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15 Sep 2016

Supertramp "Crime Of The Century"1974 UK- 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time (Rolling Stone)






Supertramp "Crime Of The Century"1974 UK- 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time- Rolling Stone:

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Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70's progressive music and is Supertramp's best work. 

Being a teenager can be a hard and sometimes confusing time. A few years before my teen years began, my parents were involved in a somewhat lengthly and bitter divorce. On the day that my father moved out he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have received even to this day, his record collection. At the time I had no idea what a monumental gift this was, but something changed when I became a teenager. One day when I was about fourteen or so I stumbled across my Dad's record player in a box in the garage. I dusted it off, plugged it in, and then began my search through my dad's old records. The first things that grabbed my attention were albums that I had known all my life by the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who, but as I went through the boxes I began to see albums for bands I knew very little about or not at all. At the bottom of one of the boxes was Supertramp's Crime of the Century. I remember just staring at it for a few minutes. The depiction of a man trapped behind prison bars instantly struck a chord. After a few more minutes of taking it all in, I put the album on. The album remained on that turntable for a good two weeks before I put anything else on. Supertramp had managed to capture the confusion, rebellion, and angst of being a teenager better than any of the other albums that I began to obsess over. It wasn't like Roger Waters' constant blaming of everyone but himself for his unhappiness like in Pink Floyd's The Wall nor was it the unabashed rage and animalistic spirit championed in Alice Cooper songs like Eighteen or Schools Out, Crime of the Century had a universal element to it that made it easy to relate to and more personal than the other albums of the like. 

“Do as they tell you to/ Don't want the devil to/ Come and pull out your eyes” 

Lyrically, all of the songs on Crime of the Century are built off of the anger and alienation that come from being a confused, angsty young man. The opening track, School, is a diatribe on exactly that. The next track, Bloody Well Right, continues this theme where Roger Hodgson blast “So you think your schooling's phoney, I guess it's hard not to agree” as he sets the opening tone of the song. Together the two tracks come off with an anti-conformity vibe that is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall. The track, Rudy, is an attempt to add a personal side to that definitive James Dean style bad-boy with its character study of the song's namesake. Not everything is as bleak and anger driven as these songs though. The album's main single, Dreamer, comes across as stressing that classical ethos where even though it may be impossible for your dreams to ever come true, its the fact that you try and never give up and keep that optimistic spirit that really matters. 

Musically, on Crime of the Century Supertramp play 70's radio-pop with strong progressive tendencies. Neither side of Supertramp is superior over the other and they seem to play off of each other. Whenever the band lay heavy on their prog-chops they are quick to revert to their more sensible pop side. This keeps the music interesting and fresh since there are many shifts in the music stylistically and in time signatures. The opener and closer of the album, School and Crime of the Century respectively, are the most progressive tracks. School begins with a lonesome harmonica that reinforces the image of being trapped behind bars before spacey chords and driving bass power the verse. Then the band really begins to show their chops with an amazing piano solo. Before Supertramp can go balls to the wall prog the 2nd track begins with its heavy blues influence shining through. Crime of the Century is rather similar to Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd where at first listen the track seems rather simplistic in its make up, but slowly begins to unveil itself after repeated listens. It begins as just a simple piano ballad but soon shows its teeth with a ripping guitar solo as it builds to its crescendo with strings and saxophone overlapping piano and pounding drums. 

As strong as this album is, it does have one downside: you begin to outgrow it. When I was 14 I listened to Crime of the Century constantly, now it only gets a few plays a month. When you are a teenager this album seems like a classic performance rooted in teen angst, but as you get older there becomes a disconnect. Since the lyrics are so rooted in the teenage experience it can seem a bit juvenile at times. Despite this sometime juvenile approach, Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70's progressive music and is Supertramp's best work...... 

