When vocalist-guitarist Roger Hodgson left Supertramp after 1982's ...famous last words..., few could have guessed that the band would continue and solidify its pop-oriented songcraft, let alone re-embrace its progressive-rock roots on 1985's underrated Brother Where You Bound. With vocalist-keyboardist Rick Davies firmly in control -- he wrote all the music and lyrics -- the album examined tensions at the tail end of the Cold War. In a thematic sense, Brother Where You Bound is dated and hasn't aged very well -- Davies' politically oriented lyrics are heavy-handed -- but the music is a pleasure. The crystalline sound of the album, particularly Davies' piano, is breathtaking; kudos to co-producers David Kershenbaum and Supertramp and engineer Norman Hall. The hit single "Cannonball" is a jazz-rock delight, especially in full-length album form. Lyrically, it can be interpreted as Davies' feelings of betrayal at Hodgson's departure, but the piano, percussion and horns are superb. Saxophonist John A. Helliwell, bass guitarist Dougie Thomson, and drummer Bob Siebenberg all contribute vital parts, as does guest trombonist Doug Wintz. "No Inbetween" begins with a lovely, bittersweet percussion (or synthesizer?) and piano melody. "Better Days" is a rather bleak look at the unfulfilled promises of the "good life" in Western society; the dramatic music is highlighted by guest Scott Page's flute solos. The fantastic title track examines Cold War paranoia and clocks in at more than 16 minutes; after the creepy opening narration taken from George Orwell's 1984, the song becomes a composite of several complex prog-rock "movements." Pink Floyd's David Gilmour contributes the searing, distorted guitar solos. Unfortunately, Brother Where You Bound never received the attention it deserved; it isn't a perfect album, but it was a gutsy project for Supertramp to take on.
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams