Classic Rock Review

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Roger Hodgson In The Eye Of The Storm (1984)

Front-Roger HodgsonFrom amazon.com

Review I came of age with the British Invasion in 1964 when I was seventeen. Over the years since then, I’ve closely followed a flow of wonderful and varied music from the Beatles, Kinks, Animals, Rolling Stones, and many others. Along the way, I’ve been heavy into Procol Harum, the Strawbs, Yes, Genesis, John Mayall, the Yardbirds, and most other quality British groups.

However, I realized a few years ago that “Breakfast in America” is still my all-time favorite “desert island” album. No doubt about it! I never get tired of listening… It’s a perfect collection of songs with catchy melodies and clever lyrics that are richly (yet cleanly) performed and produced by a group of exceedinlgly talented musicians. Over time, I’ve gotten into every subtle “ooooh” and “aaaah” soaring harmony, every nice guitar and synthesizer part, every cool lyric, and even the background sound effects and comments that make a song special. (e.g. “What’s she got, not a lot…”)

When I decided to buy the re-mastered “Breakfast in America” CD, I started reading the Amazon reviews and became intrigued with the praise for Roger Hodgson’s solo albums. So I purchased “In the Eye of the Storm” and “Ha, Ha” a month ago. I haven’t stopped listening and humming along to them since! “In the Eye of the Storm” is truly the great album we all wanted to follow “Breakfast in America”. Okay, I like “Famous Last Words…” (the actual BiA sequel), but it’s not in the Supertramp league of greatness that marks this album.

Listening to this album makes it clear that Roger Hodgson is the the basis of the Supertramp sound we all know and love, and he shows it all here. Great songs, great playing and production, and even a great song like “Had a Dream” to kick it all off. That one song embodies almost every cool thing you could want in a Supertramp song. If I didn’t know this was a solo album, I would swear it was Supertramp at their finest! And that’s a LOT of praise from a skeptic like me.

So I highly recommend that you buy it today. Hey, I just bought it 15 years after it originally came out, and I’m now enjoying the fresh sound of a whole “new” super Supertramp album that I never knew existed. And you should also buy Roger Hodgson’s “Ha, Ha”, which is almost as good. Listen to “London” on that album and you will understand why the idea of Supertramp doing reggae is so compelling. Oh yeah, don’t miss Roger’s cool background comment in that song: ” Ooo, so sorry boys…”

I think we need another excellent Roger Hodgson album to keep us going for twenty more years. The stereo in my Volvo sounds so much better than my home stereo in 1985. And I still need my rock fix everyday…

Review Combine the best moments from In The Eye of The Storm with Brother Where You Bound? and you’d have the best Supertramp album since Breakfast. Clearly the conflict between Davies’ musical direction for Supertramp and Hodgson couldn’t be resolved, so Hodgson made the break and put together a strong collection of solo material.

The best material here holds its own with his best Supertramp songs. Always tuneful and full of hooks, In The Eye Of The Storm overcomes the “solo album curse” of many artists. Nevertheless, there is enough second rate material and preachy lyrics to make one wish that Hodgson and Davies had been able to reconcile their differences. Although lyrically sharper than Davies’ songs for Brother, Eye lacks both a sense of adventure and an edginess that one had come to expect from the band.

All of that said, it’s still a pleasant album that manages to overcome its weaknesses. Certainly Davis and Hodgson (like Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richards and other songwriting teams)need each other more than they’d care to admit.

Eye reminds me of some of George Harrison’s less distinguished albums; there’s a considerable amount of craft on displace and clearly the heart’s in the right place, but there needed to be someone to edit the material into a strong, cohesive set. It doesn’t help that Hodgson plays most of the instruments himself. A band might have breathed more life into the album as well.

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January 17, 2014 Posted by | Roger Hodgson In The Eye Of The Storm | , | Leave a comment

Supertramp Crime Of The Century (1974), Crisis? What Crisis? (1975), Even In The Quietest Moments (1977), Breakfast In America (1979)

Front-Cover-Supertrampeven-in-the-quietest-moments-4ee32c331f661supertramp-crisis_what_crisis3Supertramp_1974_Crime_Of_The_CenturyFrom popmatters.com

When it comes to today’s generation of pop groups, it’s the letter B that gets all the glory when it comes to naming influences. The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Byrds tend to get the most credit for inspiring musicians to pick up an instrument and start emulating; from there, there’s Big Star, the Bee Gees, and Badfinger.

