Friday, 1 July 2016

"Hermit Of Mink Hollow" by TODD RUNDGREN (2014 Edsel 'Case Bound Book Edition CD' Reissue - Rhino/Peter Rynston Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Heartbreak’s Never Easy To Take..."

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 – "Initiation" from June 1975 (see review) and this - "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" from May 1978 on Bearsville Records – one of his most popular Seventies albums. Here are the people who can’t be friends…

UK released 9 September 2014 (16 September in the USA) - "Hermit of Mink Hollow: Deluxe Edition" by TODD RUNDGREN on Edsel EDSA 5033 (Barcode 740155503338) is a single-CD reissue of their February 2012 2CD set which combined  "Healing" and "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect" - only this time it's just the album straight in a 'Case Bound Hardback Book' Edition (35:48 minutes).

1. All The Children Sing
2. Can we Still Be Friends?
3. Hurting For You
4. Too Far Gone
5. Onomatopoeia
6. Determination
7. Bread [Side 2]
8. Bag Lady
9. You Cried Wolf
10. Lucky Guy
11. Out Of Control
12. Fade Away

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. There's photos of Rundgren's house on Mink Hollow Road in Lake Hill where he built his Utopia studio and recorded the album. The front and rear sleeve artwork of the May 1978 Bearsville vinyl album is here (BSR 6981 in the USA and K 55521 in the UK) – as are the lyrics. 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 February 2012 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. The only upgrade here is the cool-looking book packaging – which is a rather lovely thing to behold…

After the full-on Synth and Prog excesses of "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" (1974) and "Initiation" (1975) – Rundgren seemed to get back to 'tunes' with 1978's "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" – containing as it does some of his most beloved songs to this day – "Hurting For You" and the magical "Can We Still Be Friends?" (lyrics above). Other goodies include "Too Far Gone" – even the silly-word song "Onomatopoeia" is great fun. "Determination" combines that 'guitar-and-keyboards' sound he gets into a cool upbeat song that would have made a great single too. He called Side 2 "The Difficult Side" and it opens with a song about poverty – the brilliant "Bread". But my favourite – and for my money one of his greatest songs – is the aching homeless anthem "Bag Lady" ("...fifty cents rent goes pretty far when you live in a subway car…"). The hurting "Lucky Guy" is excellent too. It finishes with "Out Of Control" and "Fade Away" – a superb duo of layered deep melodies.

1978's "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" was a 'return to form' for many (a return to songs). Personally I think Rundgren never left – like Bowie he just went in musical directions most wouldn’t have tried - and I for one dug them all.

I’ve loved rehearing this gem of an LP again – a very sweet and pretty looking CD reissue…

PS: see also my reviews for "Runt" (1970), "Something/Anything?" (1972), "A Wizard, A True Star" (1973) and "Todd" (1974) in this series of 'Book Edition' CD reissues...

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