This July, Cleveland Scene will turn 50 years old, and in advance of the occasion, we've decided to dig into the archives on a weekly basis to republish something that appeared in the paper on that date (or thereabouts) during Scene's first decade.
This review of Todd Rundgren's Todd by Mark Kmetzko appeared in the issue that came out on Feb. 21, 1974. It featured the headline, "Hello, It's Me, Todd Rundgren and my new album is reviewed on page 6" on the paper's cover.
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Todd Rundgren is; and always has been, for that matter; THE rock 'n' roll schizoid. Half of him wants to croon pretty, sensitive songs and the other half wants to blow out the ears of 3/4 of the world's population with one screaming guitar lick. Up until his last album, the latter was suppressed and almost always was tempered with a little of the former. Then, with WIZARD, TRUE STAR, the raw, unchained and tasteless stood on its own, thus shocking a lot of people. Now that the shock is over, those people should be glad for TODD, which persists in exploring the "heavy metal" sound, but also alludes to some of the old Rundgren knacks for beauty and good song-writing.
TODD is a double album (his first since SOMETHING/ ANYTHING) and like most double sets, there is some dead air here. The project probably could have been edited to one super-strong album, but in actuality the bad material here does not surface near as often as does the sublime. You can thus forget the junkiness of "In And Out The Chakras We Go" of "Everybody's Going To Heaven," as you immerse yourself in the spaciness of "The Spark of Life" or the simple beauty of "Useless Begging." As was the case with earlier albums, Rundgren does most of the work here himself. On only six tracks does he have assistance and even then it's so minimal that TODD qualifies as a solo effort.
Suffice it to say that the material here is for the most part a combination of WIZARD and SOMETHING / ANYTHING. The instrumentation and approach are like those used on WIZARD, but a little more of the easy side of Rundgren (with which SOMETHING/ANYTHING was brimming) is on display here. There are many cuts here that simply lay me out, but as for choices, I have I'd go with "Number 1 Lowest Common Denominator" and "Sons of 1984." The former is an auditory definition of the term "heavy metal," but is careful not to avoid a fine sense of music. "Sons of 1984" (the record's closing number) is a very melodic piece made irresistible by Rundgreri's vocals and the ex-Dreams horn section of Randy Brecker, Mike Brecker and Barry Rogers.
If "Hello, it's Me" is why you're considering the purchase of this album, the closest you're going to get is "Useless Begging" or maybe "Don't You Ever Learn." But even these are rough compared to "Hello, It's Me." You've got to realize Rundgren is beyond that now, and with a little effort you may be able to empathize with his choice to leave it behind.