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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : Post-Split Supertramp

November 22, 1987|DUNCAN STRAUSS

* * 1/2 SUPERTRAMP. "Free as a Bird." A&M. * * 1/2 ROGER HODGSON. "Hai Hai." A&M. Roger Hodgson left Supertramp in 1983, and these LPs represent the second efforts by both parties since the split. Everyone's faring much better now, thank you.

In fact, you could get a heck of an album by merging the best qualities of these two projects. And it wouldn't be all that different from the way pre-split Supertramp music reflected the distinctly different songwriting sensibilities of Hodgson and singer-keyboardist Rick Davies. Hodgson's record even includes a tune the pair wrote in 1974 called "Land Ho."

On his first solo work, "In the Eye of the Storm" Hodgson sounded stiff, a little unsure of himself and disoriented, and the LP was much less representative of his knack for writing radio-ready rock songs than "Hai Hai." It's a freewheeling musical melange and lyrical hodgepodge.

Lines like "Fee, fi, fo, fum, everyone wants it baby" aren't likely to have listeners hanging on every word. Good thing, too--Hodgson doesn't have much to say. Most of his lyrics have a breezy, dashed-off feel, especially next to the poignancy and detail of Davies' songs on "Free as a Bird."

Save for one tune, "Bird" explores various facets of romance. Anyone who's experienced an unraveling relationship may find that songs like "It Doesn't Matter" hit a little close to home.

In sharp contrast to Supertramp's 1985 Orwellian mess "Brother Where You Bound," the songs here are sharply focused, are both universal and specific, frequently bristle with emotion--and are always about something. These well-drawn observations are placed in sinewy and at times surprisingly swinging, R&B-oriented settings.

Although "Free as a Bird" may be the stronger work overall, any serious Supertramp fan would probably be remiss in not getting "Hai Hai" too.

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