Tag Archives: Jazz

Roger Hodgson’s Desert Spiritual

hodgsonroger_ad_150dpiRoger Hodgson performed at the Spotlight 29 Indian Casino in Coachella last Saturday night, December 3, 2016 to an audience of adoring fans. It was a heart rendering, spiritual journey through a bit of Hodgson’s fine solo work, topping a generous helping of the songs he wrote for the band Supertramp.

Anyone within range of an FM radio in the 1970’s heard a lot from Supertramp. The group was led by a marriage of the uniquely talented principal members, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. Their breakup in 1983, which ended with Rick taking over the band, and Roger taking the highway, is one of the saddest in rock history. A decade before the split, after two early releases that were not commercially successful, the band clicked, releasing three popular masterworks in succession, Crime of the Century (1974), Crisis? What Crisis? (1975), and Even in the Quietist Moments… (1977). Each of these albums blended pop, jazz, and progressive rock music into a crowd-pleasing brew that allowed them to build a growing worldwide audience.

hodgsonroger_band_144dpi

By the time of their best selling release Breakfast in America (1979) they were mega stars, finally getting a #1 record in the states (#3 in the UK.) Many of the songs from that album are pure pop, and they became radio staples, including the title track, “The Logical Song,” and “Take the Long Way Home.” The album also contained several deeper cuts including Hodgson’s “Lord is it Mine” and “Child of Vision” – the fabulous workout for dual keys, Hodgson on Wurlitzer electric keyboard (a signature part of the album’s sound) and Davies on grand piano. After one more studio album …Famous Last Words… (1982), and tour the partnership fractured.

hodgsonroger_perspective_144dpi

This Hodgson solo tour was billed as the Breakfast in America show, and there was truth in that advertising, as all of the Hodgson-penned tracks listed above were included in the set list. On top of those selections, there was a generous helping of four from Crisis? What Crisis? (my absolute favorite); the one-two lead-in “Easy Does It” and “Sister Moonshine” were included with the more rare songs “Lady” and “A Soapbox Opera.” Fantastic! Key tracks from Crime of the Century, included set opener “School,” pop hit “Dreamer,” message song “If Everyone Was Listening” and arguably Hodgson’s most beautiful, heart-rending track “Hide In Your Shell” were highlights. One of Hodgson’s solo songs, “Death and a Zoo” was particularly fitting at this venue, as the message of kindness to animals was in line with Native American attitudes and music, including a tribal drum workout that shined. Closing the set, “Fool’s Overture” sated the prog crowd, while encores -“Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” (his first solo single) and of course “Give a Little Bit” – kept everyone close to the stage and on their feet.

hodgsonroger_cu_144dpi

 

Hodgson was in fine voice, able to reach smoothly into his upper register, which is critical for these songs to hit their mark. His playing on keys and particularly on twelve-string acoustic guitar was impeccable. The band was very strong as they deftly brought down the volume during sensitive bits, while punching the rockier moments. As the main man is so often on keys, there are times where an additional guitarist could punch things up a bit. But for this patron listening to these songs rendered with two and sometimes three simultaneous keyboards was pure heaven.

Hodgson himself waxed philosophical, as has been his norm during the last decade as he tours as a duo or with band. He spoke plainly and warmly about the meaning of these songs, to him and to others, sometimes reading notes he’s received from fans or sharing his thoughts about how music can bring back memories, and heal troubled spirits. Truer words.

hodgsonroger_piano_144dpi

See this enduring artist while the show goes on and the quality of performance is still so outstanding – if you care for this music, or just have interest and an open heart, it will be a priceless evening.

hodgsonroger_band2_144dpi

#RockinTheCityOfAngels   #RTCOA   #DiegoSpadeProductions

American Football Plays Again

AmericanFootball_band_lp_coverOne album and an EP, active for just three short years, absent for fifteen. Not exactly a recipe for enduring fame. But, against all odds, it worked for the band American Football, formed in the late 1990s in Illinois. Founders Mike Kinsella (vocals, guitars, bass), Steve Holmes (guitars, Wurlitzer) and Steve Lamos (drums, trumpet) released a self-titled EP in 1998 on Polyvinyl records. A full-length debut album followed this in 1999. While the record did well on college radio stations at the time, the band broke up as members moved away from the college town of University of Illinois and went on to other pursuits. Since that time, it has become a cult classic.

