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Todd Rundgren - Healing CD (album) cover

HEALING

Todd Rundgren

 

Crossover Prog

3.00 | 37 ratings

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CassandraLeo
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.

CassandraLeo | 4/5 |

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