Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Supertramp - Breakfast in America

Breakfast in America (AM9)
Artist: Supertramp
Release Date: March 29, 1979
Label: A&M
Producer: Supertramp, Peter Henderson
Length: 46:12
Tracks: 1) "Gone Hollywood" (5:20); 2) "The Logical Song" (4:11); 3) "Goodbye Stranger" (5:50); 4) "Breakfast in America" (2:38); 5) "Oh Darling" (3:49); 6) "Take the Long Way Home" (5:08); 7) "Lord is it Mine" (4:09); 8) "Just Another Nervous Wreck" (4:26); 9) "Casual Conversations" (2:09); 10) "Child of Vision" (7:25)

Sure, the band had somehow seeped into pop radio despite themselves, but no one saw this coming. Supertramp had found a consistency of sound since Crime of the Century five years earlier, eschewing the ubiquitous guitar and synthesizer in favor of grand piano, the Wurlitzer, and John Helliwell's clarinet solos, but singers/songwriters Hodgson and Davies' harmonies belied the increasingly creative tensions between them. The odds, therefore, for a grand slam Breakfast were slim, like a Denny's waitress getting the order right. Five years resulted in a grand total of one top ten U.S. hit, Hodgson’s "Give a Little Bit" from Even in the Quietest Moments, despite heady promotion from A&M. Worse, Supertramp suffered like so many prog rock bands by being a faceless ensemble; like diet Floyd without a light show. 

Still, on the success of radio play for "The Logical Song," "Goodbye Stranger," and "Take the Long Way Home," Breakfast in America went on to sell nearly six million copies in the U.S. alone (with total sales through 2017 exceeding 22 million).  It wasn't just a hit, it was the biggest selling album of '79. Seemingly, Hodgson and Davies had put their animosity aside and worked together to create their most popular and critically acclaimed LP; an album that would prove their last hurrah.  

Based on its commercial success, critics have often mistakenly considered this a "commercial" album. More commercial than Crime of the Century, indeed, but these are less than ordinarily accessible songs that dabble in burn out, social alienation and our humdrum lives, despite the barroom piano.  Breakfast's hits are no more commercial than "Babaji" or "Bloody Well Right," they just happened to please the public. By avoiding gimmicks, self-indulgence, and arrogance of their critical acclaim, Supertramp remained one of the most uncompromising bands of the era.  They weren't Beatle-esque, they didn't sound like anyone, they simply stayed true to that faceless image and made music.  Breakfast in America was Supertramp at its most accessible and a sumptuous feast that has found a new audience nearly 40 years later.

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