These are pretty obvious (and valid) picks, all of them.

There are, however, some influences who’ve quite a bit of influence as well, even though they don’t tend to get mentioned in the same breath on quite as regular a basis.

You’ve got your Queen, who produced quite a bit more than just “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, and “Another One Bites the Dust”. You’ve got your 10CC, who said “I’m Not in Love”, then waxed lyrical on “The Things We Do for Love”. And, of course, you can never forget ELO, mostly because Jeff Lynne won’t let you.

But you’ve also got your Supertramp.

Album-oriented radio, as it’s done to countless other artists, has diminished the impact of Supertramp over the years, though, leaving the casual listener with the impression that the band had a few good tracks, but, ultimately, not much else. Most folks who didn’t come of age during the ‘70s probably couldn’t even tell you the name of a single Supertramp album, though they might ask, “Does The Very Best of Supertramp count?”

But if actually you lived through the ‘70s, then not only would the phrase Breakfast in America erupt through your lips, but you could probably identify its album cover from half a block away.

A&M Records has taken to re-issuing the band’s seminal work in re-mastered form, and, when you’re talking about Supertramp, “seminal” begins with their third album.

I’m not sure how this piece of trivia got past me for lo these many years, but until researching the band’s history for this review, I was unaware that Supertramp actually got its start courtesy of a young Dutch millionaire named Stanley August Miesegaes. Miesegaes, it seems, was friends with Rick Davies, and, though it sounds suspiciously like an apocryphal anecdote, the story goes that, in 1969, the poor little rich boy offered Davies the opportunity to form a band and put the cost on his tab.

After an ad in Melody Maker, Supertramp was born. And, then, after two not-very-successful albums (a self-titled debut, followed by Indelibly Stamped, neither of which warranted re-mastering in A&M’s eyes), Miesegaes withdrew his financial support, leaving Supertramp without much in the way of money or fans. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

But then 1974 rolled around, and the band released the aforementioned third album, Crime of the Century. And unlike its predecessors, Crime of the Century had far less in the way of prog-rock noodlings, instead showing the band evolving toward more of a pop sound. Indeed, this was the album that produced “Bloody Well Right” and “Dreamer”; it also contains the lesser-known album track “If Everyone Was Listening” a song which, though it didn’t make the cut for the band’s first best-of, scored inclusion on Volume 2.

Next up was Crisis? What Crisis? , which showed the band finding their way closer and closer to the middle ground between prog and pop, though it doesn’t possess any song that screams “hit single”. Certainly, the album possesses a stellar pair of openers in the form of “Easy Does It” and “Sister Moonshine”. “Ain’t Nobody But Me” may not be any great shakes, but “A Soapbox Opera” more than makes up for it. Meanwhile, Jellyfish missed an opportunity by not covering “Poor Boy”. (In fact, when you come right down to it, when you look at their song arrangements after listening to these re-issues, it becomes clear that Jellyfish were probably just as inspired by Supertramp as they were by Queen, or anyone else for that matter.)

Even In The Quietest Moments followed much the same format as its predecessor, although it did remedy one error right up front, providing the band with an unforgettable hit single in the form of “Give A Little Bit” as the album’s opener. The instrument that graces the album cover is no coincidence because the material is almost entirely piano-based. Although some of the songs are a bit long (the album only has seven songs, and four of them are over 7 minutes in length), each track is a pop symphony unto itself. “Fool’s Overture”, the album’s closer, is positively epic in scale (10+ minutes), with a keyboard bit somewhere around the 3-minute mark that may or may not have been cribbed by the Buggles for their song “Living in the Plastic Age”.

Still, as strong as Even in the Quietest Moments may have been, it was its follow-up that was the band’s defining moment. Of course, it was also the watershed album in the band’s career, because, y’know, how can you top Breakfast In America?

The answer, inevitably, is that you can’t.

And Supertramp didn’t.

When they finally got around to releasing the follow-up studio album, Famous Last Words, the best song they could muster as a single was “It’s Raining Again”. No, it’s not a bad song, but when you compare it to Breakfast in America‘s “The Logical Song”, “Goodbye Stranger”, and “Take the Long Way Home”, it’s certainly not up to those standards.

