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Supertramp - Brother Where You Bound CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.66 | 334 ratings

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3 stars "Come on, Roop, give this one a fourth star ! You've become a miser here, didn't you, but Brother where you bound, for once, is prog enough, it's even more prog than Breakfast, you need not lower the rating... and you always said you like this one, didn't you ?"

Of course I do, and of course these three stars somehow are "more" three stars than "Some things never change" got, but... I did not lower the rating for this site at all. I needed to lower the rating because, in retrospect. it's not a better album than "Famous last Words" is, although when it came out, I thought it was... and I won't give FLW more than three stars, still.

It's good, it's very good, especially on a personal note for me, because I have enjoyed it from the start, my favourite track then as well as now being "No inbetween", a great ballad with a haunting melody, lyric, feel and mood. "Cannonball" has grown rather than lost any of its impact during the years, and the title track is indeed a prog-rock epic, as does "Better Days" feature several parts meant to please the prog-fan - and its ending grooves like hell. I even have a soft spot for the final "Ever open door", a piano-accompanied ballad in the vein of "Downstream" ( only backed-up with pathetic string and horn synths this time ), but not quite as good and, compared to it, rather bland and straight than really captivating, making it a lesser track as well as "Still in Love" sounds like "Rick Davies by numbers", supposed to be a fun-song but failing to deliver, because there's not much going on, and - in the end - the only real weak one on this 6-track album.

On the other hand, "Brother where you bound" suffers a bit from the strict way that every bit on it had been composed and arranged, as if the whole thing followed a pattern in order to get completed ( with, as the only exception, that strange break in the title track, when it's meant to dip into free-jazz, though even this bit sounds designed and not spontaneous ). And in the intro of "Better Days" you can even hear the band struggling with the arrangement rather than delivering it to full satisfaction, with Bob Siebenberg in particular coming close to lose the timing, and this is, once more, due to the strict design the musicians had to follow - it doesn't sound rehearsed, it sounds "patched together" in the studio until it finally "fitted", and I'm sure that if the band had rehearsed and developed it a little more ( improvising instead of only executing ) it would be absolutely flawless and as stunning as it was meant to be. Some parts of this album, belonging to different songs, start sounding samey, you know what I mean ? And this can only be if the composer is relying on too many patterns rather than fresh ideas that come out of inspiration.

"Brother where you bound" is designer-prog. Very good ( cause designed very well ), sounding even fresher than FLW, but in the end... it's not really more alive, it's only been delivered tighter and with more conviction so by the time it came out it really seemed a step forward.

It was an impressive new beginning that, I believe it, was difficult for Rick Davies to complete, with the duty of songwriting and the pressure of re-establishing the "new" Supertramp solely weighing on his shoulders, and considering those pressures it was a huge success, especially for the artist and his art, though it did not sell as much as it ought to, especially in the US. The old days were over - and, for once, Supertramp minus Hodgson seemed to be ready for a new chapter that dug a little more into the prog-field and therefore could win over some fans who rated "Crime of the Century" and, in parts, "Even in the quietest moments" higher than "Breakfast in America" and thought this was a welcome return to more serious art than just another pop-record. But the most proggy moments, let's not forget this, on "Even" relied on Hodgson's material, while Davies went to the safe side of contemporary blues and Ballads straight after "Crime", on which he really shared the prog-approach in at least equal amounts with Roger. There he did it in his most convincing way and... well, what song of his, afterwards, would you name "prog" ? Maybe "Waiting so long", but only because it's closest to it, not because it's been really inventive or progressive, holding a spot because "Waiting so long" was simply one of Rick's very best compositions out of the mainfield.

So, this time, no "My kind of Lady" ( though, has to be said, that's the far better song compared to "Still in Love", and arranged in such a perfect manner it must become obvious that "Still in Love" was not at all ! ) or "Loverboy", this time serious attempts at writing stuff compareable to "Rudy", "Asylum" and "Crime". "Brother", in spite of it being a great epic, doesn't quite live up to that, but it gave us the illusion that Rick, at least, was "back on the right track". Truth was: he could not turn back the clock, no matter how much he strained himself in order to give the fans what they desired. So the very thing that made "Free as a bird" such a negative surprise to many of us... it wasn't supposed to be so surprising at all, cause Rick felt the need to free himself from these pressures and loosen up, which was not at all the wrong thing to do... if only he would have managed to do it better !