AmericanFootball_Band2_72dpi

Influenced by a range of artists including Steve Reich, the dreamy sound of American Football is an amalgam of alt-rock, emo and jazz, with varying time signatures and polyrhythmic interlocking guitars. Lyrics are simple and confessional, sung in a loose manner that brings to mind the confusion and alienation that can inflict high school and college aged students. It’s music with and about feelings. Kinsella called their musical ideas “noodly and meandering” yet the songs are carefully built with precise counterpoint. While rooted in emo and math-rock, listeners may notice the influence of bands as diverse as King Crimson, and Radiohead hidden in these songs. They are unique, and comprise an album that was and remains a classic, must-have record. Even the cover art adds to the whole, featuring a photo of an iconic Midwestern home near the University, taken by Chris Strong, used ever since as their defining iconography.

AmericanFootball_Band1_72dpi

After the band decided to revisit the work and to reunite for some live tour dates in 2014, the album was reissued as a deluxe edition with extra tracks, and a music video directed by Chris Strong for the lead-off track “Never Meant” was released. Apparently Polyvinyl’s website crashed under the weight of traffic, such was the pent up interest in this band, and their only full length record. New live shows that have been staged in the U.K. and USA feature Kinsella’s cousin Nate on bass, and occasional percussion by, to this writer, an unknown band tech.

AmericanFootball_Setlist_72dpi
The Set List…

The band made their way to San Francisco as part of the Noise Pop music festival last Saturday night, February 27, and the Regency Ballroom. It was a fantastic show that as one would expect featured nearly their entire debut album, along with a many new and rare tracks. Among these were “Tamborine,” “Letters,” “Emotional,” “Leaving Soon,” “New Song,” and “Five Silent Miles,” the leadoff track on the set list. Lighting was simple and tasteful, illuminating a full size image of their only album’s iconic cover photo. The show ended as that album began, with the first track from their debut album, “Never Meant.” It was a fantastic concert, attended by fans and newcomers alike, heaping praise on this multi-talented band.

AmericanFootball_Band4_72dpi

Asked if there were any questions before they played the final encore, described as “the last song we know how to play,” one audience member asked if they would go on another long hiatus. Kinsella mused, “We’ll be back in another 15 years when I’m 54. I’m going to keep these jeans and wear them again!” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that….

AmericanFootball_Drums_72dpi

AmericanFootball_Band3_72dpi

AmericanFootball_Ad_72dpi

Dungen Groove at The Chapel

Dungen_EjstesGustavssonThe Swedish band Dungen takes it’s name from the word meaning “the groove.” Their music is an adventurous strain of Indie rock that veers towards the psychedelic and progressive, as though played in a garage with a jazz drummer! Fans of Midlake, Radiohead, Ragnarok, Tortoise and The Flaming Lips (without the performance art) would warm to Dungen’s beautiful, organic and oft mysterious sounds, and the vocals of founder/composer Gustav Ejstes, all sung in Swedish, his native tongue. Dungen was recently on tour to support their imaginative new album Alla sak and we caught the show in San Francisco October 23rd at The Chapel.

Dungen_band

Dungen_FiskeMulti-instrumentalist, composer Ejstes apparently plays the majority of instruments on their studio albums and is a clear point of focus of their live performances. His pleasant airy vocals grace most tracks, while he alternates between piano, flutes, and guitars. Occasionally the band launch into longer instrumental pieces, which tend to be more on the psychedelic side. The band that accompanies him is a muscular, brilliant ensemble. Reine Fiske uses
his guitar less for discernable rhythms and lead solos, more for coloring the melodies with labyrinthine sounds and effects. When he does lead, his evocative riffs and improvisational excursions might bring to mind jazz-fuDungen_drumssion virtuoso Alan Holdsworth. Bassist Mattias Gustavsson delivers a fitting bottom end, sometimes leading the down-tempo melodic structures. Best of all, skilled drummer Johan Holmegard focuses on lots of deep, jazzy toms, and skip beats on snare, often using brushes and
soft mallets to vary his sound, which stands out or comes to the fore on nearly every track. All the band members sing, and their backing vocals create harmonies that are often dissonant while building and resolving to more uplifting major tones. It’s often pretty, earthy music with an edge of menace.

