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Supertramp

Brother Where you Bound

Review by Gary Hill

his album divided Supertramp fans. Roger Hodgson was out of the group. That means many Supertramp fanatics disregarded this set out of hand. The truth is, though, those who gave it a chance found an album that was very strong. Let me say that I am a fan of Hodgson solo and I appreciate the contribution he made to the magic of Supertramp. However, in my opinion, this is the most blatantly progressive rock oriented offering from the band, and it’s finest. A good way to sum up the disc in a simple phrase would be that it combines the sounds of Supertramp with Pink Floyd. The presence of David Gilmour on the epic of the album adds to that effect. Whether you are a Hodgson fanatic or not, give this disc a real chance. It is well worth the effort.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Cannonball

The album opens with the most decidedly “single-like” track of the set (although not in terms of length). It’s got a jazzy texture to it and some groove. There’s a killer jazzy jam mid-track. We get a pretty and intricate instrumental movement later with an emphasis on keyboards. At times it reminds me of Vangelis, but with a definite groove, during that section. It fires out to more pure jazz from there, though. The angry movement later in the piece is killer. That’s both in terms of the energized, jazzy music and the emotional vocal delivery. There is a smoking keyboard solo after that section, too.

Still In Love
A sultry saxophone solo (feeling as if it’s recorded on some street corner) opens this up nicely. They take it into a bouncing rocker from there. We get a killer saxophone solo segment later and the sax continues to solo alongside the vocals after that.
No Inbetween
Coming in with a keyboard and vocal approach, this is a powerful ballad. It builds out gradually and it’s quite evocative and potent. Once more there’s a tasty saxophone solo. The vocal performance is very poignant on this piece and the layers of sound add to the emotion and the drama.
Better Days
This comes in tentatively, with some dramatic keyboard dominated music and some sound loops. It powers out from there into a killer progressive rock number. Rather than work out for the vocals from there, though, it drops to a more stripped down arrangement. It gains more layers of sound as it continues. This is a smoking hot rocker. Around the four minute mark an expansive, jazzy jam takes over with bits of campaign promises interspersed among the soloing saxophone.
Brother Where You Bound
No matter how you feel about Supertramp without Roger Hodgson, there is no denying that this is the most ambitious and epic length track the band ever did. It starts with the sounds of scratching records. Then a mysterious and ominous keyboard element with sound bites of the cold war takes into a territory that is decidedly Pink Floyd like. The piece works gradually and slowly from there. Around the minute and a half mark it drops to piano based movement and they build up organically from there with the vocals coming over the top. A little after the two and a half minute mark, a burst of hard rock enters to accent the current music and foreshadow later sounds. It returns to the mellower movement for more vocals, but then a longer section of bombast joins. Then it powers out to something that’s like Pink Floyd meets Supertramp with a killer groove turned heavy. After that section works through, though, they drop it back toward mellower stuff again and we get a saxophone solo. There are variants on both styles, but overall the heavier motif and mellower one serve as the main structure for the piece by alternating for a while. A little before the seven minute mark, though, it shifts to a slower moving, hard edged jam that’s very Pink Floyd like. David Gilmour provides guitar adding to that effect. This is arguably some of the hardest rocking music Supertramp ever did, both in terms of the music and the vocal performance. It drops away around the nine minute mark to noisy RIO oriented dissonance and free-form jazz like territory. Then a new melodic structure comes in after a false ending. It’s fast paced, tentative and mellow. It becomes very fusion-like, perhaps along the lines of Pat Metheny. This grows for a time, then they drop it back to seriously symphonic sounding mellower music. It turns noisy and random in texture and seems about to explode. Then that fades away and the next jam of the cut enters. It’s another that seems like a jazzy Pink Floyd. There’s a definite groove to it as this builds out. That movement, sans vocals, takes the piece out. The track ends at the sixteen and a half minutes.
Ever Open Door
Here we get a piano ballad approach. It builds up as it continues, but overall retains the ballad motif throughout.
 
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