Roger Hodgson SpecialReviews in this issue:
Roger Hodgson : A Little Bit of History
Born in Portsmouth, England on 21st March 1950, he was the main fulcrum behind Supertramp together with Rick Davies. Initial backing for the group (for the first two albums) came from Dutch millionaire Stanley August Misseages and though success was hard to come by they received much critical acclaim. It would be 1974's Crime Of The Century that would bring success to the group, something the group would never look back on going to sell over 50 million copies of their albums till the early eighties. Following ...Famous Last Words.. (1982), Roger Hodgson left Supertramp and retires to North Carolina with his family and set up his own Unicorn Studios where he promptly recorded In The Eye Of The Storm.
Four years were to pass before we would hear from Hodgson again with the disappointing Hai Hai. One of Hodgson's strong points is his immense ability to create an atmosphere when playing live, and it was hoped that a tour in promotion of Hai Hai would give it the necessary push in sales. However, a few days after releasing the album he fell and broke both of his wrist, an incident which was to keep him out of action for a number of years. In 1989 he was back in the recording studio, but ever more the perfectionist he did not release any of the material he was recording. The first time we would hear from him would be on the Yes 1994 album, Talk with the track co-written with Trevor Rabin, Walls.
By now it was obvious that something had to be done to re-ignite Hodgson's passion for music and his wife Karuna conceived the idea of him doing a short tour with his son Andrew involved, a tour out of which was born the album Rites Of Passage. Furthermore the album achieved its goal as Roger Hodgson re-entered the recording studio with a view to releasing an album. The result was Open The Door in mid-2000. Hopefully we will not have to endure a long wait for the follow up to this album!
Roger Hodgson - In The Eye Of Storm
In Jeopardy seems to be the one track from Roger Hodgson's solo past that he can still associate himself with musically, being the only one he proposed from his repertoire on the live 'Rites Of Passage'. Musically it consists of a repetitive hook with a very slight variation introduced each time, something he would repeat on further albums (e.g. Open The Door) as well as later on in this album (I'm Not Afraid). Hodgson's characteristic staccato style of piano playing is present throughout the track and though upbeat (upbeat in musical terms, not lyrically!) the closing notes shift the tone to one of sadness, a prelude to Lovers In The Wind.
Lovers In the Wind is the first ballad on the album and one of the highlights present.
Jimmy Johnson's fretless bass playing creates a lovely effect coupled with Roger
Hodgson's fluid piano that plays in unison with his voice. The serious nature of
the album stands out on this track. The air is heavy with even the chorus
leaving the listener with a heavy heart, half-hoping the track to explode with a
shift in beat, yet this never materializes. This track is like one of those
films that has a sad ending which can be changed at any moment by a slight
change in plot and you leave the cinema with a somewhat bitter taste hoping that
the change could have occurred yet deep down know that its very absence
contributed to the excellence of the film. The same can be said about this track
as it's tragic sadness with absence of any light-heartedness contributes to it
being a classic sad song.
Hooked On A Problem and sees the return of the typical Roger Hodgson sing along track with ear friendly catchy chorus coupled with Scott Page's saxophone playing. A great and "happy" way to close the first side of the album (vinyl version!)
Give Me Love, Give Me Life is in my opinion the epic track of the album and possibly one of Roger Hodgson's most complex creations, a track that can be subdivided into various segments. The opening part could very well stand out on its own as a classic Hodgson track with its clever ear-friendly hooks together with a moving beat that really gets the listener thumping his foot away. Hodgson sounds at his very best as the track moves from chorus to chorus to suddenly shift key and also melody completely, sounding like a completely different track. This change is brought about by the hail of a crowd which seems to spur on Hodgson as the track increases both in volume and in musical terms. This piece coupled with the keyboards solo, which is a reflection of what is being said, is interrupted by Hodgson's wail which kick starts the original chorus. Just when this track seems to be going on relentlessly without an end in sight, Roger Hodgson screams out "Give Me Life!"...and it all end there!
As happened with In Jeopardy, I'm Not Afraid features the repetitive sequence that Roger Hodgson so likes to use. This however arrives in the second part of the track as it stats with a slow dragging almost bluesy piece. The second section of the track starts just after Ken Allardyce's harmonica solo and is in stark contrast to the first part. That rough tough music suddenly shifts to a soft spoken almost pleading section which gradually picks up as Hodgson seemingly conquers his fears. An original track showing two facets to Hodgson's music yet on the other hand it remains one of the weaker tracks on the album saved only by the upbeat nature of the end section. This part utilizes Roger Hodgson's voice as an instrument as he sings without mouthing words creating an impressive atmosphere.
