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Intergalactic Touring Band

Join Meat Loaf, Clarence Clemons and other musical stars for a harmonic jaunt through the heavens

*Intergalactic Touring Band
*47:18 min.
*MSRP: $16.98 CD

Review by Jeff Berkwits

T hanks to the discovery of the Vibracon Globe, which utilizes human emotions as an energy source, the universe has been conquered and civilization has spread to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. Yet Vibra Corporation executives are worried that, with people so dispersed, relations among the various worlds could disintegrate. So they've formed the Intergalactic Touring Band, an all-star ensemble that travels throughout the heavens preaching peace and harmony while tunefully telling tales of early space explorers and distant planets.

Our Pick: B+

That's the premise of Intergalactic Touring Band, a quirky recording first released in 1977 and recently reissued on CD. Though the plot is positively charming, the most notable aspect of the project is probably the sheer number of well-known participants. Rod Argent provides lead vocals on the gossamer "Silver Lady," with Annie Haslam handling the same duties—accompanied by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips—on "Reaching Out," Dave Cousins of the Strawbs lending his pleasant pipes to "Heartbreaker" and Meat Loaf enlivening the disc's closing composition, "Keeper Keep Us." Two members of Status Quo, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi, energize "A Planet Called Monday," while E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons supplies a succinct solo on "Love Station" and synthesizer wizard Larry Fast (Synergy) adds airy electronic elements to practically every track.

Extensive liner notes furnish lyrics and player lineups for all 14 cuts, along with short text introductions that place each work in an appropriately futuristic perspective. Nearly a dozen imaginative illustrations, crafted by artist Larry Ortiz, impart a powerful visual element to the proceedings.

A recording worth rediscovering

Although not every name will be familiar to casual fans, this platter is riddled with contributions from some stunningly skilled members of the folk, pop and prog-rock communities. At the same time, the collection is inventively executed, offering a tempting assortment of both provocative and purely pleasurable pieces. Notwithstanding arrangements and attitudes that are somewhat dated, Intergalactic Touring Band is a complex, clever and surprisingly cohesive concept album.

The shimmering vocals of Peppi Marchello—lead singer of the Good Rats—drive "Starship Jingle," a radiant song ostensibly written to convince individuals to leave Earth and colonize other worlds. With an upbeat libretto proclaiming "don't be afraid, the stars are only mirrors, reflecting all the mornings yet to come," plus rousing keyboards and soaring guitars, the melody perfectly combines lofty aspirations with legitimate commercial appeal. "First Landing" engenders a similarly uplifting quality, revealing lyrically extravagant, Yes-like flights of fancy, just as "Robot Salesman" presents a glimpse into the challenges of interplanetary commerce and "Love Station" delivers a sultry, soulful ambiance, courtesy of Ben E. King's intoxicating voice.

A few compositions emphasize excessively sappy sentiments, including "Why" and the maudlin "Space Commando." Nevertheless, the musical miscues are few and far between and, though sometimes overly obvious, the mid-1970s ecological, societal and political allusions remain significant. Thanks to a reasonably believable, well-organized story line, varied but uniformly solid performances and, with few exceptions, thought-provoking sentiments, Intergalactic Touring Band is a long-forgotten audio artifact that's truly worth rediscovering.

He's certainly not as famous as Meat Loaf or Clarence Clemons, but one particularly noteworthy contributor is David Bedford, who fashioned many of the disc's orchestral arrangements. He has long been fascinated with astronomy and the heavens, and on other albums has penned tunes based on the stories of Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula K. Le Guin. Of all the players here, over the years Bedford probably has added the most to the SF musical repertoire. — Jeff

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