Neither history nor the majority of Supertramp’s fans would deny that Breakfast in America is the strongest album in the band’s discography. From “Gone Hollywood” all the way through the grand finale, “Child of Vision”, this is an unabashedly melodic record. Almost entirely free of pretense and limited in pomposity, it’s just good old-fashioned pop music. It might not be a generation-defining album like Frampton Comes Alive, but very few individuals escaped the ‘70s without having the melodies from at least one or two of this album’s tracks stuck in the back of their mind for the rest of their lives.

It’s pretty easy to rank these four re-issues. Start with Breakfast in America and work your way back. And ignore anyone who says you only need a best-of collection. Once you’ve actually heard it, you’ll find that, unlike the albums that came before and after it, Breakfast in America is absolutely indispensable.

Still, it’s a shame about the name, don’t you think? I mean, honestly: Supertramp? Even now, that’s got to rank as one of the 10 worst band names ever.

May 14, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Breakfast In America, Supertramp Crime Of The Century, Supertramp Crisis? What Crisis?, Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments... | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Breakfast In America (1979)

129500001.gUQAXnfZ.SUPERT1From donignacio.com

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 | | Leave a comment

Superrtramp Crime Of The Century (1974)

crime-of-the-century-4ee32c331def1From amazon.com

“Crime of the Century” is the name of the album , but in hindsight ” Surprise Of The Century ” would of been a more apt title . Supertramp were formed in 1969 around Richard Davies , with the financial backing of Stanley August Miesegaes

(Known to his friends as Sam) .In the first auditions Richard met Roger Hodgson , who were to become the nucleus of the band we now know from legend as Supertramp. After various name changes the band decided to be called Supertramp after Sam suggested it from the W. H. Davies book published in 1910, ‘History of a Supertramp.’

The first self titled Supertramp album is released in 1970 , to no public or critical acclaim , the rest of the band are either fired , have a nervous breakdown ,or jump ship. A second album is recorded ‘Indelibly Stamped’ ( 1971) which if anything fared even worse than it’s predecessor. ( Both of these albums feature rather aimless songs featuring meandering solo’s and indifferent lyrics instantly forgettable .) after the tour to promote, Indelibly Stamped, the three new recruits to the band are all fired leaving just the duo of Davies and Hodgson again, at this point Sam separates from the band paying off the 60,000 pound debts already incurred , wishing them all the best for the future , but severing any further ties .

Davies and Hodgson bravely keep going recruiting new musicians in the shape of magical saxophonist John Anthony Helliwell ( Ex ‘Alan Bown Sound’ )The rock solid jazzy drumming of Bob.C. Benberg ( Ex ‘Bees Make Honey ‘, and ‘Ilford Subway’ with American Scott Gorman before he became famous with ‘Thin Lizzy’.)Perhaps most importantly of all Dougie Thomson came in on Bass guitar and also took over the business management of the band .At this point the band are gigging day to day to survive whilst writing new material for the proposed new album . But A&M Records had no future plans for the band, in fact they thought Supertramp had imploded . Roger Hodgson, Richard Davies under the watchful eye of new partner Dougie Thomson went back to A&M Records to plead their case for another bite at the cherry. For once somebody at the record company got it right .

In November 1973 the band are moved lock stock and if you want smokin’ barrel to a farm in Somerset ,England to work on the new material for the next album , from there in February 1974 they are moved onto Trident Recording Studio’s in London with the excellent Ken Scott holding down production duties , in June the band finish off recordings in the famous Ramport Studio’s .The third album under the Supertramp banner is released in September 1973, and with the full weight of the A&M publicity machine behind them, coupled with some ground breaking and prestigious live concerts, the band become overnight sensations . The first single off the album ” Dreamer” ( Which was to be the template for the Supertramp sound from here on, hammering piano, searing guitar licks , beautifully contrasting harmonised vocals, with catchy amusing lyrics , combustible saxophone and clarinets ,with a jazz influenced rhythm section.) was to peak at Number 13 in the British charts followed by the album itself which was in the Top Five by Christmas of that year .

All the songs on the album have a conceptual theme to them in this case insanity . All sorts of insanity whether it be brought on by ,Education( School), Dreaming( The first single), Love (Rudy),Shyness ( Hide In Your Shell) or authority ( The title track). Every track is instantly recognisable as Supertramp , and the album as a whole runs together perfectly , starting with the haunting harmonica opening of School to the final rousing crescendo of the title track . In-between there are some splendid melodies ranging from many of the bands influences ,Folk, Progressive/Rock, Pop, Jazz and the Classics ,combining the vocal talents of both Hodgson and Davies in there contrasting manner, giving Supertramp that essential variety, which is used in quite devastating effect on the albums centrepiece song Asylum ,where they both sound as if they are completely going off the planet , quite a blend you may think , but it all gels to stirring effect .

