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Todd Rundgren - Healing CD (album) cover


Todd Rundgren

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars One case where killing the Golden Goose would be justified

Following his 8th (including the two "Runt" albums) solo release "Hermit of Mink Hollow" in 1978, Todd focused his attention on his work with his Utopian colleagues. Three further Utopia albums were released before Todd rekindled his solo career in 1981 with "Healing".

In keeping with what had now become the distinction between the two strands to his career, on this album Todd plays, sings, writes and produces everything you hear. "Healing" is a concept album, the second side of which consists of a three part side long suite. The underlying themes explore Todd's interests in spiritual matters in far greater detail than he had revealed up until this point. While there are no Rundgren classics as such, the album (and bonus single) form an unusually (for Todd) cohesive whole.

The album opens with "Healer", a strange concoction of Middle Eastern type chants and Rundgren pop. It actually works reasonably well, the by now familiar synth patterns in the background keeping things contemporary. Things continue in a similar vein with "Pulse" although the vocal arrangement here is slightly more intricate. "Flesh" slows things down a bit for a decent power ballad, initially with minimal accompaniment.

"Golden goose" is generally the least appreciated song here, and it is easy to see why. This jaunty ditty with a circus like backing and a whimsical feel does not sit easily with its peers. Had the song been one of the brief one minute items on "A wizard, A true star", I suspect no one would have minded; here though it rather outstays its welcome. "Compassion" restores normality in another mid-paced heart-felt ballad. The song would have fitted in well on the previous "Hermit of Mink Hollow", where it would have been by far the longest track!

The longest song on side one here is the 8+ minute "Shine". At first the song sounds a bit messy but this is down to the rather offbeat arrangement. The floating synths and melodic vocal refrain actually sit together well, creating one of Todd's more anthemic pieces.

Side two of the album is occupied entirely by "Healing", a three part suite running to 20 minutes (although my LP only actually has 2 track bands, parts 1 and 2 appearing as one track). The seven minute first part is a gorgeous, relaxed affair with a wonderful melody (which is reminiscent of Roxette's much later "Listen to your heart") and some great sax. Todd's falsetto vocals are the perfect complement to the hypnotic backing theme. Part 2 slows things down through a ponderous, almost folk mantra, the repetitive backing to which is quite similar to the start of "Tubular bells". The final part is effectively a reprise of part 1, with the same basic themes.

Rather than create another impossibly long LP such as "Initiation", two further tracks intended for the album are added as a bonus 7" single to the LP package. "Time heals", the A side, is a rather ordinary power pop number with a highly repetitive chorus. It is not really strong enough to make a successful single, and too light for a decent album track. "Tiny demons" is much better, with a feel similar to the middle section of "Healing". The instrumental arrangement of the song is the strongest of the entire set.

My main criticism of this album is the predominance of rather cheap sounding keyboards, which generally have the feel of a budget keyboard bought for the average home. They tend lack the depth of sound which we associate with Todd, perhaps pointing towards deficiencies in the production. Admittedly, this album is a product of the early 1980's, where such sounds were very much the norm. We have always relied on Todd though to resist the norm in favour of setting his own standards. I should emphasise though that such aspects do not render the album disposable by any means. This is a fine album, indeed for some it is Todd at his best. I do no go that far, but I happily recommend it to those who enjoy the music of the maestro.

Report this review (#198505)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars The first side of this album is again bringing the listener to a kaleidoscope of musical styles which is quite disturbing to listen to. But since the first Todd album, it was mostly the case. So, the usual fan won't be surprised but the casual one who is taking the ride with "Healing" must be pretty uncomfortable with the offering.

The first trio of songs are all but memorable; especially the weak and experimental "Pulse". But what about "Flesh"? A weak complaint all the way through. The man was gifted in writing fine rock ballads but I am quite disappointed with this one.

The golden press next key is best used while reaching "Golden Goose". Ouch! It hurts. A lot. My son Daniel just entered my home office while I was writing this review (I swear that this is true). He told me: "what's this sh*t"? I can only agree?

As I have mentioned earlier on, Todd's melodic angle is yet again available during "Compassion". The only bearable song so far. But nothing great to be honest. A mellow rock ballad. But after all this junk, it has to be received as a nice gift. Maybe somewhat syrupy.

"Shine" is the best moment of this album. If you are looking for some classically built song: pass you have to pass your way. This one is full of extravaganza and fantasy. Wild synths and beat, decadent, bizarre, attractive. Innovative and different. Todd at his best. Finally!

The epic title track is divided into three parts of which the first is a rather conventional pop rock affair: nice sax, but fairly average melody and song writing. This is not at all an epic as we could have expected from a prog angle. After all, Donna Summer also released some epics, right?