After their mentor and 's abandon, Hodgson and Davies had to re-start Supertramp all over from scratch, with the only assurance of a recording contract with their label A&M. The duo hired two ex-The Alan Bown! members: saxman and free-electron John Anthony Helliwell who had a high-pitched voice very similar to Hodgson's and the excellent bassist Dougie Thompson, whose bass would quickly become a very important element of Supertramp's new sound. They also hired Bob Siebenberg (later Bob C. Benberg) on drums and this would become the classic line-up of the group for years to come. This is the album that saw Rick Davies' rise as full-blown singer and his baritone vocals contrasts heavily with Hodgson and Helliwell's soprano voices, thus making this unique and instantly recognizable Supertramp sound. 

Probably knowing that this would be their last shot, they returned to the more progressive fold of their debut album, but created a full-blown concept album that stood the test of time. Apparently, and despite their delusions about their first two albums, the A&M management liked what they heard and gave Ken Scott a "carte blanche" and un-limited studio time to get the album the chance it deserved. Scott had been around for David Bowie and Elton John, and produced a sublime sounding album, with outstanding arrangements. Just listen to Elton's Madman Across The Water album on the Levon, title track and Indian summer tracks' string arrangements to understand how important Ken's involvement is important to the album's sound. The album was also graced with an iconic artwork with the absolutely spellbinding jail in the cosmos illustration, thus enhancing the album's youth alienation concept. 

But all of these details would amount to nothing, if the music on the album was anything less than flabbergastingly stupendous and the alternance of Hodgson & Davies song is one of the most inspiring ideas of the album. With that lone harmonica opening the wild School track (a rare Davies/Hodgson collaboration in songwriting), there are precious few albums starting so breathtakingly well. Indeed that song is the group's flagship with its constantly-changing patterns and many breaks and those schoolyard kids screams are spine-chillingly beautifully placed in the middle section. The blues-derived Bloody Well Right is a typical Davies tune that will boosts his confidence for the future endeavors. While a bit too-wordy, Hodgson counters with the spell-binding Hide In Your Shell, a flamboyant tune about shyness' implications. But if that wasn't awesome enough, Davies counters with the blood-curdling and spine-chilling Asylum, a pure bombastic tune about losing grasp of reality. Before one knew it, it was time to flip the album over. 

The second chapter opens with the only song I like that features Hodgson's taste for wanker melodies choruses (see Lady, Give A Little Bit, the BIA tt, Raining Again), but the song itself is awesome, especially with the outstanding Thompson bass line and the establishment accusation lyrics. The Hodgson unconditional fans will have to recognize that Davies also managed some incredibly beautiful songs, like the album centerpiece Rudy, a fantastic trip through the estranged boy escape-route from society (listen to these amazing string counterpoints that gives so much depth to the track). This epic is equally impressive as Fool's Overture, and not just in my humble opinion. The self-explanatory If Everyone Was Listening is a emotional last-chance cry before-alienation-warning, before the no-return point of the closing track. Indeed the title track is a splendid album finale where Rudy commits his no-coming-back gesture, no doubt his idea of a Crime Of The Century. The track's long double piano finale is out-of this world. 

This album will always have a huge spot in my heart as it was my first album ever acquired my hard-earned cash (newspaper delivery) and still one of my favorites; and it is responsible for thousands albums I have bought since. From the harmonica intro of School to the fade-out of the title-track this is a major work of art. This album was capital to me in my teens, as most of us related to the story of Rudy's alienation to his surrounding world. It is easier to point out the one slightly weaker number than list the outstanding ones: If Everyone is the only slight imperfection in here but it is still essential to the rest. It also took me some time to accept the wanker chorus of Dreamer, but the incredible bass line (courtesy of the awesome Thompson) behind made it pass. Absolutely essential listening and definitely in my top 10 albums. ........ 

Most people have already done the honours of giving this a five star rating. Let me just add it is Supertramp's most complete masterpiece. It is their strongest album even though there are other Tramp albums deserving of a five star rating. ' School'' Hide in your Shell', ' Crime of the Century' and 'Rudy' are all epic tracks. There is not a bad song on the album. ' Dreamer' has dated perhaps but still enjoyable and on here they at last found a solid line up which was to last until the release of Famous Last Words. Rick Davies is a genius as he displays on recent Supertramp albums but what had to be recognised from COTC onwards was the importance of all band members creating a lethal coctail of sound which was to establish itself up to the early 80's. ..... 

|A| Supertramp's beautiful, creative, timeless, diverse, brilliant masterpiece of artistic popular music. 

