Monday, January 3, 2011

Todd Rundgren 9: Faithful

It was time for another song-based solo album, but Todd still needed a concept to keep him interested. Faithful got most of its notoriety for side one, note-for-note covers of classic records from the sixties.
Of course, being Todd, he just doesn’t tackle songs he likes—he picks those that originally came out of meticulous production. Which is why we get covers of “Good Vibrations”, two Beatle songs, and songs by Hendrix, Dylan and the Yardbirds. His point seems to be “I’m just as good as those guys, only now I have the technology to let me work faster!” Still, sixties nostalgia wasn’t exactly fashionable in 1976, so his decision to record these songs was certainly unique for the time.
Side two offers six originals, immediately more accessible than anything on his last three albums with or without Utopia (who play on the album in their latest incarnation). “Black Or White” begins with an intriguing guitar part that unfortunately descends in to a heavy rocker. “Love Of The Common Man” is all ‘70s pop, a style that would soon be called yacht rock. An interesting mix of reggae and salsa music, complete with bird whistles, “When I Pray” provides some toe tapping, thanks to a repeated wordless refrain that covers whatever the point of the song is. “Cliché” delivers on the promise of that brief guitar heard at the top of the side, and the Philly soul gets an even longer workout on “The Verb ‘To Love’”, though that crazy cocktail piano solo would keep anyone from confusing this with Hall & Oates. But the sublime mood gets punctured by “Boogies (Hamburger Hell)”, a dopey joke song in support of vegetarians.
If he was trying to win back a mainstream audience, Faithful was the way to do it. But he was putting out material at breakneck speed, leading us to wonder whether he really needed to release absolutely every new idea he had.

Todd Rundgren Faithful (1976)—3

1 comment:

  1. The cover version of "Good Vibrations" was a hit, so this was an interesting listen. The pluses is that Todd does try some clever things to replicate the sounds of the originals, such as distorted guitar emulating strings ("GV' "Strawberry Fields Forever") or synth horns ("SFF" again). Referencing "She Said She Said" on the fadeout of "Rain" proves how good a listener Todd is. On the other hand, some of the tunes lose their power, particularly "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago". More guitars, yes, clavinet, no. One can't argue with Todd's taste, anyway.

    As for side 2, I like the uplifting lyrics. They aren't quite hooky enough for me, and "The Verb" is just too long. Exception on all of these counts is the silly "Boogies". Todd waits until the end to have some fun.

    This was one for more than the casual fan, particularly that he doesn't seem to have put anything from side 1 on his compliations.