David Gilmour fits like a glove. What did become of the Floyd after he took over the leading-role there with Roger Waters' departure ? Another case of "designer-prog", looking for a safe bet rather than progressing, all about the sound and the great effects to achieve with it, not so much about daring and taking risks so there's really something new and exciting audible. In fact, Gilmour was far more progressive with "About Face" than with "Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "The Division Bell", only did the latter two sound more like "prog rock" whilest the first sounded POP. I do not aim at accusing anyone for not being really progressive, though. Neither do I say that those albums were bad albums. I only want to explain why many of us came to misunderstand "Brother where you bound". I am a songwriter myself and I do know more than enough about the pressures and stuff that, when an artist is part of the music-biz, have their impact in the art created. Rick Davies, there can be absolutely no doubt, delivered his best here. Regarding the circumstances. And he wasn't out to cheat us that Supertramp meant to be more progressive this time, he only wanted to satisfy the request for "something more in the vein of Crime", with a conceptional theme and perhaps more epic, coherent pieces on it, so to build himself ( and the band ) a basis from which to start anew.

Think of this, if things would have went the way he wanted to, then Roger Hodgson had never left the band at all, cause he simply wanted to go on the way they did, building on the hard earned grapes of success. Rick was pleased with "Famous last Words" whereas Roger could not be, Rick did not mind all the quarrels as long as the both of them could, at least, come up with a "good compromise", while Roger had grown sick and tired of compromises and all the criticism he used to receive from his partner for songs in which he bled his heart out. Rick Davies is a conservative man, I've written that twice already and I don't mind writing it again. He was forced into this situation rather than wanting himself to be in there. He also had an eye on the money as well, and he goddamn knew who it was who had contributed the biggest selling single-hits to that band. And he needed to find a way to satisfy both camps, the chart-buyers as well as the long-term-fans, making sure he was capable of steering the "Supertramp-ship" into successful waters on his own.

So, as a songwriter, let me try to make another point, cause I believe that the pressures that Rick had to face eventually led to him appearing quite egoistic, neglecting the meaning of the others in his band. He had the hugest part of responsibility to take over - cause that's what you get for being the sole songwriter of a band. It all depends on you. And if it does... you can't be blamed for wanting even more control. Cause no matter what the others in the band may contribute to your songs, if they aren't successful that way, the blame comes back to you and you only. In these terms, Supertramp was kinda doomed to become what it is until this day, Rick Davies & Band, no more. But it's "Supertramp" cause Rick holds the name and he's got more than one of the members who made this band a famous one in order to justify it, so no discussions about that, please.

If they'd have managed to go on this way... the way that "Brother were you bound" had made them start anew.... well, who'd have real reasons to complain except of those who already knew that it is not REALLY "Progressive Rock Music" ? The simple truth is, as a songwriter, Rick Davies was not able to do so. He needed to stick with his R'n'B -roots and go where he felt. Cause it's obvious, as good as the songs of this album are, though: Rick ran out of feel for constructions like them, it was more "head" than it was "heart" or "belly".

And it lacks the spontaneous spark that even a tired-sounding album like "Famous last Words" could provide still. That's why it can't be better. That's why, in the end, it all came down to the most of us wanting the old days to return and therefore Hodgson to come back on board.

The old days were best, no doubt, but "Brother" is one of the best albums to come afterwards, still. If you don't mind those points I've criticised as much as I tend to do at times, then you can really treasure this a four-star or even more, but don't mistake it for being more than it is: a good Supertramp-Album, and, go ahead, give "Famous last Words" another spin if you think it's not so good at all. I have changed my mind about it during the years. But I still like "Brother where you bound".

rupert | 3/5 |


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