Supertramp’s Crime of the Century set for deluxe reissue: ‘It has a wonderful feel to it’

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Crime of the Century, Supertramp’s first best album, is set for a deluxe 40th anniversary reissue — and, even today, it can be hard to pin down. Remembered both for Roger Hodgson’s lilting “Dreamer” and Rick Davies’ more muscular “Bloody Well Right,” the 1974 album balanced pristine pop and progressive rock like none yet from Supertramp — and helped the band make its initial foray into the Billboard album Top 40.

Hodgson tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown, that they were finally fulfilling a long-term goal, even if it meant that some fans — not to mention many a rock critic — struggled in their attempts to create an easy classification for Supertramp.

“I always steered the band in the way I thought it wanted to go, in the direction the songs were suggesting,” Hodgson says. “In that sense, the critics never knew what to do with us. We weren’t a band that had major scandals to write about. We weren’t a band that had major problems to write about. It was really just about the music, and the artistry surrounding that music. Unfortunately, that can sometimes become boring for those in the media.”

Four decades later, Crime of the Century is recognized for marking the beginning of a new era, as Davies and Hodgson rebuilt their supporting cast after the disappointments of Supertramp’s initial two album projects. The addition of John Helliwell, Bob Siebenberg and Doug Thomson gave the group new life, with each of them proving to be just as interested in pushing the musical envelope.

The train sound on the key Crime of the Century deep cut “Rudy,” for instance, was actually recorded at London’s Paddington Station. Going forward, they’d try playing the sax in a stairwell in order to get a different atmosphere. And who can forget the sound of a hand-held football game making a subsequent appearance on “The Logical Song”? As with the former, this album’s UK Top 20 hit “Dreamer” found the then-little used Wurlitzer playing a central role.

“I’ve always had a very percussive keyboard style,” Hodgson tells us. “The action on the Wurlitzer really lends itself to being percussive and rhythmical. The Fender Rhodes is the other electric piano, and you can’t do that. So, the Wurlitzer, we were very drawn to it. There was ‘Dreamer’ and ‘The Logical Song’ and, actually, many others on that instrument. It has a wonderful feel to it.”

This 40th anniversary edition of Crime of the Century — due December 9, 2014 via Universal Music Enterprises — contains a remastered edition of the original album, handled by Air Studio’s Ray Staff, as well as a second disc focusing on a 1975 concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, mixed by original producer Ken Scott — and featuring every song from Crime of the Century, as well as select items from the Supertramp follow up Crisis? What Crisis?

For those who only know the hits, it’s an opportunity to explore further into lesser-known fare (and concert staples) like “Rudy,” the title track and “School” — the latter of which typifies Supertramp’s free-wheeling approach to music making in the period. In fact, as odd as this jazz fusion-informed gem may sound on the surface, “School” actually distills many of the band’s strengths.

There’s the free-form creativity of its construction, the plaintive lyric (part nostalgia, part fitful rebellion), and a musical specificity that simply leaps out of the speakers — from the vivid piano lead, to the growling harmonica, to the thudding bass. “School,” put simply, is an early Supertramp manifesto.

“Traditionally, the pop song is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus — and ‘School’ was nothing like that,” Hodgson says. “There were a lot of different sections. There’s no rule, really. I think rules don’t work if you are an artist. You have to be free to let the songs go where they want to go.”

And that’s the magic, then as now, of Crime of the Century. Also included in the two-disc package is a 24-page book of photos, essay material and interviews with Helliwell, Hodgson, Scott, Siebenberg, Thomson and Dave Margereson, Supertramp’s manager from 1973-83. The Crime of the Century reissue is also available in single-disc, triple vinyl and digital formats. The vinyl edition features a download card and two special prints, as well.

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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