Todd Rundgren

Crossover Prog

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Todd Rundgren Initiation album cover
3.73 | 39 ratings | 7 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Real Man (4:25)
2. Born to Synthesize (3:40)
3. The Death of Rock and Roll (3:48)
4. Eastern Intrigue (5:06)
5. Initiation (7:05)
6. Fair Warning (8:07)
7. A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (36:00)
Intro - Prana - 4:21
II. The Fire of Mind - Or Solar Fire - 3:50
III. The Fire of Spirit - Or Electric Fire - 7:33
I. The Internal Fire - Or Fire by Friction - 19:38
1. MŻl‚dh‚ra: The Dance of Kundalini
2. Sv‚dhishth‚na: Bam, Bham, Mam, Yam, Ram, Lam, Thank You, Mahm
3. ManipŻra: Seat of Fire
4. An‚hata: The Halls of Air
5. Vishudda: Sounds Beyond Ears
6. Ajn‚: Sights Beyond Eyes
7. Brahmarandhra: Nirvana Shakri
Outro - Prana

Total Time 67:35


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Todd Rundgren / vocals, guitar, sitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, percussion
- Rick Derringer / guitar, bass
- Bob Rose / guitar
- Dave Sanborn, Edgar Winter / saxophone
- Roger Powell nose flute, synthesizer
- Moogy Klingman / organ
- Ralph Schuckett / clavinet
- John Siegler, Dan Hartman / bass
- Kevin Ellman, John Wilcox, Roy Markowitz, Bernard Purdie, Rick Marotta, Chris Parker, Barry Lazarowitz / drums
- Barbara Burton, Lee Pastora / percussion

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TODD RUNDGREN Initiation ratings distribution

(39 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (31%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

TODD RUNDGREN Initiation reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A treat and a comic mire

"Initiation" arguably stands as Todd Rundgren's most progressive release either as a solo artist or as a member of Utopia. By this time, Todd had fully realised the potential of the synthesiser as a means to achieve the sounds he was looking for; happily this coincided with a period which produced some of his most inspired writing.

The album can be divided neatly into two distinct parts, each of which occupies one side of the original LP. Such was the length of these sides that each is only marginally shorter than most full LPs. The total running time for this album (a single disc) is over 67 minutes, giving credibility to its claim to be the longest ever LP. Such was the length of the album, and the associated production issues, that the sleeve included a recommendation that the buyer tape the whole thing and listen to it that way! It also warned that a worn or damaged stylus would ruin the disc immediately, duh.

The first side is a bona fide band production, indeed had he been so inclined this could have formed Utopia's second album. A number of the musician's who played on Utopia's debut also perform here and the music is a natural development of the extended prog numbers which featured on the 1974 release. The six tracks, which run to well over 30 minutes offer a diverse selection of masterfully crafted songs which are then treated to an array of superb arrangements.

The albums bursts into life with "Real man", one of the most commercial songs Todd has recorded, but at the same time one of the most appealing. The introductory phased keyboards lead to a melodic summary of his life to date in 4 minutes. The subtle vocals see Todd singing falsetto when representing his childhood, the phasing returning from time to time over the floating synths and toe tapping rhythm.

"Born to synthesise" alters the mood completely. Here we have an a-cappella performance by Todd enhanced only through the use of echo and voice distortion. At first the song seems totally indulgent, but it sticks in the mind, becoming as compulsive as it is irrational.

"The death of rock and roll" is a Utopia song through and through, with Todd clearly enjoying himself while slipping in some screaming lead guitar. Things settle down again for "Eastern intrigue", a lighter piece which moves through ballad and 10CC like pop in a melting pot of religious cynicism.

The title track reverts to the upbeat style of "Real man", but here we have a magnificently uplifting 7 minute epic. The song finds Todd at his most optimistic with lines such as "love has come, over under it shall be revealed", and "When your star grows bright and fills all of the world with its light, unification". The middle section of the track features sax and synth solos, the latter by Utopian Roger Powell. This divine first side closes with its longest track, "Fair warning". Starting with a simple acoustic guitar melody introducing a Chi-Lites(!) like spoken section, the song reveals itself as one of Todd's most passionate, heartfelt performances. The lyrics here include the wonderful stanza "When you lay down your life in them grooves, you know you're bound to get scratched sometimes". The legendary Edgar Winter adds some fine sax to the song as it slowly builds before concluding with to a brief reprise of "Real man" to form the perfect ending to a near perfect side.

