Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Even in the Quietest Moments - Crisis? What Crisis?

Even In The Quietest Moments (AM7.5)
Artist: Supertramp
Release Date: 1977
Label: A&M

Producer: Supertramp
Length: 43:34
Tracks: 1) "Give A Little Bit" (4:07); 2) "Lover Boy" (6:49); 3) "Even In The Quietest Moments" (6:39); 4) "Downstream" (4:00); 5. "Babaji" (4:49); 6. "From Now On" (6:10); 7. "Fool's Overture" (10:51)
- Roger Hodgson / vocals, keyboards, guitars
- Rick Davies / vocals, keyboards
- Dougie Thomson / bass
- John Anthony Helliwell / wind Instruments, vocals
- Bob C. Benberg / drums, percussion

I'm only just discovering Crisis, What Crisis?, somehow having skipped it back in the day. I'm liking it more, but in retrospect I'm glad that - for me - Even in the Quietest Moments was the follow-up to Crime of the Century.  "Give a Little Bit" was one of those songs that we didn't mind on the radio; a song that didn't take away from Supertramp's AOR appeal.  Hodgson's voice on title the track "Even In the Quietest Moments" is at its most vulnerable, but it's the ten minute epic "Fool's Overture" that anchors and elevates the album to an AM7. It begins with a quiet, orchestra-backed piano and Hodgson’s tender vocal. A pulsating synth line intrudes like you'd skipped to another record, maybe Tangerine Dream. The segues are complex and highlight rhythm section Dougie Thomson and Bob C. Benberg, and as usual the signature sound of Supertramp, the one man jazz band of John Anthony Helliwell.  The juxtapositions ebb and flow; "Fool's Overture" is Supertramp's "A Day in a Life," hence the rule breaking .5.

Even In the Quietest Moments is one of Supertramp’s best works, just behind Crime of the Century and 1979's Breakfast In America. It's a glorious compendium of orchestral rock, truly welcomed amidst the new wave of Elvis Costello and The Clash.  We were so excited for something new; but Supertramp allowed us one last chance to hold on to proggier years just a little bit.

Addendum: Okay, I slipped over it then, but my research, as it should, always focuses on the music itself; yep, I do my musical homework, getting out the vinyl if I have it, otherwise weeding through the best available digital copies or CDs, which include the SACD and DVD versions - or the Steven Wilson 5.1 surrounds as he pounds them out. Listening to Quietest Moments or Crime is really quite academic - I know how good they were/are - but I stuck with Crisis this time and realized that the tetralogy of LPs Supertramp released from 1974-1979 was an array of trampy quirkiness with Crisis? What Crisis? the awkward middle child, forgotten by critics and fans alike. Indeed, Crisis? What Crisis? failed to be as catchy as Crime, which proves its fatal flaw: a "pop" album that isn't catchy is a bit self-efacing. 

And yet, Crisis? starts with a pleasant stroll down the street, replete with whistling and passing traffic, and eventually melds into melodic opener, "Easy Does It," as good as any of the minor pieces on Crime. It then gets rather upbeat with "Sister Moonshine" and by "Ain't Nobody But Me" and "A Soapbox Opera," the LP's epic, the band gets in full swing. Crisis? What Crisis? reveals itself as an album to enjoy rather than excite. While the prog-pop experiment went awry and Crisis fails in comparison to its predecessor, it proved that Crime was no one-off fluke. And honestly, I give buckets of kudos to any LP that can pull off a line like "Look at me, I'm a speck of sand" ("Two of Us."). Let's call it an AM6.