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Supertramp - Famous Last Words CD (album) cover

FAMOUS LAST WORDS

Supertramp

 

Crossover Prog

3.17 | 311 ratings

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rupert
3 stars Take your time, ladies and gentlemen ( and, of course, dear prog-lovers, friends and Supertramp-fans ), cause this review is going to be a loooong one. It's going to be two reviews in one, actually, and it has a long introduction as well, cause this album were the "Famous last Words" of Supertramp, and having been a fan of this band since I was a ten-year-old boy should justify my need to do so cause they deserve it.

Introduction:

First of all, I did not know that this album did not sell so well because I am a German and, in Germany, it was a big success, a best-seller at its time that nearly everybody I knew was raving about. I had been a fan already when, in 1979, "Breakfast in America" saw them rise from "the music lover's treasure" to absolute Superstardom. And, for once more, after "Paris" had introduced those masses to the essence of their previous work to great acclaim, they held that status here. They were big. Larger than Life. You couldn't escape them if you wanted to cause they were everywhere, and given that they had achieved this because of the music and the music only... well, like them or not, but that's quite something to respect if not admire them for.

In my days of adolescence, I had played "Crime of the Century", "Even in the quietest Moments" and especially "Breakfast in America" ( to be followed by the excellent "Paris"-Live Album ) to pieces, not caring if it was "Rock", "Pop", "Prog" or anything, cause it was Supertramp and no other sounded like them. Supertramp simply belonged to the best of music that I have grown up with and seemed to combine everything that, for me, was important about it: good songs with good melodies and a great sense of harmony performed with great skills & care, delivering all kinds of feelings and colours/moods from serious to funny, from happy to sad... and a lot of what was inbetween as well, and lyrics that had a meaning.

Loving their albums from "Crime" onwards, I thought that "Breakfast" was the climax in any way ( just as "Crisis" seemed to me the only one not quite as good as the rest ). Well, for sure, "Breakfast" was pop. More pop than any of the others. But it still maintained and lived up to the highest approach I was able to cope with ( see, with Roop things ought to be a little entertaining, still ), musically, it was only being made more suitable for the masses. Creativity speaking with every song, even the likes of the title-track that wasn't meant to be any more than a funtime with, perhaps, self-ironic contents. Good pop music, mainly, is living from energy. The energy inside the musicians, the energy it's being fed from the lively vibe of the times and the surroundings in which it is created. Energy from all kinds of sources captured in sound and emerging into songs, energy that is being delivered that way in order to catch up the listener. It was meant to be infectious so the songs that finally arrive make you feel good ( even when they are rather sad ), chant along or even dance to the music, and that's perhaps what's making those of us who look for rather "serious art" judge more complex constructions and virtuoso abilities of musicians "more important", cause the approach is a different one. As "Breakfast" is pop as can be for Supertramp it isn't regarded as high as "Crime" amongst prog-fans usually, though in terms of art it is no less creative and inspired. "Breakfast" was perhaps the best proof we could get that Supertramp, in their essence, were NEVER really "prog" at all, and therefore had even some of us turn away. But in spite of them being more pop than prog or rock in the end, there was always something more about their music as well. Something that distinctively divided them from other "pop"-acts who were/are out there to make people have fun and make some money out of that. This "something" can be nailed down with the simple word personality. In spite of all the perfection in playing and sound you could feel there was human beings who expressed their genuine emotion in song and, eclectic as they still were, playing the music they love, allowing a strong influence of every bit that left a great impression on their own emotions and minds to emerge into their own work, but not depending on the latest fashion, rather chosen carefully out of values of old and inventions of new. The personality I'm talking about is a mixed-up one, though, it's "THE Supertramp", if you like, a person that does not exist, because it's a multiple one consisting of the five persons who made this band what it was, but with, no doubt, two strong personalities as its main-force, two songwriters to give their very all into the project.

