Todd Rundgren – Initiation (A Treatise On Cosmic Fire) (1975)

FrontCover1Todd Harry Rundgren (born June 22, 1948) is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and record producer who has performed a diverse range of styles as a solo artist and as a member of the band Utopia. He is known for his sophisticated and often-unorthodox music, his occasionally lavish stage shows, and his later experiments with interactive entertainment. He also produced music videos and was an early adopter and promoter of various computer technologies, such as using the Internet as a means of music distribution in the late 1990s.

A native of Philadelphia, Rundgren began his professional career in the mid 1960s, forming the psychedelic band Nazz in 1967. Two years later, he left Nazz to pursue a solo career and immediately scored his first US top 40 hit with “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (1970). His best-known songs include “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light” from Something/Anything? (1972), which get frequent air time on classic rock radio stations, and the 1983 single “Bang the Drum All Day”, which is featured in many sports arenas, commercials, and movie trailers. Although lesser known, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (1972) was influential to many artists in the power pop genre. His 1973 album A Wizard, a True Star remains an influence on later generations of bedroom musicians.

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Rundgren is considered a pioneer in the fields of electronic music, progressive rock, music videos, computer software, and Internet music delivery. He organized the first interactive television concert in 1978, designed the first color graphics tablet in 1980, and created the first interactive album, No World Order, in 1994. Additionally, he was one of the first acts to be prominent as both an artist and producer. His notable production credits include Badfinger’s Straight Up (1971), Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band (1973), the New York Dolls’ New York Dolls (1973), Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (1977) and XTC’s Skylarking (1986).

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Initiation is the sixth album by American musician Todd Rundgren, released May 23, 1975 on Bearsville Records. With this album, Rundgren fully embraced the synthesized prog sound he had begun exploring in more depth in his work with his band Utopia. However, unlike Utopia, in which Rundgren had limited himself to playing guitar, most of the synthesizers on Initiation were played and programmed by Rundgren himself.[not verified in body]

The album’s original inner sleeve included a technical note that stated: “Due to the amount of music on this disc (over one hour), two points must be emphasized. Firstly, if your needle is worn or damaged, it will ruin the disc immediately. Secondly, if the sound does seem not loud enough on your system, try re-recording the music onto tape. By the way, thanks for buying the album.”(by wikipedia)

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Returning to solo recording almost immediately after forming Utopia, Todd Rundgren continued with the synth-heavy prog rock he pioneered with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia on Initiation. The differences immediately resonate with “Real Man,” a terrific song that encapsulates not only his newfound fondness for electronics, but also his burgeoning spirituality and his knack for pop craft. “Real Man” is so good, it’s tempting to believe that the remainder of Initiation will follow in the same direction, resulting in an inspired, truly progressive fusion of classic Rundgren and synthesizers. As soon as the second track, an a cappella vocoder opus called “Born to Synthesize,” it’s clear that Rundgren has no intention of following that path, choosing to push the limits of synth technology and recorded music instead of constructing an album. Initiation suffers accordingly. At times, particularly on the first, song-oriented side, it is pretty intriguing, but too often, the results are simply frustrating because it doesn’t go anywhere. That’s particularly true with “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire,” a half-hour “suite” that comprises all of side two and doesn’t really go anywhere, despite hitting many stops along the way. It’s enough to erase the memory of “Real Man,” “Eastern Intrigue” and “Initiation,” the moments where it all comes together on the first half of the record, but another spin of the first side reveals that Rundgren could have made Initiation something special if he had the discipline. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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For fuck sake, this is music I can really dive into.

Side one is just what you expect from an art rock act:
an acapella track, a hard rock number, blue eyed soul,
pop, progressive rock…all covered in layers of synths and sound-effects.

But on side two things gets radical.

From this point on the musician loses control over the synthesizer, reversing their roles (poor Todd) and what’s left are 35 minutes of pure electronic dementia!

First, it’s pretty melodic, sometimes even mellow,
as if the machine was just testing its new toy.
As the track progresses, things only gets weirder and weirder until you think your sound system is damaged.

Towards the end, the opening tune repeats, symbolizing the artist’s triumph.
An overturn has occurred and now peace is restored.

Todd will never give his synth such freedom again. (by Eric_Iozzi)

In other words: A real weird album !