Having experienced over half an hour of superlative music, we turn the disc over to find that side two consists of single piece running to 36 minutes. In some ways though, this is the complete antipathies of side one. The only performer here is Todd himself. There are no lyrics, indeed the whole piece is far more ambient and improvisational. Although the suite is divided into three sections (plus an intro and outro), one of which is then further sub-divided into seven parts, the piece is completely abstract. Hence, it does not really matter that part one comes after parts 2 and 3! Those with a bent for such styles as Jazz rock/Fusion, Krautrock and Avant-garde should find the time to pass by here. While the passing of time may now have rendered obsolete some of the sounds which would have been new to the ear in the early 1970's, this is a truly progressive suite which sees Todd exploring with great aplomb territories we would not normally associate with him. I have seen it suggested (but not substantiated) that on the LP the whole recording has been speeded up slightly to make it fit on the side.

"Initiation" is an album of superlatives, excesses, contrasts and indulgences. On that basis alone, this is a great prog album. The fact that it also contains some of Todd's best songs can only mean that this is an essential album.


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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#198272) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A little bit of pop, a lot of rock and a ton of prog. What a pleasant surprise this album is!

It's pretty clear to see that progressive rock is not globally accepted by the critics. This album was bashed and slashed when it came out and on AllMusic.com it's been rated with a rather disgruntled two out of five stars. A little bit harsh considering that this album is a hugely impressive feat in both music and engineering. In the days of vinyl this album was released totaling at 68-minutes, that would fill a cd by today's length. While the second side of the album is probably the most fragile side of vinyl to ever be released to have to respect that Rundgren was able to make a side that was twice as along as just about anything released in its day. It's like having all of Close To The Edge on one side of vinyl.

This all has nothing to do with the music itself, of course. But this is probably Todd's best album for those who are looking for something closer to his days with Utopia. While there is some more conventional pop/rock songs on the album there's just as much pure progressive rock that will make your head spin. But even the more conventional songs are done with a prog flair, keyboards abound and moments of quirk that make for a surprising listen time after time. Real Man is a wonderful, if short, keyboard laden track that has a pleasant chorus and some good hooks. The a-Capella Born To Synthesize is well done, even if it almost seems long at 3-minutes in length and it leads right into the heaviest song on the album - a rebuttal against the poor reviews that he had been getting - The Death of Rock And Roll. The quirkiest of the more conventional songs is Eastern Intrigue a song with strange vocal melodies that is somewhat slow moving, but still a good listen.

And then the album takes a quantum leap from good to amazing. Initiation is the album's first longer track, totaling at 7-minutes, and it's a keyboard driven blast-fest that is just as fun as it is complex. Layers upon layers of sound move you along until the drum breakdown which then turns into a multi-instrument segment before moving right back into the song at full power. Wow. Some critiques of this song have said that it, ''doesn't go anywhere'' - and these people obviously were not listening... at all. Fair Warning is a touch weaker, although still very good - a more emotional track that moves through a few moods over its time before finally ending, giving way to the end of the first side.

The second side of the album has got to be the longest, and one of the best sides recorded for a prog rock record. Totaling at 36-minutes, A Treatise On Cosmic Fire is a multi-part instrumental suite that could not have been done better. Although the middle sections are sometimes slower than the absolutely mindblowing opening segment of the song, it makes for a killer listen again and again as you discover more and more layers to the song. The recurring themes at the beginning and end of the song are catchy enough that you'll want to hear the album again just to get it out of your head (where it will undoubtedly get stuck) while the middle segments will just make you drift along over a sea of excellent prog.