Roger Hodgson, in particular, did not hide away his emotions. His personal quest shone through his compositions and lyrics more than I had ever known before with others ( whose music I liked, of course ), combining spiritual search with a sharp look at life itself from a sensitive, love-needing and loner's point of view who desperately tried to find a meaning in it all whilest struggling to go his own way. An "inside to the outside" approach, often in sheer opposite to his counterpart. Roger was almost unashamedly bleeding his heart out in public, perhaps looking for empathy but surely for brother-love, and reaching out his hands to give the same: The "Giving and the Taking" being central, perpetual themes, and everything that keeps us from doing so as well as the higher purpose that asks us to, name it GOD ( in absence of a better word for the indescribable ). In order to keep a balance with those ( mainly serious ) things, Roger had these other tunes as well, cheering himself up as well as the supposed listener, the catchy ( insipid, to some ) ear-wigs, not seldom containing lots of self-ironic tags, uplifting and easy ( cause Roger knew... "Easy does it" ) and making friends in a rather enemy world with all its lies, rules, injustice and duty-calls. This was what made me feel I had found a brother in my need to seek shelter in the wells of my faith as well as go out and live it, in my confusion and loneliness as a rather introverted outsider amongst most of the other pupils... with my guitar in my hands as the only way to come across and get recognition as well as encouragement. It was Roger who, at first and in the first place, had made me notice Supertramp and become a fan of this band, cause he directly spoke to me and reached my heart, making me feel less alone in this world with my emotions and he never ever failed to give me invisible company and courage to face life by myself again after having been hurt and disappointed, perhaps even abused once more... it's wonderful that this can be done with songs and songs only, isn't it ? I'd like to thank him for this here, though it may seem odd to do so as part of a record-review.

The other man in front of ( and behind ) Supertramp was the worldly Rick Davies who gave something distinctively different with his rather intellectual ( if not, at times, sarcastic and fearful ) approach and a strong affection for profane stories & things, rather dealing with the topic of sex than spiritual love ( but, also, a strong romantic, if not nostalgic/sentimental side that seemed to fit very well to Roger's ethereal dig at the same ), looking from the outside to the inside like a psycho-analyst and inventing strange characters like "Rudy" who seemed to be lost in this world and needed his "down to earth"-advice just like Roger Hodgson seemed to do for him more than once I think... musically speaking, Rick's background of Jazz, Swing, Blues, raw R'n'B, early Rock'n'Roll added not only quite a different flavour, it introduced a lot of it into my life cause I was "born late", and he shared his love to classical influences with Roger as well as the strong will to come up with something entertaining in order to make a living as a musician. A strange couple, but what made Rick so special for me ( cause I felt brother to Roger ) was: man, there was such a lot to learn. I wholeheartedly embraced all the different things and views that Rick Davies was able to contribute to my life with his very own approach at music and story-telling, love his humour and irony and, once having dug into this world and become familiar with it, became a fan of his just as much as I ( immediately ) had become a fan of Roger. No use to add how much I love the mixture that "Supertramp" delivered with the both of them, those really were the best of times. Back to this album, back to 1982, for now comes the first review ( of two by the same man/fan ).

Review # 1:

As I have already mentioned, "Breakfast" was the climax for me by then. The best album of 1979, by all means, with "Paris" as a welcome bridge to fill the time of waiting for a new album. And, by then, everybody knew what made me love this band, cause everybody knew the essentials of their output, cause "Breakfast" was the key to make them enjoy it maybe just as much as I did, cause it got the whole thing through to a wider public that willingly ate the big cake with "Paris" afterwards. And then...

"Rupert ! Did you hear the new song by Supertramp ? It's great ! A big hit on the radio !" ( This had happened more than once ). I hadn't heard it yet. "What's the name ? Do you know ?" "Oh yes, it's called IT'S RAINING AGAIN, awesome music, they're finally back, good as ever !" You can imagine how exited I felt. You can understand that I believed those people. I wouldn't have expected anything less. I expected something great, be it heart-moving or entertaining, and I expected something new as well. Supertramp had always delivered something new with every album, no matter how eclectic their style. And none of them sounded tired, all of them had something interesting about them. From "Crime" to "Breakfast" - progression as well as lots of different new aspects to be discovered, and "fun" was really "fun" just as heartbreak was heartbreak, leading to lamento or self-ironic frustration ( "You started laughing" f.e. has excellent lyrics, you can laugh about them though you know it's about embarrassment and a hurting affair, this kind of laughing does neither reveal a lack of respect nor reduce serious pain to a harmless thing ) and desperation was desperation. Supertramp was Supertramp and, logically, many people were raving about their new single, quickly emerging into a huge hit.

