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Supertramp - Crime Of The Century CD (album) cover

CRIME OF THE CENTURY

Supertramp

 

Crossover Prog

4.34 | 1074 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 44, Crime Of The Century, Supertramp, 1974

StarStarStarStar

The two Supertramp albums I have, this and Crisis? What Crisis?, are surprisingly interesting. Most of the songs are somewhat poppish in nature, and I can't see much that would seriously offend radio play, but there is an inherently different sound to the band. The combination of saxes, clarinet, keys, violin, piano and guitar as lead, background and rhythm instruments at different times (as well as multiple vocalists) is pretty interesting in and of itself, and provides a range of sounds which are just not available to most groups. On Crime Of The Century, this range of sounds comes together with a loose concept (schooling and its results...) and good lyrics to produce an extremely good album. Dreamer, really, is the only piece I find slightly harder to love. Despite that weak point, the album as a whole is very good, and School and Crime Of The Century Itself are both 100% brilliance. Should be tried.

A crooning harmonica solo introduces us to the album. The rhythm guitar, vocals and clarinet then come in, introducing the dark theme and friendly anarchist feel of the piece ('He's coming along'). A dominant bass guides us through the next section, and the drums come in to good effect. A brief, unusual guitar solo from Roger Hodgson with a couple of other additions and then a gripping piano takes us through the extended instrumental section. After a conversational vocal duet (something which'll appear in snatches throughout the album), a more punchy and vicious variation on the earlier 'After school is over' bit. A bluesy scaling up is used to end the piece. An extremely good song.

An e-piano (if I'm right) near-solo leads us into Bloody Well Right, building up a contrast for the sax and guitar to kick in. A hard rock verse, with vicious vocals, chord guitars and bursts of soloing of the highest order bursts out of the woodwork with a definite force. The chorus is amusingly English, and fairly nicely handled, in my opinion. A set of handclaps and a sax solo brings us out neatly.

Hide In Your Shell is a much bigger piece, with a Yes-like mass of lyrics (quantity, not quality) crammed into it. All of the possible elements of Supertramp, piano mostly excluded, are present somewhere in the song. The flow is pretty perfectly handled, and the vocals (except occasionally annoying faux-feminine harmonies) do match the song. We do get (around the five minute mark) a fairly interesting rhythm section, with a more worldy feel from the drumming and a squirming bass to match. Good.

Asylum begins with another piano solo, and develops carefully to include Davies' vocals. The piano is a constant for the first couple of minutes, with a couple of subtle bass and organ additions before the piece's not-quite-chorus (organ, bass and drum driven, with a violin over the top) bursts out. The violins, a warm sax and all sorts of keys are laid over the next verse (even some tubular bells and guitar soloing on the next chorusy bit). Essentially, this is just taking a basic idea, and cleverly adding the band's rather large array of instrumentation over it, as well as being willing to break out of a song structure. Very well done.

Dreamer was initially a huge annoyance, and has become simply not as good as the rest of the album. A fairly repetitive-sounding, but actually, not as poor as first impressions feel, keyboard, with some odder percussion and harmonised vocals in a rather pop-sounding set of harmonies. The final xylo-glocken-phono-spiel thing is a fairly nice touch to lead us up to Rudy, I admit. The problem with this song is that it's just not using the variety that makes the rest of the album great, and thus feels a bit out of place.

Rudy is the third song of the album to begin with a piano solo, but it does develop quite differently to the other two. It does make use of a lot of the instruments available to the band, but rather more separately than, say, Asylum. We get a Hodgson-Davies conversation, superbly backed up by Helliwell's sax and the changing piano at one point. Lyrically, it's probably got the most awkward moment on the album, but the song does feature some brief soloing from the non-piano instruments, which isn't a bad change, and a darker texture at times. Again, an excellent piece of composition.

If Everyone Was Listening is begun with more piano-vocal choices. Dougie Thomson's bass and Bob Benberg's percussion do get an opportunity to show their faces in the chorus. On the second verse, a nice clarinet (and also keys, and violin) supplement the piano. All of the song's basic elements are shown in the second chorus. A gorgeous piano-violin-bass-keys quartet leads us out. Overall, a very likable song.

Crime Of The Century Itself is the album's near-indisputable highlight. A harder twist on the piano features, as does a surprisingly vicious set of keys, bass and drums, and the vocals (Davies) and lyrical themes do come to a head . The piece swells out into an amazing instrumental section, including a slightly Brian May-esque guitar performance, a very clever use of the piano and a lower clarinet as well as the hammond and a set of drums which echo one of the bursts on School. John Helliwell provides a lilting sax solo which is surprisingly refreshing, given how fond I am of a growling Collins or Jaxon sax. The violins and a harmonica guide us out. An absolutely perfect fade, and an amazing conclusion to the album.

The net value of the album is extremely high. I do have a general preference for the darker, jazzier and more brooding sides of prog, but I nonetheless agree that this is a superb album, and shouldn't really disappoint anyone. But, enough yapping from me, the title track is available on PA as a sample (at the time of the review): give it a few listens, and if you don't love that track, don't bother with the album. If you do, then Crime Of The Century should be added to your shopping list post haste.

Rating: Four Stars. Very interesting combination of sounds.

Favourite Track: Crime Of The Century.

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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