Classic Rock Review

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Supertramp Even in The Quietest Moments… (1977)

1320512316_1287821640_supertramp-even-in-the-quietest-moments-1977From donignacio.com

Supertramp’s fifth album was by far their most beautifully produced and most consistent product, which by some accounts would make this their best album to date. Though I would be careful by distinguishing it as such since I think the highs in Crime of the Century easily surpass the highs of this album. (I guess such complaints is what comes from really liking a song in their back catalog and wishing they would just repeat it.) This is also their most prog-oriented album; four of these seven tracks span past six minutes. One of them, “Fool’s Overture,” is nearly 11.

However, nobody can deny the immense likability of “Give a Little Bit,” which turned out to be a Top-20 hit for the group. Composed by Roger Hodgson before joining Supertramp, he said it was inspired by The Beatles. (This statement might be pretty obvious if you notice that it sounds like a more developed version of Paul McCartney’s “Teddy Boy,” which was written while McCartney was still a Beatle). Hodgson included the song here hoping it’d help lend the album a shimmering, Beatles-like aura. While nobody in their right minds would mistake it for a Fab-Four tune, Hodgson definitely had the right idea. It’s a well-polished, melodic and joyous song with a soaring melody that you can sing along with. The sound mixing was done perfectly, as there seems to be about a half dozen acoustic guitars strumming all at once, but it doesn’t get in the way of Hodgson’s vocal performance. And naturally, the additional instruments all add to the song’s beautiful texture: shuffly drums, deep crystal bass, and the juicy saxophone solo in the middle. It’s a very good song: my only complaint that it’s only one notch away from what it needed to become a great song.

I’d say the same thing about “Lover Boy.” I like listening to it quite a lot and it’s just about *perfect* when it comes to production, but it rather lacks what is necessary for me to sit up and really enjoy it. It starts out rather slowly with a cabaret-ish piano riff that sparkles like jewelry. However, it isn’t long before the atmosphere gets cloudier and we get a rather darker mixture of pianos, synthesizers, and electric guitars. It runs quite long, nearly seven minutes, which could be one of its problems. However, I think most of its problems lie with the tune, which is OK but not exactly something I’d like to whistle under my breath. (Urgh! I gave the song an A-, and genuinely think it deserves it, but nevertheless laden its commentary with complaints!) I have a similar complaint with “From Now On,” which sounds like it wants to be a show-tune about an everyman trying to cope with a dull life. Show tunes aren’t bad things (in my book!), and I continue to find the song entertaining, especially as it progresses to its gospelish ending with an epic, repeating verse like “Hey Jude.” I just think it takes too long for it to start rustling up dust.

As far as lengthy and slow epics go, I think I slightly prefer the title track, which has its heart rooted in folk-rock instead of theater-rock. It also builds up a little bit of tenseness, and thus it gives my ears that much more reason to stick with it. With that said, the concentration on that one seems to be on its instrumentation and sound production and less on its melody, which is OK but not terribly infectious. Nevertheless, I suppose the point of the song was the atmosphere, which does carry me up in the air a little bit and waft me along with its dreamy and pastoral soundscapes. “Babaji” is one of the best songs of the disc even though I’d say it also lacks a truly great melody. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable, bouncy piano-pop Supertramp classic if there ever was one. (And behold! They managed to create that bouncy pop sound without resorting to anything quite as overblown as “Dreamer.”)

“Fool’s Overture” is the album’s 11-minute prog epic that’s as impeccably produced as anything here, although it seems to take quite awhile for it to actually get started. Its first three minutes is basically someone playing thoughtful notes on a piano, which fades away into a Winston Churchill speech and crowd noises. THEN we get an OK but ultimately empty synthesizer groove before FINALLY–five minutes into it–we get into the meat of the song, which is a rather heartfelt piano ballad sung by Hodgson about the declines of empires. …I do enjoy listening to the song and definitely appreciate its ambitious subject matter, but it could have used more action, I think. Or at least a little less padding. An example of a piano ballad without padding is “Downstream,” which is absolutely lovely.

I did have some complaints about this album, but I find it to be an overall impeccable product that makes–if nothing else–a consistent listen. Its melodies are all good, but nothing really pops out at me like great melodies always seem to do. Nevertheless, I think this album fittingly deserves a solid 12/15.

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March 10, 2013 - Posted by | Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments... |

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