But when I finally heard "It's raining again" I - me, the fan of old - thought all those people were nuts. This was not something new. This was a repetition of worn-out chord progressions that underlined a stupid melody from the Kindergarten ( some of the kids invited to provide a background choir ). Propped up into Supertramp-Sound. And it reduced the pains of a broken heart to a little wee-wee... go to sleep and get up again, tomorrow it's gone, no problem... Aaargh ! All for the sake of having another Hit-Single or what ? Yep, it was an ear-wig. One of the most silly ones I had ever heard. It was such a bloody disappointment I could not even have fun with it as I supposedly should. How could I ? There was not much left of the energy and spirit I ever loved about Supertramp or Hodgson, it was only an infusion of old, un-original 60's ideas meant to entertain the masses too tired to think and too lazy to remember. A hit of foreseeable design and no real merit, so not a deserved one like "The Logical Song" was. Even compared to "Lady" or "Dreamer" it was a horrendous flaw, and... compared to "Take the long Way home" it was nothing, absolutely nothing. Embarrassing. What had happened to Supertramp ?

I put it down to the times. "It's raining again", I said to myself, "is Supertramp's LIFE IS FOR LIVING. They wanted a hit-single, they got their hit-single, don't take this too seriously. People like it - and, for the first time, you don't. That's all. It's only a song. Don't bother about it. It may be an exception. Check out the album before you dismiss the band for a single failure." So this is what I did. I was too horrified to buy it myself but, believe me, there was a lot of occasions to listen to the whole more than once cause nearly everybody had it and played it with joy. I just didn't share it that much. I was unable to. I preferred to not buy it for a long time, cause it was another disappointment, though, has to be said, a little better than its single. In general. I thought I can buy it as soon as I get it for a low price. This wasn't quickly but then again did not seem too long when in 1985 or so I came across a cut-out from the US at a very low price. That did just right for me but it should have told me that it didn't sell well there, so let me beg for pardon. My opinions about it, though, didn't change now that I finally had that stinker for myself.

Where had all the energy gone ? This is POP-music, meant to entertain, and pop-music is still about energy... Supertramp want to be Supertramp, okay, that's still what they sound like, but Supertramp have gone pop and therefore need to entertain and need energy. Sure, there were some decent tunes. But so much superficial stuff amongst them, and, adding a sad taste to the downing mood of half the album, so much infusions of what the band had done before, starting with the opener.

"Crazy". Sure, it was RH giving us one more, tinkering the piano in a very familiar way. It was typically RH. So typical it seemed he had looked at "Lady" and "Dreamer" and then said "one more that way".

"Put on your old brown Shoes". Rick ! Are you serious ? This is ol' time R'n'B from the drawing board. Anyone could have written that. Nothing original at all. But it's supposed to have a fun time with and I'd slightly prefer it to:

"It's raining again". Strange. Doesn't seem so out of place here at all. Perhaps I shouldn't have hoped on it to be an exception and see the album as a whole, conceptual one ? "Going Back", for that, would be a better title, but "Famous last Words" can also do with a slight addition to the first of words to make it "INfamous".

"Bonnie" Okay, this one sounds more like Rick, a little strained and tired still but one should perhaps listen to it some more so it may catch up on them, but it ain't more than an average song.

"Know who you are" BEAUTIFUL ! RH giving side 1 of the album at least ONE reason to have another go on it. But on the other hand... haven't we heard stuff like that before ? Yes we had. But slightly different, cause this one sounded so sad, as if the lack of passion that was significant for the album seriously asked Roger to do it as lethargic as he could, and in order to not shock anybody with a big surprise keep it a spartanic lamento. The sensitive singer with his acoustic guitar. Great melody and a gem of a song. Side 2 of the album started with a surprise, cause...

