Thursday, May 27, 2010

Forgotten Music Thursday - Roger Hodgson - In the Eye of the Storm (1984)

Debut solo albums by former members of notable groups tend to come in one of two varieties-- restrained and tentative or explosive brilliant bursts of creative energy. 

After his tremendous success in Supertramp, Roger launched his solo career with this creative explosion of a debut.  Not only did Roger write, arrange, and produce his debut he also played most of the instruments.  This is a solo album in one of the purest senses of the word.

The album opens with ambitious and cynical eight plus minute Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy).  There was a single edit, however it barely cracked the Billboard charts.  This is likely because any editing of the song would do/did do it a huge disservice.  The song is best enjoyed in its entirety, as are all seven of the songs on this rather auspicious album.

The album then shifts to In Jeopardy which at times hints at the Greg Kihn band hit from a year or two before this album's release...  That is to say it sounds like how the Greg Kihn hit might have sounded had it been recorded by Supertramp instead of the Greg Kihn Band.  Despite the similarities it is a different song that hints and insinuates the other song without ever really plagiarizing it.

Lovers in the Wind is the album's shortest song at four minutes, thirteen seconds.  It has a slow building piano intro reminiscent of Fools Overture from Supertramp's Even In the Quietest Moments.  The vocals are also reminiscent of Fools Overture.  There's a wistful melancholy undercurrent throughout the song that keeps in line with Hodgson's at time biting and cynical and other times laidback and melancholy vibe on this album.

Hooked on a Problem and Give Me Love, Give Me Like sound like they could have come straight off of Supertramp's Crisis? What Crisis?!  Hints of Sister Moonshine and A Soapbox Opera are evident on both songs and musically it is from the same vein of most of the material from that album.

I'm Not Afraid sounds like Roger picking up right where he left off with Supertramp on Famous Last Words.  There are hints of Crazy that can be heard at different times throughout the song. 

The album closes with the haunting melancholy of Only Because of You.  The song shows off Roger's multiple talents (vocalist, keyboardist, arranger, percussionist, songwriter, producer, etc.)  Perhaps moreso than any other song on the album this is an example of all of those talents coming together just right.  Musically it's also an excellent bookend for the album.  It complements the opener, Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy) quite beautifully and gives the listener sense of coming full circle and gives the album a sense of completion.

As already stated, the Supertramp influence throughout the album is unmistakable to the point where it could easily be argued that Roger sounds more like Supertramp after leaving the band than they sounded after continuing on without him.  All that's missing are the trademark Davies/Hodgson collaborations that made those albums so enjoyable.  And given the somewhat divergent direction that Supertramp went following Roger's departure evidence would indicate that he was largely responsible for their trademark sound.  Their sound suffered more from his departure than his sound/style did.

Despite having only seven songs, the album clocks in at just over seven minutes.  Only one of the songs falls under five minutes with several being over six minutes and a couple are even over eight minutes long.  While not progressive rock in the purest sense of the word the album could certainly be described as progressive pop-- the somewhat more accessible "little brother" to prog rock. 

Unfortunately, Roger's 1987 follow-up Hai Hai would lack the brilliance and creativity of his debut and an injury would curtail his career until the late 90s.  Thankfully he finally did show a return to form in 2000 with Open the Door.

While Roger's career in Supertramp is still well respected his solo career, given its sporadic nature, has gone largely forgotten by all but his most die-hard fans since his departure from the band.

This album is a "must-have" for any fan of Supertramp and it's even a little bittersweet as one wonders what material they could have continued recording had Roger never parted ways with them and its easily better than any of their post-Roger output.

Related Links
Other Roger Hodgson/Supertramp reviews
Roger Hodgson (official site)
Roger Hodgson (wikipedia)
Roger Hodgson (AllMusicGuide)

7 comments:

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas said...

I haven't heard the full album in years, but I loved "Had A Dream" at the time and I also remember liking "In Jeopardy."

It is a shame that Hodgson didn't stick around with Supertramp.

George said...

I'll have to seek this out.

Charlie said...

I never heard of this album before, never knew of its existence. Sounds interesting.

Evan Lewis said...

If I've ever heard Supertramp, I didn't know it, but you make this sound pretty dang good.

Kathy Jones said...

Be sure to check out Roger's official site to hear more of his solo work and songs he wrote for Supertramp at http://rogerhodgson.com

Cindy said...

As far as I am concerned Roger is what gave Supertramp their claim to fame. His signature songs and voice is what people remember when you mention ST though many don't realize the name behind it Roger Hodgson. I love Roger's music. Would be awesome to here him live playing these incredible songs with that incredible talent and voice.

Sean Coleman said...

I bought this when it first came out and it has aged quite well. Great review of an excellent album.