Dungen_band2The band’s sound has softened over the years since the debut in 2001. Since it’s music that’s hard to describe, it’s best to listen to a few tracks. Check out this video for “Akt Dit” which sports an intro and melody reminiscent of French duo Air. Or for an earlier more challenging psychedelic track try “Högdalstoppen” from the album Skit I Allt (2010). While the majority of songs are more pastoral and melodic, each show has at least one long instrumental “freak out” such as “Högdalstoppen.” Best to salve the dissonance with a typical follow up track such as “Satt Att Se” which sports a nice animated video. As if to confirm the difficulty one has describing their sound, front man Ejstes explains on their website that the 2010 album Skit I Allt “is about a certain feeling: you’re with your friends and mates, all hanging out till 6 in the morning. You’re the last one left at the party and you call this person that you want to be with. They’re asleep, but they still say, ‘Ah, fuck it, come over.’ It’s that feeling.”

Dungen_EjstesThe concert did run late into the night, allowing the band to cover more than twenty tracks spanning their eight albums. It was a generous helping of indie rock from this talented artist. The tour is now complete, but here’s a recommendation to watch for them to come again, say “fuck it” call some friends and mates, and attend!

Alan Parsons at Club Nokia

Parsons_Alan_72dpiAlan Parsons and his supremely talented band played the Nokia Club in Los Angeles, performing in town for the first time in 6 years on June 11, 2015. The group was at the absolute top of their game, driving through a set list that included many of their hits recorded over the years as The Alan Parsons Project, and in particular highlighting one of their most popular albums, The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980). It’s going to be difficult to express just how amazing this concert was without leaving a bit of the journalist aside and instead sharing these thoughts as a devoted fan of Alan Parsons and all of his work over the years. So here goes, starting with some background.

Alan Parsons is the well-known audio engineer, record producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began his career as a music engineer with the likes of The Beatles (Abbey Road) and Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) and went on to engineer and/or produce award winning artists Ambrosia, Al Stewart, Steven Wilson and others too numerous to detail herein. Alan and collaborator Eric Woolfson began a career as The Alan Parsons Project (APP) with their definitive progressive rock release Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allen Poe) (1976), followed closely by I Robot (1977). These records are diverse, eclectic masterworks of the genre, and they belong in every quality music collection. Many of us selected our stereo equipment back in the day by spinning one of these albums to test out record players, amps and speakers such was the amazing production and sonic quality of the recordings. As APP went on, they released one great record after another: Pyramid (1978), Eve (1979), The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980), Eye In The Sky (1982) and on, in all ten albums, each demonstrating the strength of the Parsons/Woolfson songwriting team, and showcasing their musical talents and those of their many collaborators. These included orchestral arranger Andrew Powell, long time guitarist Ian Bairnson, drums from Stuart Elliott, bass and vocals from David Paton, and numerous vocalists including the late, great Chris Rainbow, Colin Blunstone, and Eric himself. The project ended in 1990 after Alan and Eric made a brief foray into musical theater with Freudiana. Eric continued with musical theater until his untimely passing in 2009, and Alan went on present their music live, while releasing and touring four solo records in the 90’s and 00’s.

Parsons_band_72dpiThe Alan Parsons Project maintained a focus on bringing beautiful melodies and vocal harmonies to their compositions. Along with some rockers, Eric and Alan wrote and recorded many achingly beautiful and sentimental pop tunes and with Andrew’s orchestral arrangements, the songs were rendered with lush and dramatic colors. This was definitely prog-pop and contemporary music of its time, for fans with a heart, which left some harder prog-rock zealots behind, while rewarding those who followed. I’ve found that everyone from several generations near mine know the name Alan Parsons, and can identify, for instance “Eye In The Sky,” but many have less an idea just how many hits they would recognize. One reason for this is that Alan and Eric never toured to support this work, save for a show in 1990 just before they split. The first time I was able to see the band was touring to support Alan’s excellent second solo record On Air (1996) when a new band was assembled with lead vocalist P.J. Olsson.