Supertramp were to go on to conquer the Adult oriented world of Rock music ,even the advent of Punk Rock did not dent their mercurial rise to Stardom . Three more smash hit albums were to follow, ” Crisis What Crisis?” (1975) , ” Even In The Quietest Moments” ( 1977) and culminating in the Worldwide Number One album “Breakfast in America”( 1979) which was to spawn four Hit singles on it’s own ( In those days Hit singles used to mean something .) The band toured Internationally on the strength of these records and would fill Stadiums where ever they went .

As in many marriages ,something that started out as blissfully perfect ruptured into bitterness and in family fighting, after one more not so successful album and world tour ,Roger Hodgson left the family taking with him John Anthony Helliwell, leaving Richard Davies to carry on with the name Supertramp . Of course by this time none of them needed to work for the money , and really did not care, nor to be quite honest did the public, enough was enough . Both carried on their careers in a very lack lustre manner , but were never to find that original spark again . All good things must come to an end.The Tramp was super for a long time and made enough to retire to it’s mansion , I do like a story with a happy( If not perfect) ending .I wonder if Stanley August Miesegaes ” Sam” ever got repaid for his original funding of the dream?

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Crime Of The Century | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Crime Of The Century (1974)

crime-of-the-century-4ee32c331def1From sputnikmusic.com

Review Summary: Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70’s progressive music and is Supertramp’s best work.

Being a teenager can be a hard and sometimes confusing time. A few years before my teen years began, my parents were involved in a somewhat lengthly and bitter divorce. On the day that my father moved out he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have received even to this day, his record collection.

At the time I had no idea what a monumental gift this was, but something changed when I became a teenager. One day when I was about fourteen or so I stumbled across my Dad’s record player in a box in the garage. I dusted it off, plugged it in, and then began my search through my dad’s old records. The first things that grabbed my attention were albums that I had known all my life by the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who, but as I went through the boxes I began to see albums for bands I knew very little about or not at all. At the bottom of one of the boxes was Supertramp’s Crime of the Century. I remember just staring at it for a few minutes.

The depiction of a man trapped behind prison bars instantly struck a chord. After a few more minutes of taking it all in, I put the album on. The album remained on that turntable for a good two weeks before I put anything else on. Supertramp had managed to capture the confusion, rebellion, and angst of being a teenager better than any of the other albums that I began to obsess over. It wasn’t like Roger Waters’ constant blaming of everyone but himself for his unhappiness like in Pink Floyd’s The Wall nor was it the unabashed rage and animalistic spirit championed in Alice Cooper songs like Eighteen or Schools Out, Crime of the Century had a universal element to it that made it easy to relate to and more personal than the other albums of the like.

“Do as they tell you to/ Don’t want the devil to/ Come and pull out your eyes”

Lyrically, all of the songs on Crime of the Century are built off of the anger and alienation that come from being a confused, angsty young man. The opening track, School, is a diatribe on exactly that. The next track, Bloody Well Right, continues this theme where Roger Hodgson blast “So you think your schooling’s phoney, I guess it’s hard not to agree” as he sets the opening tone of the song. Together the two tracks come off with an anti-conformity vibe that is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The track, Rudy, is an attempt to add a personal side to that definitive James Dean style bad-boy with its character study of the song’s namesake. Not everything is as bleak and anger driven as these songs though. The album’s main single, Dreamer, comes across as stressing that classical ethos where even though it may be impossible for your dreams to ever come true, its the fact that you try and never give up and keep that optimistic spirit that really matters.

Musically, on Crime of the Century Supertramp play 70’s radio-pop with strong progressive tendencies. Neither side of Supertramp is superior over the other and they seem to play off of each other. Whenever the band lay heavy on their prog-chops they are quick to revert to their more sensible pop side. This keeps the music interesting and fresh since there are many shifts in the music stylistically and in time signatures. The opener and closer of the album, School and Crime of the Century respectively, are the most progressive tracks. School begins with a lonesome harmonica that reinforces the image of being trapped behind bars before spacey chords and driving bass power the verse.

Then the band really begins to show their chops with an amazing piano solo. Before Supertramp can go balls to the wall prog the 2nd track begins with its heavy blues influence shining through. Crime of the Century is rather similar to Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd where at first listen the track seems rather simplistic in its make up, but slowly begins to unveil itself after repeated listens. It begins as just a simple piano ballad but soon shows its teeth with a ripping guitar solo as it builds to its crescendo with strings and saxophone overlapping piano and pounding drums.

