After two albums, Todd Rundgren had one hit and a burgeoning cult following, plus growing respect as a hitmaking record producer. There's no question he was busy, but as it turns out, all this work only scratched the surface of his ambition….
Billed as the first official collection of live bootleg recordings, the triple-disc For Lack of Honest Work is a live anthology stretching back to live-in-the-studio recordings of “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” and “Broke Down and Busted” in Philadelphia from 1971 and running all the way to 2006, when Todd belts out “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP” in Toronto. In between these extremes are many other extremes – Todd indulging in the early days of Utopia, cuts from his A Cappella tour, a doo wop arrangement of “Real Man,” a synthesized piss-take of “Bang on the Drum,” a solo electric “Hammer in Your Heart,” slickly accomplished on-stage jamming – all loosely arranged so the first disc contains the poppiest material, the second the proggiest, the third his mature phase. It’s not quite a straight-on realist portrait but a hazy abstract impression of Todd’s multifaceted abilities, with the overall range being somewhat more impressive than individual moments.
Todd Rundgren considered 1966 the beginning of his professional musical career, largely because the Nazz formed around that time. As a celebration, he recorded Faithful. Presumably, Faithful celebrates the past and the future by juxtaposing a side of original pop material with a side of covers. Actually, "covers" isn't accurate – the six oldies that comprise the entirety of side one are re-creations, with Rundgren "faithfully" replicating the sound and feel of the Yardbirds ("Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"), Bob Dylan ("Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine"), Jimi Hendrix ("If Six Was Nine"), the Beach Boys ("Good Vibrations") and the Beatles "("Rain," "Strawberry Fields Forever"). All of this is entertaining, to a certain extent, especially since it's remarkable how close Rundgren comes to duplicating the very feel of the originals.
Healing is Todd Rundgren's ninth studio album, released in 1981. Spirituality and the human condition is Healing's theme; something Rundgren had touched on many times in earlier works but never with the consistency exhibited here as every track explores a different aspect. The back cover image of the album (artwork by Prairie Prince) shows the caduceus overlaid by a treble clef and a Qabalistic Tree of Life overlaid by a bass clef, reflecting Rundgren's linking of his spirituality and music.
Out of all the releases issued thus far in the Todd Rundgren/Utopia Official Bootleg series, it turns out that Vol. 5 – Oops! Wrong Planet Tour – is one of the most "bootleg sounding" of the bunch, as it's less than stellar audio quality suggests it is an audience recording. Despite not possessing as clear a sound as the other volumes (which appear to be mostly soundboard recordings), Oops! Wrong Planet Tour does a good job of capturing the group during one of the most transitional periods of its career. Beginning the year (1977) as a prog rock band (RA) and ending it as a new wave-ish arena rock outfit (Oops! Wrong Planet), both sides of the group are showcased on this double-disc set, while a generous helping of solo Rundgren material is included as well, given a Utopia makeover.
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