Monday, October 24, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: TODD RUNDGREN - SOMETHING/ANYTHING
Hey! Pay attention to that last bit. Aside from McCartney, nobody had really made an album all by themselves, to this hit-quality success. Aside from side four, which is a suite of songs recorded with a large group of studio pros, the first three sides were written, produced, arranged, played and sung by Rundgren, with only an engineer getting a credit on it. Pick your studio boffins, and they might be better at some aspects, like Brian Wilson as a producer and arranger, but Todd did it all by himself.
What you get on Something/Anything are three of my all-time favourite songs: Hello It's Me, I Saw The Light, and It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference. These are three genuine gems, now called blue-eyed soul, but really power-pop, on the ballad side. And listen to how sweet this mother can sing. Oh boy, he could melt hearts with this stuff. Plus, over the course of the album, he shows so many sides, from pop to hard rock to ballads to experimental sonics to humour to conceptual. It's no surprise that later on he became a hit producer for such different acts as Meatloaf, Grand Funk, The Band, XTC and The Pursuit Of Happiness.
Funny, you get so many bands with fewer actual career highlights, such as Big Star and Badfinger (another group Todd produced), that are cult and critical favourites, and beloved today. Yet Rundgren, who had several high-quality albums in this period, is barely mentioned, rarely in the same breath. However, allow me to present exhibit A from Something/Anything, the track Couldn't I Just Tell You, which I believe to be the equal or better than any raunchy bubblegum track Alex Chilton ever composed for Big Star. And the words? A confused young man, trying to explain that he wants to talk about his feelings with his girl, instead of bottling them up to seem tough? Holy Pet Sounds, Batman.
Oh ya, the reason I'm all-Todd all day, is because Rhino Records, that most wonderful reissue label in the Warner stable, has just put out S/A as a 180 gram pressing, which sounds wonderful, shiny and bright. It's exactly the kind of record that works well in the return to vinyl trend, because it was segmented over the four sides, and those cool old guitar and keyboard sounds are much better on warm vinyl. I'm either getting really cranky and old, or music was a lot better in 1972. Quit rolling your eyes, I'm not the only one who says that.