For this latest concert, Alan Parsons and his musicians were all in a great spirit, reproducing the sound of the APP records with pinpoint accuracy but also with some improvisation, and room to demonstrate virtuosity. The band are: Alastair Greene (guitar), Dan Tracey (guitar), Guy Erez (bass), Danny Thompson (drums), Tom Brooks (keyboards), Todd Cooper (lead vocals, saxophone, cowbell J), and long time vocalist P.J. Olsson. The band showcased the following numbers from throughout the years:

Parsons_PJ_72dpi

“I Robot” / title track
“Damned If I Do” / Eve
“Don’t Answer Me” / Ammonia Avenue
“Breakdown” / I Robot, “The Raven” / Tales of Mystery and Imagination
“Time” / The Turn Of A Friendly Card
“I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” / I Robot
“Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)” / Vulture Culture
“The Turn Of A Friendly Card” (suite) / title track
“Psychobabble” / Eye In The Sky
“Do You Live At All” / new track – single w/Fragile
“Limelight” / Stereotomy
“(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” / Tales of Mystery and Imagination
“Old And Wise” / Eye In The Sky
“Prime Time” / Ammonia Avenue
“Sirius,” “Eye In The Sky” / title track

Encores:
“Don’t Let It Show” / I Robot
“Games People Play” / The Turn Of A Friendly Card

Parsons_Todd_72dpiThis set included something from almost every APP album from 1977-1987, along with Alan’s new single “Do You Live At All.” Vocals took center stage as six of the eight performers sang multi-part harmonies atop crisp instrumentals throughout. Alan, Alastair, and Dan took lead vocal on one or more tracks while P.J. and Todd tackled more of the songs. On this night, P.J. in particular stunned the audience with fantastic, heartwarming lead vocals on “Time,” “Old and Wise,” “Don’t Let It Show” and others, each performed with poise and emotion. Additional lead vocalist Todd Cooper nailed several key tracks including a highlight of the evening “Psychobabble,” which shone light on Guy’s bass plus Danny’s powerful backbeat, and another classic, “Limelight,” peppering others with lilting sax solos, and even some cowbell! Dan sang on the funky hit “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” displaying attitude and chops during the memorable guitar bridge. The centerpiece of this tour is the multi-part suite “The Turn Of A Friendly Card” which gave the band additional time to stretch out, including more layered keys from Alan and classical piano from talented player Tom Brooks.
Parsons_guitar_72dpiAlan presided over all of this as master of ceremonies – singing, playing keyboards, acoustic guitar and addressing the enthusiastic audience. Club Nokia was a great venue for the show – intimate while being sizable enough for the large band to resonate. It is part of an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles that includes a much larger arena – as Alan dryly noted between songs, “the place is called Microsoft something – we’ll play there one day, when we get big.” During another break Alan noted that all the APP albums were available in the lobby in vinyl format, known to younger fans as “those big black CDs!” and made a pitch for quality music formats, such as his new single available in WAV format, as those MP3’s “just make the music sound awful.” On this night the music sounded fantastic and the performance was stunning, befitting this man of many talents, Alan Parsons, and his marvelous band.

Parsons_Tom_72dpiParsons_Guy_72dpiParsons_Dan_72dpiParsons_ToddSax_72dpi

Parsons_Alastair_72dpi

*apologies to Danny Thompson, the band’s excellent drummer -no closeup captured!

