Archive for Todd Rungren

Great(ish) Rock Albums of 1984: Rod Stewart- Camouflage

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2017 by 80smetalman

Rod Stewart has always been a top forty artist in my book. He’s had a string of hits over the past four decades, some of them I actually liked, especially during the 1970s and 80s. I confessed to this fact when I visited his 1982 “Tonight I’m Yours” album some time ago. One of those singles I like happened to be the single, “Infatuation,” from the 1984 album, “Camouflage.” The song does venture  towards the new wave/hard rock borderland and even more so with the guitar solo by Jeff Beck. That brings me to the video for the song. Rod continues his string of cheesy videos that started with “Young Turks” where everyone is dancing on the hoods of cars and carries on with “Infatuation. In this video, Jeff Beck pops up in the hotel room from out of nowhere to play his solo. I understand that Mike LeBrain has had the same problem. Whenever he stays in a hotel room, Jeff Beck shows up. To quote a title from another song on “Camouflage,” some guys have all the luck.

After the opener, “Infatuation,” things go downhill pretty fast. While, I applaud Rod Stewart for a decent single at first, with the next track, I’m ready to place a bounty on his head for his act of sacrilege. He covers the Free classic “All Right Now” and it is a totally synthed out version. If he had kept to the script set down by Free, his voice would have carried the song but with all the synthesizers, I have to say, “No Rod!” But that’s not the only cover he has destroyed. On track four, he sings a cover of the Todd Rungren classic, “Can We Still Be Friends.” Like “All Right Now” there’s nothing wrong with his voice on the song but again, the synthesizers ruin it for me. While this sacrilege isn’t as bad, it’s still bad enough that even Jeff Beck’s guitar solo can’t save it.

Jeff does improve things with a solo on the track after, “Bad For You.” This one is more in line with the opener and sounds quite good. “Heart is On the Line” is one of those pop sounding songs that isn’t bad but it’s not one I want to listen to over and over. “The title track is much more sharper. Rod’s voice takes control of it and therefore the synths that appear on it are only in the background. Plus there’s a good use of horns adding a bit of diversity. Had Jeff belted out a solo on it, it might have been my favourite track. The closer, “Trouble” typifies how unbalanced “Camouflage” is. The keyboard intro makes you feel it’s going to be a cool prog rock song only to fade away into a ballad. Now, Rod has always been able to sing a good ballad and does so here but the intro leaves me disappointed with the rest of the song.

Track Listing:

  1. Infatuation
  2. All Right Now
  3. Some Guys Have All the Luck
  4. Can We Still Be Friends
  5. Bad For You
  6. Heart is On the Line
  7. Camouflage
  8. Trouble

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart- vocals

Jeff Beck- guitar

Jim Cregan- guitar

Robin LeMesurier- guitar

Michael Landau- guitar

Jay Davis- bass

Tony Brock- drums

Kevin Savigar- keyboards

Michael Omartian- keyboards, percussion, backing vocals

Jimmy Zavala- harmonica

Gary Herbig- saxophone

Jerry Hey, Chuck Finley, Kim Hutchcroft, Charlie Loper, Gary Grant- horns

Was “Camouflage” great? I tend not to think so, however, it could have been so if there weren’t so many synth versions of classic rock songs. The songs that are good are but others let the album down. It seems here, he was comfortable being a top forty singer.

Next post: Roger Waters- The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Rock Albums of 1982: Steve Winwood- Talking Back to the Night

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2015 by 80smetalman

220px-Talking_Back_the_to_Night

 Most of us in our lifetimes have been influenced to watch a film or buy an album because someone or some entity we trust had constantly sung its praises. I know it has happened to me. In early September of 1982, I was given 24 hours bed rest after having two of my wisdom teeth removed. The Navy doctor who performed the task said it was the toughest extraction he ever had to do, those teeth were really in there. Moving on, during that 24 hour period and drifting in and out of bouts of sleep, I had the radio as a companion. The local station outside the base, WXQR in Jacksonville, North Carolina, kept plugging the new Steve Winwood album, “Talking Back to the Night.” The one deejay did this so much that I felt compelled to listen to the album and even give it its place in history on here.

To this day, I don’t think if I would have listened to album if it hadn’t been so heavily plugged on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent album and Steve Winwood is a very talented musician. Like Todd Rundgren, he plays all the instruments himself except that he does use drum machines unlike Todd who actually plays the drums. Also there is the fact that there are no guitar solos on the album and Todd can also shred. But this isn’t about Todd and I shouldn’t contrast the two really. It’s just that “Talking Back to the Night” wouldn’t have been an album I normally would have listened to, it’s not hard rock enough for me. If anything, I appreciate slightly more now that I am mellowing a bit with old age. I stress a little, I have the Sepultura “Greatest Hits” CD waiting for me in the car.

Following the 1982 tradition, “Talking Back to the Night” opens with the hit single “Valerie.” It is an okay song and I remember it being played on the radio back then. It sets the stage for the rest of the album. The synthesizers dominate the entire album and while I get a little disappointed at the lack of a power chord from a guitar, the synthesizers are expertly done. You can’t take anything away from Steve in that regard. Apart from “Valerie,” the two tracks that stood out for me on the album were “Help Me Angel” and the title track. I have long ago come to the conclusion that while it’s not a rock album in the traditional sense, it’s not a total synth pop album either. I think it’s one of those albums you can play at a party where there is a wide range of musical tastes among the attendees and no one would complain.

