Vinyl Review - Month February 2024

Vinyl Review - Month February 2024

Supertramp "Crime of The Century" (1974)

Happy Birthday! Supertramp's album "Crime of The Century" is 50 years old this year. I discovered it in the 80s, when I was 12 years old, which means ...I'm now ...ehm ...Damn! Never mind. We'll stick to vinyl now, because an anniversary year is a good reason to take a closer look at the album.

What was the musical environment like from Supertramp's point of view in 1974? There was tough competition. The established bands were: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer and of course The Rolling Stones. Supertramp, on the other hand, had released two unsuccessful albums at the time and were on the verge of bankruptcy. So they had to be successful, otherwise they would have been ruined. As my former boss liked to say: No pressure guys!

The two band leaders Rick Davis and Roger Hodgson had previously written songs together. In case you didn't know, they weren't friends. There is no shared past here. They met through a personal ad with the aim of forming a band. So Supertramp was always a partnership of convenience and there is no common ground here like there was with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for example.

For the work on "Crime Of The Century", they changed their familiar way of working. They each wrote and worked on their own songs and then finalized the compositions together with the band in the studio. This meant that both were able to play to their strengths. Roger Hodgson is a master of hit songs with a dash of melancholy. Rick Davis' songs, on the other hand, are more rock, which he refines with a pinch of irony.

So what is so special about the album? It is their very own unmistakable sound. This is carried by the electric piano. Does a piano match a rock band? Yes, it fits. You can best understand that with the song "Bloody Well Right". So we have two songwriters who can handle keys and who put the electric piano at the center. Then John Helliwell came in with the saxophone and the clarinet. The result: the unique Supertramp style. Today it is attributed to the genre: prog rock, art pop. In 1974, the year of its release, it was something completely new.

The opener "School" shows the adventure very clearly. Rock, progressive rock and pop are not mixed here, but combined, whereby the stylistic elements remain completely intact and recognizable. The song "School" was not released as a single and never had a chart nomination, although in my opinion it is the strongest track on the album. Ken Scott - production - has created a really powerful beginning here. After a depressing Sergio Leone harmonica intro (I often had that Once-Upon-a-Time-in-the-West-feeling in my first lesson at school, especially after I hadn't done my homework), the fragile Hodgson vocal starts and picks up speed with a booming bass. It's clearly heading towards rock until the striking solo comes... But! It's a solo played with an electric piano! It hits you like a bolt from the blue: WTF? And that's exactly how you capture the listener's heart. The solo ends in a fantastic outro. That's fresh. That's new. That's Supertramp.

With this cocktail, they gave the world the Supertramp sound. It made them one of the most successful bands of the seventies. By 1982, Supertramp had sold a total of over 25 million albums. The foundation for this was "Crime of The Century".

In short: it's a great album that doesn't show its age. Incidentally, this is similar for people over 50. 😉

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