As strong as this album is, it does have one downside: you begin to outgrow it. When I was 14 I listened to Crime of the Century constantly, now it only gets a few plays a month. When you are a teenager this album seems like a classic performance rooted in teen angst, but as you get older there becomes a disconnect. Since the lyrics are so rooted in the teenage experience it can seem a bit juvenile at times. Despite this sometime juvenile approach, Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70’s progressive music and is Supertramp’s best work.

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Crime Of The Century | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Breakfast In America (1979)

114875046From seaoftranquility.com

From the opening moments of the first song “Gone Hollywood” when you hear the crisp, clear piano it is obvious that this is a disc sorely in need of a remastering. I pulled out my old vinyl and confirmed that fact. By the time you hear all of the musical nuances that fill “The Logical Song” a smile will come to your face as you realize the magic that Supertramp brought to the world. Who can forget the sax solo that highlights the previously mentioned song for one? Supertramp opened up many avenues and took us to places where you were much better off for visiting.

As I put this on and reminisced with an old friend it was good to hear how well the music has survived the years and come out the better for it. Remembering some of the glorious past times that we shared it was like we had never been apart. As one of my fondest memories “Goodbye Stranger” hit my ears I could not help but flashback to the days when cruising the countryside of Central Michigan with this blaring was part of many a fantastic summer night. Now as I did the same thing with this magnificently remastered edition it is like the years have melted away.

The Supertramp formula of pop, progressive, humor and whimsy has always been a winner but to hear it as crystal clear as this one is done is just short of Nirvana for a fan. The subtle guitar on “Oh Darling” and the terrific harmonies bring chills to hear again in such dynamic fashion. “Take The Long Way Home” sounds as if they are playing right there wherever you happen to be listening to it. The tantalizing keyboards and clarinet really come to life and you almost have the joy of hearing something new as each piece of this musical puzzle is on display in full fashion which just wasn’t possible when it was first released.

One of my favorite moments from the original disc was the song “Lord Is It Mine”. As powerful as it struck me back then, this update can bring tears to the eye. This dramatic song benefits most from the new technology applied and I am really glad it is here. They had a way of really wrenching the emotions and this one run you through the wringer.

The opus “Child Of Vision” which closes out the disc will never sound better. Just as an example of what this update has done is evident when you listen to the bass line of this terrific piece. The original had it buried deep in the mix but all of the dynamics come out on this album. With the infectious piano soaring above it, I found even more things to love about this song and the whole disc.

Now if that is not enough the deluxe edition has a second CD of unreleased live cuts taken from concerts in Miami, Paris and Wembley. Unlike their Live In Paris disc, this is a band that sounds at ease on stage and did not try to just reproduce there studio sound live. Here they let it go and the results make me kick myself for never going to see them when I had the chance. Even though most of the material comes from Breakfast In America they still get in some old favorites like “Give A Little Bit” and “Rudy” along with a very fun version of “Another Man’s Woman”.

For a Supertramp fan this one is a no brainer. For those that know the hits and that is it, this is a great place to get acquainted with one of the most unique and dynamic bands in rock and roll. You not only get them at their commercial peak there is also a glimpse of what got them there with the live recordings. Since getting this one it keeps climbing back into the player and I am more than happy to let it reside there. Do not let this one get by you. It is a must have even for those that have the original.

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Breakfast In America | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Breakfast In America (1979)

114875046From ultimate-guitar.com

To me this was always one of the most introverted albums about so much happening. Its one part catchy and one part thematic. It combined everything Supertramp had at that time and not only made them a good rock band but a very strong progressive rock band that defied everything people tried to label them.

Although they had very strong releases from previous albums, “Breakfast” would sadly prove to be the last for Supertramp within the turmoil band conflicts. However at the turn of the 1980’s this would be a great opening soundtrack for a generation.

Lyrics and Singing: This is one the most self-reflectioned albums ever recorded. The songs were like mini movies and they come off not only strong lyrical wise but musically as well. Its dark and brooding but the opening “Gone Hollywood” showed a band disillusioned with corporations and the not so idyllic lifestyle of nomadic rock stars.