Only Because Of You has a long slow introduction which immediately puts the listener into perspective as to what to expect from this track. Once again Hodgson presents us with a slow piece of music but this is a gem of a song. As his piano gives away the gist of the track, Roger Hodgson joins in with his characteristic voice which seems to be tailor made for such songs. The entry of drums only serves to add as a beat as a choir of Hodgson voices create a wave effect that carries the listener through the track with the addition of Claire Diament's angelic voice further augmenting this effect. It is incredible how a voice can communicate emotions even without the use of lyrics. Simply a fantastic way to conclude this album.
After this album, I always thought the Roger Hodgson would go on to conquer the musical world, much like he had done with Supertramp. However, unfortunately, history was to prove me wrong!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Boy, this brings back memories. Back in the early eigthies I was beginning to explore
the wonderful world of prog for the first time. Triggered by a vacation in France with
a friend from primary school and his parents, during which Alan Parsons Project's
Turn of a Friendly Card would play continuously, I soon started to discover
classics like Dark Side of the Moon and Misplaces Childhood.
In 1984 an uncle of mine, who used to work at CBS, borrowed me a record by one Roger Hodgson, who at the time had a minor hit with a song called Had A Dream, which I thought was bloody brilliant. I'm not sure if I was aware of the fact that Hodgson had been in Supertramp at the time, and I certainly wasn't to familiar with Supertramp's material. I was completely blown away by Hodgson's record and after much pleading and nagging my uncle decided to let me keep the record. It became one of my favourites of the eighties.
One year later I bought Supertramp's Brother Where You Bound, mainly because of the
fact that David Gilmour played guitar on the epic title track. Only later would I realize that
after the release of a rather disappointing Supertramp album (Famous Last Words),
Roger and the band had parted ways and both had - probably to the amazement of fans and
press - released a stunning album. You will find typical
'Supertrampish' elements on both albums. The main difference is that you won't hear Davies'
voice on on In The Eye of the Storm and you won't hear Hodgson's voice on Brother
Where You Bound.
The similarity in further history between the two is also striking. Both would follow-up their great 1984/1985 albums with a more disappointing release, after which a long period of silence followed, only to be broken by come-backs in the recent years with a studio and live album.
Okay, now how about the music on In The Eye of the Storm ? It's without a doubt the album
in his catalogue that will appeal to prog fans most. It's got some very good 7+ minute songs
and the material is less 'poppy' than some songs on Hai Hai or Open The Door.
The album starts with a long version of the minor hit Had a Dream. This long version
features an extended intro full of great sound effects, an emotional middle part and a longer
end section full of those typical Hodgson vocal improvisations I like so much ('bob-shoo-wanna' and stuff like
that). It's almost like you're listening to an extended live version. A great uptempo song
that has an enormous power and has Roger playing some azaming piano and guitar.
In Jeopardy has a lower tempo but is no less a toetapper than the album opener. The track leans strongly on piano and keyboard. This was the second single from Roger's solo debut, and didn't do much at all. A shame, since it's as fine a tune as comparable songs like The Logical Song or Take The Long Way Home. The same goes for the 'happy' Hooked on a Problem which features a wall of sound of backing vocals, weird whistle-like keys, percussion saxophone and more.
As Nigel mentioned, the clever soft ending of In Jeopardy results in a smooth and less abrupt flow into the beautiful ballad Lovers in the Wind. The beautiful, almost classical, piano play and warm fretless bass combined with soft percussion and vocal overdubs make this a magical ballad as they are rarely heard.
Arriving at the second half of the album (or the B-side of the original LP) we are heading for
a 'tour de force' of three 7+ minute songs. The first of these Give Me Love, Give Me Life
starts with a hopeful sounding section with uptempo vocals and piano. This soon explodes in the
most energetic song on the album, comparable to the tilte track of Roger's recent Open The
Door. This is one of my favourites of the album; the power, the energy of the keyboards, the recurring
themes .... this is what great music is all about. This is a 7 minute orgasm !
I'm Not Afraid is very different; it starts in a dark and menacing stomping mood. It's threatening, bombastic and features some great harmonica. Then, halway through, the mood switches to a more uptempo pace and the song gets more joyful for a short while. The track ends with another atmospheric vocal play and a big bang.