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Personnel:
Barbara Burton (percussion)
Rick Derringer (guitar, bass)
Kevin Ellman (drums)
Dan Hartman (bass)
Barry Lazarowitz (drums)
Moogy Klingman (RMI keyboard computer, organ)
Roy Markowitz (drums)
Rick Marotta (drums)
John Miller (bass)
Chris Parker (drums)
Lee Pastora (percussion)
Roger Powell (synthesizer treatments, nose flute)
Bernard Purdie (drums)
Bob Rose (guitar)
David Sanborn (saxophone)
Ralph Schuckett (clavinet)
John Siegler (bass)
Todd Rundgren (vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, percussion)
John Wilcox (drums)
Edgar Winter (saxophone)

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Tracklist:
01. Real Man 4.28
02. Born To Synthesize 3.46
03. The Death Of Rock And Roll 3.51
04. Eastern Intrigue 5.07
05. Initiation 7.07
06. Fair Warning 8.03

A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (Instrumental) 35.22
07. Intro – Prana 4.24
08. The Fire Of Mind – Or: Solar Fire 3.53
09. The Fire Of Spirit – Or: Electric Fire 7.35
10. The Internal Fire – or: Fire by Friction 19.37
10.1. Mûlâdhâra: The Dance of Kundalini
10.2. Svâdhishthâna: Bam, Bham, Mam, Yam, Ram, Lam, Thank You, Mahm
10.3. Manipûra: Seat of Fire
10.4. Anâhata: The Halls of Air
10.5. Vishudda: Sounds Beyond Ears
10.6. Ajnâ: Sights Beyond Eyes
10.7. Brahmarandhra: Nirvana Shakri
10.8. Outro – Prana

All songs are written by Todd Rundgren

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Todd Rundgren – Faithful (1976)

FrontCover1.JPGFaithful is Todd Rundgren’s seventh album, released in 1976.

Rundgren explained the motivation of the first side as treating rock music like European classical music, where a piece is performed over and over again in essentially the same way. The album’s core group of musicians—Rundgren, Wilcox, Siegler and Powell (all members of Utopia)—makes this a Utopia album in all but name, though other official Utopia albums featured songs written by other members of the band and not just by Rundgren.

The first side is dedicated to “faithful” re-recordings—near-replications of the originals—of some classic 1960s psychedelic-era songs, while side two comprised original material. ToddRundgren01.jpgCritic Robert Christgau called the second side Rundgren’s “clearest and most interesting set of songs since Something/Anything?” and magazine Rolling Stone’s rock critic John Milward said “the original material that fills side two is a more ambitious tribute to his influences and his strongest collection of pop tunes since his classic “Something/Anything”.”

The closing song, “Boogies (Hamburger Hell)”, opens with a reference to Beefsteak Charlie’s, which former Utopia drummer Kevin Ellman was currently operating along with his family.

The album was released in May 1976 with virtually no advertising. Bearsville Records’ president Paul Fiskin believed Rundgren fans would purchase just as many albums as his previous releases based on word of mouth. Only the remake of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” was released as a single and charted briefly but the album itself made it to #54 on the Billboard Album Charts. (by wikipedia)

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Todd Rundgren considered 1966 the beginning of his professional musical career, largely because the Nazz formed around that time. As a celebration, he recorded Faithful. Presumably, Faithful celebrates the past and the future by juxtaposing a side of original pop material with a side of covers. Actually, “covers” isn’t accurate — the six oldies that comprise the entirety of side one are re-creations, with Rundgren “faithfully” replicating the sound and feel of the Yardbirds (“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”), Bob Dylan (“Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine”), Jimi Hendrix (“If Six Was Nine”), the Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”) and the Beatles “(“Rain,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”). All of this is entertaining, to a certain extent, especially since it’s remarkable how close Rundgren comes to duplicating the very feel of the originals. Still, it’s hard to see it as much more than a flamboyant throwaway, especially when compared with the glorious second side. For the first time since Something/Anything?, Rundgren allows himself to write and — more importantly — record straight-ahead pop songs. Certainly, A Wizard, A True Star, Todd and Initiation had their share of great songs, but they weren’t delivered as pop songs; they were telegraphed as art. Here, Rundgren delivers pop and rock songs with ease, letting the melodies glide to the forefront. There are embellishments, of course, but the end result is a lushness that’s apparent even on the hard rockers. If Rundgren had made all of Faithful originals, it would have been a pure pop masterpiece. As it stands, it’s essential for the faithful — not only for hardcore Toddheads, but for devoted pop fans as well. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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The singles from this album