"My kind of Lady" really managed to outvote "It's raining again" for being the most old-fashioned, superfluous, embarrassingly stupid song that Supertramp had ever recorded. And a whole lot of Schmaltz that we thought had been overcome when the Rolling Stones had finally ( and forever ) given us "Beggar's Banquet". A parody ? I despised it, honestly, the lyrics so dumb I couldn't help but feel cheated. I couldn't stand it. Though the chord-progression was not quite as simple it only delivered second hand emotion in order to entertain everybody who didn't care... just like "It's raining again" ! Somehow an obvious choice for the next single as Rick Davies had even won the competition ( because of more Schmaltz to hurt the ear ) for the most loath-able track but the record-buyers did not agree, it was a minor hit only. So even when Rick wins against Roger he's less successful lol... But, making up for that at least so much that I didn't regret to have spent my few bucks on that album, the next three songs appeared to be better:

"C'est le bon" Roger again, acoustic guitar picking, lovely arrangement with a groove reminding of "Even in the quietest moments" ( the song ), good and catchy melody and rather serious lyrics ( with one eye twinkling still so they're not too serious ), lots of things that really were essential about this band to be found here. Can even be enchanting, depending on your mood. But its light-weight-appeal also makes "Even" the superior choice somehow.

"Waiting so long" Best track on Album. Rick Davies depressed. Did I tell you he was a conservative man ? Yes I did, four times now. Here we get the reasons, at least concerning music and music-biz. Great lyrics and 100 % honest. This time, though still sounding tired, the emotions really get you cause they've genuinely been expressed in ( and transformed into ) music. It's got the feel of a heavy weight on the soul with even ( one last time ) an electric guitar solo by Hodgson and it's hinting towards Rick's elder epics on "Crime", but not really progressive and without really matching them, though. Pathetic as well. It sums up the better parts of this album as shades of what the band used to be before "Breakfast", a step back because they couldn't go further anymore, they may have said what there was to say and run out of gas... "Now I'd rather taste old wine than mess around with something new". Significant lines, aren't they ?

"Don't leave me now" The ending. Pathetic again. A bit blown up, given that it's only verses repeating on familiar chord-changes until the instrumental epilogue drops in, but a haunting feel to it, something that can really touch you once more. I didn't like the pleading tone of the lyrics, though, it seemed to be an expression of a lack of self-consciousness and confidence that turned me away for some while. This, perhaps. was due to my own struggles and the fear of falling back in a role just like that and therefore it might just as well have been my very own lack of self-confidence, so no blame on Roger, though this song may have been one song too much to see and hear him plead.

2 stars overall.

This was the first review cause that's how I felt and how I judged the album then. I could live with it, but, for a long time, the feel of dissatisfaction didn't leave me. I can honestly understand anybody saying that this is what "FLW" is about for him, with slight differences on different tracks, but if you can subscribe, no problem. In order to understand the 2nd review better then, please turn back to the introduction and then head on here afterwards:

Review # 2:

The years have passed.

It's 2012. I have long since stopped listening to the charts. MTV and VIVA turn me off. I hung on to the values of old and get a huge pleasure of listening to Supertramp, especially the "classic line up", and FLW was their final outing before Hodgson parted ways with Davies. My first judgement about this move to have been good for the both of them had soon made way to the insight of how much they complemented each other and how superior the resulting mixture was even with their final album. What it lacks in freshness and adventurous spirit it makes up for with consistence and a celebration of the old values. I don't hear infusions anymore, I only hear songs, and the songs are pretty good. It may be wrong to compare this album to its predecessors, it's a slightly lesser one ( to Crisis, too ) but seen independently it's delivering a whole lot of good music. The feel of it being somewhat tired had been supported by an inferior production that ridiculously ( Peter Henderson was also responsible for "Breakfast" ) was not as good as could have been ( even the CD-remaster, though offering an improvement, has got that very same lack of space in higher frequencies and that's one of the things that overshadow some very inspired performances giving us the pleasure to hear this 5-piece in all its splendour and versatility once more ). Being a young man on his own quest for "something new" I did not treasure enough what good music there was if only the musicians were skilled and gifted tunesmiths and, at least, held on to the values of old. What once seemed boring or un-original now is a huge pleasure of sheer entertainment. Even more so, everything I love about Supertramp ( as distinctively explained in my introduction ) is absolutely valid and intact on this album. And it was for the very last time. They could have parted ways before and leave it unfinished but instead of this they chose to give us one more. Thanks so much for that. It's highly appreciated:

"Crazy". I somehow don't feel much like putting on "Dreamer" or "Lady" anymore. I still love ( well, with "Lady" it's never been a true love lol ) those songs and when I do I'm enjoying them, but I've simply heard them too often. "Crazy" is a song in the same vein. I love to put it on. It didn't wear out. It's still attractive even in mind.