“The Logical Song” is one of the most memorable tracks off the album being written by Roger Hodgson. Its a everyday coming of age story for every young person. Its pretty deep about the loss of naivety and belief in a young person’s life only to see the cruel reality. Ever the truth in such strong words. “Goodbye Stranger” is another one of those character studies you see in a movie but this time its a powerful song.

Davies seemed to rival his songwriting partner on this album and it really shows because I really dug into this album well. From what Hodgson says the title track “Breakfast in America” was written many years before the band even recorded. He said it went through many changes before the final attempt was recorded on here being in its masterpiece. Its full of hooks and catchy lyrics well worth the admission.

“Oh Darling” and “Casual Conversations” were more pop oriented ballads written by Davies and balances the album out nicely with the more introverted songs. Its nice to hear some lighter subjects and not always about the character in mind or what’s in your head kinda songs. For me the personal favs were “Take The Long Way Home” and “Lord Is It Mine” both seem to echo about something deep inside of us. Its borderline spiritual and at the same time nothing more than a complex song about who we are and the need to search within ourselves for something, anything.

Sometimes I come home from work and throw this album on and skip to these 2 songs. I guess relating to the words and songs people write make others think about the simple things and life and the difficult things are what we hope are just a passing phase.

Anyhow back to the article, Rick Davies also rivals his partner again with his composition “Just Another Nervous Wreck”. It seems almost self-biographical in it tells about the rise and fall (about to fall) of the band and Davies’ friendship with Hodgson didn’t seem to go well. Finally we get the closing track “Child Of Vision” and its part jazzy and part pop rock. Something about this final track alone makes you know that the band was coming to an end.

Its brooding and dark but at the same time offer a final glimpse of what the band was capable of. I like it but there’s a lot to think about when something good comes to an end. I don’t know why this album is almost forgotten but its an important reminder for most of us who still think and interact with other people. From what I see I don’t think most people ever sit down and self-reflect or ponder about what life is about.

This is a great album by Supertramp and its also the last of the classic ones to feature Roger Hodgson before he left the band in 1983. The songs aren’t as thematic as “Crime Of The Century” but they still hold their weight on some self reflecting lyrics. I’d say its on par with “Even In The Quietest” but more radio friendly and commercial than “Crisis What Crisis”. I wouldn’t change a thing about this album because the band worked hard to leave a substantial piece of work behind.

This is the one where you put the cassette tape in turn up loud on a bad day stare at the sky at night.

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Breakfast In America | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Crisis? What Crisis? (1975)

crisis-what-crisis-4ee32c32f1a5cFrom starling.rinet.ru

The previous album made the band a little bigger; this album, however, made them rather small again. It is indeed a little weaker, sounding like all these notorious ‘weak’ follow-ups to classic albums; adding nothing to the by now firmly established Supertramp style, it still has its share of nice songs, but much too often the guys are just coasting and toasting, stuck in their jazzy grooves and not really understanding where to head next.

The album’s title comes out as thoroughly deceptive, then – the band obviously has a crisis, no matter how they attempt to conceal it. That said, the amazing ‘mediocre consistency’ (or ‘consistent mediocrity’) of Supertramp shows through even here, and I have no problem at all listening to the poor piece o’ plastic (that was a metaphor, of course – I can’t find a poetic way to describe a bunch of MP3 files yet). I do have problems trying to memorize it, though.

Of course, if only the album could live up to its opener – the delicious McCartnyesque acoustic popper ‘Easy Does It’, bouncy and cozy and catchy beyond words, I would be significantly happier and better disposed. But that’s actually the catchiest moment on the album, although both Hodgson and Rick Davies have some more moments of relative triumph as well.

The former contributes the near-hysterical, jerky acoustic rocker ‘Sister Moonshine’ that’s a gas to try to sing along to (you’ll end up looking like a paranoid idiot in most cases) and the moving ballad ‘Two Of Us’ that goes much deeper than the Beatles song of the same name, even if it certainly loses in the instant memorability department. Hodgson really shines on the song – his voice may be whiny, but at least he modulates it on the spur of the moment and never ends up sounding like a robot (like somebody else I know).

On the other hand, Rick Davies goes for a rougher sound on the bombastic ‘Ain’t Nobody But Me’, partially based on the same moderate, relaxated jazzy pattern as ‘Forever’ off Indelibly Stamped, but incorporating more different sections.