The final song is the emotional ballad Only Because of You. Imagine the mood of the opening of Queen's Who Wants to Live Forever to get an idea of what this sounds like. After the first three minutes of vocal/piano combination the song gets almost orchestral, floating on the vocal play of Roger Hodgson and female vocalist Clair Diament and fretless bass. Extra drama is added by keyboards and Floydian guitar play. Absolutely enchanting. The last minutes of the song are a return to the vocal/piano section of the opening. Majestic !
In The Eye of the Storm is, as far as I'm concerned, Roger's best album to date and one of my favourite albums of all time. It deserves much more attention than it ever had, and it's an essential part of any Supertramp or Hodgson collection. Also, people who bought the extremely popular compilation albums in the nineties should get this album as well; it's as good as any classic Supertramp stuff you'll find on those. In The Eye of the Storm proves that Roger was and still is one of the biggest talents of rock music ever.
Conclusion: 9+ out of 10.
Roger Hodgson - Hai Hai
What should one expect when an album is criticized by the same person that wrote the album? In actual fact, Hai Hai is not as poor as some people would like to think and though criticism leveled at this album is in areas true, it is also true that there are certain areas of the album which do shine.
Originally the album was to be titled 'What Happened With The Empire?' (a lyric from the albums London track). However due to the duration taken to finish the album (16 months) as well as some difficult personal periods in his life, Roger Hodgson's (RH) reaction was to change the name of the album to a more optimistic sounding Hai Hai (Yes Yes in Japanese) as a sign of relief for having concluded the album. One of the possible reasons that might have caused the album to end up as a disappointment to RH was the fact that when compared to his first album (and also Supertramp albums) there was a large number of personnel involved, maybe a case of too many cooks spoil the broth.
The album opens with Right Place and a characteristic harmonica introduction, a track that also paves the way for the majority of the tracks on the album. Upbeat and optimistic the track shows that this time round there is less of the complex musical structuring that made up the first album with an emphasis being placed on a catchy beat as well as being ear-friendly.
My Magazine is next, a track which RH admitted as to being his favorite to record, mainly because it was the first time he got to scream on a record! Interestingly, three of the backing musicians are also members of one of the most famous band composed of seasoned session musicians, Toto. Jeff Porcaro plays drums together with David Paich (synth bass, hammond organ, synth brass) and Steve Porcaro (synth programming). Actually there is a Toto feel to this track as the guitar seems to have more of a rockier edge than is usually associated with RH's usual sound but tends to fall flat due to its repetitiveness.
London has RH written all over it especially as regards the way the lyrics and track are structured. It seems that RH loves to utilize lyrics that are seemingly repetitive with a slight variation occurring with each stanza. A similar case in point would be In Jeopardy or more recently Open The Door. The track still retains that element of optimism when one hears it for the first time, yet on closer inspection there is an air of sadness as well as homesickness from RH as he laments his separation from his home country, England. In fact he would spend something close to seventeen years away from England before playing there again. A spectacle I was lucky enough to witness as he played a surprise short set together with Fairport Convention at the Cropredy Festival, a set which included some well known Supertramp numbers as well as a solo version of Open The Door.
You Make Me Love You was actually written after the album was completed and RH was playing it on his Casio. People who overheard this track immediately told RH to put down the track on his new album, a suggestion to which he complied. In actual fact it is one of the few tracks which show traces of Supertramp and is also one of the finer tracks on the album. Interestingly, unlike most of the other tracks, a plausible reason for this track sounding so great is the fact that RH played practically all the instruments for this recording!
The title track Hai Hai shows RH's attempt in shifting his musical style as he tried to do on this album. Actually this is the track that least does it for me on the whole album. The sound is too artificial which does not allow the track to strike home, something which I feel is essential when one considers RH's soulful pleading voice. Yet again, these were the eighties, a time when everybody experimented with synths and effects!
Who's Afraid is written about the mysticism of the East, both in terms of religion (Churches facing East) as well as geographically (East India and the wisdom associated with it). Once again, a track which could have sounded so much better unfortunately is ruined by the various styles that are brought in from the almost funky guitar of Dan Huff to the basic drum beat that pervades the whole track. This track has not got better with time, in fact it does not even withstand the test of time!
