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Supertramp - Crime Of The Century CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.31 | 1454 ratings

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5 stars A Masterpiece? Bloody Well Right!

After a 3-year break from releasing studio albums, with their third line-up, Supertramp (aka Messers Hodgson and Davies) unleashed their third album on an unsuspecting world.

Unsuspecting, because the first two albums had hardly been international hits, with the first receiving very little interest - and various band members simply left or had nervous breakdowns under the pressure.

"Crime of the Century", then, was a less meandering and more professionally polished affair than its predecessors - less Progressive Rock and more Progressive Pop in feel, with a kind of loose concept running through the album, and a production that's slicker than slick.

It would be a complete mistake to put this album down as some kind of elaborate pop record, though, because once you get past the accessible melodies and intricately layered arrangements, there are songs that defy standard songwriting stuctures with compositional techniques and musical developments that are truly up there with the Prog Rock greats.

Full of Doubt

Lyrically, "School" reflects the doubt that was still inherent in the band members - and the fiery resolve not to follow the path from classroom to office. The dichotomy is well reflected in the music, with the melancholy harmonica giving a haunting blues train whistle, and a deep, dark organ subtly back-filling with a line that will be of more importance to the overall structure later in the piece.

A picked guitar is soon joined by Hodgson's melancholy tenor as the first verse gets underway, a clarinet doing a passable imitation of a Cor Anglais. The verse ends mysteriously with guitar feedback sugueing into sounds of children in the playground and haunting atmospheric synth sounds. The feedback returns and intensifies, and a child's scream heralds the second verse - noting that there is no chorus in this song.

The second verse sees the bass and percussion making their first appearance - over a minute and a half into the song. The flat four nature of this verse creates a simple but very satisfying texture - which is all broken up by the last line of the verse, as Hodgson howls the chilling line "But you're full of dooouuuubt!".

An electric piano motif insinuates its way into our consciousness, the guitar feedback returns and other instruments pick up fragments of this motif, altering it, stretching it and generally playing mischievous games with it before joining forces for a bit of a boogie-fest that modulates smoothly a few times before diving into a dark and sensuosly heavy riff barking out the order "Don't do this and don't do that..."

This piles straight into the final verse, in which the melancholy clarinet makes another appearance in the texture.

"Bloody Well Right" comes as a bit of light relief after all that dark melancholy, with a jaunty little electric piano line leading the way to a "talking" guitar line over a solid bass pedal. This suddeny drops into a heavy riff that the Eagles may well have borrowed for "Victim of Love".

Lyrically, the song is a continuation of the "We don't need no education" ethos of "School", and a bitch at the (over-)priveleged.

Musically, it's a bit of a throwaway compared to the rest of the genius on this album - but the groove and sax solo are satisfying enough.

"Hide In Your Shell", though, is where we get a bit more serious. The drama in the music is tangible as the lyrics unfold their tale of a paranoid mind, and the addition of the Theremin is simply spine-chilling. The contrasts between the various sections paints a dynamic picture full of lights, shades - and even colours, as various instruments shine through the texture, all expertly implanted in the correct place - but without any feel of surgical precision, rather a pure and organic unfolding and development of a brace of musical ideas, full of space where required, yet densely textured and richly musical.

Above all of this, Hodgson sings with an impassioned, deeply soulful and emotional tone, without ever getting cloyed down with saccharine - his high tenor pushed to the edge of breaking in places, increasing in intensity as the song pans out, with intuitive backing harmonies.

"Asylum" maintains this quality - the paranoid protaganist who was hiding in his shell now freaking out about the possibility of being locked up. The piano part plays like a simiplistic piece of "Classical" music, albeit with a soupcon of swing, and is quite intriguing to follow instead of the melody line - it's interesting to hear it develop and modulate underneath the vocals.

As with School, at the end of the second verse, a new and darker musical idea threatens to break through - but Supertramp surprise us with music of an altogether more optimistic quality for something that sounds like a chorus in a big and massive sense - but quite clearly isn't!

Also notable is the synth "orchestration", which is particularly artfully orchestrated. The bells in the final chorus really add a special something.

The vocals get ever wilder and impassioned as the song progresses, and our "hero" appears to be losing his mind piece by piece - to the very final scream; "Not quite right!!!!".

Really, this song justifies the pirce tag alone - but we get another side, pop-pickers!

A chart hit, "Dreamer" does not let up on the musical quality for a second - despite the instantly accessible and insanely catchy melody and light bouncy electric piano, there's the slinky, sultry bassline and impossibly 1970s wah-wah to contend with - all fighting for a place in your awareness simultaneously, and when the lead vocals and harmonies get madly panned around the stereo picture, you just know that this song was made to be heard by an audiophile.

See, it's not just a great and catchy pop song, it's an excercise in artful arrangements and wierd instrumental techniques - listen to the drums and the xylophone at the end.

From here it just gets better. I won't cover anything in Rudy - just trust me, if you liked what you've heard (or read) so far, this one will blow your socks off.

"If Everyone Was Listening" is a kind of respite of sorts from the onslaught of quality. The melancholy beginning gives way to optimism for a while - and the optimistic glow remains as a kind of halo around the ensuing song.

The title track then closes the album with a bang - everything we've had so far, and the kitchen sink. The slow 6/8 feel of the piece gives it both a 3 time swing and a duple pulse that drives the Latimer-esque guitar solo to almost epic proportions - and then there's THAT piano fanfare and everything that follows it.

Spine-chillingly good, prog-pickers!


No need to Summarise.

It's an all-time great album. Buy it - don't muck about.

Certif1ed | 5/5 |


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