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Supertramp - Free As A Bird CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

1.84 | 186 ratings

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1 stars Few things are as disheartening to hear as a once-gifted crossover prog band gone bad but with "Free as a Bird" Supertramp de-evolved into a new species of septic tank bottom feeders. I do understand more so than most that they were struggling to survive under the evil domination of the insidious MTV virus (I was there and could do nothing to stop that fatal pandemic from spreading throughout the music industry unabated) but this album is devoid of even a scintilla of creativity and for that there's no excuse. This project should've been scrapped long before it was rudely foisted upon their dedicated fans that bought it out of trusting loyalty and got burned. Shame on you guys. This platter reeks like a decaying sturgeon. Obviously, whatever we'll-show-the-world-we're-still-relevant momentum that went into and made their previous album (the delightful, engaging "Brother Where You Bound") such a triumph had perished a horrible death and been cast aside like messy road kill when they made this one. This is downright painful. A super cramp, if you will. One might be tempted to refer to the contents as urinary tracks.

They open this fiasco with the vapid "It's Alright," a shamelessly commercial, idiotic dance- all-night song that even Lionel Richie would've rejected out of hand. It's so boring that Rick Davies' average-at-best piano ride feels like crawling to a green oasis in the middle of an arid desert. And, if you think the music is mundane, wait till you get a load of the lyrical content. "I want you in my arms tonight/you know you whet my appetite," Davies sings as if nattily outfitted in a white polyester suit aka Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." What I'm saying is Bill Shakespeare, your legacy is secure. Rick lamely raps poetic at the end but they wisely fade out before he's done. "Not the Moment" is one of those anemic, too-slick- for-its-own-good, perfect production numbers that's all gloss, no dynamics and no balls. The group's talented sax man John Helliwell is relegated to contributing only nondescript riffs intended to fill up the vacant space surrounding inane words like "Oh, well, I know sometimes it ain't easy/I know you're feeling bad/but you know it's the wrong time to tease me/it just makes me mad." What is this, remedial English for the literary challenged?

"It Doesn't Matter" is next and it features the typical Supertramp tinkling piano intro but, rather than taking you somewhere interesting, it quickly becomes terribly predictable and yawn-inducing. There simply is nothing here to comment on so I'll let their own lyrics bury it properly. "I just want to know why do you do this to me?/and where is your sense of reason?/so how could you fool me for so long?/and now watch my tenderness turn to emptiness." Substitute "talent" for "tenderness" and you'll know all you need to know about this piece of lint. "Where I stand" tries to achieve the kind of solid groove Steve Winwood was having so much success with about that time but it falls woefully short due to the fact that the tune is so shallow. Guest vocalist Mark Hart joins Rick on the chorus but he only makes them sound like Starship or any other from the crowd of goofy, mullet-coiffed combos preening and posing in front of the video cameras during that God-forsaken era. Davies' opening line goes "I'm a wreck and I'm a tangle." You don't say. The title song is a sad case of cookie-cutter formula composing that's wholly transparent and pitifully patronizing. Both the pseudo-gospel arrangement and the obligatory R&B chorale at the end lack any semblance of soul. At one point Rick warbles "You have my word/I won't bother you no more." Oh? If that were true then he would've halted the proceedings right then and there but he lied, I guess, because they're only halfway through this quagmire.

Evidently disco wasn't dead in Supertrampland in '87. I offer "I'm Beggin' You" as proof. According to the boogie fever spirit of this song it's not only alive but it's performing splits beneath a mirror ball and flashing strobes. This track reminds me of those mind-numbing days when a looped bass/snare pattern was all that was required to create a hit single. It also makes me want to vomit. "We had a love to be proud of/what was once a thrill then became a chill/and so very cold," he sings. That line describes their career at this juncture, too. "You Never Can Tell with Friends" follows and it at least has some big band-styled kicks but Davies manufactured this sort of throwback ditty so many times in the past that it's wearying here instead of clever. Not a trace of imagination to be found. "Thing for You" is so trite it belies its filler status nakedly, most likely penned on the spot to fulfill a contract obligation. Good grief, this is lousy! The aptly-titled "An Awful Thing to Waste" closes this vinyl cow patty with nearly eight minutes of monotonous drivel. Its dramatic soap opera beginning is useless and then they try desperately to emulate the previous record's driving "Cannonball" without including any of the fun that cut exuded so well. It has all the emotion of a metronome and it goes on and on for no reason. "Living life this way is a bust/if you have to suffer you must," Rick croons. Gee, thanks, but enduring multiple listens of this LP in order to give it a fair review is torture enough for this progger. I've got your suffering right here. Ugh.

Little wonder that this would turn out to be their last offering for ten long years. The well had run dry. Their muse was in a coma. Their bank of innovation had turned insolvent and they were flat broke. They hit rock bottom with "Free as a Bird" and a decade of rehab was their only option. I know, I'm grasping at clichés to convey how hollow and insipid these nine tunes are but I'm also being as sincere as possible. This turd should be inducted into the hall of shame alongside the likes of "Genesis," "Love Beach," and "Tormato." Ugly is as ugly does.

Chicapah | 1/5 |


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