Personnel:
Roger Powell (trumpet, keyboards, rhythm guitar on 05.)
Todd Rundgren – guitar, vocals, all instruments on 09.)
John Siegler (bass, cello)
John Wilcox (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (Beck/McCarty/Page/Relf) 3.13
02. Good Vibrations (Love/Wilson) 3.44
03. Rain (Lennon/McCartney) 3.18
04. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine (Dylan) 3.27
05. If Six Was Nine (Hendrix) 4.56
06. Strawberry Fields Forever (Lennon/McCartney) 3.52
07. Black And White (Rundgren) – 4:42
08. Love Of The Common Man (Rundgren) – 3:35
09. When I Pray (Rundgren) – 2:58
10. Cliché (Rundgren) 4.01
11. The Verb “To Love” (Rundgren) 7.25
12. Boogies (Hamburger Hell) (Rundgren) 5.05

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Various Artists – Who Are You – An All-Star Tribute To The Who (2012)

FrontCover1.jpgStars of Progressive Rock, Classic Rock, Punk Rock, and Country gather together to pay tribute to one of the most successful and influential bands of all-time, The Who!

I have been a great fan of The Who for about 50 years so I was a bit hesitant to buy this tribute album as some of these type of records can be very ordinary, but this is a great one. Most songs are pretty faithful to the original songs while obviously stamping the guest artists own sound and style on them, with a 2 or 3 of horrendous exceptions (I won’t say which, you be the judge). And I reckon Leslie West’s guitar on The Seeker is worth the price alone. An enjoyable listen. One issue though – Don’t know what happened on, if I recall correctly, Eminence Front, the music just cuts out before the end unfortunately as this is a great song. An error in production no doubt that should never have made the final product. (by Mr. M)

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Who would have thought that Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Peter Banks (Yes, Flash) would render a performance of Magic Bush nearly equal to the original. Todd Rundgren and Iggy Pop fans need this album ! (by Brent W. Cook)

Indeed … a real unique tribute album for one of the most important bands in the history of rock … look at the line-up … unbelieveable …

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Alternate front + back cover

Personnel:
See booklet

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Tracklist:

Derek Sherinian, John Wetton, K. K. Downing:
01. Eminence Front 5.32

Nektar & Jerry Goodman:
02. Baba O’Riley 5.23

Mark Lindsay & Wayne Kramer:
03. I Can See For Miles 4.07

Huw Lloyd-Langton, Joe Elliott, Rick Wakeman:
04. Love Reign O’er Me 6.17

Dave Davies, Knox & Rat Scabies:
05. My Generation 3.29

The Raveonettes:
06. The Kids Are Alright 2.32

Sweet:
07. Won’t Get Fooled Again 7.41

Carmine Appice & Todd Rundgren:
08. Anyway Anyhow Anywhere 2.38

Iggy Pop:
09. I Can’t Explain 2.07

Pat Travers:
10. Behind Blue Eyes 3.43

Ginger Baker, Peter Banks & Peter Noone:
11. Magic Bus 3.20

Gretchen Wilson, Randy Bachman:
12. Who Are You 5.05

Brad Gillis, Mike Pinera, Terry Reid:
13. Pinball Wizard 3.03

David Cross, John Wesley:
14. Squeeze Box 2.49

38 Special, Ian Paice & Ted Turner:
15. Bargain 5.24

Joe Lynn Turner & Leslie West:
16. The Seeker 2.43

All songs written by Pete Townshend

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Various Artists – A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors – Light My Fire (2014)

FrontCover1.jpgSouthern California-based Purple Pyramid Records and producer, instrumentalist Billy Sherwood raised the bar with this tribute to The Doors by convening a star-studded cast, featuring classic rockers performing with progressive rock luminaries. And the jazz contingent is onboard, evidenced by jazz guitar great Larry Coryell appearing with Focus keyboardist Thijs Van Leer on “Love Me Two Times.”

When I first broke the seal on this recording and perused the personnel listing I was delighted yet partly suspicious, fearing this would be an unbalanced project and/or a riffing contest framed on The Doors songbook. Such is not the case. Thus, Todd Rundgren performing alongside Captain Beeheart Magic Band guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo and Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes signify one of many rather unlikely, yet markedly productive and enticing state of affairs. It’s a varied set, where all the vocalists retain their signature chops and modus operandi. Although one unremitting factor is centered on their penchant for extracting the force-field of The Doors’ vocalist Jim Morrison’s commanding delivery.

