Give a little bit....
Released on 10 April 1997
Running time 43.24
Another album from the now completely enigmatic Supertramp. A faceless group with an almost impossible to categorise sound - was it prog, was it rock, jazz? Nobody really knew. What they had was clearly enough to attract a huge fan base, even at the height of punk, among those who preferred their music "adult". Although sneering, snarling punks and two minute guitar-driven fist pumpers seemed to be everywhere in 1977, the reality was considerably different. Many of the public loved Supertramp's inventive, often experimental and indulgent music. At the time I thoroughly despised them (the group and the fans). Time has seen me mellow and re-assess them, however.
This is a far more low-key album than its two predecessors, overall, Nothing of the likes of Dreamer, Bloody Well Right or Lady are to be found. There is more of a subdued feeling to it.
1. Give A Little Bit
2. Lover Boy
3. Even In The Quietest Moments
6. From Now On
7. Fool's Overture
Give A Little Bit was the album's catchy, slightly anthemic and singalong hit single. Keith Helliwell, as was often the case, supplied an impressive saxophone backing.
Lover Boy is a solid, brooding rock ballad, powered along by piano, bass and drums. I wouldn't have given this sort of thing a few seconds of my time in 1977. Now, I listen to it and it's ok after all. In places. I am fully prepared to accept it. It is still not totally my thing, though. As I said in other reviews of their work, Roger Hodgson's voice has never convinced me and also every track has at least one piece of indulgence in it. There are times when Supertramp's output bears similarities with that of the Electric Light Orchestra, though, in its construction.
Even In the Quietest Moments is a very typically prog rock sort of thing - all crystal clear acoustic guitars, classical influences, high-pitched vocals, lyrics about goodness knows what really - oceans, whispers, nature, getting high, tears falling from the sky, the sun disappearing..... My God, I would have hated this stuff in 1977, it was a good job I never heard it back then. Hearing it now, though, it has appealing bits - a bit of didgeridoo and a solid bass, drum sound, some sumptuous saxophone. I realise now that there is always something good in every Supertramp song, somewhere. Nevertheless, for me, it is lacking in soul or proper rock credentials. It is hard to describe. It is all rather wishy-washy, sub-hippy, dreamy nonsense. Roger Hodgson admitted that most of his lyrics meant nothing, but then, so did many of David Bowie's.
Downstream is a pleasant enough, piano-led ballad. I have to admit that the piano bits are lovely. As I said, always something good, somewhere. The same applies to the delicious drum backing to the quirkily catchy Babaji.
From Now On is a nice track - laid-back, melodious and solidly reflective. It features another killer bit of saxophone. The mass chorus at the end is not really necessary and feels a bit incongruous. It does stick in one's head, however.
Fool's Overture is over eleven minutes long and it is five minutes of solid rock instrumental, interspersed, oddly by some clips of Winston Churchill's war speeches, before the vocals arrive. It is all very Roger Waters/Pink Floyd with its war echoes, although Hodgson admitted that the words had no particular meaning. At one point you get some Fool On The Hill sounds too. It is immaculately played, with many excellent bits in it and superb sound quality, but it is all a bit pretentious for me. Pink Floyd fans will love it (or maybe not, feeling it is too derivative). It fades out (falsely) with snatches of Blake's Jerusalem before one last muscular rock passage takes it powerfully to its end. Look, it is all very clever. I do admit that, and every now and again I will play it, but it doesn't really do it for me. I am sorry to have been a bit critical regarding this album, but I have to be honest about things that are not really my thing. Many people no doubt love the album, and I can see why, whatever I may personally think of it.