Tuesday, 23 September 2014

"Initiation" by TODD RUNDGREN (2014 Edsel 'Deluxe Edition' Hardback Book CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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Back in May 2014 - Edsel of the UK began celebrating TODD RUNDGREN albums with ‘Deluxe Edition’ packaging upgrades – hardback book editions of key albums in his extensive back catalogue. The first three were "Something/Anything?"(a double-album from 1972), “A Wizard A True Star” (a single album from 1973) and "Todd" (another double from 1974). So here’s the next batch of three for September 2014 – “Runt” - his debut solo album from December 1970 on Ampex Records now extended into a double-CD edition with bonuses – “Hermit Of Mink Hollow “ from May 1978 on Bearsville Records – and this – “Initiation” from June 1975. Here are the Internal Eyes, Cosmic Treatises and Stellar Fires…

UK released 9 September 2014 (16 September in the USA) - Edsel EDSA 5032 (Barcode 740155503239) is a single-CD reissue of their October 2011 twinning with “Faithful” - only this time it’s in a case bound hardback book (67:40 minutes). The attached 12-page booklet within has liner notes by Paul Myers from his superb tome "A Wizard, A True Star – Todd Rundgren In The Studio" and is an excellent read. The front and rear sleeve artwork of the June 1975 Bearsville vinyl album is here (BS 6957 in the USA and K 55504 in the UK) – as is the inner sleeve that came with original copies. The hard card case bound book has a details sticker on the outer shrink-wrap that easily peels off (if you want to attach it to the book cover). There are no extras.

There is no new remaster that I can hear – this is the Edsel October 2011 version - that in itself was a Peter Rynston UK master using the 1993 American Rhino remasters. Don’t get me wrong – the sound is superb. And famous at the time as being the longest vinyl album ever made at 67:40 minutes – the original LP was always a dreadful compromise as a listening experience. So the CD remaster alters all of that and so much for the better. The only upgrade here is the cool-looking book packaging – which is a rather lovely thing to behold…

I loved November 1974’s “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia” – for me one of the true Prog masterpieces of the Seventies (with “The Ikon” on Side 2) – so I was frothing at the gash when this album came out. But it’s a tale of two cities – the brilliant and the indulgent. Side 1 is superb - opening with the catchy “Real Man”. It was actually released as a single in September 1975 with “Prana” the cool opening guitar/synth combo bit on Side 2 as its B-side. There’s even a stab at boogie in “The Death Of Rock’n’Roll” and the frantic guitar soloing in “Initiation” is amazing. The lovely vibes of “Eastern Intrigue” are peppering with humorous lyrics but Todd genius comes in the shape of the gorgeous “Fair Warning” – as brill a Rundgren song as he’s ever written (lyrics above).

But then unfortunately you’re hit with the sort of indulgence that only an artist with total control can produce – the 35-minute synth/keyboard extravaganza that is the whole of Side 2 – “A Treatise On Cosmic Fire”. He plays every imaginable keyboard in his own Studio and it’s hard to swallow in one sitting. There are cool parts like the opening “Prana” which is returned to in the dying minutes of the piece – but most of it is endless wailing synth solos that irritate in stead of illuminating. It’s not all un-listenable nonsense of course -but once past the opening eight minutes or so - it’s not far off of it either. Ah the Seventies…

So there you have it – two sides to every story. And yet even now – nearly 40 years after the event – I still get a kick out of just looking at its sleeve… 

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