The production’s stunning sound quality yields additional bonus points and should warm the hearts of audiophiles. Ultimately, each rendition of The Doors’ songbook is imbued with the musicians’ idiosyncratic niceties amid a plethora of shrewdly placed dynamics, layered keys and guitar shadings. They inject distinct characteristics but don’t sacrifice The Doors’ core song-forms. Hence, disparate musical personalities uncannily attain an accord on many fronts by imparting a sense of ownership and camaraderie, whether or not they were recording tracks in the same studio at the same time.

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It’s easy to discern that Sherwood and associates maximized the talents and style of each artist’s strengths, juxtaposed by strong soloing spots and the obligatory personal touches that many of us would anticipate. Van Leer helps give “Love Me Two Times ” a modern uplift by instilling some good old Hammond-B3 organ style boogie rock, abetted by Coryell’s Texas blues patterns and hard rock phrasings. Moreover, guitar hero Leslie West (Mountain) does what he does best via his emphatically thick vocals, coupled with sinuous slide guitar leads atop Rod Piazza’s harmonica notes, as they punch it out on this husky finger-snapping spin on “Roadhouse Blues.”

Tony Kaye (Yes) uses a synth emulated electric piano sound during “Riders On The Storm” and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) preludes “People Are Strange” with stride piano clusters and synths alongside time-honored session ace, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s deft acoustic guitar work. Yet rockabilly vocalist Robert Gordon croons through “Touch Me” with the resonance and machismo of Morrison, complemented by pumping rhythms and Nik Turner’s (Hawkwind) swirling sax notes and prog rock keyboard great Jordan Rudess’ spiraling notes. Whereas, Rundgren tenders a pop-ish and clement outlook on The Doors’ swaggering and bluesy torch piece “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar).

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Highlights are thriving components, especially when infamous Yes alumni, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman delve into an extended call and response motif, spanning rock, jazz and classical nuances in the bridge section of “Light My Fire.” Here, Ian Gillan provides the antithesis of what we’d expect, considering his high-impact vocals with Deep Purple, as he counterbalances the soloists with a care-free and straightforward rendering of the familiar choruses. Indeed, this tribute endeavor covers all the bases and then some. It’s not to be overlooked. Kudos to the production team for bestowing their rather enlightening plan of attack as it’s quite apparent that a lot of thought prefaced the onset of this astonishing alignment of rock’s past and present rock stars. (by Glen Astarita)

First off readers let me say that I do not like cover bands, cover albums, tribute albums and compilation albums. I have always felt they should be considered a separate genre and that they usually do a disservice to the original composers and bands. After listening to “A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors” though I am rethinking those thoughts. It is hard to cover every song here, there are 16 of their greatest hits, so I will try to give an over view of what I think is important. I will leave the final decision up to you as to how good it really is after you listen to it.

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I was fortunate enough to see ‘The Doors’, 3 times, once at Cobo Hall in Detroit. They were a very unassuming band with almost no equipment. They used no special effects, fireworks, light shows or anything other than themselves, a few instruments and only a couple amps and speakers. The stage was pretty empty even by the standards of the 1960’s. What they lacked in equipment they made up by how tight and cohesive they were as a group when they were all in sync with each other and halfway sober. Jim Morrison usually took all eyes off the other 3 members but make no mistake that without them Jim Morrison would probably have become another undiscovered rock star.

Several of the guests on this album most likely knew ‘The Doors’ back in the day and are by all rights are ‘Superstars’ themselves. More than 42 of rock’s greatest classic ‘Superstars’ showed up to play on this album. That’s a lot of “tribute” to any person or group and shows the love and respect they all had for ‘The Doors’ and their music. By my count there are at least 7 tribute albums out there for ‘The Doors’ but from where I sit this is probably the only one that should matter.

The album starts off with one of my favorites, ‘LA Woman’. From their 6th, album released in 1971, ‘LA Woman’. Jami Jamison, Ted Turner and Patrick Moraz do an admirable job of covering this tune. The guitar work, Ted Turner I am assuming, gives an old favorite a different twist.

I could go into much more detail on more songs off this album but since space is limited I will just give some observations here. This is certainly an album to help introduce anyone who has never heard ‘The Doors’ before to their greatness. After listening to it I guarantee they will hunger for the original music just to hear who these 4 guys, who cut out a slice of rock history for themselves, really were.

