Classic Rock Review

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Supertramp Crime Of The Century (1974)

albcrimeofthecenturyFrom donignacio.com

I believe Roger Hodgson must be some kind of beautiful soul for coming out with such a terrifically uplifting song as “Hide in Your Shell.” Without a doubt, it’s one of my favorite songs ever written–and it has held that status ever since the first time I heard it nearly 10 years ago. It starts with some pulsating electric keyboards and an engaging synthesizer solo before Hodgson begins to sing a gentle melody.

This gradually builds up with darker keyboard passages and timpani-like drums and then becomes completely airborne for the chorus that that features among other things thick saxophone passages and a theremin. (I don’t know why, but I’m always excited to hear a perfectly executed theremin.) The song spans epic length, almost seven minutes, and reaches the chorus three times, and amazingly it hits me equally those three times.

And yet that isn’t a terribly celebrated song, is it? It wasn’t released as a single, and most critics who’ve written reviews of it don’t seem to think much of it. So I guess I’ll chalk this up as a weird opinion of mine. And this is a good thing, because it’s fun having an unusual opinion about something. …Oh, and this might have been Supertramp’s third album, but it was their first to make any real impact on the charts. It was released a whole three years after their previous, which–in the 1970s rock ‘n’ roll world–was a friggin’ eternity, so there’s little surprise that their earlier albums are generally forgotten about.

The opening song “School” has often drawn parallels to Pink Floyd’s The Wall to the point that some people think Hodgson and Davies should have sued Roger Waters. True, there are certain similarities. The lyrical matter is probably the most blatant of them–it’s about how the institution of school stifles the imaginations and creativity of young minds. However it has some musical similarities as well: there are sound effects of children playing on a playground, and there is a prominent passage that’s stylistically similar to “Another Brick in the Wall.” That is, it features a crystal-clear and deep bass guitar that pulsates along with funky licks from a high-pitched rhythm guitar. …Of course, I wouldn’t support such a lawsuit (even though it would be a novel thing for someone to sue Roger Waters for something for once).

At best, all Pink Floyd were guilty of was expanding upon some ideas that Supertramp first proposed. Ideas are not copyrightable. Another thing that The Wall never did that “School” does was anything like its final half, which is a high-flying and spirited pop-rock jam with some frantically played acoustic guitar, some terrific piano playing, and a little bit of wah-wah guitar. You see, unlike Pink Floyd, these guys weren’t afraid to ROCK.

“Bloody Well Right” is the most beloved song of the album even though it was actually released as the B-Side to the less-celebrated “Dreamer.” It’s a catchy and snappy tune that’s loaded with its fair share of drama, but certain parts of it–notably the jazz piano playing throughout–turns out to be quite playful. I actually like listening to “Dreamer” quite a lot whenever it pops up, which is probably some kind of indication that I am overrating the CRAP out of this album, but I have to ask myself a simple question when I hear it: Are they overdoing it with those rapidly pulsating electric keyboards? I think if you asked a skilled player to improvise a song done in a generic Supertramp manner, he/she would play exactly that. “Rudy” is very dramatic has plenty of interesting musical passages, but it never really takes off for me–at least in the same way that “Hide in You Shell” took off.

Perhaps the best thing about it is how it gradually evolves into a heavy, proto-disco groove in the final third. This is part is quite similar to a 1977 Alan Parsons Project song called “The Voice.” “Asylum” is another minor gem that probably takes too long to get going, but when it does, it’s heavy, dark, dramatic, and soulful. It’s orchestrated brilliantly and sung with absolute verve by Richard Davies. Its main downfall is the melody isn’t especially memorable.

I’m having a tough time coming up with a rating for this album, and I was torn between a 12/15 and a 13/15. On one hand it has “Hide in Your Shell” in it, which I like a lot, and all these other songs are solid. On the other hand, that’s the album’s only truly great moment, and I think 13-scoring albums ought to have a few more goodies in them. Oh well.

So I guess I have to go with a 12/15. However, don’t fret too much over this “low” rating, since they’ve got a 13-scoring album in them yet!

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March 10, 2013 - Posted by | Supertramp Crime Of The Century |

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