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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…