David Pack At Home in Napa

Pack_NapaCrossroadsDavid Pack is the composer, producer and multi-talented musician who led the progressive rock band Ambrosia with his superb songwriting, vocals and guitar. The group recorded five albums and staged numerous tours over the years. Since that time, David released several quality solo albums, which reflect his love of melodic inventive pop, with R&B and jazz sensibilities, and rich vocal harmonies. Concurrently, David’s had a successful second career as a Grammy winning record producer, including among others Phil Collins, Kenny Loggins, Aretha Franklin, Wynonna, and has been a Music Director of global stage events including both of President Clinton’s Inaugurals and events for Barbara Streisand, Elton John, and Billy Joel. Of all these events, one of his most cherished projects was to honor his friend, mentor, and godfather of his oldest daughter, Leonard Bernstein by doing a contemporary pop version of West Side Story with 27 of the world’s biggest stars doing his arrangements and production to raise money for Grammy in the Schools and Bernstein’s BETA education fund. Of additional note to prog fans is David’s long association with Alan Parsons including his appearances on several of Alan’s albums, and the Walk Down Abbey Road U.S. and Japan tours, among other collaborations.

Most recently David wrote and recorded with a large number of musicians including Ray Manzarek (The Doors) Todd Rundgren, Alan Parsons, and many other luminaries, to create David Pack’s Napa Crossroads (2014). Last month at Napa’s BottleRock festival David assembled a band to present at least one of his new tracks, along with hits from Ambrosia and those of three additional contemporary lead singers, famous for their work in Kansas, Chicago, and Survivor. We were there for the show with friends and family, and had a fun afternoon rocking out to these classics. I had the opportunity to talk to David about Napa Crossroads, and his BottleRock tour date.

Pack2_72dpiThe Napa Crossroads album represents a return to form as it includes some prog-based sounds alongside an eclectic mix of folk, jazz and rock influences. The song “Silverado Free” is a highlight with keyboard and spoken word from The Doors alum Ray Manzarek. “Progressive music has always been a part of my life,” says Pack. “It lives in me. I’m steeped in classic music. Thinking of Ray and how artistically incredible he was – I wanted to challenge him so I wrote the song in 6/4. He lived on Silverado Trail, so I worked that into the song. It turns out to be his last great recording – It’s my favorite track and meaningful to me.”

Pack3_72dpiWhile David is preparing to present the new album live, he’s also been arranging concerts that showcase his hits alongside those of his contemporaries, and this is what we saw at BottleRock. Explains Pack, “Napa Crossroads Live is a brand I’m building, so we can bring in legendary stars for a collaborative effort, just like the CD. It’s another way of telling my brothers from my generation: ‘here is a way for us to come together and play.’ Its reflective of how much I love Napa Valley and want to be an ambassador to it – bringing the upscale wine enthusiast together with a different demographic.”

David performed two mega-hits originally recorded with Ambrosia, “You’re The Only Woman” and “Biggest Part of Me” along with “Every Time I Look At You,” one of the new songs recorded with Silver Oak Cellars CEO David Duncan who joined David on stage. The band was in great form, and each of four main vocalists played a few of their most popular songs. Of particular note, David’s voice is undiminished by time, and he remains one of our greatest vocal talents (and quite a skilled guitarist it must be said!) In anticipation of the show, David shared the plan. “The preference of the BottleRock promoters, and the assumption is, the fans are going to want to hear our hits. So its under our banner of Napa Crossroads Live, but you are going to see Bill Champlin of Chicago and Sons of Champlin doing his hits [“Hard Habit to Break”], John Elefante doing Kansas hits [“Point of Know Return, “Dust In The Wind” and “Carry On My Wayward Son”], and Jim Peterik performing several songs from his playbook [“Hold On Loosely” and  “Eye of the Tiger].” We are backed by a superstar band, which includes Kenny Arnoff (drums), Alex Al (bass), Tom Brooks (keys) and Dave Coyle (guitar). I’m the host – the invitee – so I asked all these guys to play, and we’ll present our popular songs – we’ve done this show before, sometimes with other artists, and it’s been a blast.”

Pack1_72dpiThe concert was indeed special as each of the vocalists presented at their best and celebrated in style. There wasn’t time to dig deeper into back catalogs for more rare tracks, but when time permits in the future we expect David will include more of his progressive and rocking material. “I am tired of promoters calling me asking if I would perform in some kind of ‘Yacht Rock’ band – I would rather put my hand on a burner than to see myself on YouTube under the that banner” says Pack.

