Album review: TODD RUNDGREN – Runt, Initiation, Hermit Of Mink Hollow (reissues)

Todd Rundgren - Runt & The Alternate Runt

Edsel [Release date 08.09.14]

Can the market really stand further reissues of three Todd albums from the 1970s?  Looking back at our GRTR! archive, Edsel reissued the albums as part of their Rundgren reissue campaign in 2011/2.  So what’s new and, moreover, should we feel short-changed second time round?

Rundgren’s first solo album Runt is now expanded to two discs (previously it was partnered with ‘The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren’) – the second disc – ‘The Alternate Runt’ – features the entire 1970 mis-press of the album whereas its predecessor merely included those tracks that actually differed from the definitive release.  The bonus track was recorded for radio at Carnegie Hall in 1972, a version of ‘Broke Down And Busted.’

The songsmanship on ‘Runt’ owed something to Carole King and Laura Nyro, but there is a peek at what is to come – at least in terms of Utopia – with the 9 minute ‘Birthday Carol.’ whilst ‘I’m In The Clique’ with its brassy notes has a touch of the Zappa in its zany psychedelic-ness.  ***

No bonus tracks enhance Initiation originally released in 1975.  At the time it was the longest album ever on one piece of vinyl, clocking in at 68 minutes. The original album came with a note suggesting the listener transfer the LP to cassette tape if the volume levels were too low.

But by the epic 35 minute ‘A Treatise On Cosmic Fire’ you may wonder if those stretched grooves are completely well spent. This is a synthesiser-led instrumental which at times sounds like a long-forgotten concert intro tape, at other times – notably ‘Dance Of Kundalini’ – giving a peek into Rundgren’s underrated guitar creativity.

Roger Powell had joined Rundgren in Utopia and features on this album together with luminaries Dave Sanborn, Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer. Only ‘Real Man’ remains wholly accessible to the casual listener.  ***

Todd Rundgren - The Hermit Of Mink Hollow

Hermit Of Mink Hollow (1978) was released on Edsel in 2012 with the albums ‘Healing’ and ‘The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect’.  In that sense, the “deluxe casebound book edition” adds little, certainly not value.

On this album Todd played all instruments and it includes the live staple ‘Can We Still Be Friends’.  Overall it is a return to a more pop-oriented, song-based approach and might be one of his most personal: the previous year he had split from his lover Bebe Buell.  ***1/2

Now presented in an attractive “casebound book edition” one thing is certain: these releases won’t match the earlier reissues on your bookshelf.   In May 2014, Edsel released ‘Something/Anything?’, ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ and ‘Todd’ in a similar format but with no additional tracks.  It does seem a rather pointless exercise and – perhaps surprisingly for Edsel – a case of not getting things right first time?

Review by David Randall

This review includes material first published in 2011.

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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