I just read your Supertramp reviews...

I just read your Supertramp reviews...

Mr. X
Mr. X

November 26th, 2011, 4:52 pm #1

...And I thought I'd state my opinions. I'm not entirely sure why, but I've always really liked Supertramp. There's this calmer vibe compared to the bigger art/prog rock groups. While bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and King Crimson were always reaching for the stars, with plenty of bombast, professionalism, and in Genesis' case, great songwriting, Supertramp did everything with an adequate amount of efficency. Basically, I consider them to be the most "pleasant" art/prog band. Not mind-blowing or innovative, just extremely pleasant, with plenty of moments of greatness.

I use to have all of their albums from 1970-1982, albeit in mp3 format, but, since my computers loathe me so much, I lost most of my music collection. I think I can go from memory, though, since it's only been about three months since then... and since I last heard those albums (mostly due to a sudden regeneration of interest in the band after seeing them live... Damn, what a show!).

So, based on my feelings, here are some quick mini-reviews on each album that I had (excluding their last album with Roger, since I only remember the song "It's Raining Again") with what I'd give it based on your old rating scale (P.S. I forgot to mention, that based on my personal criteria, they'd get a strong *** artist rating).

Supertramp (1970)
Album Rating: 8
Overall Rating: 11
*Most Underrated Album*

Best Song: It's a Long Road

It's a shame that Supertramp's early period has been forgotten by the public. I remember hearing a radio announcer state that they were playing a song from their "first album", but it was a song from their third one...

Anyways, on this record, there is an apparent jazz-folksy vibe, rather than the big-pompous vibe that was so common among art rockers in 1970. Instead of the usual stacatto pianos and overdubs, we could lovely acoustic strumming and jazzy piano/organ soloing. And it's lovely.

My favorite song is definitely "It's a Long Road". It's the song that pretty much has a larger emphasis on the jazzier side of things, and it often reminds me of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" (even if I actually heard the former first). Honorable mention goes to "Aubade/And I Am Not Like The Other Birds of Prey". The opening organ solo may be overly-long for some, but the whole thing is very peaceful. Makes me wanna sit in a quiet field and meditate all day, and I'm the kind of guy who gets bored easily. As a plus, the bass playing on both those songs are top-notch. Roger was a fine player. Too bad he stopped playing that particular instrument.

I don't quite remember anything else (because it's been a long while), but I don't remember getting annoyed by any of the songs, and the atmosphere was very pleasant, so I think the rating I gave is justified.

Indelibly Stamped (1971)
Album Rating: 7
Overall Rating: 10

Best Song: Rosie Had Everything Planned

The band decides to bring in some diversity. Actually, Roger and Rick first decided to kick out the "mastermind" behind the last album, Robert Palmer-James, songwriter for mid-70s King Crimson, then known simply as Robert Palmer.

So, this is mostly Rick's album. Lots of jazzier keyboard passages, sometimes slightly rocking. The opening track, "Your Poppa Don't Mind", is easily the best of his contributions, even if none of the others are bad.

Despite Rick's prominence, I strongly believe Roger's the one who came up with the real winner: a folksy little song called "Rosie Had Everything Planned". It's a rather sad tune, even if it's goal is a little confusing. It seems to be an ode to feminine insanity or something. Whatever.

The rest is just pleasantly mediocre. The only song that comes close to bothering me is the one sung by their woodwind player at the time (I forget his name). "Potter" is just some stupid cock-rock type thing, and who wants that on a Supertramp album?

Compared to their debut, I found this one deserved to be ignored more than the other one did, even if I find it was still given injustice at the time.

Crime of the Century (1974)
Album Rating: 9
Overall Rating: 12
*Quintessential Album*

Best Song: I'm not sure... I like most of them

This is often claimed to be the best place to start with Supertramp, and I certainly couldn't agree more. This is where they find their "sound". What is this sound? Piano-based pop rock with art rock trimmings and some lovely saxophone playing, that's what!

