Monday, July 18, 2011

The #23 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Breakfast in America" by Supertramp

The albums get better as we work our way down in the Top 100 Albums* Countdown.

We're up to #23.  Getting to this point, an album may have exhibited a particular strength, such as great sales, or great chart performance, or longevity, or a great Track Rating*, or great airplay or many awards bestowed upon it, but increasingly as you have probably noticed, an album pretty much has to have it all.  Supertramp's album certainly does.  It reached #1 for six weeks on the album chart, but also was #2 for nine weeks and #3 for three weeks.  18 weeks in the Top Three is more than most albums spend in the Top 10 and more than millions of albums spend on the entire chart.  Breakfast in America remained in the Top 10 for 48 weeks and on the chart for 113 (over two years).

So chart performance--a definite check.  Longevity--check.  Track Rating*?  One of the best in the Top 100 at 9.48, a highly consistent album.  Definitely no filler or songs to skip on this one; in fact you won't do it justice if you do.  So far, it has all the things you would expect the #23 album to have.  On the strength of two monster singles ("The Logical Song" and "Take the Long Way Home") that were #1 on nearly every radio station in the country, the airplay and publicity generated for the album was tremendous.  "Goodbye Stranger" was also a big hit and "Breakfast in America" might as well have been a single (it was in the U.K.) because nearly every radio station who was decent at all played it.  

In fact, radio stations played nearly every song on the album.  "Lord is It Mine", having not been released, is one of the Top Underrated/Unknown Songs of the Rock Era*.  We played it at KFXD and it went to #1.  Other songs to receive considerable airplay were "Just Another Nervous Wreck", the great song "Child of Vision", "Casual Conversations" and "Gone Hollywood".  Thus, this is one of the most-played radio albums of the Rock Era.

Supertramp has sold six million copies to date in the United States, 20 million worldwide.  That latter statistic will serve it well as Inside the Rock Era presents The Top 100 Albums in the World at a later date.  At the conclusion of this feature, I will present several other lists, ranking the albums by sales, by Track Rating* and by my own personal favorites.  This album would definitely rank much, much higher on my personal list and it will likely rank higher in The Top 100 Albums of the World* feature on Inside the Rock Era (using world sales reflected above). 

And you will note that Breakfast in America fulfills the final requirement by being awarded the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package, beating out In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin, which we have already saluted in The Top 100 Albums*.  It also captured the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, and was nominated for Best Album of the Year and earned Supertramp a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Group at the Grammies and Favorite Pop Band at the American Music Awards.  Breakfast in America won a Juno Award for Best International Award.  Supertramp also hit #1 in Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Canada and Australia.

So this album has it all going for it.

The album cover is a caricature of New York City through the window of an airplane.  Mike Doub designed the cover, which shows Kate Murtagh dressed as a waitress from a diner.  The Statue of Liberty figure holds of a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice in one hand and a foldable restaurant menu in the other.  "New York City" is made of egg boxes, a cornflake box, an ashtray, salt and pepper shakers, silverware, vinegar and ketchup and mustard bottles. Two stacks of boxes were made to resemble the former World Trade Center towers while the breakfast plate represents Battery Park in the city.  

Note:  There are several other updates to this album, "deluxe editions" that include more songs and live appearances.  This review and this Countdown is based solely on the original album.

Breakfast in America:
(all songs by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson)

Side one
1. "Gone Hollywood" --5:20
2. "The Logical Song" --4:10
3. "Goodbye Stranger" --5:50
4. "Breakfast in America" --2:38
5. "Oh Darling" --3:58

Side two

1. "Take the Long Way Home" --5:08
2. "Lord is It Mine" --4:09
3. "Just Another Nervous Wreck" --4:26
4. "Casual Conversations" --2:58
5. "Child of Vision" --7:25

Rick Davies played keyboards and harmonica and sang lead and backing vocals, Roger Hodgson, played guitars, keyboards and sang lead and backing vocals, John Heliwell played saxophones, woodwinds and sang backing vocals, Bob Siebenberg was the drummer and Dougie Thomson played bass on the album.
The only outside assistance Supertramp needed came from Slyde Hyde, who played trombone and tuba. The Wurlitzer electric piano was used extensively on the entire album, showing the possibilities of what can be achieved by the instrument.

Breakfast in America was recorded from May to December of 1978 at the Village Recorder, Studio B, in Los Angeles. Supertramp produced the album along with Peter Henderson. Mixing was done at Crystal Sound Studio in L.A. ; Peter Henderson of Air London was the engineer. Mike Doub and Mick Haggerty were in charge of art direction; Haggerty also was responsible for the album design. Mark Hanauer was the photographer while Aaron Rapoport did the cover photo. The album was released March 29, 1979 on A&M Records.

The incredible Breakfast in America lines up as the #23 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era*--Supertramp.

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