This song smells as boredom for most of it; and even some Far-Eastern partitions, although welcome, won't change my mind. The second part of this "Healing" is still better, but at no time captive of my senses. These are twenty minutes not very well spent, I'm afraid. Not a second to blow you away, not a moment to say "wow!". Nothing great, unfortunately. I would call this as just a long song. Without too much content.

This is not a very good work. A basic and average rock album like there are tons of. The judgement is not being altered with both "bonus" tracks which are quite avoidable.

Two stars.

Report this review (#255539)
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars 'hi' album i' a plea'ant, but mo'tly unmemorable 'et from 'odd Rundgren. A' on many of hi' album', 'odd play' all of the in'trument'. And that'' one of the drawback'. He 'eem' to gave gotten caught up in the new 'ynthe'izer technology of the time, and there i' very little of hi' 'oaring guitar work. And 'ome of the drum machine 'ound' are downright chee'y.

'he highlight of the album i' the three-part Healing, originally 'ide two of the record (the la't two 'ong' were on a 7" 45-rpm 'ingle in cluded with the album). On thi' piece, or 'et of piece', 'odd doe' 'ome wandering into prog territory. While 'till keeping it fairly light, there are 'ound' that 'wirl in and out of the mu'ic.

Another nicely done 'ong i' 'iny Demon', from the above mentioned 45, where 'odd 'ing' about the "demon'" that cau'e him to make mi'take'. Funny, and li'tenable.

'hi' i'n't a bad album, but it'' not where one 'hould 'tart when getting into Rundgren'' mu'ic.

Report this review (#361920)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a bit beyond me why this album has been so overlooked in Rundgren's catalogue. The album is certainly a product of its time, which means that anyone who doesn't like the sound of '80s synthesizers won't find much to enjoy here. It's also true that, because the songs are a bit more low-key than Rundgren's usual fare, they aren't as immediately catchy as many parts of his catalogue are. However, it's unique in Rundgren's catalogue and, as far as I can ascertain, the whole canon of recorded music.

Rundgren eases you into the album with straightforward synth-pop songs, and the last two songs on the CD version are also straightforward synth-pop (they are included as a separate 7" single on the vinyl, which I will discuss later). However, the midsection of the album - "Shine" and the title track - is an effective fusion of synth-pop and progressive rock, and I haven't heard anything else like them. Perhaps someone like Mike Oldfield was attempting similar material at the time, but there's an atmosphere here that's somewhat different from that of Oldfield's work.

I think part of the reason this album often gets overlooked is because it demands too much patience from listeners who are expecting simple pop songs, but it also contrasts with the flashy showmanship of Rundgren's mid- seventies material. "Healing" runs for twenty minutes, and while it's far from a straightforward verse-chorus-bridge pop song (the song is divided into three tracks because they are discrete parts of the work, not merely for ease of CD navigation), it also doesn't rely on displays of instrumental virtuosity like the best of Utopia's material and Rundgren's mid-'70s solo work did. But that's not the point - the point is to take the listener on an elaborate, emotional musical journey that simply wouldn't have been possible in the form of a three-minute pop song.

The title track is clearly going to get the most attention here, though "Shine" may actually hew closer to what is generally expected of prog - it has a more complex arrangement and is closer to, well, rock music. Along with the title track, it is a highlight of the album. The remaining songs are very good pop compositions, though. For me, the standouts among these are "Flesh", which details Rundgren's thoughts on human institutions such as the law, "Compassion", about exactly what its title specifies, and the final two tracks, "Time Heals" and "Tiny Demons".

Rundgren placed these last two songs on a separate 7" single with the vinyl edition of the album, despite the fact that the single combined with the album's B-side (total length 26:40) is actually shorter than the album's A-side (27:08). While this could have been done for reasons of audio fidelity, Rundgren has never been one to shy away from lengthy album sides (the A-side and B-side of Initiation, infamously, run for 32:08 and 35:20 respectively, making it one of the longest single LPs ever released), so it was more likely done to emphasise that they are intended to be considered separately from the title track. They do feel somewhat different in tone from the rest of the album, but I almost always play them after the B-side regardless. "Time Heals" is probably the catchiest song on the entire album, and "Tiny Demons" is a beautiful, subdued ballad that was used on Miami Vice, a TV series often noted for making superb music choices.

Overall, not everyone will love this album, and it demands a lot of patience from the listener before it begins to deliver its gifts. However, it's one of my favourite works Rundgren has released, and I find it comforting in a way that few other musical works can manage. I'm going to give it four stars for my review here because not everything here can be properly considered to be progressive rock, but if I were rating purely on the basis of music quality, I'd award it five stars without hesitation.

Report this review (#1701335)
Posted Sunday, March 12, 2017 | Review Permalink

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