Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Supertramp - ...Famous Last Words...

After a few years break coming off their smash hit album Breakfast in America, the British rock band Supertramp returned in October of 1982 with their seventh studio album. Today we will take a look at …Famous Last Words… in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.

The album went Platinum in Canada (reaching number 1 on the charts) and Gold in both the UK (number 6 on the charts) and in the US (number 5 on the Billboard Hot 200). It also hit number 5 in Sweden, number 2 in Norway, and number 1 in both Germany and the Netherlands.

The record was also the last on featuring guitarist/keyboardist/singer Roger Hodgson as part of the group. Hodgson and Rick Davies split the writing chores on the record, with the writer of a given tune also acting as the lead vocalist. They alternate between the two, starting with Hodgson on side one and ending with him on side two.

Side one opens with “Crazy”, a popular song in the US that went to number 10 on the Mainstream Rock charts. The track is light sounding with a pop piano line, contrasting the more serious urgency within the lyrics. John Helliwell delivers the first of the records saxophone solos on this one.

“Put on Your Old Brown Shoes” has a laid back feel to it, in part thanks to Davies’ harmonica. The lyrics tell of knowing when it is time to move on and shake the cobwebs that have filled one’s life. This is one of two tracks that Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart sang backing vocals on (the other is “C’est le Bon”).

The first single from the album was “It’s Raining Again”. In the US, the song hit number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 7 on the Mainstream Rock chart and number 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Around the world, it peaked at number 26 in the UK, number 16 in Ireland, number 7 in Austria, number 6 in Norway, number 4 in Canada, number 3 in Germany and number 2 in Switzerland. Once more, up-tempo and positive music contrasts the melancholy mood of the lyrics. The use of the child’s nursery rhyme at the end is a nice touch.

“Bonnie” was the B-side to the first single. With the piano and the vocal inflections by Davies, this one has quite a Billy Joel feel to it. The lyrics come from a point of view of a starlet's obsessive fan.

“Know Who You Are” served as the B-side to the second single. The track has a gentle, sleepy guitar melody to it.

Side two starts with “My Kind of Lady”, the second single from the record. It hit number 74 in Germany; in the US, it went to number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 16 on the Adult Contemporary charts. This one has a doo-wop melody which was the inspiration for the music video for the song.

“C’est le Bon” is another laid back, guitar-based sleepy track.

“Waiting So Long” has a patient and consistent piano riff on the verses while the chorus gets more ominously heavy and includes vocal distortions. It gets a little jazzier towards the second half with the infusion of the saxophone. At six and a half minutes long, it is quite the epic musical piece.

The final track of the record is “Don’t Leave Me Now”. This six and a half minute track was popular enough in the US to rise to number 32 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Admittedly, I was never a huge Supertramp fan during my high school years. I liked Breakfast in America well enough, having heard it a lot from my older brother. However, this album really did not show up too much on my radar. Besides seeing “It’s Raining Again” showing up on the countdowns on Solid Gold or Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, I was pretty oblivious to the rest of the record. After listening to the whole thing for my review, there are a couple other tracks I found that stuck with me afterwards.

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