Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by Nina Anatchkova
Todd Rundgren has played garage rock in Nazz, Beatley pop music solo (Something/Anything? being a prime example) and proggy fusion (not unlike Mahavishnu Orchestra) in Utopia, and he produced everybody from Meatloaf to Patty Smith.
And I have a theory. With a few exceptions, songs by Todd Rundgren mostly have the same effect on me. I think that if the composition was a little better (more polished, more conventional) and his singing perhaps a little more distinctive, he would have had far greater commercial success.
At the same time, the actual arranging, playing and production is superb. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Todd is very popular as an outside producer, but did not make it that big with his own music. Some of his solo albums or songs (such as Onomatopoeia on this album) actually suggest they’re meant to be a showcase for his producer skills, rather than being an artist in his own right. That’s my theory, and I stick with it.
However, this album contains a few of the exceptions, most notably Can We Still Be Friends, which is not just perfectly produced, it’s one of the better pop songs of the 70’s. On the whole I would consider this (power) pop, with energetic rockers and ballads that would fit Billy Joel very well and a few slightly more symphonic sounding tracks that move rather too close to Boston or Foreigner territory.
But how could anyone not like Lucky Guy, with ‘bagpipe guitar solo’? Or All the Children Sing, with its joyous refrain (very much resembling Songs of Praise by Roy Wood on Boulders)? Or the silly sound effects in Onomatopoeia? (eat that, mr Roger Waters!). Hurting for you, that might have been a major R’n’B hit if sung by Al Green? Check it out, I’d say…