Actually I have never been a real Todd Rundgren fan, although I admired his work and his uniqueness in the rock world. This is the first official release of Rundgren At the BBC and it is a four disc collection that comprises three CDs and one DVD. These discs feature all the surviving radio and television recordings from the BBC archives between 1972 and 1982.
This extraordinary set contains Rundgren's solo 1972 BBC Radio One “In Concert” performance, the classic 1975 performance of Rundgren's Utopia at the Hammersmith Odeon, a 1977 performance at the Oxford Polytechnic. The DVD features three different shows for the classic “Old Grey Whistle Test” series, the 1975 Utopia session, a film of Rundgren and Utopia in 1977 and the complete recordings for a 1982 solo Todd Rundgren Whistle Test special. So, a lot to hear and see; in total these discs will keep you “busy” for more than 4 hours! You will also get a 16 page booklet with a very informative essay about Rundgren and his musical career by Mark Powell. CD 1, which is actually in mono sound only, features eight tracks on which Rundgren accompanies himself mainly on the piano; in fact these songs are a bit dull to me, especially the lengthy Piss Aron is not really a musical gem. The remaining two songs on CD 1 are from the 1975 Old Grey Whistle Test show and I like The Seven Rays and Real Man, where I finally hear some guitar work and the rocky edges of Rundgren's music.
The second CD features Rundgren with his band Utopia and here you can enjoy the 9th October 1975 Hammersmith Odeon show. This is an excellent show and the band and Rundgren really shine in tracks like Mister Triscuits, a lengthy, experimental song with lots of guitar work and great vocals. Another highlight on this CD is the rather “rough” song Heavy Metal Kids and last but not least Open My Eyes with a speedy guitar solo from Todd himself. The musical influences from Utopia´s progressive rock are rather obvious, Gentle Giant, Yes and Genesis characteristics can all be defined in this musical period of Rundgren.
The last CD features the first official release of the 25th January 1977 Utopia Oxford Polytechnic Show and this gig contains a couple of tracks from the notorious Ra album released in 1977, including the excellent Singring And The Glass Guitar. The latter being a 26 minutes long epic Frank Zappa like song with weird vocals, long guitar solos, a drum solo and lots of tempo changes. Singring is another highlight of this release and my personal favourite of the entire album. Another song I love to listen to is Sunburst Finish, being a heavy blues like song with a guitar keyboard duel in the middle.
However the magical highlight is the DVD, which lasts over 70 minutes and starts with Rundgren, Powell, Wilcox, Siegler, Hinton and Vandross in the Whistle Test studio nearly forty years ago. The DVD features great tracks like Real Man, The Song Of The Viking and Can We Still Be Friends.
All in all I must say that this set is an absolutely essential buy for Todd Rundgren fans all over the world.
***+ Martien Koolen (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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