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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Todd Rundgren Dilemma.

So what do we make of Todd Rundgren? I never really paid much attention to him until I reached my thirties. The more I read about music, the more I kept seeing his name come up-- usually as the producer of some album I loved. The list of artists TR has worked with is a veritable Who's Who of Rock: Sparks, Hall & Oates (seriously, the H&O records produced by TR are great, blue-eyed soul), Badfinger, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, XTC, Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf, Grand Funk Railroad, the Psychedelic Furs, Lords of the New Church, Laura Nyro, The Pursuit of Happiness, Bad Religion, and the list goes on. Those are just a few of his production credits, I don't have the time to list all the artists he's worked with in other capacities.

While I will probably never take the time to listen to all of the records he's had a part in making, I have, over the years, pretty much listened to all of his proper albums. I can say, categorically, that he is a fantastic artist. That's not saying he hasn't released a few duds here and there, but his hit-to-miss ratio is pretty darn good. Hermit of Mink Hollow and Something/Anything? are very high up on my list of all-time favorite albums.

But is it Power Pop?

I say no. Now I love "Couldn't I Just Tell You" as much as the next Power Pop nutjob, but check out the way TR introduces the song on this episode of the Mike Douglas Show:

It's very by-the-numbers isn't it? Maybe a little disdain in his voice? Could be because he's not thrilled to be playing to a mostly indifferent studio audience. To his credit, once the song gets going he does seem to enjoy himself and the version is pretty good, even with the keyboard so high in the mix. But if this show is from 1978, this song is six years old at the time of this performance. Why not a song from Hermit of Mink Hollow, which had come out a few months before? I'm not sure, but if I ever get the chance to interview him, I'll ask him. For the time being, I'll just let the way he says "It's called Power Pop" stick in my craw.


Jim H. said...

I was a big fan of Todd's real early stuff back in the 70s: Nazz Nazz was one of my favorite albums of all time (along with #1 Record).

The first two TR solo albums are brilliant as well—all before Something/Anything.

I agree, tho', that he is hard to categorize.

Jim H.

Maximum Jack said...

Yeah, I somehow missed the Nazz until Rhino (god love 'em) put out the first Nuggets box set. I then found the Rhino reissue of Nazz Nazz in the used bin at a local record store. Revelatory. That pretty much started my love affair with TR.