In just about every way, Todd Rundgren owned the airwaves in the early ’70s. There was the (basically solo) Something/Anything double album, followed by A Wizard, A True Star, then the double Todd LP. He was also a very in-demand producer, working wonders with Grand Funk on We’re An American Band and Shinin’ On, not to mention the classic debut of The New York Dolls. He also put Utopia together during this time.
In 2010 Rundgren assembled an all-star band for a special, first-time ever performance of the double Todd album in its entirety. He obviously took this show very seriously, as the cast of supporting players he assembled reflects. Just to mention a few well-known names, there is bassist Kasim Sulton, former Tubes member Prairie Prince on drums, and Greg Hawkes (of The Cars) as an additional keyboardist. Based on his playing, I should probably know more about guitarist Jesse Gress, but let me just say that the guy is really, really good.
Although “the hermit of Mink Hollow” was often misidentified as a native New Yorker, his hometown is Philadelphia, which is where this concert was recorded. The DVD opens up with Rundgren walking out in a weird Star Trek villain-inspired outfit to perform “How About A Little Fanfare?” and “I Think You Know.” He then loses the outfit and gets down to serious business by sitting at the keyboard for “The Spark of Life.” There are so many great tracks on this record that it is somewhat difficult to single any of them out for particular mention. But “A Dream Goes On Forever,” “The Last Ride,” and “Sons Of 1984” are fantastic examples of why this album (and performance) are so special.
Rundgren recorded such a wide variety of material that sometimes his love of Philly soul gets overlooked. The Todd LP expresses a lot of this in ways that may have been neglected by some at the time. It was a wild record, after all. For starters, just look at the cover. It features an extremely stoned-looking Rundgren sporting long, multi-colored hair in front of the ugliest brown background anyone could come up with. Then there is the music, which was all over the map.
He plays the album straight through here, with the curious exception of “In And Out The Chakras We Go (Formerly Shaft Goes To Outer Space.)” I dunno, maybe the whole idea just seems too weird today, but I always thought it was a funny comment on early ’70s black music.
I should mention the very “’70s” laser show which accompanies the music. This inclusion is obviously done with tongue firmly in cheek, but what a nice touch. Instead of going all out with the latest approaches to light shows, Rundgren chose to re-create the 1973 concert experience. It might be a small consideration, and one which not everybody may have even gotten, but as an example of Rundgren’s sense of humor it adds a great deal of fun to the show.
The bonus feature, an extremely detailed interview done by Roy Firestone with Rundgren on September 13, 2010, is pretty impressive. This is only part one, and it runs over 78 minutes. As part of that special six-show run, Rundgren also performed the Healing album in its entirety, which will be released sometime in the future, with part two of the interview included.
For those who may want to just listen to the concert in their car (or wherever), it is also being released as a stand-alone single CD.
The Todd DVD/CD is scheduled for release on February 28, 2012.