"Put on your old brown Shoes" What the hell of a fun-song, Rick Davies at his best and the band playing with all their devotion and skill. And what a groove ! A must-have for every Supertramp-Fan. Uplifting in every way, not tired at all. Love to hear it, enjoy it anytime.

"It's raining again" Still the low point of the album, but, if not taken too seriously, well... the children have fun together and you can only learn from them. I got it wrong, lyrically, way back then. The broken heart is taken seriously, but the view of a child says: "Let yourself be infected by happiness. Come on you little fighter..." good lyrics. I've been too ignorant towards the view of a child by then I couldn't see what they were about. Apologises.

"Bonnie" Still a bit straining, not grown so much over the years, a lesser one though Rick really tried to make it special. Nice shuffle, btw !

"Know who you are" As beautiful as ever but, compared to the rest of Side one, a bit too sad in its mood. So perhaps it's better if singled out or in a mixed-up Supertramp-playlist with stuff from "Even", "Crisis", "Breakfast" and "Crime" on it... oh Roger, only you can write songs like this.

"My Kind of Lady" Tribute to the 50s. Adorably arranged and performed. Schmaltz of the funniest and most entertaining kind. Rick deserves a kiss for this ( and his courage to do so cause he loves stuff like that ) but I suppose he'd prefer one given by the woman he's written it for ( me, too, so quite understandably ) - with twinkling eyes but honestly saying "I love you, let's believe in the two of us, after all, we are human beings with sentiments and needs - including pretensions - allowed !"

"C'est le bon" Underrated Roger Hodgson-classic that stood the test of time. Everything I said about it in Review # 1 and more. They don't do stuff like this and they don't bring up men like him anymore.

"Waiting so long" Rick Davies-classic, still the best song on this album. Tango Finale.

( Next is the "Roop talking to Rick in case he's ever going to read this"-bit: )

I chose to set in my old ways as well in the meantime. I know why you did. I can only agree. Hard to get new inspiration from the latest of fashion... always inspiration to be found in the masters of old. I'm not that a conservative man, though. But my own art is a sacred place for me and I won't let it be disturbed or spoiled by any of that samey and faceless stuff the record-companies prefer to put their remainder money in nowadays. It's all about the songs. There are good ones and bad ones. Too many bad ones these days. This is a good one. And, from all the good ones you've written, it's one of the best and somehow been giving a pace/pattern for how to start again with "Brother". There's more space in this, more spontaneous sparkle including Roger's great guitar. This guitar has been missing as much as his voice and songs afterwards, not even Dave Gilmour is better when it comes to your compositions. ( Conversation/Monologue over )

"Don't leave me now"

Still that haunting feel and urge... sounds a bit strange today to hear how bass and drums augment the piano, no one could have programmed this.

( Now the "Roop talking to Roger"-conclusion: )

I do understand why you, Roger, have left the band. And everything is alright with me. But perhaps Rick was right about going on this way... yeah, perhaps he should have pleaded just one more... cause: it never again used to be so. You're as brilliant as ever and, with your current band, give me the genuine feel that Supertramp of old used to have with your songs. But Rick needs you and, all in all, the mixture of yours and his style is making more of the two of you than the sum of your parts. You can't be replaced and none of you can be equaled but together you were best. I wish that everything could be sorted out and we, the fans, could have some more of that mixture, but I know it's not your fault. ( Conversation/Monologue over )

4 stars.

( review over )

The rating for this site is the mixed rating of the two. I think that's fair. You can see it both ways and neither is completely wrong. Thank you all for the patience it took to read this. I'm just sitting there, crying. LOVE Roop

rupert | 3/5 |

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