Released: February 1972
Chart Peak: #29
Weeks Charted: 48
Certified Gold: 2/26/75
If the name Todd Rundgren rings a bell, it's because he was the guiding force behind Nazz; the one-man band called Runt (he even had a hit single as Runt, "We Gotta Get You A Woman"); and the producer of Badfinger, Jesse Winchester, The Band, James Cotton and Paul Butterfield. Here on his most complete and ambitious solo project to date, Todd Rundgren comes on like the renaissance man of rock and roll. He does everything; produce, play every instrument and sing all the vocal parts. And he just doesn't do everything as a gimmick, as some others have done in the past. He combines all his talents into a cohesive, tightly knit organic entity that is bound to make Todd Rundgren the "find" of 1972.
Todd's music is highly eclectic, with bits and pieces of The Beatles, Byrds, Ravel, Stephen Stills and Mothers Of Invention, all homogenized to create a distinct sound that is Todd Rundgren. On the one hand, he can be very commerical with hits like "I Saw The Light," "Couldn't I Just Tell You" and, from his Nazz days, "Hello It's Me"; while on the other hand, he delves into some interesting electronic instruments.
Side 4 is a departure for Todd, for it gives him the opportunity to work within the context of a big band. The set was recorded live in the studio and has a loose, spontaneous ambiance that comes from hanging out in a studio and jamming with a bunch of friends. His unique sense of humor is also displayed on Side 4 with such songs as "Piss Aaron," "You Left Me Sore" and "Slut."
- Tara, Words & Music, 6/72.
Todd Rundgren aka Runt has been proclaimed as a rather eccentric, eclectic musical genius and this two LP set affirms that proclamation. His songs have on aura of irreverent, irrelevant little ditties while in reality they are penetratingly strident observations. The most important thing about this album is that he seems to have had a great time recording it and it is enormously fun to listen to.
- Billboard, 1972.
- Playboy, 7/72.
"Gloriously cheap displays of human emotion. Heart-wrenching teen classics."
- Cameron Crowe, Rolling Stone, 12/15/77.
I don't trust double albums, especially when all sixteen cuts on three sides were laid down by the singer-composer-producer and all seven on the fourth by a studio pickup band. But this has the feel of a pop masterpiece, and feel counts. The many good songs span styles and subjects in a virtuoso display that runs from the evanescent "I Saw the Light" to a true tale of high-school grossouts called "Piss Aaron." And the many ordinary ones are saved by Todd's confidence and verve. The studio pickup side, for instance, gains genuine meaning from his tongue-in-cheek notes ("I drafted it into some sort of operetta, that kind of thing being very popular nowadays"). Studio games that would infuriate me on sombody else's record add context here. And his perpetual adolescence in winningly lyrical and winningly snide, though rarely at the same time. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
From beginning to end, Something/Anything? is Rundgren's best album, featuring the hit singles "I Saw the Light," and "Hello, It's Me." There are also a load of gems like "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," "Wolfman Jack," and "Couldn't I Just Tell You?," one of the finest power-pop tracks ever cut. Rundgren plays every instrument and sings all the parts on three-fourths of this self-produced release. Even though Rundgren had flashes of brilliance after Something/Anything?, he never came up with an album with performances and material as consistently satisfying. * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Roundly considered one of rock's more important albums, the double-CD extravaganza Something/Anything? is a landmark work, filled with lovely pop confection, pristine production and a lighthearted sense of humor. Rundgren performs and sings the first three-quarters of the album, a nervy feat that's still breathtaking to behold. Those looking for the hits will find them here ("I Saw the Light," "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," "Hello, It's Me") along with a host of stellar though lesser-known treasures ("Torch Song" and "Breathless"). * * * * *
- Christopher Scapelliti, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
When Todd Rundgren created Something/Anything?, he knew 1972 was make-it-or-break-it time. He'd pounded out Who-inspired power chords for the Nazz and boogied with Woody's Truck Stop, released two piano-driven solo LPs under the name Runt, and engineered for the Band, but stardom eluded this Philly-born twenty-three-year-old overachiever. So he played every instrument on three sides of a double album, recorded the fourth side live in the studio with a few friends and conquered every popular-music idiom from hard rock to singer-songwriter schmaltz. The resulting mishmash snuck into the Top Thirty on the backs of two sweet blue-eyed-soul smashes, "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me," the latter a smooth rerecording of a Nazz single Rundgren penned as a teen.
