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Rundgren, Todd - 1976 Faithful

ARTIST: Rundgren, Todd
ALBUM: Faithful
LABEL: Bearsville
YEAR: 1976
CD REISSUE: 1987, Bearsville/Rhino, RNCD 70868 * 1999, Essential, ESM CD702


LINEUP: Todd Rundgren - guitar,vocals * Roger Powell - trumpet, keyboards * John Siegler - bass, cello * John Wilcox - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Happenings Ten Years Time Ago * 02 Good Vibrations * 03 Rain * 04 Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine * 05 If Six Was Nine * 06 Strawberry Fields Forever * 07 Black And White * 08 Love Of The Common Man * 09 When I Pray * 10 Cliché * 11 The Verb 'To Love' * 12 Boogies (Hamburger Hell)


If you come to think of it, most albums originally were a collection of cover versions, or songs written by a bank of professional writers, later sung by a record company puppet. This was overtaken with groups releasing albums solely with their own material, for instance The Beatles being the first to hit this formula and become legends. As years went by, some artists went back to the idea of releasing cover albums, David Bowie with 'Pin Ups' in the 70's and right up to date to the excellent Northern Kings. So in 1976, Todd being different, chose to release this album, a sort of a half-way house, providing the best of both worlds, maybe a hybrid Utopia or was it a failed landing to a Mars mission to set up a commune? Let's see. As with Elvis Costello who I am going to focus on over the next couple of weeks, Todd is a law unto himself and this is displayed here in black and white.

The Songs
Remember we are taking vinyl here when discussing this one, side 1 to 6 are interpretations of songs by the world's artists some being the most prominent in history, well are they interpretations? Covers? Or just Todd showing off as he seems to be able to recreate songs previously painstaking put together by the original artists, in his coffee breaks. I am not going to dwell on the first half that much, but the majority of tunes are worth listening to. Although I have never been a fan of Bob Dylan, and Todd's version of 'Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine' (a man of few words is our old Bob!) isn't going to change my view either, but I will investigate the originals of 'If Six Was Nine' by Jimi Hendrix and the opening 'Happenings Ten Years Time Ago' by The Yardbirds, which has you in loops of 60's fuzziness. With the others, Todd plays a faithful straight bat, and is unlikely to cock anything up and 'Good Vibrations' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' are great songs whatever way you look at it.

Ok, the most important part of this album is the 6 self-compositions on side 2. I suppose the point of this article and a lot of what appears in GDM is promoting music that may have been overlooked, a kind of team of musical archaeologists. The songs here really spark the long term interest once they have been heard. Covering a multiple of musical trends and aspects and a couple that really seem to be ahead of their time. This is displayed on 'Black And White', sonic guitar instrumental with space invaders keyboard hitting the amps. Quite new wave in complexion and structure, like if Hawkwind, Queen or The Rolling Stones had started out as a garage rock bands.

Much softer, and my favourite on the album is 'Love Of The Common Man', I enjoy the vocal delivery, the studio tricks on the duo backing vocals are excellent. This could have been lifted off the Trillion's 'Clear Approach' album. Todd has that feeling in his vocals that mirror Thom Griffin. We can only dream of a whole album of this style of AOR goodness from Todd.

'When I Pray' is the stark opposite. Caribbean flavoured, that seems very improvised and comes a poor second to 'Soul Limbo' by Booker T & The MG's if it was to be chosen to lead the TV cricket campaign of the next tour of the West Indies, but it is over as quick as the England top order (there was a time when I would use Australia in the sentence!)

Next up is 'Cliché', the definition of this 'is phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought', this has been on the cards for a while and this is as good a time as any, so here goes. Want to know my most irritating ones? 'yes, very much so' this phrase seems to be replacing 'obviously' whenever a footballer, manager or sport correspondent responds to any simple question, like, Mr Moyes you won by 6 goals (in your dreams matey), happy with the win? Answer being, 'yes, very much so', ask a stupid question get a stupid answer. The next one you find, usually up to 5 times in every issue of Fireworks and Powerplay ( yes they are both great magazines), when discussing an album, 'it's a real smorgasbord', this replaces 'leaves me cold' then buy a bloody jumper, this is usually anything they are faced with that appears in more than 2 genres or they have no idea to explain an album when limited to 100 words, and don't get me started about using the lyric 'satisfaction guaranteed' or 'penny for your thoughts'. OK bring myself back into order; the song itself is a quick ramble on a Sunday afternoon, with not too many muddy fields, wayward cows or stys to upset the flow. Again it returns to those earlier Trillion feelings, I like the harpsichord moments, although it's probably all done on a keyboard, it's another very good tune.

More of a struggle is 'The Verb.. To Love', actually my issues here is that the backing vocals don't sound that great, off key?, well maybe just in the first minute, please listen for yourself, I'm really a poor judge, but... It's quite a drawn out number, like Earth Wind And Fire at a slower pace or Michael Jackson on a bad day, it's a mood piece, the principles of the tune could really explode into something epic but there just seems to be something missing, in fact I find myself skipping the extended repeat section towards the end.

Closing with 'Boogies (Hamburger Hell)' it's the most rock influenced tune, a cross between Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf and Steely Dan. The fine musicianship in the second part of the song is hidden and you seem to ignore it, because it's here where Todd redeems himself with top marks.

In Summary
It seems this album was released with nil publicity, but soon became a talking point with competitions being run to identify what versions of 'Good Vibrations' were being played on the radio, Todd's or The Beach Boys. The minimal cover may give the impression of a special offer record, but just the touch of the embossed wording on the vinyl editions, probably means it was a well thought out marketing plan, which still meant two songs were released off this album of medium return in terms of success. Todd would continuing releasing albums at an alarmingly rate together with the Utopia experiment, which if you need reminding, many of those albums are already covered here at GDM.

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#1 | gdazegod on February 09 2014 02:39:25
i haven't heard this LP, however I do like 'The Verb 'To Love', the version I am familiar with is Todd's 1978 double LP 'Back To The Bars'. Always enjoyed that one..
#2 | AOR Lee on February 10 2014 04:34:04
Love Of The Common Man is a classic (how's that for a cliche), becoming a mainstay in Utopia shows as well. Good to see Todd getting some spotlight
#3 | Explorer on February 10 2014 20:27:29
Todd has been a long standing favourite of mine, discovered him in 74, so had some back tracking to do.I regard him as somewhat of a genius...yes some of his work can be patchy and a little self indulgent but he`s never been one to compromise and I love him for that.
#4 | Eric on February 11 2014 18:03:29
Not a favorite Todd album. He's done better.

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