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Supertramp - Crisis? What Crisis? CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.59 | 482 ratings

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3 stars How produce a worthy follow-up to a milestone like "Crime of the Century" was, when you simply don't have the time ? No easy thing at all you can imagine. I think it's to the credit of Supertramp that they didn't aim at doing another heavy-weighing conceptional piece and, instead of this, tried to loosen up a bit, simply focussing on a less cohesive collection of songs that was to clearly show the origins in which their two different writers were rooted. Following the "Motto" of the opening track, "Easy does it", many of the songs had a distinctive fun-approach meant to entertain the listener instead of digging into the deep, though, with a man like Hodgson in the band, you could be sure there were ethereal tracks and ballads about the meaning of life as well... but, for this time, not all of them were as serious as before.

So what do we get here ? Well, we get lots of what Supertramp were about, perhaps we never got it any clearer than with "Crisis? What Crisis ?". On one hand we have Rick Davies, combining piano-based blues, rock, jazz to his very own, powerful mixture, yielding at least one classic with "Ain't nobody but me", but also impressively demonstrating his playing-skills in "Another man's woman", the most complex of his compositions on this album. Those two, together with the blissful comedy of "Poor Boy" ( one of my favourite tracks on this album ), all tell us funny stories about men and women, full of irony and wit.

As I have mentioned before, "Ain't nobody but me" would be in charge of sympathising with stalkers nowadays, so it's worth to take another look at, cause not everything is supposed to be evil when it comes down to a man who's madly focussed on one woman only. Is this man really dangerous ? You can accuse him of embarrassing disrespect while he's only showing that he's devoted to that woman and was willing to do anything for her, because she's so damn attractive. And he's doing it in a funny way, underlining his "importance" with so much exaggeration, the lady is supposed to believe and give in to his...CHARMS ! See, this is a man. It's out of fashion to show it nowadays, we all fear to get under suspicion if we do, but, honestly, you can't blame a man for being a man in love, no, but you can blame a ( real ) stalker for not being a man ! Thanks to Rick for having written this, perhaps it helps to raise some understanding and tolerance where it's needed - and make the difference instead of playing the victim when there's no real offending apparent. A good psychologist can tell you the difference. Rick Davies may not be an examined one, but he's not a bad one either, as many of his lyrics can show you - being food for the brain even when they seem to be rather silly !

Roger Hodgson, on the other hand, is emphasising his singer/songwriter approach with acoustic guitar at the beginning ( "Easy does it"/"Sister Moonshine" ) and the end ( "Two of us" ) of the album, providing its "Frame" while the "painting" itself is rather a pastiche, not a full realised artwork. I quite like the intro, while "Sister Moonshine", for me, does not really belong to his best compositions ( I prefer to play "Give a little bit" straight afterwards, the two of them being the stronger couple ).

"Two of us" was the first song I had known from this album and, for a long time, was to be my favourite. What a beautiful tune, wonderfully arranged as Rick's organ and John Helliwell's sensitive woodwind-playing add magic to the melody. Well, it's a bit lethargic and, perhaps, even self-indulgent to "modern ears" but a gem of a guitar-ballad.

Prog ? Well, be sure, apart from the rather complex construction of "Another Man's Woman" that leads to the whole band to show more of their skills, there is only "A Soapbox Opera", a little symphony of its own, to really give food for the "prog-head", as the rest of the album is rather conservative entertainment. But "A Soapbox Opera" is, in retrospect, also the best song on the album, not only in terms of ethereal feel, melodic brilliance and daring arrangement to hover it above the rest, it's got some of the best lyrics that Hodgson ever came up with.

What is it about ? "Stuck in a congregation" the young believer starts feeling alone with his need to practice the message of love and salvation, determined to take it further to the outside world... just as Jesus says in the bible. All he's being shown inside the "sacred place" is the repetition of a tragedy, people imprisoned within the designs of sin and morality while the preacher's words lose their meaning. He starts doubting them. He feels lost. This cannot be what it's all about. The preacher, "Reverent Eberneezer" ( the booklet of the remastered edition bears a painful mistake altering the songlyric to "I'd never ever leave her" - doesn't make any sense ! ), seems to be blind before the necessities of change and progression, and the believer doesn't know what he alone can do, saying: "There's a storm in my head, makes me feel what you've said just wasn't true !". Why ? He don't seem to care. He's self-content in his role. And therefore he cannot serve the sheep, he's only serving a system. Who but Roger Hodgson could ever write a song like this without getting accused of being a missionary ? I still marvel at it. It's absolutely perfect and it hasn't lost any of its importance. GOD, if ever there is one, is supposed to be a LIVING being and LOVE is a message of giving and taking to be done - and every institution claiming to serve this being is in severe danger of burying this message together with the remainders of whatever "God" has given it INSIDE their system, making prisoners of their members for all the wrong reasons. A song for the pope, if you like. Does the church give an answer to the question of the believer's prayer: "Mary, oh tell me what I'm living for ?" Does it care ? Are priests and preachers doomed to be reduced to civil servants administrating a "Soapbox Opera", lost in repetition, leaving the human being alone in his needs ? Beware !

That's the most of it. "The Meaning" is a little straining and the most forgettable song on the album, while "Lady" is a witty Hodgson-fun-song that served the band as another ( minor ) hit. But "Crisis? What Crisis?" does also contain a seldom example of Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson having written a tune together. "Just a normal Day". It's a string-loaded ballad, a sad, reflective one, and it's not really a highlight, but it perfectly captures the mood of loneliness.

Some say that "Crisis" is underrated. It's good, but it sure can't live up to its predecessor and, compared to "Even in the quietest moments", does also appear to be a rather transitional album. I'd give it a 4 stars any day, though, but for PA that'd be just one star too much. I think it's a bit better than "Famous last Words" cause it's got more life and energy in it. But with its most apparent highlights "A Soapbox Opera" and "Ain't nobody but me" being even better on the more "prog"-loaden "Paris"-Live Album and my personal pleasure-song "Poor Boy" being anything but ( not ) prog I would not call it "essential" for prog-fans, in spite of it being "essential" for fans of this band.

rupert | 3/5 |


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