Although he would later experiment with sounds, song structures, time signatures and the studio itself, here the restless whiz kid plays primarily with melody and style. Whether bouncing through the Motown pastiche of "Wolfman Jack," crying into the resigned croon of "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" or dedicating the silly Gilbert and Sullivan-esque ditty "Song of the Viking" to then-unknown ex-girlfriend Patti Smith, Rundgren tosses off perfectly composed tunes. Yet their anxious delivery told future cult followers that this flamboyant mood-swinger was not to be dismissed as a mere craftsman. While practically inventing power pop on "Couldn't I Just Tell You," Rundgren nearly breaks down on the verses, ascending eight miles high for the heaven-sent chorus. The guitar soloing on "Black Maria" bleeds virtuosity and madness. You can hear him discovering his voice's strength and beauty -- and the tempo inconsistencies, elementary bass lines and fumbled percussion tempers the hubris that would later overpower him.
After Something/Anything?, Rundgren landed hot-shit production gigs for Grand Funk Railroad and the New York Dolls, but his newfound AM-radio audience expected more lite pop. The schism spooked the would-be superstar, who dropped acid, out-glammed Bowie, embraced synths and Eastern spirituality, and fronted a band of prog-rock freaks capable of sending King Crimson back to music school. Dozens of bizarrely varied albums and producer credits followed, but Something/Anything? remains this do-everything talent's best-selling, most-enduring work because it's born of desperation. Rundgren simply had to become a star, and although he didn't like the results, what got him there will remain loved.
- Barry Walters, Rolling Stone, 2/15/01.
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
"I'm probably the whitest singer in the world," Rundgren told Rolling Stone in 1972. "I have no 'soul' in the usual sense -- but I can do this great feminine falsetto." On this tour-de-force double album, Rundgren employs that falsetto on two great singles in the vein of Carole King: "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me." For the rest of the album, he demonstrates his complete command of the studio, playing almost all of the instruments himself, experimenting with a kaleidescope of rock genres and even delivering a monologue on what poorly made records sound like, complete with examples of hiss and hum.
Something/Anything? was chosen as the 173rd greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
A photo on the inside cover art of Todd Rundgren's third post-Nazz LP, Something/Anything?, features Rundgren alone in a room packed with equipment, guitar strapped to his shoulder, arms flung wide, and hands flashing victory signs. That about sums up the album.
Rundgren produced Something/Anything?, played every instrument, did all the vocals on 19 of the 25 tracks, and wrote all the songs with the exception of the two songs in a medley and "Dust In The Wind." The result is an album that stands as Rundgren's zenith both commercially and critically. "Hello It's Me," one in a series of gorgeous ballads that dot Rundgren's career, is his highest charting single, peaking at No. 5, and the album stayed on the charts for many months. Other songs, the sorrowful and beautiful "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," the hard-rocking "Black Maria," and pop wonders like "Couldn't I Just Tell You," present a mastery of different styles almost unparalleled in popular music. The musicianship, particularly Rundgren's guitar work in songs like "Black Maria," is top-notch.
This is Rundgren's most compelling work. In a career rife with experimentation and littered with confounded audience expectations, it offered no hint that he would turn his back on commercial aspirations in the wake of his newfound success. But Something/Anything? was a critical and commercial success that could sustain any artist for a good long while.
- Jaime Welton, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
When a pop auteur sequesters himself in the studio intending to record every last squib himself, sometimes what comes out is a big ugly mess. And sometimes the result is a dizzying tour de force á la Something/Anything?, the most enduring statement from songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and conceptualist Todd Rundgren. Without him, pop of the 1970s would have been less melodic, and far less trippy. Rundgren's many influences take turns in the spotlight of this twenty-five-song tome -- depending on the track, he's a Beatles disciple or a musician with a psychedelic jones, a student of AM radio or a singer who, having grown up in Philadelphia, totally gets blue-eyed soul. It's clear, from the start, that he's aiming high: The George Harrison-influenced opener "I Saw the Light" is a radiant single, and one of several pieces here ("Hello It's Me" is another) built around a lilting keyboard phrase. The remaining songs aren't a string of similar attempts at singles -- there are grand stylistic lunges and wacky detours ("The Night the Carousel Burnt Down") and several roaring numbers that force Rundgren to bring in a band, and a blustery horn section.
Though Rundgren made lots of records after this one -- both as a solo artist and the leader of the studiously progressive Utopia -- he never distilled his influence as compellingly again. But he continued to make a contribution as a producer: Thank Rundgren for the party-time blast that is Grand Funk Railroad's We're an American Band and the ornate theatricality of Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell, and for the tremendous British art-pop pathfinders XTC on their best late album, Skylarking.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
Todd Rundgren played nearly every instrument himself on his tour de force double LP, which featured two stellar hits ("I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me"), a tapestry of rock experiments, and even a sonic tutorial on what poorly made records sound like.
Something/Anything? was chosen as the 396th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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