August 21, 2012

Review: Various Artists - Songs Of The Century - An All Star Tribute To Supertramp

Songs Of The Century is an All Star Tribute to Supertramp featuring the All Star Prog Collective including members of Asia, Yes and XTC and others.

I will admit to approaching this review with a slight feeling of trepidation as my previous experiences of “tribute” albums seem to have been filed away in my brain close to the “nightmare” file! Tribute albums seem to fall into one of two categories, on the one hand there is the WHY? category where the tracks are note for note covers and then there is the Sacrilege category, where the tracks bear no resemblance to the originals in any form. (So named after the 2 cd set Sacrilege, where various artists (who shall forever remain nameless) systematically bludgeoned various Can tracks into musical oblivion).

This album, Songs Of The Century, breaks the mold of tribute albums into very small pieces. Here we have a collection of musicians who have been able to produce a tribute album to a band that is close to being superb. They have taken the classic Supertramp songs and added another dimension to them, giving them a new, fresh outlook on life.

The driving force behind the album is Billy Sherwood, former Yes guitarist, and the All Star Cast includes John Wetton, Rick Wakeman, Robbie Krieger, Chris Squire, Geoff Downes and Annie Haslam. So what exactly does the album sound like? There are eleven classic Supertramp songs, all instantly recognizable, but an anomaly is that track 12 is a non-Supertramp original and I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this.

Starting track is “Breakfast In America” with John Wetton, and this follows the original until the introduction of a fairground motif on keyboards which adds to the original and then returns to the clear vocals of Wetton before the motif returns and merges into a long swirling fadeout. This is a great start.

“Take The Long Way Home” follows featuring John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) and has an atmospheric start with some crisp guitar work and the voice is closer to Roger Hodgson, the original Supertramp vocalist. The song then builds slowly, remaining close to the original until around 2.5 minutes when the guitar returns and there is a distinct shift to the more classic prog rock area, excellent.

Mickey Thomas (Starship) features on track 3, “The Logical Song” which reminds me of track 1, but with a different vocalist, but the clear voice grows quickly and the whole sound from about 1.5 minutes in certainly moves again into the classic prog rock area, with guitars picking out the melody and driving the track along superbly to the finale.

Track 4 “Give A Little Bit” features Richard Page (Mr Mister) and Pete Banks (Yes) and has an acoustic guitar and strings intro, immediately recognizable as Supertramp. It is noticeable thus far that the vocals are very clear and crisp on all the tracks. The rest of the instrumentation joins in to produce a wonderful rounded sound with a lovely guitar break around the 2.5 minute mark and similar to the last track the guitar continues to drive the track to the end.

“It’s Raining Again” is the fifth track on the album and again features different musicians, this time Colin Moulding (XTC) and Geoff Downes (Yes/Asia). This track features a keyboard intro to another classic Supertramp song with a very prog feel to it. The keyboards are soaring in and out throughout and then a fadeout with more keys that are decidedly lush, which puts the icing on the cake.

Tracks 6 and 8 feature Billy Sherwood with different musicians joining him on each track…Track 6, “Crime Of The Century,” starts slightly disappointingly because the vocals seem to be very weak against the music but this fleeting disappointment is blown away by the superb keyboard work of one Rick Wakeman. The track is dominated by his majestic keyboard skills. This is Prog with a capital P. Track 8, “Goodbye Stranger,” has very whispery vocals against the forward role taken by the keyboards again. This weaves from very quiet passages to much more intense sections with ease, before an excellent guitar led workout from about 5+ minutes to the end.

The track between the two Billy Sherwood tracks, “Dreamer” is a first, in that it features a female lead voice, that of Annie Haslam (Renaissance). Unfortunately while Annie’s voice is crystal clear, it seems to lack the depths of the original vocals and my view is that it is one of the weaker tracks on the album.

“Rudy” is the ninth track and starts with very dramatic keyboards, following the original very closely. This features Roye Albrighton (Nektar) and there is an excellent guitar/keyboards section which forms the structure of the track - all excellent stuff.

Joe Lyn Turner (Rainbow) is featured on track 10, “Bloody Well Right” and this is a terrific version of yet another classic Supertramp original. The gravelly voice is designed to provide a more “hard rock” feel to the track and to my mind it is reminiscent of Paul Rodgers (Free/Bad Company/Queen).

The final Supertramp track “School,” features the talents of Rod Argent (Argent/Zombies) and Robbie Krieger (The Doors). After the atmospheric start, the track has excellent lead guitar from Mr. Kreiger which is perfectly complemented by the keyboards provided by Rod Argent - yet another superb track.

While track 12, “Let The World Revolve” is very Supertramp-ish (is that a word?) and is very pleasant, I did say at the beginning that I thought it was an anomaly…why not just have any one of another half dozen Supertramp originals? It doesn’t add anything to the overall feel of the album.

To sum it all up, this is a tribute album that works on many levels, the musicianship is excellent and it is surprising to realize that there are so many different artists featured as the overall sound produced would indicate a very tight band. This is a “must buy” if you are a Supertramp aficionado and are looking for “new” material.

Final comment….buy it!!  

Jim "The Ancient One" Lawson

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Crime Of The Century, Breakfast In America, School

No comments:

Post a Comment