REVIEW: Klaatu - “Klaatu/Hope”, or... yet another Klaatu CD reissue
falls short of the mark....
BGO Records (BGOCD518) - 2000
Here we go again! :-)
The Klaatu catalog has been butchered by Capitol Records with their
various CD reissues for more than a decade.
When I was contacted by John Tobler in late 1999 (or was it early 2000?)
about some information for some liner notes for an upcoming reissue of
the first two Klaatu albums being prepared by BGO (Beat Goes On) Records
in the UK, I was very skeptical. They were licensing the tapes from Capitol,
and like the Capitol single disc release of "Klaatu", the Capitol 2-for-1
release of "Klaatu/Hope", and the Collector's Choice Music release of "Klaatu/Hope",
I expected the sound to be horrid.
In the early 90s, Capitol had created an "edited" master of the two albums together for a 2-for-1 release and had generally weak sound on top of the editing. In 1999, Collector's Choice Music licensed the same 2-for-1 disc, and they did some digital manipulation
of the bad master to create an even muddier presentation of the same edited digital master tape. You can read my review of this travesty at http://www.klaatu.org/cdreview.html
I let John Tobler know that if BGO was going to get the tapes from Capitol, that they would probably be sent the edited master, and even if they weren't,
Capitol doesn't own the original masters, so they wouldn't be sent the best source material available.
Well, I just finally got a copy of the new BGO release from 2000 (I received it on October 1, 2001). I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised.
It isn't the edited master after all! Although, there's a ton of hiss on Hope on this release, and the tracks from the first album are muddy.
First off, this isn't the edited master used by Capitol and Collector's
Choice Music for their 2-for-1 releases. The mouse squeak at the end of
"Klaatu" is there. It's followed a few seconds later by the mouse squeak
at the start of the "Hope" album. The edits on side two of Hope are gone.
This truly sounds like a complete version of the albums.
I do, however, have some issues with this release.
1: The sound of Subrosa Subway still sounds washed out. The bass is
too muddy and buried.
2: The track IDs are screwed up on Hope.
They list the following:
13 The Loneliest Of Creatures
15 So Said The Lighthouse Keeper
but what they've REALLY got is this:
13 The Loneliest Of Creatures / Prelude
14 So Said The Lighthouse Keeper
16 Reprise of We're Off You Know
That, to me, is a MAJOR screw up and shows that the person mastering the CD had never heard the albums/music before.
The packaging isn't very good either, which leads us to #3.
3: The jewel case has a sticker on it (why can't they put it on the
shrink wrap?) that hides the artwork of their cover.
4: The sticker makes 3 claims, 2 of which are false.
The sticker claims "REMASTERED FROM ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES" and that just
isn't true. The master tapes were obtained from Capitol Records and Capitol
Records doesn't own the "ORIGINAL" master tapes. They instead own safety
copies of the "ORIGINAL" master tapes (which is why they are so hissy!).
So, the BGO release is NOT from the "ORIGINAL" master tapes, but it IS
from an unedited set of masters, which puts it head and shoulders above
all other Capitol Records CD reissues and the Collector's Choice Music
The sticker claims "ADDITIONAL SLEEVE NOTES". This part is true, although
those notes focus almost exclusively on the Beatles rumor, something the
band has consistently tried to distance themselves from for 25 years! The
liners also inaccurately state that "Klaatu was not a name invented by
the group members, but was also part of the 'let's pretend we're the Beatles'
plot." This couldn't be further from the truth. While the name itself wasn't
"invented" by the band (it's the name of an alien in the 1951 movie "The Day
The Earth Stood Still"), the Beatles rumor was started in 1977 by Steve Smith,
a journalist in Rhode Island, accidentally I might add, and was picked up by
Capitol Records ONLY AT THAT POINT and perpetuated entirely by Capitol Records.
The band had been using the name, though, since their first single in 1973,
which is a year before Ringo used the alien "Klaatu" (with his own face in
place of Klaatu's) on his "Goodnight Vienna" cover. In light of this, there's
no way that the band name "Klaatu" could have been chosen because of the Beatles
connection since in 1973 there was no connection between that name and the Beatles.
It looks like BGO's heart was in the right place originally, but they apparently don't
have any qualms about making false statements on the stickers they put
on their releases, and don't have any quality control in their art department.
For that matter, they didn't bother to check the track indexing and really
badly blew the track IDs for the second half of Hope. But if what really
counts to you is the sound quality, then this just isn't the issue for you.
The hiss level is still what I would consider inappropriate, but considering
that they didn't go back to the "ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES" as they claimed they did,
The sticker claims "FAITHFULLY RESTORED ARTWORK" which is also, unfortunately,
just not true.
The tray card contains a shrunken image of the back cover of the Hope album,
with the song titles for both albums below it, and to the right of it is
all the copyright and contact info for BGO records.
The inside of the tray card is a blowup of the face of the sun which is
revealed when you remove the CD.
The front of the booklet is that same blowup of the face of the sun, with
tiny copies of the front cover artwork of both albums placed over the face,
(of course the Hope album cover is half-hidden behind the sticker that
they stuck on the front of the jewel case!).
The back cover of the booklet is the back cover of the first album.
So where's the "restored" artwork? We've got a booklet size copy of the
back cover of the first album. A slightly smaller size copy of the back
cover of the second album, and teenie tiny images of the front covers of
both albums. Hardly what I'd call restored. The booklet itself contains
5 pages of "sleeve notes" which are John Tobler's discussion of the Beatles
rumor and a reference to the official Klaatu web site, and 9 pages of lyrics.
There's no restoration of the original Klaatu album inner sleeves.
The lyrics are placed inside what was the original LP inner sleeve design
to make it look like the artwork for the inner sleeve has been restored,
but even then they've very badly cropped the top two corners and the lower
left corner of that artwork on every page, so it's hardly what I'd call
"FAITHFULLY RESTORED ARTWORK".
And where's the artwork of the Hope album's inner sleeve? And where's the
great label artwork from both LPs? It's missing.
[Having heard a test pressing for the upcoming Bullseye Records release
of the first Klaatu album (and pointing out a problem that has been fixed
BEFORE going to manufacturing) and having been completely blown away by
the incredible quality of this upcoming release, I would suggest you save
your money and wait until October 23rd, 2001 to buy the Bullseye Release
when it comes out. And early next year when the Hope album comes out, let's
hope Bullseye does as nice a job with that one too.]
My revised ratings of the Klaatu CD reissues so far:
For "3:47 EST" aka "Klaatu":
Capitol - 1990 - 8 out of 10.
Justin - 1990 - 8 out of 10.
Capitol - 1992 (2-for-1) - 6 out of 10.
Attic - 1993 - 9 out of 10 (the only thing preventing a 10 out of 10
is the missing mouse squeak).
Collectors’ Choice Music - 1999 (2-for-1) - 5 out of 10.
BGO Records - 2000 - 5 out of 10.
Bullseye Records - 2001 - 10 out of 10 (if the quality of the test
pressing stays as is)
Justin - 1991 - 4 out of 10. Low marks for quality.
Capitol - 1992 (2-for-1) - 4 out of 10. Low marks for editing the world’s
most perfect album and partially for quality.
Attic - 1993 - 9 out of 10.
Collectors’ Choice Music - 1999 (2-for-1) - 3 out of 10.
BGO Records - 2000 - 4 out of 10 (with bad track ID placement).
Bullseye Records - 2002 - 10 out of 10 (the best has finally arrived!)
- Dave Bradley – October 2, 2001, revised April 2003.