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Supertramp - It Was The Best Of Times  CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.38 | 43 ratings

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2 stars I have very mixed emotions about this one. In many ways, it's perfect, but in too many other ways, it's a big, pretentious deception, starting with the title. 3 members of the classic "Crime"-Line up and the approach of giving the audience a "best of Supertramp-revue" in best possible sound quality don't make this a good live-album, and though I don't have a problem with Roger Hodgson not being on board I sure do have a problem with how this professional unit is handling his compositions, Mark Hart being in no way a man to make them sound any other than a faceless tribute-band would - augmented by first-rate session-musicians, no doubt, but maybe also because Rick Davies and his then "new" band have decided to simply break the gentlemen's agreement once more ( even denying it to have been made, which can't be true, sorry ) and use Roger's songs, the feel just isn't right... what comes to my mind when listening to this is: it's only a small grade from "use" to "abuse".

Some songs of Rick's, in particular "Another Man's Woman", "Cannonball" and "It's a hard World", seem to make up for that, cause in those moments everything seems to fall into place and work out well, but in too many cases it's just a shadow left of the emotions that his ( and Rogers' ) compositions used to deliver originally, with the definite low-point of "From now on" being played so slow it can make you fall asleep. And that's perhaps the most disappointing thing about this recording: Even ( most of ) Rick's ( old ) songs don't feel right, so there must have been something wrong... no matter how good the musicians have played and how perfect the sound-mix came to be. It's the lack of passion and devotion to what most of the songs used to inherit that cannot be overheard. A big spectacle with no other purpose than entertainment in which the spirit of old is absent cause everybody, including John Helliwell as an animator, is somewhat only doing their job, but if left alone - they all would probably have done something else, including Rick Davies, who by then only seemed to come alive with some newer material and as soon as the band dug into Rhythm and Blues.

But Supertramp had once been about far more than this, and taking songs that, in their time at least, stood for more and perform them on stage in order to "give sugar to the ape" ( and then, maybe most important with "events" like these, receive a huge pay-check for doing so ), whilest they get robbed off their spirit and content, makes the whole thing become a self-parody. Is this serious art ? No, it's artists who used to be serious once but seem to have lost their self-demands which by now have been reduced to a perfect-sounding but soulless repetition, while they want the whole world to still celebrate them as serious artists. Why not celebrate the art instead ? The audience is loving Supertramp, the audience is celebrating the past, the audience perhaps did not ask for more cause to see Rick, John and Bob ( at least ) and to hear those songs seems to be enough. But the band doesn't celebrate them. The band, emotionally, is somewhere else, and anytime that one of those gifted musicians is allowed to "break out" and show some of their own feel they suddenly seem to be alive, problem is... the songs themselves sound rather dead.

An act of duty, expensively presented so everyone can tell themselves it was worth the money ( the audience looking at the money they've spent, the entertainers looking at the money they've earned ), but as soon as the event is over and all you have left is the audible testament, the blown up balloon loses all of the gas and reveals that it has been nowhere near an necessity in terms of art, even in terms of a welcome revival to relive the glorious past... one can even imagine the record-company execs now looking at the money they're hoping to wrench out of it... so EMI can finally have their bit of cake from whatever's left of "Supertramp". I'm loathing at this, really, and I have the strong suspicion to even share this bad feel with Dougie Thomson, who wasn't interested in becoming a part of that "Comeback". The Cover-artwork seduces me to say: That man's just sweeping the floor of the concert hall, and the rubbish he's got to remove are the final remainders of "Supertramp" !

Too harsh a judgement ? Maybe. But Rick Davies himself finally makes me dare to do so, calling this "The best of Times", as if it honestly was. NO ! That's wishful thinking, at best, and it's cheating the record-buyers at worst. Anybody knows that, in terms of music as well as sales - but most of all for the fans - the real "best of times" was with Roger Hodgson, and the only official live-album by Supertramp that does deserve this title has to be "Paris". And, having been given that title, another live-album is meant to be compared to "Paris". This one can't stand the comparism, maybe no live-album without Hodgson can, but Rick Davies wants it to be seen as the best while even he, as an artist, can't feel satisfied about the whole thing. He may have spent a better time on the road without his old counterpart... okay, less trouble, less discussions, more fun. But when it comes to the naked truth about the band and where it went... well, he'd be far better off to not play any of Roger's songs anymore, focus on R'n'B and some old stuff he's really keen to perform, perhaps even shaking off the big name and never, ever again tempt the listener to compare the results with what was really best, then it may be alright, just as "Slow Motion" afterwards came to be an alright album. My rating is a result of two things: my disappointment with the final product and my angriness because of the arrogance with which it was sold. Maybe I'd have given three stars ( it's a bit better than "Live '88" because it features many better songs and sounds far better ) if it weren't such an embarrassing move to mislead the record-buyers who, in any way, are better off with "Paris" or "The very best of Supertramp".

rupert | 2/5 |


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