In the fall of 1976, Klaatu released their eponymous debut album. There were no names of band members, no photographs, no songwriting credits… nothing. This led American audiences to speculate that Klaatu was a clandestine reunion of the Beatles. The rumor was further fueled by the fact that the LP was on Capitol records, the Beatles’ American label.
Eventually, Klaatu was revealed to be a trio of Canadian musicians. The resulting negative backlash ensured their return to obscurity.
However, Klaatu continued to release albums. There was Hope (1977) - criminally underappreciated at the time but now hailed as a prog rock masterpiece – followed by Sir Army Suit (1978).
These last two albums didn’t exactly fly off the shelves, so for Klaatu’s fourth album, Endangered Species (1980), Capitol took matters into their own hands. The album was recorded in LA. Session musicians (including studio veterans Lee Sklar and Tom Scott) and an outside producer (Christopher Bond) were brought in.
No Klaatu album deserves to be called weak, but Endangered Species is generally regarded as their weakest effort. Bond worked extensively with Hall and Oates, and one can hear his effect on the music. The production here is slick and glossy. The multilayered soundscapes of the band’s previous three LP’s are replaced by generic, dated dance pop.
Fortunately, the songs rise above the production. The opening track, “I Can’t Help It”, could have been a hit for Alan Parsons. The Middle-Eastern flourishes of “Howl at the Moon” hark back to Sir Army Suit. “Sell Out, Sell Out” indicates that Klaatu were not completely ignorant of what was happening to them. “All Good Things” is the most poignant a tribute to a pet I’ve ever heard.
Capitol’s attempt to make Klaatu sound like every other Top 40 band proved unsuccessful, and Endangered Species would be the band’s last album to be released in the US. Klaatu’s fifth and final LP (the excellent Magentalane) was released in Canada only.
Endangered Species is only weak when considering the higher-than-normal expectations created by Klaatu’s first three albums. At their best, these guys created music as good and as original as any other band… including that other group on Capitol.
***1/2 (out of four)