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Todd Rundgren

Bearsville 6952
Released: March 1974
Chart Peak: #54
Weeks Charted: 17

Todd RundgrenAmid a growing profusion of lightweight pop practitioners, one latter-day exponent of self-conscious pop stands out on the American scene: Todd Rundgren. A gifted studio technician and producer, he is also a resourceful composer and inventive plagiarist; in many ways, Rundgren is the Seventies' journeyman pop stylist.

"I Saw the Light," "Hello, It's Me" and, from the new LP, "A Dream Goes on Forever" all show his knack for churning out whimsical but effervescent formula tunes. And his lyrical preoccupations have helped give him personal style: He has successfully nurtured a melodramatist's flair for milking adolescent romances, wallowing in self-pity.

Todd Rundgren - Todd
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Musically, Rundgren's several solo albums have specialized in quoting the right sources, from Laura Nyro to Stevie Wonder. On both The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, a tour de force, and the more uneven Something/Anything?, he proved himself a capable composer. And although his frail, reedy voice is weak, his production skills compensate: He mixes, overdubs and sweetens tracks like a true wizard.

In recent interviews, maestro Rundgren has grandiloquently announced that his work has moved from emotion to mind: "Once I got my emotions under control, I was able to recognize spiritual influences which could raise my consciousness. I don't want to respond to coarser vibrations." Unfortunately, apart from the welter of electronic gimmickry, the casual listener might not notice the change in Todd's (spiritual) vistas.

Todd generally sticks to familiar Rundgren fare, particularly on its more successful tracks (such as the relatively concise "The Last Ride" and "Izzat Love?"), but even familiar Rundgrenesque entries suffer in comparison with earlier efforts. This may be his idea of space-age pop, or his foray into psychedelic bubblegum. Unfortunately, when self-conscious pop becomes self-indulgent, it loses its sense of balance, and becomes either boring or offensive. Todd, at various points, manages to be both.

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 6-20-74.

Bonus Reviews!

Todd Rundgren is one of those talented people who like to exercise their talents while standing back to watch themselves do it. He is not quite convinced he can bring it off. He hasn't made up his mind what he does best or likes doing most -- hit-parade pop-rock, electronic gimcrackery with synthesizers, or "meaningful" songs. There are samples of each in this two-disc set, which, like so many others, should have been boiled down to one disc.

Rundgren is an adventurer in the best sense of the word; he has a sense of showmanship not unlike Orson Welles' in his great days (though he is not morose and not a genius). But, like Welles, he harbors a secret fear that he has no talent. His saving grace is a sense of humor; despite his often noisy production, some of his wonderful lines come through. In "An Elpee's Worth of Toons," a self-mocking song that is also a challenge to the audience, we get: "A man would simply have to be as mad as a hatter/ To try and change the world with a plastic platter/ There's something at the heart of it that's simply awful/ A man who makes a living off a plastic waffle." "Heavy Metal Kids," "Number 1 Lowest Common Denominator," and "Everybody's Going to Heaven/ King Kong Reggae" also contain some memorable writing.

These are the high spots of the album. Unfortunately, there are some instrumental , which are worthless: beeps, squawks, keenings, and belly-rumbles from synthesizers squeezed and fattened in the studio mix -- Rundgren beating us over the head with his engineering abilities. Few artists would have the imagination to include Gilbert and Sullivan's "Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song," but Rundgren botches the mix, burying the words in pounds of sound and making the incursion pointless. "A Dream Goes On Forever," "Useless Begging," and "Izzat Love" are done in his hit-parade style, but I discount it because of its melodic similarity to "Something I'll Remember," a fine ballad by Buddy Buie and J. R. Cobb of Atlanta, recorded by the Classics IV some five years ago.

Still, he is an interesting figure, this Rundgren. A young man in a hurry and a man to watch.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 7/74.

There's lots of humor and strange electronic sounds roaming around on this two record set. You need to have an open mind when listening to Rundgren. For he is a bit of an avant-garde storyteller seeking to paint word pictures in lengthy phrases and poems which he sputters out ("Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song"). Rundgren is credited with playing a number of instruments on the majority of the tunes. He uses slow tempos, lots of surrounding echo and fuzzy guitar runs on lots of tunes, so that each cut is both individual and yet combines all the commercial ingredients needed for today's market.

- Billboard, 1974.

Coming down from his inflated Wizard-True Star trip, rainbow-haired Todd concocts a double LP of surprisingly pleasuresome music that leaps from the familiar, lush Rundgren love opus sound to some delightful exercises in verbal humor and a few saucy space age antics tossed in for good measure. It's all great fun with Mr. Rundgren camping things up a bit with his ever-present sense of humor (at one point describing himself quite unflatteringly as a fellow who is "making a living off a plastic waffle") and mixing together doses of hard electric funk with interplanetary stuff.

- Ed Naha, Circus, 6/74.

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