And I like it. Nearly all of these songs are among the band's best. "School" has the lovely "cast-out" vocals, and a great harmonica intro. "Bloody Well Right" is a rough-and-tough piano-based pop rocker with a wah-wah-type solo in the intro for some reason. "Hide in Your Shell" may not have any instant hook, but for me, it gets by on the atmosphere and the lyrics.

"Asylum" is clearly one of Rick's best, with soulful vocals, jazzy pianos, and the "insane" coda. "Dreamer" was the first Supertramp song I heard (and learned to play on the piano), so I can't help but be drawn to it. And am I the only one reminded of the Manfred Mann's Earth Band cover of Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light"? And after "Asylum", "Rudy" is the next best thing from Rick. The same general musical idea, albeit lengthier and of a different lyrical content.

As for the last to numbers, it's rather hit-and-miss for me. Or rather, the other way around, since I like the way the title track closes things, and while "If Everyone Was Listening" is somewhat nice, it fails to impress me in anyway (although the clarinets are tasteful).

All-in-all, this a rather interesting listen, and it's perfectly recommendable to all those who like their music poppy, and who don't mind some art rock trimmings now and then.

Crisis? What Crisis? (1975)
Album Rating: 8
Overall Rating: 11

Best Song: Sister Moonshine, or maybe Ain't Nobody But Me

This one is rather weak compared to the album preceding it. Not that it's unexpected, it actually happens often that after an artist's greatest (or one of its greatest) albums, the follow-up fails to meet the expectations. Remember Cream's Wheels of Fire, or Iron Butterfly's Ball, or The Doors' Waiting for the Sun?

This album is still good though. The first half in particular, while it often copies the previous album's songs too much, at least comes close to it, rather than being pathetic self-parodies. I especially love "Sister Moonshine", which always lightens up my mood after a long day, and the long, jazzy "Ain't Nobody But Me".

I never understood why "Another Man's Woman" is such a fan favorite. If it's that way because of concert versions, than I couldn't agree more. It's even more impressive the way they play it nowadays, since they're all old dudes. But the studio version fails to impress. And why did they have to copy "Dreamer" so much with "Lady"? It's not that the latter is bad, and it's better than the Styx song with the same (or similar?...) name, but come on, guys. Your first three albums were pretty different from each other.

But, since none of these songs are openly offensive, this relatively high rating works for the album. No offense, George, but I never understood how you could like their second album better. And this is coming from a guy who generally agrees with your every word.

Even in the Quietest Moments... (1977)
Album Rating: 7
Overall Rating: 10
*Most Overrated Album*

Best Song: Just a Little Bit, Babaji or From Now On

This is often claimed to be a fan-favorite, but I just don't see... er... hear it. Some very good songs, but less memorable tunes than the last one (not to mention less tunes in general).

The three singles off the album are wonderful, though. "Just a Little Bit" sounds like a pre-Woodstock "love and peace" ditty (which it actually is... Supposedly, Roger wrote this song in early 1969). I really love the sax solo on it, too. "Babaji" is very bouncy, even if I don't quite understand what they're singing about, and I couldn't agree more with your comparison between "From Now On" and "Hey Jude" (even if it's been a really long time since I've heard the latter... suffice to say that I hadn't gotten Past Masters, Vol. II until much later, since I used to absolutely loathe post-Revolver Beatles).

The rest, I don't remember a note. I remember parts of the chorus to "Lover Boy", and parts of the intros of the title track and "Fool's Overture", but overall, the non-singles just don't impress me as much.

Then again, maybe it has something to do with not paying close attention to this particular album as much as I did the previous four (except for maybe their second one) and the following one?

Breakfast in America (1979)
Album Rating: 10
Overall Rating: 13
*Best Album*

Best Song: Umm...

They finally come up with a winner! Just like Crime, most of these songs are my absolute favorites, even the non-singles, and it's poppier and catchier than anything else they've ever done!

To be honest, though, I don't have any interesting things to say about this album. You said them all for me. "Gone Hollywood" is a great opener, and the band opened up their set with this one when I saw them in concert recently, so it works in both the studio AND the live setting.

