Billy Sherwood, Chris Squire, John Wetton + others – Songs of the Century (2012)

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With names like these, with pedigrees like these, you might be expecting this Supertramp tribute project to become a somewhat academic affair. Instead, these guys sound like they’re having a blast — and it’s contagious.

Producer Billy Sherwood (a writer, producer and member of the 1990s-era edition of Yes) has collected an amazing collection of fellow musicians for the aptly named Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp, due August 7, 2012 from Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra Records. Included are members and former members of Asia, Deep Purple, Jefferson Starship, King Crimson, Mr. Mister, Peter Gabriel’s band, Rainbow, Renaissance, The Doors, The Zombies, Toto, XTC and Yes, among others. The drummer throughout is Scott Connor, formerly of Yoso and now a member of Circa with Kaye and Sherwood.

Together, they lovingly recreate, occasionally embellish and generally skip their way through 11 tracks by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, two of the 1970s’ most consistent but somehow underrated hitmakers. There’s also one bonus original songs that offers its own unique intrigues, but more on that in a moment.

The unqualified highlight arrives midway through Songs of the Century with “It’s Raining Again,” featuring the long-retired Colin Moulding of XTC fame. Appearing with Yes/Asia/Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes and Sherwood, Moulding strips the song of whatever melancholy it once possessed, transforming it into a brilliant, sun-filled power-pop confection.

Elsewhere, Larry Fast — such an important piece of the initial Peter Gabriel solo albums — adds a kaleidoscopic keyboard interlude to “Breakfast in America” alongside a typically robust handling of the lyric by John Wetton (King Crimson, UK, Asia). John Wesley, a one-time sideman with Porcupine Tree, is nearly upstaged at times on vocals by the bouncing bass counterpoint from Sherwood during “Take the Long Way Home” — until Wesley bursts back to the fore with a scorching solo guitar turn.

An out-of-nowhere combination of Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship, Steve Morse from Deep Purple and Tony Kaye from Yes join Sherwood for “The Logical Song.” Morse, though his soloing space is remarkably brief, offers an interestingly angular commentary while Thomas, after what had been a very faithful reading, really cuts loose toward song’s end. Mr. Mister frontman Richard Page continues his summer resurgence, following up a celebrated turn in Ringo Starr’s newest All-Starr Band, with his own touching iteration of “Give A Little Bit,” Page is joined by original Yes guitar Peter Banks, who offers a roiling solo in counterpoint.

Sherwood fronts a group that includes fellow Yes alum Rick Wakeman and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon) on an anthematic interpretation of “Crime of the Century,” exploring to the outer edges of Supertramp’s occasional penchant for prog. Renaissance’s Annie Haslem so perfectly mimics the original vocal on “Dreamer” that it’s difficult at times to discern that it’s not in fact Roger Hodgson. She’s joined by former E Street Band and Stanley Clarke keyboardist David Sancious, who offers a series of gurglingly propulsive responses.

Toto’s Steve Porcaro and Nektar’s Roye Albrighton are featured on “Rudy”; Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple) sings “Bloody Well Right,” while Rod Argent (The Zombies, Argent) fronts the band for “School” — with a notable assist on lead guitar from the Doors’ Robby Krieger.

Finally, Yes fans are also pointed to the project’s bonus track, featuring a partial band reunion of Sherwood (who composed the song), bassist Chris Squire and keyboardist Tony Kaye. From the billowing initial vocal by Squire, “Let the World Revolve” is a joy-filled romp, with Sherwood darting in and out at the mic, and Kaye doodling ecstatically behind on the Hammond.

Does this shimmeringly optimistic aside have anything to do with Supertramp? Well, not really. But it sure was fun. And that, as much as anything seems to be the point here.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Rachel Kensington

    Why listen to a tribute album when you can see the real artist? Roger Hodgson, co-founder of Supertramp, has been touring for the past few years and is now on his Breakfast in America Tour. He is selling out shows all over the globe and receiving fantastic reviews from media and fans alike. In fact, Roger is currently in the midst of his largest US tour since departing Supertramp – 34 US dates at last count.

    It is interesting to note that seven out of the eleven tracks on the “tribute” album are Roger’s songs. Many people don’t realize that although Roger and Rick shared writing credit, they actually wrote and composed separately with each singing their own respective songs. Roger wrote many of these classics before he even met Rick and co-founded the band.

    • Nick DeRiso

      Our readers are well aware of Hodgson, his legacy and his ongoing tour, Rachel. There is a link to some of Something Else! Reviews’ extensive recent coverage — led by a two-part, in-depth interview with Hodgson — prominently featured within the review of this new tribute album.

  • Jimmy Nelson

    @Rachel: Congratulations! You’ve found a way to sound insulted that an all-star group of world famous musicians have paid tribute to someone that you apparently admire.

    Do you even know what the word ‘tribute’ means? “A gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection,” according to Webster; “something that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question.”

    Quite frankly, I find your response nothing short of bizarre.

  • S. Victor Aaron

    Kim Jong Un can only wish he had it this good…

  • fabian

    amazing album from the great Billy Sherwood!

  • Rachel Kensington

    Yes, Nick, thanks for your response. What I was aiming my initial comment at is the quote from Brian Perera, President of Cleopatra Records, that was contained in his press release of the tribute album which is as follows – “Explains Brian Perera, President of Cleopatra Records, “SUPERTRAMP is pretty inactive, and there’s a fan base out there that is just hungry for more SUPERTRAMP, and nobody can give it to them.”

    Apparently Mr. Perera did not do his homework and did not bother to take two minutes to Google Roger Hodgson or he would have seen that Roger has been touring extensively for the past few years and is currently on his world tour. He had two sold out shows in Vancouver last weekend and a sold out show in Seattle on Thursday.

    I am not attempting to take away from the talent of these fine musicians who participated on the tribute album. I just find it absurd that the President of the record label would state that there is a fan base for Supertramp with no one to give it to them when their co-founder and writer of the majority of their greatest hits is touring.

    Cheers –

    • Nick DeRiso

      OK, sure. But that quote is not only absent from what I wrote here, it has never been published anywhere on this site. In keeping, aren’t your comments best sent in a note to Cleopatra Records, not attached — with absolutely no regard for context — at the bottom of my review?

  • Dan

    First – Billy Sherwood rocks. Love his music. Sorry I missed him this week in L.A. with Circa.

    Second – Love this idea. Big fan of Supertramp and love covering their songs myself. Kudos to all involved for this tribute.

    Third – Have a great day!

  • Scott

    Nice review, Nick! Thank you for mentioning me in this piece. Making this record, as the drummer on the tracks, was a blast. I used to sit, spellbound, headphones on, listening to this band’s rich sound as a teenager. To play the songs in the studio was an honor.

    So, suffice it to say, I certainly pay my respect to Roger Hodgson and all members (past and present) of Supertramp.

    Scott Connor