Album review: TODD RUNDGREN – An Evening With Todd Rundgren (Live At The Ridgefield)

TODD RUNDGREN - An Evening With Todd Rundgren (Live At The Ridgefield)

Purple Pyramid Records [Release date 26.08.16] CD/DVD

With a Todd Rundgren live album, as with any tour, it’s all about the set list.  Will it include the “hits”, more recent stuff, or something more obscure?  Will Todd play electric guitar?  In recent years, at least in the UK, we’ve seen him promoting the excellent ‘Liars’ and ‘Arena’ albums and celebrating the 35th anniversary of  ‘A Wizard, A True Star’.  But we’ve also seen him with a string quartet and purveying the likes of ‘Todd Rundgren’s Johnson’, a selection of his songs in a more bluesy vein plus covers.

Given the number of Runt live albums over the years, ‘Live At The Ridgefield’ – recorded in December 2015 – should really be judged as an update of the Rundgren canon for posterity.  Strangely there is little from the recent studio albums but, thankfully, Todd is with his “electric” band and it’s a straight ahead selection of some of his best-known rock cuts.  Bear in mind also that his latest studio album ‘Global’ (2015) – represented by only one track on the DVD – featured a bonus live disc.

Highlights include ‘Buffalo Grass’ which sums up his typical meld of exquisite harmony, chorus and underrated guitar work and ‘Lost Horizon’ with his soulful vocals complemented by Kasim Sulton’s ever-present harmonies.  ‘Secret Society’ is also impressive.

Throughout, Rundgren’s strong vocals are to the fore and the accompanying DVD features half a dozen tracks more than the CD including his “soul medley”.

Hardcore fans will nod the head to the likes of ‘Drive’ from 1982′s ‘The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect’ and ‘Determination’ from ‘Hermit Of Mink Hollow’ and acknowledge ‘Open My Eyes’ and ‘Kiddie Boy’ from his formative years with Nazz.

The DVD includes some additional material with each band member interviewing another plus a great demo from Jesse Gress tuning his guitar.  Does Todd embrace modern music trends?  “I really can’t stand a lot of what is popular music now…this new kind of victim thing…your Sam Smiths and Adeles where you’re just like a victim on every song … yuk.  I don’t really go for that.”  Enough said.

The album demonstrates at once how Rundgren can enchant or perplex audiences in the equal mix of rock and soul.  If you enjoy both genres, the result is engaging but there will be some who like one style but not necessarily the other.  But if you like Todd Rundgren per se, you’ll love this live “update”.  ****

Review by David Randall

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