The next three songs are of course, all classics. The title track was shamelessly stolen by a useless hip-hop group in the early 2000s, which was actually how I was introduced to this song. That "cover" obviously sucks compared to this one, though. "The Logical Song" is very biting, and I love the repetitive rhymes (logical, cynical, magical, etc.) And "Goodbye Stranger" is one of the most honest odes to one-night stands, and is contrastingly romantic.

You did fail to mention yet another favorite of mine, and a fan-favorite as well, "Take the Long Way Home". It's more upbeat than Roger's two other singles, and the chorus is really catchy. I also like "Oh Darling" for some reason, even if it's far from the masterpiece that is the Beatles' song of the same name.

For me, the ratio between great and so-so is reversed compare to your opinion, so that's more likely to explain my rather high rating. I highly doubt 3 & 1/2 stars is equal to 13/15, but no two opinions should be exactly alike.
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Joined: June 22nd, 2005, 5:49 pm

November 29th, 2011, 7:09 am #2

I agree with many of your ratings, though I'd switch your ratings for Crisis and Quietest Moments around. I don't dislike anything on Crisis but I don't love much of it either and it's probably the album of theirs I listen to least (but I really like "Easy Does It", wish it were longer). Roger really shines on EItQM, I love all his tracks, Rick's songs on there are simply decent though.

I'd also give Breakfast only a 12 since even though it's got many of their best ever songs, I don't particularly care for the last couple tracks much at all.

Famous Last Words is pretty mediocre, you're not missing much ("It's Raining Again" is pretty much the only track worth remembering).

However there are two albums you definitely are missing out on, and those are the first albums Roger and Rick both released after their split. It's curious, though maybe it's because they felt they had something to prove, but both records are significantly more ambitious than we're used to hearing from them.

First of all, Brother Where You Bound would definitely get my "most underrated" award, it doesn't sound much like classic Supertramp at all, and definitely sounds like it was produced in 1985 (but it sounds 80s in a good way) but the songs are really solid. All of them flow together making the album a real nice listen all the way through. Some of the tracks really groove too, which is normally not something you'd usually expect from Supertramp (I really like Cannonball in particular for it's rhythm track). It's also got a 16 minute song with David Gilmour on guitar! It's not the greatest thing ever or anything but as far as 16 minute tracks by 70s bands produced in the mid 80s go I think it might rise to the top of the heap by default! Lyrics are pretty dated throughout, lot's of talk about 80s politics. The melodies are very solid. 11/15 from me.

Hodgeson's In The Eye Of The Storm isn't eligible for any "underrated/best/whatever" awards since it's a solo album but it definitely deserves something as it's extremely good. To tell the truth I think I like it better than nearly any of Supertramps main albums. Unlike BWWB this albums sounds just like classic Supertramp, and Roger must have been hoarding his good material from the FLW sessions or something because nearly every track is a highlight. Four tracks go over 7 minutes but it's not really that prog-y (though the influence is there) the songs are just really well developed arty-pop. He plays nearly all the instruments too which is cool. Every tune is entertaining and catchy and the production is excellant. Absolutely check it out if you can find it.
13/15

Oddly enough the followups to each album ("Free As A Bird" and "Hai Hai") both go overboard into synth garbage and represent possibly the worst in each's discographies. I haven't heard the albums Supertramp did after that but Roger's 2000 album "Open the Door" has some good tracks, so a very mild recommendation on that one.
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Mr. X
Mr. X

November 30th, 2011, 11:40 pm #3

I actually have "Brother Where You Bound" (it's the only album of theirs my computer "decided" not to get rid of), and the only reason I didn't talk about it is because I really couldn't remember anything off "...Famous Last Words...", besides 'It's Raining Again', which is technically my least favourite of their hits, and I have a strange problem of skipping part of an artist's catalogue, even when I'm just writing my opinions on them. And if it weren't for all his great earlier tunes, I could've said that 'Cannonball' was Rick's best.
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Joined: June 22nd, 2005, 5:49 pm

December 2nd, 2011, 11:32 pm #4

Anyway, definitely put "In The Eye Of The Storm" on your to-get list as some point.
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