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Todd Rundgren - Faithful CD (album) cover

FAITHFUL

Todd Rundgren

 

Crossover Prog

3.02 | 49 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Spot the difference?

After the wonderful "Initiation" album, Todd continued to focus on his solo career, although the boundaries between that and his forthcoming work as Utopia were in retrospect becoming blurred. "Faithful" sees the players reduced to a tight quartet including future Utopians Roger Powell and John Wilcox.

As with the previous release, "Faithful" splits neatly into two halves on each side of the original LP. Unlike "Initiation" though, this is a far more conventional release, devoid of the experimentation, the excesses and the progression which characterised that album. "Faithful" sees Todd drawing things in significantly and reverting to the ballads and power pop of his early works.

Side one of the album is simultaneously stunningly impressive and oddly frustrating. Here we have cover versions of six songs all released in the mid 1960s. The problem is that the renditions are so "Faithful" to the originals as to be superfluous. There no attempt made to interpret the songs, or draw out some overlook characteristics in a bold new way, these might as well be the originals. There is no question that songs such as the Beach Boys "Good vibrations" and the Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever" are modern day classics, but if we wish to hear them surely we will look to those artists for the definitive renditions.

Other selections are fine songs, including choices from Hendrix, The Yardbirds, another Beatles and Dylan, but they are less obvious choices in terms of their classic credentials. It may be churlish to criticise such a grouping of fine songs performed with great accomplishment, but the point of the exercise remains questionable even after all these years. Todd's later "Deface the music" project with Utopia showed how he was capable of taking such inspiration and creating something new from it.

The second side of the album however is a different story completely. Here we have six brand new songs from Todd in which restates his ability to write and perform classic pop rock and quasi-progressive numbers. The side opens with "Black and white" (an original Rundgren song, not a version of the standard), an up-tempo number with a thumping rhythm section and a great hook; "I'll believe it when I see it in black and white". The highlight of the track is the superb instrumental arrangement.

"Love of the common man" may again have a familiar sounding title, but is also an original. Here, Todd reverts to a pure pop style with acoustic guitar and a light melody. "When I pray" is a strange calypso like song; it does little for me but perhaps that is because of the quality of its peers. "Cliché" is an appealing piece of gentle pop with a pleasing melody. It is though "The verb 'To love'" which is the standout track here, and one of Todd's best ever compositions. This soulful examination of the trials and torments which have inspired songwriters since the day music itself was discovered, is a majestic piece of prog balladry. Todd delivers a wonderful vocal performance against an inspired harmonic arrangement as the song unfolds.

Had the album ended at this point, it would have concluded on a high. Todd adds one final song though, a shuffling boogie called (um) "Boogies (Hamburger Hell)". While this song is clearly intended as a bit of fun, its omission from the album would not have been to its detriment.

In all, a difficult album to assess. One the one hand, we have a selection of generally excellent new songs from Todd which see him reigning things in somewhat, and reverting to a simpler style. On the other, we have a selection of great songs by other people which sound so similar to the originals that it is simultaneously hard to criticise them but easy to dismiss them.

Footnote, In another apparent nod to the Beatles, the plain sleeve resembles that of "The white album".

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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