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Supertramp - Slow Motion CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

2.93 | 150 ratings

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3 stars I've got to say that this one was a bit of a surprise to me when I finally bought it ( 2nd Hand, last year ), cause it proved to be far better than its predecessors. I don't think it's of any use to blame Rick Davies for Supertramp "not being the same anymore", cause, after Roger Hodgson had left the band in the 80s, this was supposed to be so, and in the end, it isn't that all surprising where they went - musically. It's Rick Davies-style of course, which means, as is apparent especially on this Album, it's a more Blues, Jazz/Swing and R'n'B based affair with the ballads being more Musical/Vaudeville and digging into contemporary Schmaltz before Rock'n'Roll revolutionised popular music. This, of course, is not what the average prog-listener is up to, cause it's as progressive as fashionable clothes from the time of my Grandpa... but, on the other hand, combining these styles the way that Davies does, had at least been an inventive thing in 1974... cause it's simply his very own style that had been developed in sync with the band, sometimes evolving into symphonic rock-tracks like "Rudy" or "Crime of the Century" ( which, indeed, were progressive then ), but most of the time simply staying true to the songwriting values of old with stuff like "Bloody Well Right", "Poor Boy", "Ain't nobody but me", "From Now on", "Oh Darling", "Put on your old brown Shoes" and the as admire- as loath-able "My Kind of Lady", while Roger Hodgson was more responsible for beatlesque and folky Influences with sometimes a more proggy approach ( f.e. "School", " "Fool's Overture" ), even hinting towards the likes of Traffic a bit, and sometimes going straight into sing-along-pop ( "Give a little bit", "Logical Song" ), not seldom aiming at a big ballad ( "If everyone was listening", "Two of us", "Babaji", "Lord is it mine" ) with lots of Pathos ( and, of course, feel and melody ).

I - for myself - could never decide which one of the two songwriters/styles I'd actually prefer, and, as long as they were together, there was no need to do so anyway, cause one of the things that had made Supertramp so very special was to get them linked together and therefore a huge variety that was gone after their split. What should remain was one link that surely kept Hodgson and Davies together, cause they both must have their love to Procol Harum ( Davies for the bluesy side, Hodgson for the symphonic/lethargic - and, again, I like both sides as well ), cause their influence had shown up more than once in the works of this band.

After the 90s saw Rick Davies reappear into the limelight with "Some things never change", he obviously tried to re-invent certain aspects of the "old sound" in order to please old fans that had favourably turned away from the half-baked, artificial attempts at "modern production" that ( together with quite some dull songs to fill it ) had made "Free as a Bird" such a disappointment, while "Brother where you bound" still had managed to satisfy some prog-lovers at least. That reappearance was not so successful as a whole, while in my country ( and in France, in particular ), the "Comeback-album" sold well and helped Supertramp sell out their shows and even play at big Open-Airs ( in spite of the CD audibly running out of gas after having started with some good songs ). Compared to that, "Slow Motion" failed to have any commercial impact and it did not even sell well in Germany, so that's what it was in terms of "new albums" up to this day, as the record-deal with EMI had been fulfilled... but, my friends, commercial success or failure is, as we all know, saying nothing at all about the quality of the music.

It all depends on the songs and the way they were executed, and, given that Davies is Davies and nobody else, "Slow Motion" is a real good album, and in its best parts - "Tenth Avenue Breakdown", "Dead Man's Blues", "Slow Motion" - it's even a deliverance of vintage Supertramp ( compared to the best songs that Davies was responsible for during their heyday ).

I don't know if anybody has recognized it yet, but "Slow Motion" is even containing a musical nod to Roger Hodgson with the Wurlitzer-lines at the beginning, being a slight variation of Davies' Organ-lines to "Hide in your Shell", always putting a smile on my face. It's a beautiful song, yes it is, gently delivering the mood of two lovers growing old together, in style and grace, and by the time that Mr. Helliwell's trademark-sax has disappeared in the fade-out, the melody has become an ear-wig, I'm telling you... even weeks after I had listened to the album, it re-introduced itself quite automatically in my brain, and I started walking around in Slow Motion, humming the tune for days. It's pop, of course, but very, very good pop, and to me, it's Rick Davies at his very best.

In the end, there's only one song on the album that failed to please me, and that's "Over you", the very one that made it as a single and, for all the right reasons, failed to hit the charts. It's as boring as the dullest stuff on "Free as a Bird", with not a second in it to contain anything that Davies can claim to be original, and it's not even funny... but "Bee in your Bonnet" and "A Sting in the Tail" are... and even "Little by Little" is. Typically "Davies-stuff", but sooner or later they all have their moment that simply makes them "click" and that's a good sign of mastery in songwriting. "Goldrush" is surprisingly heavy ( for this band, of course ) but fits very well.

Absolutely outstanding are "Tenth Avenue Breakdown" ( containing perhaps the proggiest moments of the album as one more conceptional tune telling a very interesting story and digging into Jazz ) and the final "Dead Man's Blues", both of them allowing the members of the band to do a lot of improvisation. While both of the tracks remain conservative compositions, the skilful performances of Carl Verheyen ( guitars ), Lee Thornburg ( Trumpet/Trombone ) and, of course, John Helliwell reveal the great musicianship that once saw the name of Supertramp successfully sail under a "Prog"-banner that always used to be a little deceptive. And Davies' skills at the piano are no less impressive after all those years, maintaining his distinctive style. Another good thing about this album is that Davies does all the lead-vocals by himself - Mark Hart's singing always used to be too tedious and insignificant and it's hard enough for the old-time-fan to do without Hodgson's, at least you get 100% Davies here.

All in all, "Slow Motion" is a more than solid 4-star-album, and certainly the best one that Davies came up with after... well, you make the choice, "Brother were you bound" at least ( to me, it's the best Supertramp-Album that came after "Breakfast" ! ). But there's not much prog in it, as Rick Davies, the songwriter, is a conservative man ( in the best meaning of the word, staying true to old values and the music he grew up to love ). I do highly recommend this to Supertramp-Fans with a soft-spot for the qualities of this man ( and to those of you who like the Davies-songs from the second album and stuff like "Another man's Woman" as well ) but for PA the rating has to be lowered to 3 stars once more... but don't get them wrong, please.

Wonder if Supertramp will ever release another studio-album ( as a reunion of Davies and Hodgson is further away than ever these days ), but if this was the last, then... let me quote the lyrics of the title track: "If we we're gonna go, we're gonna go in style"... that's what they did. Very underrated and undeservedly neglected.

rupert | 3/5 |


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