Supertramp’s early history was a mix of prog and symphonic rock. Eventually they would leave their pastoral origins behind.
Written by: Eric
SERIAL: AMLS 981
CD REISSUE: 1987, A&M, 393 149-2 * 2008, Universal (Japan), UICY-93607
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Richard Davies – vocals, organ, piano, electric piano, harmonica * Roger Hodgson – vocals, bass guitar, flageolet, acoustic guitar, cello * Richard Palmer – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, balalaika, vocals * Robert Millar – percussion, harmonica
TRACK LISTING: 01 Surely (Intro) * 02 It’s a Long Road * 03 Aubade And I Am Not Like The Other Birds Of Prey * 04 Words Unspoken * 05 Maybe I’m A Beggar * 06 Home Again * 07 Nothing To Show * 08 Shadow Song * 09 Try Again * 10 Surely (Reprise)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
This band came out of the notorious British art school scene that nurtured the early progressive rock movement. Supertramp like Procol Harum, Barclay James Harvest and Electric Light Orchestra discovered early on that it’s the songs that matter and not how long you can attempt to dazzle a cross-legged and stoned out audience with twenty minute ‘Movements’.
That’s not to say Supertramp didn’t lean to all things prog early on, but they didn’t become one of the biggest bands in the world by pandering to followers of J.R.R Tolkien and Roger Dean. They developed their own style, infusing pop music with classical and jazz to great effect. Even on their debut there are glimpses of the sound that would make them one of the most original bands of the 70’s.
‘Supertramp’ is a very quiet album. There is no keyboard bombast here, no guitar meandering or mind numbing drum solos like most progressive albums of the day. The record is decidedly pastoral and melancholic with the delightful vocals of Rodger Hodgson giving the album a whimsical feel with its mystical vibrations.
‘Surely’ opens the record with a half minute lullaby that is reprised on the end of the record. ‘It’s A Long Road’ is a nicely done progressive blues based number very reminiscent of Procol Harum featuring some tasty organ work from Richard Davies.
The strangely titled ‘Aubade And I Am Not Like The Other Birds Of Prey’ comes off as a weird folkie avant-garde piece when in reality is an embryonic blueprint for ‘Crime Of The Century’ and later Supertramp albums. ‘Nothing To Show’ with vocals by both Hodgson and Davies is about as rock n’ roll as the album gets.
Although the group do move into Yes territory with ‘Shadow Song’ and the twelve minute ‘Try Again’. Yet even here Supertramp never get as over the top as their contemporaries, knowing exactly how much is too much and when to cut it off.
This would be the only Supertramp album to feature this line-up. The band worked hard on the road, burning up the petrol on the pub/university circuit and sporadic support slots with major players of the day including Mott The Hoople, Colosseum, and Roxy Music.
There were gigs with also-rans Kevin Ayers, Stray, Mungo Jerry and the long forgotten Principal Edwards Magic Theatre. Supertramp’s second album ‘Indelibly Stamped’ with it’s infamous ‘topless’ cover art failed to drum up business despite a major UK tour with Ten Years After.
With financial support from a millionaire financier dwindling, the group split-up leaving Hodgson and Davies back to square one and jumpstarting Supertramp with three new members. This would turn out to be the groups classic period, peaking with 1979’s ‘Breakfast In America’ and worldwide, multi-platinum success.