This 2-CD set marks the 40th anniversary of Supertramp’s third and breakthrough album released in 1974, Crime of the Century. The band at the time was in limbo after the first two albums lacked in record sales and disbanded for two days. But they decided to reform again and give it one last chance and this time it was the right moment that Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies wrote a couple of material that would later be a success. And adding Bassist Dougie Thomson, Drummer Bob Siebenberg, and from the Alan Bown set, saxophonist John Helliwell, knowing that it was going to be something large and amazing was about to happen.
And once Ken Scott, who worked with Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, The Beatles, and David Bowie as a Producer and an engineer, was brought on board to work on the album, it was a perfect combination. With Davies and Hodgson as songwriters, it was a combination of Lennon and McCartney but they worked separately to write lyrics until their partnership was intense in 1983 when Roger left to pursue a solo career after the release of Famous Last Words. Originally released in September of 1974, Crime of the Century is a masterful gem that reached the top 40 in the States and number 4 in the UK and was a successfully well in Canada, it showed the band what they were going to do and the direction they were about to embark on in the classic-era.
Opener, School begins with a haunting yet alarming harmonica introduction by Rick to give it a dystopian vibe on the questions on why we have to obey the golden rules and the ideas on the education system as Roger sings about how the students don’t know why we go and obeying the teacher’s strict golden rules and not knowing the term of right and wrong; “Maybe I’m mistaken expecting you to fight/or maybe I’m just crazy/I don’t know wrong from right/But while I’m still living/I’ve just got this to say/it’s always up to you.”
Then it segues into the Harder-Funk Rock with a touch of soul of Davies Bloody Well Right. Along with Roger’s crunchy wah-wah guitar solo and hard rock chords it gives it the idea on how we complain on how the system and corruption is always messing everyone up, just write everything down on a piece of paper and you are absolutely right about everything and just keep your mouth shut. Hodgson’s Hide In Your Shell is an emotional cry for help dealing with depression and trying to reach for someone who are in dire needs who are in isolation and locked up and are trying to break through to escape that prison by looking for someone to care and love.
Asylum which carries the same theme begins with the line “Jimmy Creem was keen/his brain was always winnin’/I can’t keep tabs on mine/it’s really quite a joke.” It has the ominous and haunting vibes with the symphonic touches from the string quartet and tubular bells of someone going insane and Rick just nails it on his vocals and Roger as the voice inside the character’s head and it just fits well because it shows that someone going into a mental breakdown, they are dying inside.
Then we get into the Wurlitzer electric piano introduction of the riff that has an uplifting rise on Dreamer. And not to mention the bass lines by Dougie, laid-back drumming from Siebenberg, and tuned water glasses by Helliwell, it captures the essence of escaping the world of the reality, and into their dream world fantasy to escape the modern days they are living in and the toy piano used for the closing. The 7-minute epic, Rudy is a real treat.
It begins with a jazzy introduction for the first minute and thirty-three seconds between Rick’s Piano and Bob’s drumming and then it goes into a fast-driven beat as we are on the train from Paddington station into different areas in England thanks to the chugging guitar sounds that makes it perfect as the harmonies between Roger and Rick’s vocals as the speed increases for a mid-paced touch thanks to the strings and then calms down as it reaches the station as Rick sings the last lines “Now he’s just come out the movie/numb of all the pain/Sad but in a while he’ll soon be back on his train.”
The title If Everyone Was Listening is inspired by Shakespeare (All the world’s a stage and we are merely players) with a ballad and the deal of self-destruction on what has happened if we keep doing what we are doing, it is about to crumble very soon and there’s no coming back to escape it. The Piano shows the atmosphere as the vocalization and Roger deals with how we have succeeded and now everything has to be right before it falls to pieces; “For we dreamed a lot/And we schemed a lot/And we tried to sing of love before the stage fall apart.”
The closing title track is where everything comes as one. From the gentle turned nightmarish views on the world gone wrong by raping the universe and gone from bad to worse and seeing who the real person is behind the mask and revealing true evil. The band go into the instrumental passage that is dark, sinister, and destructive that mankind is taking over and ripping everything into pieces and the orchestral touches and the wailing sax along with the outro harmonica gives it a final fade out.
The second disc is a live recording at the Hammersmith Odeon on March 9, 1975 at the time band they were on tour promoting the album along with upcoming material for Crisis? What Crisis? There is some amazing dazzling versions of Hide In Your Shell, Bloody Well Right, Just a Normal Day, Lady, and John Helliwell taking over vocals for a sense of humor of his take of Perry Como’s 1949 classic, A – You’re Adorable. The 22-page booklet features photos, liner notes with interviews of the band by MOJO’s editor-in-chief Phil Alexander, and the lyrics as well.
Mental Illness, Society, and Corruption, it’s all right here on their third album and it shows the band at their finest achievement. And the breakthrough for Supertramp, was only the beginning for them.