Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Supertramp Breakfast In America (1979)


Is there really any doubt that this was Supertramp’s shimmering moment? Not only was this by far their greatest commercial success, but it also has their highest concentration of excellent songs.

“The Logical Song” I’m sure everyone recognizes from the classic rock radio–each station of which must play it at least a half dozen times per week. And if you’re anything like me, you really love hearing it when it pops up. Not only does it have a very catchy melody that was designed by Roger Hodgson to sound like a Beatles song, but it has lyrics that contain some enjoyable rhyming patterns. (“When I was young / It seemed that life was so wonderful / A miracle / Oh, it was beautiful, magical”).

Of course the song is beautifully produced, too. It contains use of their characteristic pulsating electric piano, and in this instance, it actually helps lend the song a crunchy texture as opposed to a simple flurry as it was in “Dreamer.” And everyone who ever discusses the song loves to bring up the saxophone solo, which they should bring up because it is utterly phenomenal.

This album, by the way, is usually called Supertramp’s pop album. It is said they were inspired to make this album, because they wanted to do something fun for a change. Which wasn’t a bad idea at all, because all albums ought to be fun… Shouldn’t they? The opening song “Gone Hollywood” is instantly notable for Hodgson giving an impeccable imitation of the Bee Gees’ feathery falsetto vocals. But don’t worry if you’re the type who hates disco: the song is rooted far more in progressive-rock than it is disco. If you doubt that statement, notice that it contains an extensive section that is heavy on the subdued atmosphere and noodly saxophone, which requires a grand-sized crescendo to return to the verses.

Another progressive-ish song is the album’s closing song “Child of Vision,” which is tight and polished, and I like those moments when Hodgson sings his long-drawn-out crooning “Chiiiiiiild of Viiiiiision, Wooooon’t Yooooooou Liiiiiiiisten?” It also has a very enjoyable, extended jazz piano solo in its final third. However, the main thing holding it back, for me, is that’s yet another instance of Supertramp totally abusing their signature, pulsating synthesizer sound. I mean, it just gets monotonous.

The title track is pretty great, though. It’s not really Beatles-esque, but I could definitely see it appearing on Band on the Run. Except I don’t think Paul McCartney would have brought in those not-so-subtle Middle-Eastern influences into the mix! …And, yes, you’re going to have to hear that bendy clarinet solo in there, which is positively golden. “Oh Darling” might share the name of a Beatles song, but it’s a totally different tune. Not as good, of course, but it’s nevertheless perfectly nice with a decent melody and some lovely acoustic guitar textures. (With that said, I’m less enamored with that keyboard pattern they play throughout the song that never changes.)

If Hodgson was in the habit of writing Beatles-esque tunes, then “Lord is It Mine” must have been his “Let it Be.” It’s the kind of piano ballad with a beautiful melody that sticks in your mind, and its melancholic lyrics that manage to manifest itself in my throat with a lump. Although the standalone lyrics aren’t exactly great poetry. (“I never cease to wonder at the cruelty of this land / but it seems a time of sadness is a time to understand / is it mine, Lord is it mine?”) But hearing how Hodgson performs it in the song, he has a way of making me hang onto every word of it for dear life. Another one of this album’s great songs is “Take the Long Way Home,” which starts off with one of the coolest harmonica solos that I’ve ever heard in a pop song. Its melody is so catchy and the chorus is so soaring that it’s one of those songs that I have the irrepressible urge to sing along with.

The weakest bits of the album end up coming towards the end, starting with “Just Another Nervous Wreck,” a theatrical number with heavy vocals. It makes a fine listen, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular there in terms of melody. It doesn’t even have a cool sax solo to keep me interested! (There is an electric guitar solo in there, but somehow Supertramp seems better with woodwinds.) “Casual Conversations” is another song that doesn’t thrill me to death; it comes off as a undeveloped, especially with that plodding synthesizer pattern that doesn’t go anywhere. But it has a perfectly pleasant tune, so I won’t complain about it too much.

This isn’t a perfect album by any means, but I think I am in agreement with the world that this is by far Supertramp’s greatest album. I mean, it’s the one with “The Logical Song” on it. What else do you want?


April 20, 2013 - Posted by | Supertramp Breakfast In America |

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