This is probably the most typically 'progressive' album by Rundgren thanks to the length of the showcase track, and it certainly deserves a listen from anyone who had an inch of liking for Utopia. An excellent addition to any prog collection, this one is going to get 4 stars out of 5 - recommended for those who like a little bit of pop in their prog, but on an album that has more than half an hour of pure, unfiltered progressive rock. Very impressive.


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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#198362) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review by Chicapah
4 stars One of the many things I admire about Todd Rundgren is his refusal to be pigeon-holed into a certain genre or category. Over the years he has steadfastly defied labeling by sticking his schnozzle into all sorts of musical styles without regard to what the big wigs and critics thought about that approach. By the same token, that independent and unpredictable streak of his might tend to make some proggers wary of blindly purchasing one of his albums in fear that they might end up with a collection of lite pop ditties on the order of "Hello, It's Me," thus causing much gnashing of teeth and/or incurable constipation. I understand. But when it comes to "Initiation" I assure you that this is exactly why the Runt is included in the artist roster presented on this website. It is the most progressive of all his offerings from start to finish.

While the music you'll encounter is of the highest quality and typical of the lofty standards he's maintained for decades, it's the intelligent and clever lyrics he delivers that make this album his best. Especially in light of the fact that the songs, for the most part, address the spiritual realm. Often artists who do that take themselves and the subject matter way, WAY too seriously and the whole endeavor becomes an embarrassing, preachy foray into dogma of one brand or another. Not so here. Todd's tongue-in-cheek yet tasteful sense of humor graciously saves "Initiation" from that dismal fate and the listener is richly rewarded for it.

The opener, "Real Man," is a prime example. It's a superb, well-structured tune heavy on the synthesizers and keyboards with slick doo-wop background vocals adding a touch of classy nostalgia but it's the way he approaches one's becoming aware of the soul that resides beneath the flesh that makes it great. Back in the old days young boys were enticed to enroll in courses like the one advertised in the comics by Charles Atlas in order to transform themselves from wimps into muscle- brained, macho he-men that could pummel sand-kicking bullies into a coma. Here Rundgren uses that trite mind-set to delve to a deeper level with lines like ".some so-called friends put me down/and they pity me for trying/bad emotions push me around/but the vision shines on and on/it will shine when we all are gone/and I'd like to add a little sparkle while I'm here/light it up/way down inside me/there's a REAL man." Rarely do inspirational songs of this ilk manage to be this ennobling and light-hearted at the same time.

The title of "Born to Synthesize" says volumes about where Todd's oval-shaped head was at in '75. This vocal-only, new-age gospel number is laden with state-of-the-art studio and synth effects (of that era) and it's a short detour off the beaten trail that works better than you think it will. The next cut, the hard-driving rocker "The Death of Rock and Roll," sent out a dire warning to the musicians of the mid 70s that conformity, looks-over-substance and crass commercialism was threatening to destroy the adventurous, progressive core of rock. (Turned out that Todd was a true prophet, no?). "Just the other day I got a call from a friend/'I heard what you been playin' and I think it's a sin/why can't you make a living like the rest of the boys/instead of filling your head with all that synthesized noise?'" he sings. Rundgren's guitars blaze a wide swath throughout and the dramatic bridge supplies a timely interlude but it's his impassioned pleas of "I thought we were supposed to be FREE!" and his disgusted observation that "we all got sold" that really makes it hit home. His wild & wooly but woefully self- conscious wail at the close is downright hilarious.

"Eastern Intrigue" is one of the most original tunes Todd ever produced. His satiric slant on the well- intentioned yet convoluted flower-power enlightenment fads of that age is spot on and brilliant. Early on he inquires "I'm on my knees/one question, please/will the real God please stand up?" and, after delivering snarky lines like "sell your wife and pawn your heater/buy the new Bhagavad-Gita/do the pranayama till your spine gets sore." he wearily asks "will the real God please sit down?" The tune's strong dynamics and the swirling, cosmic atmosphere he conjures during the finale are terrific. He gets his guru on for the no-funny-business, now-I'm-being-serious "Initiation" that follows and it's seven minutes of pristine prog. Drummers Bernard Purdie and Rick Marotta, along with bassist John Siegler, lay down a fantastic track peppered with tight accents and the incidental guitar licks processed through a synth that Rundgren tosses in sting like a giant wasp. After a cool breakdown section where the drums and percussion front a tolling bell Dave Sanborn's sax, Todd's guitar and Roger Powell's synthesizer knock the studio doors off their hinges with sizzling solos one after another. Here Rundgren declares that, despite popular trends, ".there's one thing I know/where my spirit tells me to go/that's where I must go" and that takes big ones, Hoss.

