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Supertramp - Supertramp CD (album) cover

SUPERTRAMP

Supertramp

 

Crossover Prog

3.47 | 316 ratings

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TCat
4 stars The debut album by Supertramp and the follow up "Indelibly Stamped" are a couple of very different albums in the entire Supertramp discography. These albums portray a band trying to find a sound, and ended up coming up with a couple of interesting sounding experiments, more in the debut than in the second, as Indelibly Stamped at least showed some very clear movement toward the sound they would become famous for. However, in this debut album, released in 1970, there is hardly anything that sounds like the Supertramp that most of us are familiar with. And that is part of the charm of this album.

This album did not see the light of day in America until 1977, after ST started finding their efforts paying off. Of course, people didn't know what to think of it because it was so different than the bright, keyboard heavy music that they were hearing on the radio. Richard Palmer wrote all of the lyrics for this album because none of the other band members wanted to. Of course, Palmer didn't stay with the band long enough to taste their success, but he also had other jobs, like writing lyrics for King Crimson, namely on the albums "Lark's Tongue in Aspic", "Red", and "Starless and Bible Black" and then continued to work with John Wetton when KC temporarily disbanded. The music was entirely co-written by Rick Davies and Rodger Hodgson, of course they were the pair that would later bring success to Supertramp. The fourth member, at the time, was drummer Robert Miller who also played the harmonica on the album, and he would only be a member on this album, seemingly fading out of the limelight after the album's release.

This lineup was one of the main reasons the band's music sounded so different here. Interestingly enough, Rodger Hodgson sang almost all of the lead vocals, and, except for a few exceptions, he sounded nothing like he would in "Crime of the Century" and after. Rick Davies did manage to sing 2 of the songs on this album: both "Nothing to Show" and "Shadow Song", and Hodgson also sung parts in both of those songs. Davies also didn't sound like he would in the following album "Indelibly Stamped" where he actually progressed vocally quite a bit, sounding very much like he would in later albums not just vocally, but musically. Davies would also sing most of the songs on that follow-up album and Hodgson would only sing a couple, and he still hadn't advanced his vocal talents much until "Crime of the Century". Richard Palmer also sang on two of the tracks on this debut album, and, like with Davies, Hodgson sang parts of his songs too: both "Maybe I'm a Beggar" and "Try Again". It is quite obvious that Palmer wasn't as great of a singer, but he gave it his best, however Hodgson definitely out shone both Davies and Palmer on this first album.

So, how is the music? Well, it is quite a bit darker than what you would expect from Supertramp. There is more guitar and a lot of organ, but much less of the brighter synth and keyboard sounds (along with the brass and woodwinds) of the later albums. Most of the music is slow and ballad-like, but still a bit heavier. Yes you do hear some flute on this album from time to time, but it helps the music retain a more pastoral sound in this case. The album starts off with "Surely", a lovely song that seems too short. Don't worry though, the album ends with this song also, but with a longer, organ-led coda attached at the end which effectively ties up the album as a whole. This is followed with the more upbeat "It's a Long Road", and after this song, the only other song that could be considered upbeat is "Nothing to Show". The rest of the songs are mostly slow to moderate, with some instances of faster passages. That isn't to say that these songs are bad, though, they are actually quite good, at least most of them, but they do take time to grow on you. "Maybe I'm a Beggar" is a lovely tune, but has some vocal issues from time to time, "And I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey" has a nice acoustic style, and "Words Unspoken" has quite a beautiful melody. The biggest standout on this album, however, is the progressive epic "Try Again" which has a run time of over 12 minutes. This track has a few distinct sections that take the music off in different directions and that always bring the track back to the original melody in the vocals. There are some strange, experimental, psychedelic sections, that the music always builds up from, creating tension and some very nice instrumental jamming. This is a great foreshadowing of the greatness this band would end up achieving.

I definitely do not consider this album a write off in Supertramps discography. It did take me some time to fully appreciate it, but I find myself coming back to it a lot, even after all these years, and all of these songs are quite familiar to me. Just be warned that this is not the sound of Supertramp that you are familiar with, and the excellence of the album might not be obvious at first. Of course, the album would be a commercial flop, but there were many critics that loved it and they could hear a lot of promise in the band. The follow up album would also be a commercial flop, and was just about the end for Supertramp. Many people would find that that album was even worse than the debut, but I still find times when I really like it, so I can't say that I like one over the other. One thing for certain, that album would come a lot closer to their trademark sound than this one did, as Rick Davies sound so much better on it and so did his songs. Hodgson wouldn't really improve until their 3rd album "Crime of the Century'". Don't start your Supertramp exploration with either this debut or the follow up though, progressive lovers should start with the amazingly perfect album "Crime of the Century". Save this one for later and marvel at how much this band changed.

TCat | 4/5 |

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