I have been a fan of Todd Rundgren ever since a friend of mine played me his song ‘Marlene’ which was on the B – side of ‘I Saw The Light’. Over the last few days I have been listening to a 2 CD set called ‘Go On Ignore Me – The Best of Todd Rundgren’. Now ‘best of’s’ can be a mixed bag usually made of all the songs you would not choose but also a good taster to invite further investigation. But given the sheer breadth of Todd’s work choosing 41 songs (as on this set) from his catalogue is a dauntless task. Anyway, here’s my ’12 from Todd’;
‘Wailing Wall’ – from ‘The Ballad of Todd Rundgren’ – a simple piano ballad, channelling Laura Nyro but also pure Todd.
‘I Saw The Light’ and ‘Marlene’ – two songs from ‘Something/ Anything?’ – they need no introduction from me – thanks to Gordon M. for playing ‘Marlene’ for me all those years ago – it’s all your fault! While you are listening to these examples of early pop legerdemain check out the ‘bossa nova’ version of ‘Light’ on Todd’s album ‘With A Twist’. It is, like the rest of the record, a cracker!
‘Sweeter Memories’ – also from ‘Something’ – great bluesy guitar and a drum part the composer says he stole from Levon Helm.
‘Hello It’s Me’ – the second version of this song from ‘Something’ – apparently the composer was melodically influenced by organist Jimmy Smith here – great horns by The Brecker Brothers and Barry Rogers. From the ‘pop – operetta’ on side four of the vinyl version of ‘Something’.
‘Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel’ – a 1973 single from ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ – a psychedelic smorgasbord of an album if there ever was one. Anyone looking for the pop of the previous records were in for a surprise – it took me years to get into the vinyl version but this gorgeous song (with the Breckers on horns again) is one of my favourite Todd tracks. I think all of us have felt like this sometimes!
‘Medley; I’m So Proud/ Ooh Baby Baby/ La La Means I Love You/ Cool Jerk’ – again from ‘Wizard’ – in the midst of the sonic onslaught there is this gem of a medley – wonderful voices and that Philly soul – Todd’s voices on ‘I’m So Proud’ are worth the price of admission alone!!
‘Just One Victory’ – and we are on our way – more soaring choruses and not quite the kitchen sink!
‘An Elpee’s Worth of Toons’ – from ‘Todd’ – a great curiosity this, and according to the last glorious chorus, he really wants to change the world – gorgeous!
‘The Last Ride’ – also from ‘Todd’ – great soprano saxophone solo from Peter Ponzol and the composer’s guitar solo takes it out. There is a great version of this tune in a web video with Daryl Hall in one of his ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ sessions.
‘Can We Still Be Friends’ – from ‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ – another great pop song (excellently covered by the much missed Robert Palmer!) – listen to way that the voices are layered together – I assume they are all Todd, as with most of his records he’s a busy boy around the studio!
‘The Want of a Nail’ – from the album ‘Nearly Human’, Todd shares vocals with Bobby Womack in this r’n’b stormer – this song always has me dancing around the kitchen. The whole album is a real return to form after an absence whilst Todd was on production duties.
So that’s my ’12 from Todd’ – nothing from ‘Initiation’ or ‘A Capella’ or even ‘Faithful’ I know but these twelve are always somewhere on my playlists – either the ones in my head or on my ‘phone – he is a pop genius who, like The Beatles’ turned the studio into an instrument in its own right, truly a wizard and a true star!!