MEDIA BLACKOUT #671.334!
SIZZLING PLATTER OF THE WEEK: Todd Rundgren – Todd Rundgren’s
Utopia: Live at Hammersmith Odeon ’75 (Shout Factory!) :: It seems that this album has been floating around the
bootleg community in one iteration or another a mere scant seconds after it had been recorded. At least, that’s what
I gather from the front cover sticker which boldly boasts: “First Official Release!” followed by the ever-mandatory
“Newly Remastered From High-Quality Source!” both of which most likely mean that the original multitrack master
tapes are so lost in time that they hadda do a Pro Tools restoration job offa some old audio cassette.
So the first thing you’ll
wanna know is: HOW DOES IT SOUND? And the answer is: PRETTY GOSH-DARNED GOOD! It’s a solid enough stereo job with nary
a tetch of tape hiss to mess up the signal.
So the second thing you’ll wanna know is: HOW’S THE PERFORMANCE? And the
answer is: ARE YOU KIDDING? THIS IS TODD RUNDGREN AT HIS PRIMO PEak. Sorry about the shouting, but I’ve been juking
the Runt’s toons ever since Ron Mael of Sparks was snapping his liner photographs, so you can just imagine how elated
I am that this long-lost performance piece has finally been placed on a platter—and boy howdy, does it ever sizzle.
Always the brightest bulb
in the box, Todd went over the sonic deep end when he formed the galaxies-spanning combo Utopia—but who could blame
him? Your fragile little mind would snap too if you put out an album of one man band pop classics (Something/Anything?);
followed by a surrealistic serving that reconstructed the universe out of Popsickle sticks (A Wizard, A True Star);
followed by a torrid twofer which masterfully mixed heavy metal mania with Gilbert & Sullivan show tunes (Todd);
followed by a perverse party platter of cover versions which were so note perfect that you couldn’t tell them from the
originals (Faithful); followed by a single disc hour long instrumental exploration into the Zen chakras (Initiation);
followed by a severe song cycle about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Ra). Impressive, I know.
But Todd’s never
been one to let his big brain get in the way of an entertaining show and this album is no exception. He begins with the overlooked
and underrated “Freedom Fighters” off Todd Rundgren’s Utopia; gets his avantness outta his system
on a ten minute “Mister Triscuits” space out; and then settles down to a heaping meat and potatoes helping of
songs you all know and love ranging from the power pop “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” and the rave up “Heavy
Metal Kids” to the anthemic “Sons Of 1984” and the ballad “The Last Ride” to the toe-tapping
trilogy of “When The Shit Hits The Fan” / “Sunset Boulevard” / “Le Feel Internacionale.”
Oh, and did I mention that Todd also does the Nazz classic “Open My Eyes” with Luther Vandross? At least that’s
what he says...
But best of all are Todd’s abrasive solos, all of which start out as a savagely warped exercise in sonic brutality
before they transmute into an even filthier destorto mode that makes Mark Farner at his splatter gnarliest sound like Segovia—and
that’s definitely slaying something.
Too bad he now irrationally suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome but, hey, nobody’s
– Live Album (Capitol) :: EXACtly!
Be seeing you!