It was a spark of pure genius to preface the soulful, R&B stylizations of "Fair Warning" with a droll, faux Barry White baritone. "You know.., wishing won't make it so/hoping won't do it/praying won't do it/religion won't do it/philosophy won't do it/the supreme court won't do it/the president and the congress won't do it/the H bomb won't do it/the sun and the moon won't do it/God won't do it and I certainly won't do it./that leaves you/YOU have to do it." Okay, so it's the least proggy thing on the disc but the smooth, bluesy feel and the lush background singing (all Todd) is nothing to turn your back on and guest Edgar Winter's white-hot saxophone licks keep the momentum from flagging for even a moment. Rundgren tells us that "you can say what you will about me/talk is cheap and I don't mind/when you lay your life down in them grooves/you know you're bound to get scratched up sometime." The sudden jump back into a reprise of "Real Man" serves as an excellent coda.

The album's large-scale instrumental opus, "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire," is an impressive undertaking for any one man to attempt. In that exciting period of musical history the synthesizer was finally coming into its own and brave artists like Isao Tomita were actively pushing the envelope of what that technology could accomplish by recreating classical works by the likes of Holst and Debussy. It's obvious that Todd was inspired by pioneers like Tomita to compose his own modern symphony and devote untold hours in the confines of the studio putting it together. The result is good but not great. The mystical intro leads to an energetic, three-part harmony guitar theme that's uplifting. Thickly- layered keyboards provide a dense backdrop to some fiery guitar lines, then the whole thing drops to an often arrhythmic but ever-flowing river of synths. A bouncy, calliope-like aura ensues, followed by a Stravinsky-ish section that is moody and expertly executed. It's all grand stuff but at the 16-minute mark what sounds like a herd of famished pachyderms galloping toward a peanut plantation begins to rumble and the emergence of an ominous, heavy guitar riff signals that a radical change of direction is in store. It's at this juncture that Runt gets a little too infatuated with the percussive aspects of his synths and, while it's interesting at first, it grows tiresome and noisy post haste. (The real shame's that Todd is playing his hiney off on his guitar but the incessant clanking in the foreground chokes it to death.) After 5 long minutes of this barrage you get a brief recess in the form of some psychedelic experimentation but the nerve-wracking onslaught soon returns for an encore of aural annoyance. Finally Rundgren relents and revisits the heavy riff but by now the epic has become overly self- indulgent as he goes wandering through his personal myspace. At 33:33 he resurrects the initial theme and takes you out on an upswing. It's all prog, for sure, but not always pleasing.

Had Todd exercised a modicum of restraint and lopped off about ten to twelve minutes of the aforementioned extravaganza, replacing it with another regular-sized song of the progressive persuasion, he just might have had a bonafide masterpiece on his hands. As it is, one can cruise comfortably through the album with joyful ease and simply terminate the journey when one has had enough of his lengthy "Treatise." Or not, if that's the sort of thing that melts the butter on your biscuit. Either way, "Initiation" is without a doubt the prolific Mr. Rundgren's finest hour (plus 7:40, to be exact) and is well-deserving of a spot in any progger's repertoire. 4.3 stars.


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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#214663) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars After having released a very a very short double album, Todd offered an extremely long LP (probably one of the longest in the history, if not the longest one).

To say that I was impressed by this work would be exaggerated. And I am still not. As usual, Todd is playing several musical styles which conveys to a strange feeling of total dislocation.

Some pop, some basic rock'n'roll, some soul (which is actually the best of side one with the long "Fair Winning"). But I've suffered quite a bunch while listening to the electronic "Born To Synthesize" as well as the jazzy "Eastern Intrigue".

