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Supertramp - Breakfast In America CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.95 | 750 ratings

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5 stars There are albums on which everything is coming together, the prime of songwriting, the prime of arranging, the prime of performing, the essence of what an artist or a band is about all emerging into one. "Breakfast in America" is such an album for Supertramp. Being completely a world of their own, it may have come as a surprise that it took the world by storm in 1979 - it had nothing to do with the time and whatever music was fashionable at the moment, it was simply meant to succeed because of its sheer quality, the only thing that was necessary for it to do so was confidence, memorable melodies, striking lyrics and a whole lot of ( read my review to "Famous last Words" in which I tried to point out what made this band so very special ) personality.

No one can honestly blame those five guys for having aimed at a commercial sell-out by "going pop", cause if you are familiar with their previous albums then you cannot find a lack of quality but a plus of energy making "Breakfast in America" a natural progression of all ingredients this band was made of, with only... this time, there wasn't a single tune based on acoustic guitar ( well, on "Crime of the Century" there hadn't been any either, so this was rather coincidentally happening with the songs, I think ), "Breakfast" is based on songs that solely rely on basically piano and keyboard-arrangements augmented by John Helliwell's skillful saxophone and woodwinds as well as the driving rhythm-section of Dougie Thomson and Bob Siebenberg ( by then, still funnily altering his name to "C". Benberg ).

Only one thing is deceptive about this album, and that's the title. Breakfast ? No, my friends, this is diner-time, except you are used to having the best and hugest meal for breakfast and during the rest of the day only rely on little snacks !

"Gone Hollywood", one of Rick Davies' very best ones ( well, each song on that album belongs to the very best of his and Hodgsons', so forgive me this rather superfluous addition, please ), opens up the delicious menu. Fade-in-piano followed by an electric-guitar-riff to the powerfully in-bursting falsetto-voice of John Helliwell ( often having been mistaken for Roger Hodgson ! ): "It's just a heartbreaking !" It can still blow you from your chair. Being one of Davies' more complex constructions, "Gone Hollywood" features astonishing breaks and a haunting, moody slower middle-part with Helliwell's sax weaving around Davies' piano whilst the singer's voice is lamenting: "Ain't nothing new in my life today". The protagonist is out of fashion, lost in Hollywood... and his dreams of making it big there, one by one, just fade out of sight. One can only wonder what happened when, at the end, he's finally made it. But one thing's for sure: He had to suffer through the hardest of times and cling to whatever was left of his plans, and the message is clear: "Never give up, hold on to your belief, renew your faith, no matter how many people are telling you that you're only dreamer, no matter how many times you find yourself alone on the ground after having been rejected !" This, of course, is more than the story of a man who aimed at making it big and finally won the battle. It's meant to encourage anyone who's desperately looking for a job, struggling to survive these days... you feel too old ? Of no use ? The System has locked you out ? Then you know what it means: "Now the words sound familiar as they slam the door: YOU'RE NOT WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR !". It takes a lot to handle the disappointment of being turned down over and over again, but there's no sense in giving up. This one's all about stamina !

"The logical Song", the biggest hit of them all, is fitting perfectly afterwards. What have you been taught and where does it lead you ? What is left to believe in ? What's the logic behind it all ? Is it really a logical thing to do as the others do ? The more you follow their advice, the more your life loses what once had made it so beautiful. And from a child who's being loved by their parents, from a special, individual person who is welcome and safe, you're being diminished into a number, one of millions joining the rat-race, made to function and, after all, becoming replaceable. And if you're not willing to do so... watch out, they're putting their stamp onto you, whatever you do or say, you're going to get branded. This world is out to break your neck and rob you off the best of values to be found... either you're bound to go crazy in it, or they simply tell you that you are... no matter how much you fight for your sanity. Hodgson's making sure that a sensitive individual is supposed to feel ( and get ) lost without faith and remembrance of the real values that life itself has got in store. You've got to find ( rediscover ) them inside, and you cannot do so as long as you're filled up with all of the stuff to overshadow IT. The thinking itself will get you nowhere then, the mind has got to be emptied for meditation. No need to tell you anything about the music, or is anybody out there who hasn't heard it yet ? One of the most clever and original pop-songs that has ever been composed, far from being simple, oh no, don't let your mind be misled once more ! It's as good as "School".

"Goodbye Stranger" was, for me, the hardest thing to swallow when I was young. I didn't like the refrain. It seemed to sound silly. And the lyrics... isn't that a sexual hedonist living at cost of those who are willing to give him love ? Exploiting the women ? And justifying his egoism with the need to "have to have things my own way to keep me in my youth" ? What's that ? Funny ? Well, of course, it is. And after having given my heart to no avail more than once, after finally having got the revelation of seeing through "the game" that men and women play, this man has got my indulgence for sure... no pity for those women, sorry. He's right. He's paying the price anyway. He's simply playing for something different than a home. "Goodybe Stranger" is perhaps the most funny monument of song that's ever been written for a "Rolling Stone". And, in retrospect, Rick Davies' hugest and most well deserved Hit-Single with Roger Hodgson's guitar to be the cream of energetic overspill in the fade-out... the man is leaving and there he goes, no end in sight. Not silly at all. Splendid.

