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Only One Half of a Canvas
on 16 August 2009
Co-produced by the band and David Kershenbaum, this 1985 and forty-three-minute album was the first since the departure of Roger Hodgson. Consequently, it's an album wholly of Rick Davies's songs and all that that stands for: a rhythm and blues inflection, and a focusing on his relationship with his girl. With Roger gone, this also means more of an American feel to the album. Whilst still dominated by Rick Davies, there is some progress in the use of some electronic elements, and these - when allied to the rhythm and blues foundation - do produce a new `pop' sound for the band. It's just a shame that the songs do not stand up well to the new treatment. (I should point out that the remastered sound is excellent.)
For me, all songs are merely three stars (in Amazon terms = `OK'); but I do give the opening track `Cannonball' four (= `I like it'). `Cannonball' is an eight-minute impressive west-coast instrumental/song over a perpetual drum-bass-piano beat. As for the rest, `Still in Love' is a repeat of earlier work, with Hodgson-style vocals supplied by `Che Che'; `No Inbetween' has feeble artificial strings (none are credited but the fairlight and synclavier are), and its lyrics hint at underlying tensions - Rick Davies sings of needing to be free again, which can be read as a biography of the group ("You're either up there, or ..."); `Better Days' starts well and features the voices of politicians old and new, but soon gets bogged down.
The title track lasts seventeen minutes, and features Dave Gilmour's powerful guitar-work. It opens with quotes from 1984's Big Brother and seems to be some paranoid anti-Communist rant; I hope it's ironical rather than sincere. The sax sounds out of place and the whole piece has diversions that seem crude and appear merely to fill out the time. The album ends with `Ever Open Door', in which we're told that "sharing's good ...", apparently.
So, here's a different Supertramp in both sound and line-up, but keeping some of Rick Davies's traditional inflexions in terms of song-writing and performance. It's just a shame Roger left, but as they both state on the DVD `Supertramp: The Story So Far' (review pending), their differing styles meant that they felt there were two brushes trying to paint on the same canvas.