Friday, September 2, 2016

Todd Rundgren 13: Back To The Bars

As we’ve noted too many times already, the late ‘70s were the era of the double live album. Todd had already released one album that was recorded in concert, in addition to including live performances as parts of other predominantly studio collections, but Back To The Bars offered something of a twist in that it was culled from performances in smaller clubs and theaters, hence the title. (That doesn’t explain the futuristic shirtless-in-the-desert cover shot, however.)
Apparently these were elaborate shows, involving onstage dancers and multiple TV sets, which expectedly don’t come through on the records. We do get hits and album favorites from most of his albums to date, performed by onetime and then-current members of Utopia, even on songs from Rundgren albums as opposed to Utopia albums. For the most part, the songs sound like the records, except that “Never Never Land” has a full ending and the soul medley from A Wizard, A True Star ends not with “Cool Jerk” but his own “I Saw The Light”. As we might expect, the big finale goes to “Hello It’s Me”, which supposedly includes Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Stevie Nicks, but good luck picking them out of the mix.
Todd being Todd, three of his catchiest tunes bookend two adventurous compositions from Initiation. It’s also amusing to hear him heckle his own hecklers here and there. Back To The Bars has a bright, live sound, with mostly seamless transitions, making for a decent sampler.

Todd Rundgren Back To The Bars (1978)—3

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