David’s next project will be to capture the Napa Crossroads material live: “What we’re working on now is a PBS special for Soundstage – it’s in the making. We’ll do a concert in Napa Valley then hopefully tour it. It’s an artistic endeavor – the art of fine winemaking, and the music that follows.”

Here’s hoping for that video and tour. In the meantime, for those unable to catch David live, but appreciate adventurous music, try out some of his past and present work. Highly recommended from two different eras: Ambrosia’s Somewhere I Never Travelled (1976) and David Pack’s Napa Crossroads (2013).

Pack_SINT_72dpi

 

Stevie Wonder Sings in the Key of Love

stevie2Stevie Wonder played at the Oakland Arena Friday December 5, 2014 performing his 1976 masterwork, Songs In The Key of Life. He arrived amidst a series of tense protests in Oakland and across the country over the grand jury verdict that declined to indict a white New York cop over the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was stopped by police for selling loose cigarettes earlier this year. While protesters took to the streets just blocks away from the concert venue, and even shut down highway 880 outside, Stevie took the stage to urge love and harmony for all people, acknowledging that there is still far to go with race relations, before launching into the entire 22 song suite for a show that lasted more than three rapturous hours.

stevie5The “Songs in the Key of Life” album is one of Stevie’s most accomplished, and certainly includes many of his most meaningful, touching lyrics. Some speak to race relations, but more reflect the positive experiences of his childhood, and praise God and love eternal. These messages were perfectly suited for the evening, and as he went through the set, key songs were introduced with stories and short statements. The album was presented in it’s entirety, beginning after a lengthy introduction and welcome, followed by a beautiful rendition of the first song, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” clearly articulating it’s sentiments in his undiminished tone:

stevie4Love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it’s gone too far

stevie_historiaEach song was presented as it’s own work of musical art, some with just Stevie and one or two accompanists, others with up to thirty backup musicians and singers, some part of the main band, some guests. The entire album was delivered at the highest level of excellence of any show I’ve seen. Stevie was in perfect voice, demonstrating his immense skills as a vocalist, and player of harmonica, piano, synthesizer, and other instruments. The music travels a wide range including R&B, soul, funk, gospel, fusion, and a dash of rock and it seemed perfectly fitting for such a substantial entourage to reproduce them. For the second track, Stevie brought India Ari to the fore singing “Have a Talk With God.” stevie_passtimeThe next track, “Village Ghetto Land” was performed by Stevie with just his ten-piece orchestra – a heartbreaking story of poverty and despair in the inner city. The six-piece horn section punctuated celebratory tracks “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” just as one would dare to hope. Bass from original collaborator Nathan Watts, along with three keyboard players, three guitarists, and as many drummers pumped up funky tracks like “Contusion” and “Black Man.” Backup singers included Stevie’s daughter, Aisha, herself introduced for the song “Isn’t She Lovely” written for her almost 40 years ago. All the performers rose to the occasion, surely realizing they were not just playing a normal concert, but performing one of the greatest albums of our time, with one of our greatest artists.

steve_harmonicaThe highlight for this witness were the last few songs, each a different ode to love. First, a wonderful version of “If It’s Magic” – Stevie singing along with a recording of original harpist Dorthy Ashby encouraging the crowd that “we must become more of a united people of these United States” with the lyrics,

If it’s magic
Why can’t we make it everlasting
Like the lifetime of the sun
It will leave no heart undone
For there’s enough for everyone

stevie_bandThis was followed by the one-two punch of “As” and “Another Star” the latter’s salsa beat punctuated by Oakland native’s Sheila E.’s raucous percussion at which point more than thirty performers covered the stage in praise and celebration. There were generous encores and fun after the main set, but I could have left then, feeling as full of joy as after any concert I’ve seen. Stevie took us to church that night, reminding us it’s possible to live in harmony, that there is more to do in our lives, more people to touch, and more to give. Until the day that is the day we are no more. Love, in.