The way the song goes from the mean-sounding verses to the optimistic, ‘thoughtful’ refrain makes it really stand out. And finally, I’m a sucker for ‘Just A Normal Day’; while the number hardly has any distinct traces of melody, the very idea of a ‘philosophic dialogue’ between Davies and Hodgson, with Davies representing the ‘seeker’ side of the individual and Hodgson representing the ‘melancholic scepticist’ side, is carried out brilliantly. Could you imagine a ‘philosophic dialogue’ between, say, John Lennon and Paul McCartney? The closest thing I can recall is ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’… (!!!!).

Everything else strikes me as being sordidly underwritten, although it’s really hard to tell – with a band like this, the overall impression can often depend on the most tiniest of hooks hidden deep in the background. Hodgson’s piano melodies on ‘Soapbox Opera’ and ‘Lady’ are thin and don’t do anything that stuff like ‘Hide In Your Shell’ or ‘Dreamer’ hasn’t respectively done better on the previous album. And Davies writes convoluted, but pretty dull and pointless sagas like ‘Another Man’s Woman’.

I won’t stoop to condemning the arguable silliness of the band chanting ‘if you know what the meaning is, if you know what the meaning is’ for what seems like ages on ‘The Meaning’, because I don’t see the potential offensiveness here, but I gotta say, if this was considered ‘cool’ by the guys at the time, they must have really been at a loss.

Strange enough, ‘losses’ like these always resulted in the band’s falling out of the picture for a while – their following album wouldn’t come out until nearly three years later. Oh well, in any case these ‘fallings out’ are a more honest thing than just putting out more and more crap and gradually transforming oneself into a muzak writing machine. Thumbs up for creativity.

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Crisis? What Crisis? | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments… (1977)

26377From prognaut.com

Supertramp’s past was interesting, two albums of little note with a different band before they took a couple of years off to reform after picking up a crack rhythm section and a wind player/backup vocalist. They then met studio wonderkid Ken Scott and released their magnum opus Crime of the Century to worldwide and critical success. A slight hiccup on the followup Crisis? What Crisis? leads to 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments, another critical and even more commercial success.

It begins with Supertramp’s first top 20 hit, “Give a Little Bit.” This song has a great acoustic guitar hook and the high pitched vocal of Rodger Hodgson singing a catchy melody. I enjoy the method in which each Supertramp record alternate tracks between the two singers. The more baritone pitched Rick Davies sings the clever & fun “Lover Boy,” the bluesy/breezy “Downstream,” and the outstanding “From Now On.” This song features inspired piano work as always from Davies and a jazzy saxaphone solo from John Anthony Helliwell.

Although the hits were usually by Hodgson, Davies voice and songwriting is still a highlight on every Supertramp album. Hodgson’s voice on title track “Even In the Quietest Moments” is at its most fragile towards the beginning, but dynamically builds to show what range and power the man has.

The piece that is of most interest to us prog fans is the over ten minute epic, “Fool’s Overture.” It begins with a quiet piano backed with orchestral instruments and Hodgson’s fragile and tender vocal. Then a pulsating synth line comes in like it skipped to another record, something by Tangerine Dream.

The segues sustaining these extra minutes are ably provided (as on the past two albums) by rhythm section Dougie Thomson and Bob C. Benberg. Hodgson comes in again with his fragile voicework bringing back that unmistakable Supertramp quality to insure that you are indeed on the right CD. It again breaks into a reprise of the electronica section while overlaying harmony vocals to bring it all to a glorious climax.

Even In the Quietest Moments is one of Supertramp’s best works, right behind Crime of the Century and 1979’s Breakfast In America. A great record from the more mainstream side of prog, it comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments... | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Breakfast In America (1979)

114875046From starling.rinet.ru

What? Oh, right! Breakfast In America! The album that broke the band big! The bucks! The fame! The endless airplay! Loads upon loads of hit singles! The record of the year! When all else fades, Breakfast In America still remains as the band’s crowning, spectacular achievement which makes just about any other Supertramp album pale in comparison… oh yeah? Eat your three and a half stars, brutha!

Seriously now, I’m not being controversial or anything. This is a typical Supertramp album, nothing more, nothing less. I’d have to do some serious research work to try and understand what made the album so outstanding in people’s eyes in 1979, when the previous records haven’t enjoyed even half of that success. Maybe it’s the Bee Gees comparison? Maybe it’s the serious ‘poppy’, at times even ‘disco’ overtones? Or maybe – that’s my most serious guess – it’s the America backlash, or, rather, the mass culture backlash of this record that made it so attractive? Or maybe everything together. You could write a dissertation on the record and its social impact, I’m here to say a few words about the music, and the music is typical Supertramp, which means nice. N-I-C-E.

