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Supertramp - Supertramp CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.47 | 309 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Supertramp made their recording debut with a very good eponymous album. It sounds quite dated now, but definitely, in perspective it also comes out as a solid lost gem of early prog oriented art rock. Following a similar trend to that of Genesis' "Trespass" and Beggar's Opera's "Act One", but not being as dense as the former nor as bombastic as the latter, this first Supertramp leans closer to the existentialist melancholy of The Moody Blues (specially when it comes to acoustic sensitivity and the use of well outlined melodic lines), with a special accent on jazz and R'n'B incorporated for good effect in the most energetic passages. Davies uses his keyboards with ease and confidence, particularly the organ, which is his most featured instrument; he and Richard Palmer (later, a KC-associate in the role of lyricist) take the band's highlights with their effective interplaying, providing a genuine energy to both the rockier and the languid passages of the repertoire. Meanwhile, Hodgson and Millar comply efficiently with their rhythm duties. This album is prominently Hodgson-centered, which means that his lead vocalist role is present in almost 100 % of the material, and he's also heavily featured on acoustic guitar in most of the calmer songs (he also plays some flageolet and cello - being the youngest member and one of the latest additions to the band, it's amazing how he became the combo's musical leader). The opening number is a brief rendition of 'Surely', a typical hippy ballad, and then comes the proper starting piece, an energetic showcase for hard rock-meets-R'n'B titled 'It's a Long Road'. The jamming stuff is very elated, indeed; later on, 'Nothing to Show' will go for a similar vibe, although the result is a bit less exciting. The band seems more comfortable with the less up-tempo numbers. Track 3 starts with a solemn organ fugue (very much a la Haendel) played with sober skill by Davies; then comes an eerie acoustic guitar-based ballad that shows a hint of what in years to come will become Hodgson's signature musical sensibility. 'Words Unspoken' is simply a beautiful song, whose main motif is properly punctuated by the interaction between Hodgson's vocal deliveries and Palmer's guitar phrases. But beauty reaches new heights in 'Maybe I'm a Beggar', a sort of mini-epic that seems to be a favourite of many prog-heads who enjoy this album: I personally agree, since this track shows the band's emotional candour at its most inspired level. With Palmer singing the verses and Hodgson the choruses, Davies creating overwhelming harmonic bases on his Hammond and Palmer delivering stunning multi- layered leads, one can only feel in awe of the way this young Supertramp could actually conceive and perform powerful stuff with such conviction. After the energetic 'Nothing to Show', 'Shadow Song' finds the band exploring the virtues of introspection, this time with a more exotic vibe: the bongos, flageolet and balalaika create a solid interplay with the acoustic guitar and piano, in a similar way to JT's early acoustic ballads. The 13- minute 'Try Again' is basically a prog ballad expanded to a monster level, making it a sort of epic where jazz and prog collide and complement each other. Some special moments of this track: Palmer's quotation of Bach in some leads; the inception of a hard rocking bluesy passage during the interlude; the especially evocative beauty of the lyrics; and last, the splendid climax and the brief psychedelic improv that precedes it. The impression of false closure is provided by the full version of 'Surely' as the album's epilogue: first comes the complete acoustic section, then the electric coda which is as slow but far more energetic, coming to a second climax for the last seconds. I really love this album, but I can't give it an excellent rating since this is not a solidly mature musical work, Clearly, the band was still in search of itself, but it wouldn't be fair to deny that the talent was already there, perfectly matched with the fire of enthusiasm. 3-3 stars for this one - a very good start!
Cesar Inca | 3/5 |


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