Supertramp in Paris, Again

Supertramp_DVDAnyone within range of an FM radio in the 1970’s has heard a lot from the band Supertramp. The group was led by a marriage of the uniquely talented principal members, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. Their breakup in 1983, which ended with Rick taking over the band, and Roger taking the highway, is one of the saddest in rock history. Last year they released the stunning video Live in Paris ’79 – one of the best-filmed concerts from any rock band of the era, coming to the market 34 years after the event.

Supertramp’s radio-friendly sound was a mix of progressive and pop – incorporating elements of rock, blues, jazz, and lots of honky-tonk piano, they balanced light and dark compositions to an exquisite blend. Joined by the accomplished John Helliwell on winds, Dougie Thomson on bass and steady drummer Bob Seibenberg, their core work from Crime of the Century (1974) to Famous Last Words (1982) brought the band increasing success.

Supertramp_RickV
Rick Davies

Rick and Roger added different skills to the group – Rick a tougher edge – more cynical lyrics backed by a mean honky-tonk piano or roadhouse blues as tight as Elton John. Roger more frequently displayed a gentle, spiritual personality, imploring listeners to open their minds and hearts. His vocals and accompaniment on 12 string acoustic and electric guitars as well as keyboards are stellar. The two composers, when they collaborated, when trading off ideas, alternating vocals – at times even speaking to each other within a song, created a sum that was bigger than the parts, even when they seemed to be coming from different walks of life. Witness lyrics from the bluesy ballad “Just a Normal Day,” from their under-appreciated masterpiece Crisis? What Crisis? (1975):

Rick: Well, I just feel, that every minute’s wasted,
My life is unreal….

Roger: …I don’t know what to say;
It just seems a normal day

Roger Hodgson
Roger Hodgson

By the time of their best selling release Breakfast in America (1979) they were mega stars, finally getting a #1 record in the states (#3 in the UK.) Many of the songs from that album are pure pop, and became radio staples, including the title track, “The Logical Song,” “Goodbye Stranger,” and “Take the Long Way Home.” The album also contained several deeper cuts including Roger’s “Child of Vision” – the fabulous workout for dual keys, Roger on Wurlitzer electric keyboard (a signature part of the album’s sound) and Rick on grand piano. Among other tracks, Rick wrote one of his prettiest ballads, “Casual Conversations” sporting the lyrics:

There’s no communication left between us
But is it me or you who’s to blame?

Supertramp_band
The band…

Though the details are debated, it’s clear that Rick and Roger’s union was fracturing before and during this period. Nonetheless, they mounted a huge international tour to support Breakfast in America – breaking attendance records at the time – and they released their first live album Paris (1980) taken from the shows at the Pavilion de Paris, 1979.

Split Screen!
Split Screen!

Thirty four years after the show, a film of the third night in Paris has been released on video – a digitally restored, brightly lit, 16mm 4 camera shot film with crisp audio that captures nearly the complete set. Here it’s possible to see split screen shots of Rick at the piano with Roger at guitar or keys along with close up shots of all the band members in their prime. The DVD should be a revelation for any fan that missed these tours, and a fond reminder for anyone lucky enough to have attended. Highlights include the opener “School” as the audience cheer to the first sound of Rick’s harmonica. The companion piece “Bloody Well Right” establishes their rocking credentials, while “Even in the Quietest Moments” calms the spirit. The centerpiece for this viewer is the one-two punch of Rick’s brilliant vocal and piano work on “Another Man’s Woman” which then leads into Roger’s “Child of Vision.” In the latter, the two play their dual keyboards in harmonic perfection.

Together
Together

After one more album, the aptly titled …Famous Last Words… in 1982 and the tour that followed, Roger and Rick split. Since that time, Rick has written and recorded a handful of albums with the band, but it’s impossible not to despair at Roger’s absence. Roger has done a bit of solo work, and recently at long last began playing songs he wrote for the group in concert. Any live show with either of these artists is a treat but the newly minted concert video is now the best way to see what Supertramp was about when they were still together.