Crime of the Century is widely considered by prog listeners and commercial musicians alike to be one of the greatest classic works of art-rock ever created. Many prog listeners believe that artistic integrity and commercial appeal and their audiences are inherently incompatible; this is an album, along with Moving Pictures and OK Computor, that turn that assertion completely on its head, creating radio-friendly music that is simultaneously so creative that it endures the test of time. In fact, I'd say as a musician that it is probably one of the most creative and brilliant albums in my entire collection. 

The music here is comprised of delicately assorted combinations of rock, jazz, funk, blues, pop, and classical music, utilizing and blending sounds and musical devices from all of those genres to create a completely unique sounding work of art. As well, one of the things I appreciate most about this album is the variation with which these influences are mixed for each track. I don't think there is an album I have where the tracks have such huge differences in their overall sound between each track. And yet they all indeed sound like they're from the same band, same musicians and everything. There's so much depth to listen for in the band's orchestration of parts, especially now that I can hear it with a musician's ear, it's almost scary. Most of the harmonic structure is jazz-oriented, to my liking. 

I'll give a description of the musical and instrument devices in the first track School, just to give the reader an idea of the diversity they are in for: the opening track School starts off with a bluesy harmonica solo, with a haunting bass figure in the background. In comes the verse with chorused wah-guitar and atmospheric keyboard pads. Then an over-driven guitar rings out a high ringing harmonic drone, which crescendos to lead into a funk driven tutti section. This leads back into a soft jazz-organ playing haunting arpeggios (similar to what the chorused wah-guitar was playing previously), topped with a quick over-driven guitar duet. After the duet fades out, we still hear the soft jazz-organ atmosphere (now joined by the guitar) that is occasionally interrupted by a quick bass/tonal percussion arpeggio figure. The drums sneak in with a flam figure, which crescendos to an exciting tutti latin-jazz felt piano solo, the harmonica coming in the background a little. This leads into the chorus, which has a phat saxophone heavy jazz-funk sort of rock sound. This leads back into the verse, with the vocal melody used during the soft section earlier in the song, only this time with the driving Latin-jazz feel that had been established before the chorus. This climaxes with the singer suddenly by himself singing on the word "way" which fades out, and he says by himself, "you're comin' along." Then the instrumentalists all hit a phat last note with a little improv from the drums, guitar, and keybaord. The guitarist finds himself the last playing, ringing out his over-driven stuff again (not as high this time), which decrescendos... very much a concert sort of ending. But, just before the guitar is about to completely fade out, the second track begins with a bang. 

And this is all done in five and a half minutes. 

Indeed, the whole rest of this album carries out this sort of creativity in different ways. These guys are obviously incredible musicians and composers, and maybe some of the only true professions in the rock industry (as in knowing this much about music and conveying it so incredibly subtly in their work). This is the kind of album where I notice something I never noticed before in the music, even after listening to it for over half of my life. And if you had it on score, you could analyse the hell out of it for days and always find something incredible that you missed before. 

One of the glorious recordings of modern artistic music from the last century. Everyone who listens to any form of rock, jazz, pop, ec. should have a copy of this album in their home. And everyone who chooses to go into the music business related to those genres should have it as well. A staple work of progressive rock for the ages. Period. ...... 

Line-up / Musicians 

- Bob C Benberg / drums, percussion 
- Roger Hodgson / vocal, guitar, pianos 
- John Anthony Helliwell / saxophones, clarinets, vocals 
- Dougie Thomson / bass 
- Richard Davies / vocals, keyboards, harmonica 

Songs / Tracks Listing 

Side 1 
1. School (5:35) 
2. Bloody Well Right (4:26) 
3. Hide In Your Shell (6:52) 
4. Asylum (6:30) 
Side 2 
5. Dreamer (3:19) 
6. Rudy (7:07) 
7. If Everyone Was Listening (4:05) 
8. Crime Of The Century (5:20)

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