Review Summary: Paris is an ode to the vast talent of Supertramp, and a final performance of excellence before they would break apart.
Supertramp's live record Paris
is a moving production, and was recorded on the worldwide tour supporting Breakfast in America
. The success of the that latter album had an enormous pressure for the band, and during the tour, there began to develop some internal friction in the group. The fun of playing together started to diminish.
Supertramp were part of the 70's progressive movement, but had, unlike their contemporaries, a sense of pop in their sound from the beginning, and also flirted with jazz and blues. Their compositions have many flowing and captivating shifting moods, featuring great piano play, strong vocals, sensitive electric guitar and seductive saxophone. The instrumentation and arrangements were highly diverse and inventive. Supertramp have always managed to create addictive timeless music.
There were two leaders in the band that take almost all the credits on Supertramp material, being Rodger Hodgson and Rick Davies. It’s easy to know who had composed what: Both wrote and composed separately. The person who sang the song was the one who wrote and composed it (lyrics included). This formula was another feature that makes Supertramp stand out as a band, and was a fruitful way to do things during their golden era. After the huge triumph of that successful period (1974-1980), the aftermath would result in many disagreements between Hodgson and Davies about the band’s direction, and eventually they would face a creative burn-out. Afterwards, the band continued without Hodgson. The latter left the band after the Famous Last Word
tour, in 1983. The remaining members have known a little success, but the absence of Hodgson made its impact, and Supertramp would never be the same.
Breakfast in America
is Supertramp's most commercially successful release, and the last album in their golden era, which includes Crime of the Century
, Crisis, What Crisis?
, and Even in the Quietest Moments
. Supertramp’s orchestration and arrangements are masterfully done, and featured a lot of dual piano work (Hodgson and Davies), which resulted in catchy and melodic songs, with quite a number becoming hits. The band's music is easy to listen to, and often simple and efficient, contrary to the complicated nature of other progressive bands. There was a great enough mixture of genres in their sound for them to satisfy a large mix of admirers. The usage of piano, acoustic and electric guitars, seductive saxophone, soaring vocals, and all-around outstanding musicianship is brilliant on all four of their golden era albums, which still sounds fresh today. Supertramp's members are very, very creative musicians, and they play with confidence, although the two masterminds behind the band will always remain Davies and Hodgson.
was put on the map at exactly the right time, namely after the group released their streak of four best albums. There were so many great songs on these four records that it is hard to keep track of them all. When Breakfast In America
was released, Supertramp became a full-blown art-rock-pop sensation, leaving almost all of their progressive influences behind. Keyboards became more dominant, and the soaring and catchy piano melodies were the highlight of the music. Roger Hodgson's and Rick Davies' voices played off each other beautifully, creating perfect harmonies.
This double live album contains almost every song off Crime of the Century
, showing how significant that album was for the band. On the other hand, only three songs were taken from Breakfast in America
, which is odd considering it was their most recent album at the time. Possibly, this could be related to the struggle between Hodgson and Davies. Overall though, the setlist contains almost all essential Supertramp tunes.
Talented as they are, the band could have improvised a lot of their original studio tunes. But if they would have, it would have taken off the pleasure of the audience to sing-along and toe-tapping their catchy music. As such, their live performances were as close as possible to the original versions. While the performances are almost flawless, it does take away a bit from the possible improvisation that could make a live release extra special. There are enough exceptions to keep things interesting, however, such as the altered essential piano part in School
, the extended version of Bloody Well Right
, and an excellent added saxophone solo in From Now On
Although the performances may generally be close to the original studio songs, Paris
still sounds very much live. The rhythm section is more audible than on their studio work, and the guitar is overpowering. The disadvantage to this is however that some of the piano and sax work are swamped by guitar and bass.
In the end, this is the group's quintessential live release. Paris
contains the most memorable Supertramp songs, features their classic line-up, and the performances are nearly flawless. On top of that, this was recorded shortly before the departure of Roger Hodgson, making it the final statement of classic Supertramp. If ever you might want to find out what is so great about this band, this isn't a half-bad starting point. If you know their work already, it's the live album to get.