Desert Love has RH doing most of the work on the track, and by God it shows. This is the RH one goes out to buy an album for. The track has two distinctive phases. Firstly there is the individual stanzas which are plain, yet direct and straight to the point whilst on the other we have the reflective chorus during which everything seems to stop in an aura of ambience created both by RH's haunting voice as well as synths.
Land Ho is a curious track as it dates to 1974 and was penned by RH together with Rick Davies, around the time of Supertramp album Crime Of the Ceuntury. Strangely enough this track was left be the wayside and RH felt that it was time to resurrect the track and rightly so. It is one of the bright lights on the album fitting in perfectly with the happy feel on the album coupled with that typical Supertramp touch.
House On The Corner is another great song which shows that RH can couple a good rocking tune together with a delicate melody. Dealing with the hardship that a person who participates in a war involuntarily finds on his return from the war and the inability of those around him to comprehend what is afflicting him. It seems that RH is a master at translating these psychological problems into good music and this counts amongst the better tracks on the album. It is also one of the few tracks that seems to fit in as a continuation from his debut in that stylistically it could have easily fitted on it too.
The album comes to a close with Puppet Dance, a track which deals about losing a loved one and the feelings one experiences when this happens. Somewhat ironically, RH lost his father when he was recording this particular track in the studio, though the track was written before the experience! This is the only track on the album that is played with a sense of melancholy yet this is once again transmitted incredibly well and needless to say it is one of those tracks in which RH seems to have had a say with the majority of instruments down to the backing vocals.
Overall this album is quite pleasant but one expects a certain musical trait from Roger Hodgson which unfortunately is not fully transmitted throughout the whole of the album. There are a number of tracks which fit in tremendously well, but others could have most definitely been left out. As I have maintained throughout, I feel it was a case of too many participants and if the procedure RH followed was similar to his debut, then the final outcome would have been by far better.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Roger Hodgson - Rites Of Passage
Ten years since his last studio album, it had to be a live album to bring Roger Hodgson's music back to the CD player! Recorded at Miner's Foundry, Nevada City, California, this album was born out of a concept by Karuna Hodgson and was probably the catalyst that has thrust Roger back into the musical limelight.
The backing band on this album were jazz trained pianist Jeff Daniels, session musician and bassist Rich Stanmyre, electronic wizard Mikhail Graham on guitars and backing vocals, RH's sixteen year old son Andrew on drums and special guest ex-Supertramp saxophonist and clarinetist John Helliwell. The album also features guest musicians Terry Riley and Josh Newman, but more about them later!
In Jeopardy is the only track on the album that Hodgson chooses to play from his solo albums. Though it is a bit disappointing that he has chosen to seemingly alienate himself from those albums, at least the choice of track is an excellent one and is very much faithful to the original. This is something that also can be attributed to the Supertramp "covers" played, and there are three on this album. These are Take The Long Way Home, The Logical Song and closer Give A Little Bit.
Showdown is also a track taken from a RH studio album, but
this version has appeared three years before the studio version as it would
appear on Open The Door. Once again this track is very much in the Supertramp
vein with the group complying perfectly with RH. The percussion interlude before
the guitar solo is interesting, and again the tightness of the group is
Don't You Want To Get High? gives the listener a bit of a breather following the rush of the first three songs and one can see where his son Andrew got his cues from for the song Melancholic. Relaxed and laid back, RH's voice fits this style of music to perfection as he drifts through almost as if it was a lullaby.
Then comes Take The Long Way Home followed by another new composition, Red Lake. Well within the same rhythm as previous tracks, this time round the band really rocks and is one of the better upbeat tracks on the album.
Melancholic is the first composition featured on the album that is not a Roger Hodgson
composition, though it still remains within the family. Only two musicians
participate on this track, Andrew Hodgson, Roger's son, and sixteen year old
cellist Josh Newman. As the track implies, it is a melancholic affair with
Andrew's vocals subdued and anguished as he plays the piano accompanied by the
mournful cello sound. It seems that the melancholy of British bands as Radiohead
seem to have caught up with the Hodgson's too!
One of the highlights of the album is Time Waits For No One, not simply because of the uncharacteristic structure that the track has but also because of the guest musician who plays on this particular track. There is a heavy air of ethnicity as the sounds that are played out feature a mixture of ambience as well as Middle Eastern traits. Playing with the group is one of music's living legends, Terry Riley. For those unfamiliar with this person, Terry Riley is considered one of the foremost minimalist composers, a style which he helped develop and which had a profound effect on rock music with a special emphasis on progressive rock. He also spent most of the seventies in India learning under Pandit Pran Nath and he uses that influence to full effect on this track with his playing of the tamboura as well as contributing to some exquisite Middle Eastern styled backing vocals which contrast sharply with Roger Hodgson's delicate voice.