The title track is Carnival, or innit ? You're supposed to have a good time with it. Bold. Annoyingly impudent. You're not allowed to blame Roger Hodgson for this, even if you despise it... why ? Well, while Roger had to fight for quite a lot of his songs ( including the "Logical" one ) to finally have Rick agree them to be released under the banner of Supertramp, this one saw Rick pleading until Roger "eventually came around with it". It was one of the first ( and eldest ) Songs that Roger had penned. It pre-dated Supertramp as an innocent attempt at composing a fun-tune. And it's due to Rick's affection for it that we all came to share the fun. What a great performance by the band ! Do not take this too serious. This IS Carnival. And "Breakfast" is a feast. Make it one for yourself and have a good meal.

"Oh Darling" is Rick Davies' most positive love-song ever. The suitor, one which we ought to be familiar with since "Poor Boy" and "Ain't nobody but me" ( the latter may get him in charge of stalking nowadays ! ) is finally succeeding. Well, he was supposed to. He's a charming man. Other than the one in "Goodbye Stranger" he's an honest lover who, at his most sincere, is not out to break the lady's heart ( the lady, once more, is John Helliwell... lol ). But he for sure is as potent as him. Why ? It's the same guy in the end. He's just about to settle down. He became conservative. He became Rick Davies. I love this song, I did it from the start. It's such a pleasure. It made Rick my brother as well ( you know, I felt brother to Roger immediately, and this was the link that served to finally do the same with Rick ). Romantic, enchanting, and, again, fun-time.

"Take the long Way home". Roger Hodgson's self-ironic exploration of stardom. Everything he's good at in a single song. For a long time it was this one, the next one and the final one that, to me, were best on this album. Nowadays I'm not able to choose anymore. You may be out for more serious stuff, more proggy and lengthy ones. I don't think this is any inferior, musically. It's only more entertaining. Sooo clever... and so moving, still. Brilliant as can be. Roger Hodgson at the top of the game, the arrangement being no less than a revelation ( with huge contributions of all the others, especially Rick ). If you don't like this, then you simply never got around to the essence of this band.

"Lord is it mine". Roger's grand ballad on the album. A prayer in song. Magnificent, soaring, once more expressing his inner quest as well as his need to find a place of his own in this world... no one else but the man who wrote "Hide in your Shell", "Even in the quietest moments" and "Babaji" could have done this. A song like an island. Love it or hate it, but that's what ( and who ) this man is writing songs for: intimate outings of the human being before its creator. Shared with whoever is willing to listen. I'm not alone in this world... when I started writing songs, that's what it was about for me as well. And anytime I don't know where to go with my art, best I can do is remember where it started out. With the aid of songs like that, I cannot fail. The heart.

This, of course, is not allowed to remain without a severe counterpart here. Rick Davies had been quiet for too long to not come back with a typically profane, thought provoking outburst yet. As if to make sure that you better wake up in this world now, "Just another nervous wreck", one of Rick's most distinctive, R'n'B-flavoured Rockers, is taking over as the central piece of the LPs second side. Rick's central piece. As average as vintage... you know, it's composed of all the things we came to be familiar with during the years. A strange character about to lose his mind, overburdened by the surroundings he had carefully built up for himself to finally find it's all too much... his house of cards breaking in, so now it's "protest time", the world is guilty... well, is it, really ? It's great how Rick draws that picture to full consequence as the man who loses his nerves finally gives in to left-wing-paroles, fighting the world that left him such a "poor victim". This, of course, he is not. He's guilty. He's been playing that game willingly until his dissatisfaction won over. He's aiming to shoot at the likes of himself... and no one else. Great stuff.

There's only one song on the album that, having a superficial listen only, may seem out of place. It's "Casual Conversations". Quiet and short, even jazzy, it's Rick's ballad here. And, of course, it's not out of place. It's demanding its very own place as a stand-out-composition with lyrics so good you better not overlook. The work-out of a relationship/love affair. Its sad mood perfectly captured in song. Rick at his most evocative, tenderly touching heart and mind. If ever you have experienced the same, this one is going to leave you helpless. Stylish and graceful performance with genuine emotion inside. Entertainment cannot be any better.

The final song, another Hodgson - composition, ends the album on a high note. Here we have the counterparts together, the sacred and the profane, giving us the quintessence of this band. As if it was written for Davies, it's Roger reaching out his hands to him. "We have no reason to fight cause we both know that we're right !". And the long, excellent piano-solo at the end is Rick's as well ( syncopating with Roger's percussive staccato lines ), progressing ( improvising ! ) above the two-chord-pattern that makes the emotional climax of the album . The groove is mind-blowing. It's a burst of energy resolving in a cry as Helliwell's sax roars in. And the lyrics say: Take care, folks. Don't be misled by ideological claims at the "truth". Who's right and who's wrong does, more than once, depend on a point of view that cannot be generalised. All of us are human beings, fallible and in need of each other. Do not judge ! The most wars in this world are superfluous. Maybe all of them. We better make peace as long as we can, we better recognise we belong together as one family before we condemn one another. So if it's another accusation you're hearing, another scapegoat to be pointed ( and singled ) out, another hunt invented by the yellow press or religious/political leaders - find yourself a new ambition !

I needed to raise the rating whilst reviewing this. I couldn't stand to have mine remaining the usual "four-star for PA" only because of it being less prog than "Crime of the Century". It doesn't matter. It can't go below 5 stars. It can't go below the best rating because "Breakfast in America" is Supertramp's best album.

rupert | 5/5 |


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