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Todd Rundgren - The Individualist CD (album) cover

THE INDIVIDUALIST

Todd Rundgren

 

Crossover Prog

2.15 | 14 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Wow, needs at least 5 megabytes of hard disc space

I knew I had this album, but when I went to play it, it still took me half an hour to find it. The reason, it comes in an odd sized cardboard box which does not lend itself to storage alongside the usual size of CD case. The box is clearly designed to sit easily along side the other software packages of the period, thus emphasising the advanced features of the disc. Ironically, those advanced features, including interactive facilities allowing the listener the opportunity to remix and re-sequence the album, are what now dates the product. The requirement that the user upgrade to at least Windows 3.1 with 8 mb of Ram and 5 mb of hard disc space for example makes the album seem far older than its 12 or so years. The implication is of course that the "advanced" features will become obsolete much sooner than the music itself, indeed the disc will not run on my far from current PC.

This is the second and final album credited to TRI (Todd Rundgren Interactive) rather than simply to Todd. With a title like "The individualist" it is fair to assume that Todd does everything himself, and with the exception of some help with the choir vocals on one track, this is indeed the case. Todd writes, sings, produces, engineers and plays all the instruments throughout the album.

We should though turn to the music itself, which can be listened to on a conventional CD player in the usual way. Fortunately, the rapping which blighted the previous "No world order" is kept firmly in check, although it is not eradicated altogether. The opening "Tables will turn" has a small section for example, but really in the form of reciting the coming lyric. At almost 9 minutes, this is the second longest track on the album, although it remains a pretty straightforward mid-paced pop rock song throughout. While the song is a bit of a grower, it is pretty standard Todd fare.

"If not now, when?" initially sounds like it is to be a softer Rundgren ballad, but the soft verses counterpoint with some pretty hard repetitive choruses. "Family values" is the only track to feature anyone other than Todd, a group of vocalists adding some gospel style mantras to the song. The lyrics deal with a range of family type issues and their implications for the wider community. "The ultimate crime" continues in a similarly cynical way suggesting that the ultimate crime is such things as "living in discontent", "to think its just a dream", "being irreverent", and "dropping the sacrament", but ultimately "not to care". This is the first song on the album to afford Todd the opportunity to give one of his impassioned vocal performances, and he takes the opportunity superbly, sounding rather like Scott Walker at times.

"Espresso (all jacked up)" has some truly nonsense lyrics quite unbefitting of Todd even at his corniest worst. The song is rather like one of 10CC dodgy, all too clever numbers which leave me completely cold. The 7 minute title track which follows opens with some light rap leading to an irritatingly repetitive chorus. The phrase "I am the individualist" is repeated at least 28 times during the song! The slightly jazzy instrumental arrangement of the track is actually quite appealing, but this is one occasion where Todd should have kept quiet. "Cast the first stone" is equally as repetitive, to the extent that the lyric sheet in the CD booklet abbreviates the words of the title to Ctfe to save space. The song is an offbeat number with heavy, almost punk, overtones.

"Beloved infidel" changes the mood completely, with mellotron like keyboards and deep bass providing a lush blanket for a beautiful soft piece. The acoustic guitar solo and strong melody are reminiscent of Dire Strait's "Brothers in arms". "Temporary sanity" maintains the less harsh mood while returning to Todd's pop orientation. At 9 minutes, "Woman's world" is the longest track on the album and the longest Todd has recorded for some time. While the song has a slightly more complex structure, it remains a fairly standard Rundgren number. Instrumentally, there are similarities with the final Genesis material but yet again the relentless repetition can get somewhat tedious.

While "The individualist" is undoubtedly an improvement from "No world order", it is on a par Todd's "Lite" reworking of that album. While it is pleasing that the use of rap has been kept firmly in check this time, the constant overuse of repetition distracts from what are otherwise a reasonable selection of Rundgren compositions. Certainly not the best place to start with Todd, but fans should find something worth hanging on to here.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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