Granted, the first several songs on the album do qualify among the very best Supertramp ever did, even I would have to admit that the quality of the hooks out there is at least a cut above your usual expectations from Hodgson, Davies and Co. Not on the opening ‘Gone Hollywood’, mayhaps, the song that’s mostly famous for introducing Roger’s immaculate Bee Gees falsetto impersonation – how many Supertramp fans put on this record and rushed out for valium in a matter of seconds, afraid that their favourite band has sacrificed itself to the Mammona of disco? But it turns out that the impersonation has more of a parodic nature to it than anything else – after all, the song is about the perils and disillusionment of stardom (not that the Bee Gees sang that much about the pleasures of stardom, mind you, but most Bee Gees bashers usually miss out on the lyrics of ‘Stayin’ Alive’, for instance). And as the first falsetto notes fade away, you get a slightly poppified, but still intelligently written piano-and-sax based rumination.

But the next three songs, all of ’em amazing, annihilate the effect of ‘Gone Hollywood’. ‘The Logical Song’ is arguably Hodgson’s stellar hour – a simple, relatively unpretentious, bitter reflection on the soulless rationalisation and cynicism of the modern world, with Hodgson’s melancholic, pitiful tone perfectly suiting the lyrics; the vocal melody is sheer genius, and the way Roger contrasts his epithets (‘all the birds in the trees they’d be singing so happily… joyfully… playfully…’ ‘but then… they showed me a world where I could be so dependable… clinical… intellectual… cynical…’) is magic, plus the wailing sax makes a wonderful counterpoint all the time. Then there’s Rick’s stellar hour – the somewhat conceptually unrelated, but uplifting and honestly romantic ‘Goodbye Stranger’; a simple piano melody, a simple soulful delivery, an intelligent crescendo throughout the song, a raising chorus, catchiness all around. And finally, Hodgson closes the trio of absolute winners with the title track, which manages to pack a whole wallop of cynicism and bitterness into a superficially lightweight and almost joyful danceable tune. ‘Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got, not much of a girlfriend, never seem to get a lot’ – doesn’t that remind you of the Sparks or something? Except that unlike the Mael brothers, Hodgson’s being dang serious about his emotions. And a bare two minutes and thirty seconds! I want some more of that.

I can’t say the other songs match this holy trinity in quality, though. They’re all decent, just not as concentrated – see, in ‘Logical Song’ and ‘Breakfast In America’ Hodgson really comes up with unparalleled lyrically-musical ideas, but Davies doesn’t seem to be equally inventive, and decent balladry like ‘Oh Darling’ and decent ‘I’m-not-like-everybody-else’ introspective stuff like ‘Just Another Nervous Wreck’ don’t have any of these inhuman elements that’d justify their eternal gilding. They are well-placed in the context of the album and all, but lasting impression? Hmm… need to be more inventive.

Roger, too, overreaches in ‘Lord Is It Mine’ – there’s only so much whining I can take, and minimalistic piano ballads should better be left to Elton John. So, in fact, the only other song that reinstates my good faith is the closing epic ‘Child Of Vision’, which manages to somehow collect all of the bitter sarcastic energy off the previous songs and painlessly stuff it onto this seven-minute behemoth, with Hodgson’s angry anti-mass-culture lyrics, delivered in a flaming tone, perfectly matching the paranoid bassline – but the funny thing is, the best thing about the song aren’t the lyrics, it’s the amazingly effective piano solo which is now in danger of becoming one of my all-time favourite piano solos. Who the hell is playing there? Rick? Roger himself? Aw, who cares? That’s just a perfect example of how a solo musical instrument is able to take on all the emotions and passion of a vocal melody and carry it on and develop it in a way that a human voice could never do. Mm, great, delicious, an ideal conclusion to an album…

…which still gets its deserved three and a half stars for sagging too much in the middle. Four great songs, six decent-to-good ones, you know the score. The good news is that from what I’ve seen around, history has been just to the record – it no longer polarizes audiences as it could have done in 1979 (with some people mistakenly taking it as belonging in the same vile decadent Bee Gees/Boney M heap of shit preventing people from enjoying punk rock, and some extolling it as the greatest piece of music ever created), rather it just produces mixed emotions like any “good, not great” album would. And that warms my heart.

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Breakfast In America | | Leave a comment