Artist: Todd Rundgren
Album: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
Label: Purple Pyramid
Release Date: 08/26/2016
On his recordings, Todd Rundgren tends to present himself as one of rock’s most dedicated musical chameleons. Indeed, when he dubbed his fourth solo album “A Wizard, A True Star” it foresaw a career that was to blossom in different directions as the years rolled by. More than four decades later, that title has come to sum up one of the most prolific careers in rock’s entire lexicon. There is practically nothing Rundgren hasn’t done, whether as a performer, producer, engineer or video pioneer.
Nevertheless, even as he has gotten older, Rundgren’s output has become eclectic and in turn more challenging for fans as well. After a spate of recent releases that showed him diversifying his palette even further, he has shown renewed enthusiasms for the experimentation that defined his work with Utopia and individual outings such as The Individualist and Nearly Human.
In his recent performances however, Todd still hews his approach towards what the majority of his fans most want to hear, that is a broad cross section of his more than 45 year career. That is the specific reason why An Evening With Todd Rundgren – Live at the Ridgefield, a CD/DVD combo, provides such a perfect primer. Not only does it capture his uniquely impish humor and tongue-in-cheek attitude — a still youthful zest that remains unencumbered by age — but it also finds him giving due reverence to the signature songs that brought him to the fore to begin with. It includes his commercial breakthroughs “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light” and “Can We Still Be Friends,” as well as other career highlights like “Bang the Drum All Day,” “Black Maria,” “Love of the Common Man” and “Love in Action,” as well as a special bonus in a pair of reworked classics from his early Nazz catalogue, “Open My Eyes” and “Kiddie Boy.”
The latter two tracks define the consistency in Rundgren’s catalogue that often times escapes the casual observer. When he relinquishes his bold eccentricity and reverts to pure rock, his dynamic is as driven as any of his more capable contemporaries. That is a focus that keeps his zest vital and invigorated, and whether listening to the CD or watching the companion DVD, it is clear that’s where Todd finds his greatest inspiration. Add to that a superior band — longtime bassist Kasim Sulton, the Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, guitarist Jesse Gress and keyboard player John Ferenzik — and An Evening With Todd Rundgren becomes one remarkable showcase of a genuinely legendary career. Like the eternal glow emitted from his bleached-streaked locks, long may he rock with such relish.
– Lee Zimmerman