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The guitar work on every song is clean, precise and shredded, something that Robby Kriegers “fingerstyle” guitar playing did not allow him to do. Not that Robby Krieger wasn’t great, he was just not as technical since “fingerstyle“ playing is better suited to Flamenco and Folk Music. It’s probably the most notable difference in all of the tunes here.

Conspicuous by its absence here though is ‘The Unknown Soldier’ which could have easily replaced the version of ‘People Are Strange’ with David Johansen and Billy Sherwood. This is the only song I really felt did not belong among the 16 cuts on this album.

The closing song is my all time favorite and appropriately is, ‘The End’, featuring Pat Travers and Jimmy Greenspoon. Listening to this version gave me goose bumps and almost brought tears to my eyes. The depth is so different but not nearly as dark as the original. I think you’ll find yourself listening to it over and over again! (Mike Langford)

One of the finest tribute albums ever !

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Personnel:

Jimi Jamison: vocals (1); Patrick Moraz: keyboards (1); Ted Turner: guitars (1); Scott Connor: drums (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 16); Billy Sherwood: bass (all tracks), guitar, piano, synths (8), drums, keyboards (12); Lou Gramm: vocals (2); Thijs Van Leer: keyboards (2); Larry Coryell: guitar (2); Leslie West: guitar, vocals (3); Brian Augur: Hammond B-3 organ (3); Rod Piazza: harmonica (3); Mark Stein: vocals, Hammond B-3 organ (4); Mick Box: guitar (4); Joe Lynn Turner: vocals (5); Tony Kaye: Hammond B-3 organ (5); Steve Cropper: guitar (5); Edgar Winter: vocals (6); Chris Spedding: guitar (6); Keith Emerson: acoustic 7 ft. grand piano and original Moog, modular synthesizer (7); Jeff “Skunk” Baxter: acoustic guitar (7); Joel Druckman: acoustic upright bass (7); David Johansen: vocals (8); Robert Gordon: vocals (9); Jordan Rudess: keyboards (9); Steve Morse: guitar (9); Nik Turner: saxophone (9); Adam Hamilton: drums (9); Graham Bonnet: vocals (10); Christopher North: Hammond organ & Leslie (10); Steve Hillage: guitar (10); Ken Hensley: vocals, Hammond B-3 organ (11); Roye Albrighton: guitar (11); Eric Martin: vocals (12); Elliot Easton: lead and Spanish guitars (12); Todd Rundgren: vocals (13); Geoff Downes: keyboards (13); Zoot Horn Rollo: guitars (13); Mark Farner: vocals, guitar (14); Chick Churchill: keyboards (14); Glenn Grossman: drums (14); Ian Gillian: vocal (15); Rick Wakeman: keyboards (15); Steve Howe: guitar (15); Ricky Joyce: drums (15); Pat Travers: vocals, guitar (16); Jimmy Greenspan: keyboards (16).

For details see booklet

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Tracklist:
01. Jimi Jamison, Ted Turner, Patrick Moraz: L.A. Woman 7.28
02. Lou Gramm, Thijs van Leer, Larry Coryell: Love Me Two Times 3.21
03. Leslie West, Brian Auger, Rod Piazza: Roadhouse Blues 4.06
04. Mark Stein, Mick Box: Love Her Madly 3.26
05. Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Kaye, Steve Cropper: Riders On The Storm 6.19
06. Edgar Winter, Chris Spedding: The Crystal Ship 2.44
07. Keith Emerson, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Joel Druckman: Intro (People Are Strange) 3.58
08. David Johansen, Billy Sherwood: People Are Strange 2.21
09. Robert Gordon, Jordan Rudess, Steve Morse, Nik Turner: Touch Me 3.49
10. Graham Bonnet, Christopher North, Steve Hillage: The Soft Parade 8.04
11. Ken Hensley, Roye Albrighton: Hello, I Love You 2.39
12. Eric Martin, Elliot Easton: Spanish Caravan 2.54
13. Todd Rundgren, Geoff Downes, Wake: Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) 3.26
14. Mark Farner, Chick Churchill: Break On Through (To the Other Side) 2.51
15. Ian Gillan, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe: Light My Fire 7.00
16. Pat Travers, Jimmy Greenspoon: The End 11.23

All songs written by Jim Morrison – John Densmore – Ray Manzarek – Robby Krieger
except:
06.: written by Jim Morrison &
13.: written by Kurt Weil – Bertolt Brecht

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