Edsel Records [Release date 19.05.14]
Just when you thought it was safe to avoid further Todd Rundgren re-issues, along come another three.
The first thing to say is that Edsel always do a marvellous job with their packaging. Yes these have all been available in recent years (and also on Edsel!) but now they are given the “deluxe” treatment and natty “casebound book” editions.
1972′s Something /Anything is generally regarded as Rundgren’s seventies masterpiece and his biggest commercial success. This is his ‘McCartney’ (Macca’s solo album in 1970) where he performed all the instruments across four sides of vinyl. Some cynics/critics might cry plagiarism, not least in its Beatlesque and Beach Boy flavours.
A vertitable tour de force, the album contained such gems as ‘I Saw The Light’, ‘It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference’ (also included here in demo form) and a re-working of ‘Hello It’s Me’, and if the jam is spread too thinly at times it was still a major achievement. Tracks like ‘Sweeter Memories’ and ‘You Left Me Sore’ are seemingly effortless in execution but little gems nevertheless and easily overlooked. Some contemporary radio promos complete this reissue. ****
1973′s A Wizard, A True Star may now seem like a heady period brew which distillated Rundgren’s Zappa-esque humour and R&B penchant with a frankly drug-stupor induced hue. Lord knows what the label moguls must have thought when Rundgren delivered this album and with ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan’ Todd may well have anticipated their misgivings about an album with no singles. But the final song ‘Just One Victory’ – long a live favourite – and the 10 minute medley point to the man’s ever-present Philly-soul leanings. There are no bonuses but as with all these releases there are extensive notes by Paul Myers from his Rundgren biography. ***
Todd (1974) saw Rundgren experiment more with synthesisers freely mixing the prog rock he expanded on the Utopia debut and his soul-flavoured ballads. The Zappa-esque comedy returns with ‘An Elpee’s Worth Of Toons’ which may be as relevant now as it was back in the seventies with Rundgren riling the music business. But the album does include the exquisite ‘Dream Goes On Forever’ and ‘The Last Ride’ – supplying respite from the more overblown ‘Everybody’s Going To Heaven/King King Reggae’ and ‘Heavy Metal Kids’. Bonus tracks include a radio session from 1971 and two live tracks recorded in 1974. ***
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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