I would lie if I would tell you that the long suite featured on the B-side of this album is by all means exciting. Quite weird, and actually much more a collection of several parts (which it is ) rather that a constructed and performing whole. The longest section "The Internal Fire" is the only one I can cope with. It is much more on the eclectic prog side and far away from his earlier pop and rock ballad works.

It is much more experimental and if you are looking for melody you should pass your way. At times it sounds as a "Santana" fusion item, at times as a glorious synth innovation. It is an extreme piece of music which needs several listening to be absorbed accordingly.

I rate this album with three stars only thanks to this almost twenty minutes portion (which is less than a third of the album). This release is quite difficult to approach (as would be some "Utopia" works).


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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#253861) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars From a prog standpoint, this is one of Todd Rundgren's best albums. In fact, if you don't count the albums recorded under the "Utopia" band name, this is his most progressive.

The least progressive track on the album is Real Man. And while it has many aspects of Todd's pop songs, it has a sophistication that should make it a pleasing listen for a prog fan. Born To Synthesize, performed with heavily treated vocal tracks, is a great intro to The Death Of Rock And Roll a great hard rock song, with a few cool twists.

Eastern Intrigue is a humorous, but well played song about the abundance of spiritual solutions in the world. Initiation follows. It's an energetic prog piece that comes close to the elaborate songs on the first Utopia album. And Fair Warning, is a beautiful, soul inspired song, that brings the first LP side to a strong conclusion.

The second side of the LP is a masterpiece. Performed entirely by Todd, this 36 minute work of wonder is simply amazing, not only because it somehow was made to fit on a side of vinyl, but in the fantastic guitar and keyboard work throughout. There is nothing I can compare this with.


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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#386388) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review by Matti
3 stars No doubt this comes closest to UTOPIA in Rundgren's solo output. For some part it's one helluva prog album - and probably the longest single vinyl ever made? - but several things bring it down from glorious heights. Let's see track by track. 'Real Man' is an effective synth-heavy rocker. Not very proggy but OK. 'Born to Synthesize' is almost accapella and the vocals are synthetically treated; the song brings to mind some 80's hard rock acts (I'm not expert in that field but maybe stg like Whitesnake, Van Halen or Def Leppard?). I could imagine a cocky vocalist with long, curly, blond hair doing this sort of performance in a concert. 'Death of Rock and Roll' is noisy and ugly, makes me wish the title was true!

The three remaining songs on the first side are very good and also pretty proggy. The title track gives an amazing jazz-rock rollercoaster ride, not far from the best of Frank Zappa (e.g. One Size Fits All) but with much finer vocal work. Yes, I like Todd's voice, even though he sometimes uses it over-the-top. He sounds a lot like Daryl Hall (the "blue eyed soul" duo Hall & Oates). My favourite here is 'Fair Warning' which goes in a more relaxed tempo, and is very emotional. This album often sounds like it could have come out in the eighties; I'm not saying this negatively but I refer to the ultimate technical level of the production, and also to the bold, near-commercial feel in the music here and there. An album ahead of its time, sort of?

The 36-minute instrumental epic 'A Treatise on Cosmic Fire' is the crown jewel of the album - which also sinks it lower simultaneously. It has gorgeous sounds and it comes near to the same territory as Tangerine Dream's Force Majeure (1979), ie. excellent symphonic electronic prog rock. But it goes on and one far too long and totally loses the direction somewhere amidst the massive ending part, if not already earlier. The work then returns to 'Prana', the theme heard in the intro. If you enjoy fusion-tinged, modern sounding, Neo-ish prog and prefer Todd Rundgren's adventures in prog to his singer-songwriter stuff, check this one out!


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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#755058) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars This is some of Rundgrens' most out there and mixed style music. The album starts out with an Awesome starter REAL MAN. It almost brings him back to the earlier days where pop was his main thing. The rest of the side flows pretty good with mostly synth oriented songs and some that are almost Hea ... (read more)

Report this review (#199090) | Posted by pigman73 | Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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