. While he may claim ignorance of that fact because the album covers don't credit Terry Brown on the first two albums, neither does the album cover for Sir Army Suit. It seems he had to do some research to find out about Terry Brown's involvement in one, but didn't bother to find out if he had also been involved in the others.
Mr. Tobler's BIGGEST gaffe in his liner notes though is a completely incorrect quote of a song's lyrics. He states that the song Mr. Manson contains the lyric, "Jesus has been avenged" and yet later in the booklet (the lyric section) the lyrics are correctly listed as "Jesus has been and left". Nice job making up lyrics that aren't there to make some point no one seems to know you are trying to make except yourself.
Oh yeah, for a good laugh I suggest you have a listen to "Juicy Luicy" which Mr. Tobler apparently feels sounds like The Knack!
Having spent more time on the first two Klaatu albums and the Beatles rumor than on anything specific about Sir Army Suit, he now gives a one paragraph plug for the Klaatu web site with a backhanded compliment about interviews, stating that "one may suspect an element of tongue-in-cheek in both questions and answers". I can personally assure Mr. Tobler that there's no element of tongue in cheek, but might forewarn BGO before they use him for further liner notes that there may be an element of hashish in his liner note writing "abilities".
At the bottom of page 4 he begins his discussion of Endangered Species by gushing over Christopher Bond who produced the album, then stating that the opening track, I Can't Help It sounds like The Knack! (yeah right, that and Juicy Luicy. Mr. Tobler isn't dealing with reality here folks!)
Mr. Tobler states that Paranoia sounds like a pastiche of Paranoid by Black Sabbath, but with improved production values. Any Black Sabbath fans out there want to tackle that one? :-)
Also, apparently unbeknownst to anyone actually listening to the lyrics of "Howl At The Moon", the song is about someone who is the victim of a vampire. (Gee, Mr. Tobler, you must get only the really good stuff from your dealer!)
John intuitively states that Sell Out, Sell Out could be Paranoia Pt. II, but then goes on to bash the song because the band used a vocoder in it like they did with Silly Boys and Gly Johns said never to use an effect twice because it isn't original. Well, if that's the case then ANYONE recording using a vocoder isn't original because it was done back when they first came out. Sheesh! (I guess the fact that the vocoder section is only a small section doesn't count for anything.)
John ends his commentary on Endangered Species by stating All Good Things is about the end of romance (that one made me HOWL with laughter! Sorry, couldn't resist that!). He's so completely unable to listen to the lyrics! He also claims it has a Sgt. Pepper style trumpet in it so that no one forgets the vague Beatles connection. Give me a break! There's no trumpet on the track at all!
After this 5 page missive against Klaatu (and why would BGO Records have asked someone who so obviously doesn't get it and isn't into Klaatu to write liner notes for a Klaatu release?), the lyrics for the two albums are reproduced.
For artwork they've surrounded the 5 pages of liner notes with a black line and the Klaatu mouse from the back of the Sir Army Suit album cover on each page. The lyrics for BOTH albums are all printed against a backdrop of the Klaatu sun, like the original Sir Army Suit lyric sheet did it (and like the Bullseye Records release did in 2003, except that Bullseye did it in light green with the sun white and BGO has done it in white with the sun gray. The original LP had the sun white with the backing gray). The BGO release follows the Capitol release of Endangered Species by including the missing verse from I Can't Help It on the lyric sheet despite the fact that it doesn't appear in the recording on the CD (or the original LP for that matter); a mistake which Bullseye corrected in the lyrics printed in the booklet of their 2003 release of that album.
The back cover of the BGO CD states that all the songs on Sir Army Suit were composed by Klaatu, while the Endangered Species songs list the individual song-writers. Since this information is readily available for all of the Klaatu albums (even though it wasn't on the first three LPs when "originally" released) I have to presume that BGO used only information on the album covers of the original vinyl releases (which makes Mr. Tobler's comments about Terry Brown all the more baffling).
The BGO release comes packaged in a nice outer slip cover that shows miniature versions of the two album covers. When you remove the slip cover, you see the front of the booklet is the same. While the back of the slip cover and the back of the tray card are modified versions of the back of the Sir Army Suit album cover, the back of the booklet is a modified version of the back of the Endangered Species album cover and includes the quotation about Endangered Species that the band had included on the inner sleeve of the original LP release (and is found inside the Bullseye booklet). Unfortunately, nowhere do we get full (cd booklet) size versions of the two front covers, or of the original beautiful label artwork for these two albums.
ALL THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, though, the CD presents these two albums in beautifully mastered sound! They've done an excellent job on the audio, which makes the shoddy attempt at liner notes all the more puzzling. And unlike the horrible sound quality/mastering on their 2-fer of Klaatu and Hope, this 2-fer does the recordings justice. This may truly be the best sounding version of these two albums that has been released to date!
So, for sound quality, I give the disc a 10 out of 10. For packaging I give the set a 1 out of 10, mainly due to the absolutely absurd attempt at liner notes. If you have the beautiful sounding Bullseye releases of these two albums, you don't need this collection. If you don't have the Bullseye releases, AND IFF you don't care about the liner notes being total garbage, then this collection might be worth the effort to track down. For my money, though, I still find the value of the Bullseye releases to far surpass this set because of the attention to detail not only in the audio, but also in the packaging, making sure to use the best quality graphics and to include liner notes that actually are based in reality and which have information about the recordings that are based on recollections from the band and those involved in the sessions instead of made up facts and innuendos (and made up mis-quotes from the lyrics).
- Dave Bradley