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SUPERTRAMP

Supertramp

 

Crossover Prog

3.46 | 221 ratings

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Warthur
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Supertramp's debut may be proggier than most of their other work, but that doesn't make it better. Musically speaking, there's a certain early Yes influence floating about (especially when it comes to the vocals), but the band's ideas just can't compete with most of the other groups operating in 1970. The fact is that a lot of their attempts to replicate other prog bands' experimentations fall flat - often because they choose precisely the wrong elements of other bands' music to imitate.

Take what is otherwise the best prog track on the album, the epic Try Again: around three minutes from the end the music abruptly stops and there's a period of super-quiet instrumental noodling that's *extremely* reminiscent of the similar (but longer) segment on Moonchild from In the Court of the Crimson King. First off, that particular part is an experiment that King Crimson didn't repeat and which Robert Fripp doesn't entirely stand by these days to the point of actually shortening it on the most recent reissues, a decision which would be considered the utmost heresy by many prog fans if it were any other KC composition involved but in this case is probably justified. Secondly, they just don't deliver it as well as Crimson did, possibly because rather than imitating the free jazz legends KC clearly were inspired by in that segment they just wanted to imitate King Crimson themselves. (First example of the "imitate the prog greats" approach neo-prog is often pegged with? Could be...) And thirdly, the experiment is completely misplaced - rather than adding a progressive edge to an otherwise quiet and mellow ballad, it simply interrupts an already perfectly progressive composition.

So much for the prog side of the Supertramp equation. I must also report that if you dislike the poppier direction that Supertramp would take from Crime of the Century onwards, you should be advised that even though this album is proggier than Crime, it's still pretty pop in places (including Surely, which bookends the album). And if you do like the band's pop side (and I admit I have a weakness for it) you're still out of luck - again, the group's songwriting chops just hadn't been honed at this point.

Supertramp is by no means an outright incompetent album - Try Again is pretty damn good (aside from the Moonchild ripoff towards the end). But it would be a major stretch to argue for it being a particularly illustrious member of the Supertramp discography, and it isn't even satisfying as an obscure album from the early progressive era - King Crimson, Genesis, Rare Bird, ELP, VdGG, Curved Air and a whole host of other names released 1970 albums which blow this one out of the water, and if you gave me time I could probably mention dozens more at that. Worth it for Try Again if you are a major Supertramp fan, but if you haven't gotten into Supertramp's work before you absolutely shouldn't start with this one.

Warthur | 2/5 |

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