No Colours is the first of two tracks composed by guitarist Mikhail Graham
present on the album. Stylistically this track retains a similar trait to what
RH has been presenting so far though there is less of that keyboard/piano
influence with the musical brunt shifting more towards a guitar orientated
The Logical Song needs no form of introduction as the band play it to perfection while Smelly Feat, another Graham composition seems slightly out of place on this album. Stylistically it has that Southern bluesy rock feel, much in the Little Feat vein (which is where the name of the track is probably derived from).
Closing the album is Give A Little Bit, which as with all the Supertramp numbers is played faithful to the original and is a great closer to this live album.
All in all this album marks a welcome and overdue return
to the musical scene by one or rock's most loved vocalists. The tracks are good
though I could have done without the tracks composed by others with more space
thus dedicated to hearing numbers from Roger Hodgson's vast repertoire. To sum
it all up, one can quote Roger Hodgson's final two words at the end of Logical
Song, "Bloody Marvelous"!
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Let's start with the old stuff. Roger's band played various Supertramp classics, three of
which appear on this album; Take The Long Way Home, The Logical Song and
Give a Little Bit. The band plays them very tightly and because of Roger's typical
trademark voice, they sound much better than Supertramp's attempts during their 1997 tour
and the renditions on their It Was The Best Of Times.
Of Roger's own solo songs, In Jeopardy from In The Eye of the Storm is featured on the CD (with a sax solo replacing the original guitar solo).
The CD features 5 new songs by Roger: Every Trick in the Book, Showdown, Don't You Want to Get
High?, Red Lake and Time Waits For No One. Every Trick in the Book is one of
my favourites on the album. It's an enormously swinging tune, carried by acoustic and electric
guitars and also including a great sax solo and a wonderful break.
Showdown is another uptempo tune that would eventually appear on the Open the Door album. This version is quite similar, but does not include the various samples. It does however include a nice percussion break.
Time Waits For No One was the favourite of the band, and rightfully so. It's probably the wet dream of the average prog lover. After a long atmospheric intro full of spooky keyboard noises and didgeridoo, a dark and menacing bass line carries the rest of the song, while Terry Riley provides native 'eastern' sounding backing vocals and Tamboura. Marvellous !
Red Lake is a semi-acoustic track with various tempo and melody changes. All in all a very Supertrampish 'feel-good' tune.
Whereas Red Lake gives me the feeling of soaring above the highlands of Scotland, Don't You Want To Get High? conjures up pictures of a lonesome cowboy riding the wastelands towards the dawn. It's a very peaceful semi-ballad and a nice break from all of the uptempo energy that preceeded and follows.
Finally, there's 3 songs by other band members. Melancholic is a composition by
Roger's son Andrew and is played solo by the young boy, with his friend John Newman helping
out on cello in the second half. It's a tune that sounds incredibly sad, and although it seems
rather simplistic at first - with a repeated piano tune of only a couple of notes - the tune
evolves into a beautiful and almost classical piece in the second half. I do have to admit that
I sometimes skip this song because it's such a 'downer' compared to the other material on the
Guitarist Mikril Graham, who's been working with Roger since the time of Hai Hai wrote two songs during the R.O.P. shows that have been included on the album as well; No Colours, a quiet bluesy ballad, and Smelly Feat, an incredibly funky tune with a great long instrumental break featuring slap bass and some great keyboard and sax solos. Both songs are highly enjoyable and blend in very well with the rest of the material on the album.
One of the most remarkable things about the album is the fact that you can hear Roger doing lead vocals, while the trademark backing vocals are present as well. I know that some touching-up was done, but it is claimed that Roger did not re-record any of the vocals. I'm not sure if this also goes for the backing vocals. If that isn't the case, they've got some amazingly good Hodgson sound-alikes in the band. Anyway, the result only makes the sound fuller and better, so who really cares ?
All in all this is a wonderful and enjoyable album. I love the energy of the band and the nice variety of styles and songs on the album. To be honest, I actually like this CD even better than Roger's last album Open The Door !
Conclusion : 9- out of 10.