Track Listing:

1. Valerie

2. Big Girls Walk Away

3. And I Go

4. While There’s a Candle Burning

5. Still in the Game

6. It Was Happiness

7. Help Me Angel

8. Talking Back to the Night

9. There’s a River

Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood- synthesizers, lead and backing vocals, drum machines, guitar, keyboards

Like A Flock of Seagulls, it could be said that Steve Winwood help set the stage to the descent of music into synth pop. I don’t think this was Steve’s intention here. He may have been going along with the popular music of the time but he is too talented of a musician to have played that cheaply. This album is living proof of that.

Next post: Fleetwood Mac- Mirage

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

Great Rock Albums of 1982: Utopia- Swing To The Right

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by 80smetalman

Swing_To_The_Right

Back in 1982 or there about, I remember reading a review on a Utopia album, not sure if it was this one or their next one, where the reviewer stated that Todd Rundgren was being pulled down by the rest of the band. I never agreed with that statement because I have always thought that Powell, Sulton and Wilcox were all talented musicians and song writers in their own right. For me, this was purely the case with their 1980 album “Adventures in Utopia,” although that is their best album.

Let me say straightaway that “Swing to the Right” is not quite as good as the 1980 classic but it’s not that bad. They do venture away from the more hard/progressive rock sound of the classic and adopt a more new wave approach. For the most part it works and even before U2 made it popular in 1983, the album is full of political lyrics aimed at corporations, religion and war mongers. My impression was that it’s a dig at the Regan administration which embraced all of the things that Utopia were having a go at. It is also the reason why Bearsville Records were reluctant to release the album at first.

The opening title track is the most progressive rock like song on the album and it boasts an excellent guitar solo from Rundgren. “Lysistrata” is also a good track and the swing to the more new wave sound definitely begins here. “Junk Rock” goes even more new wave and is a dig at synth pop which was rapidly gaining a foothold in the early 80s. “Shinola” does go back to a more progressive sound and Rundgren’s vocals remind me of some of his 1970s solo albums. The next few tracks are all what I have already spoken about, lyrics about political issues played to a new wave sound. For the most part, I like it and the standout track from these is “Last Dollar On Earth.” The closer, “One World” goes a little ways back to the more known Utopia sound and that ends the album rather nicely.

Track Listing:

1. Swing to the Right

2. Lysistrata

3. The Up

4. Junk Rock

5. Shinola

6. For the Love of Money

7. Last Dollar On Earth

8. Farenheit 451

9. Only Human

10. One World

Utopia

Utopia

Todd Rundgren- guitar, vocals

Roger Powell- keyboards, synthesizer, vocals

Kasmir Sulton- bass, vocals, keyboards

John ‘Willie’ Wilcox- drums

Todd Rundgren deserves to be in the Rock Hall of Fame both as an artist and a producer. It’s an act a sacrilege that he isn’t. The argument that his playing with Utopia demeans his talents is totally rejected by me and many others. It could be said that he should be there a third time with Utopia because they have made some good albums over the years. “Swing to the Right” is one of them.

Next post: Survivor- Eye of the Tiger

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1981: Jim Steinman- Bad For Good

Posted in films, Music, Rock, soundtracks, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2014 by 80smetalman

220px-JSteinman_Bad

They say that you should never judge a book by a cover and I think that also applies to record albums too; fortunately, not to this one by Jim Steinman. For those who aren’t so familiar with the name, Jim Steinman has worked as a record producer for many years and is responsible for producing some of the greats, including Meatloaf as well as the soundtrack to “Shrek 2.” In 1981, he tried his hand at cutting his own album, “Bad For Good” and it was pretty much a success for him. At first, I was attracted to the album by this rather cool looking at the time album cover. However, the music inside isn’t too bad except for one rather important detail: When I first listened to the album and even now, my first impression in my mind is, “This could have been Meatloaf.”

There is a definite resemblance to “Bat Out of Hell” throughout this album. Each and every song has that feel to it, especially the duet with Karla DeVito on “Dance In My Pants.” The style of the song bears strong connections to the famous “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” However, what this song has that the Meatloaf classic doesn’t is a killer guitar solo. That’s part of what makes the album as good as it is in the first place. Steinman’s vocal range is limited but he does have some powerful musicians behind him playing on the songs. Most notably, there is Todd Rundgren along with his band mates from Utopia who pop in and out on several songs. What results is a good rock sound that somehow straddles the line between FM commercialability and hard rock. Therefore, all can listen to it and not worry about going across the imaginary line. Still, only three tracks really stand out for me, the first of which I’ve already mentioned. The second is the single, “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through,” which I have on a compilation CD. The third is “Life and Death of an American Guitar,” which gets covered by the already mentioned Meatloaf on his “Bat Out of Hell 2” album. Speaking of that song, I don’t hear any difference between the two versions.

Track Listing:

1. Bad For Good

2. Lost Boys and Golden Girls

3.  The Life and Death of An American Guitar

4. Stark Raving Love

5. Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Fire)

6. Surf’s Up

7. Dance in My Pants

8. Left in the Dark

Extra EP

1. The Storm

2. Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through

Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman- lead vocals, keyboards, spoken word

Rory Dodd- lead vocals on “Surf’s Up,” “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through” and “Lost Boys and Golden Girls”

Karla DeVito- lead vocals on “Dance In My Pants”

Todd Rundgren- guitars

Davey Johnstone- guitars

Kasim Sultan- bass

Steve Buslowe- bass

Neal Jason- bass

Roy Bittan- piano

Steven Margoshes- piano

Roger Powell- synthesiser

Larry ‘Synergy’ Fast- synthesiser

Max Weinberg- drums

Alan Schwartzberg- drums

Joe Stefko- drums

Jimmy Maelen- percussion

Alan Rubin- trumpet

Tom Malone- horn arrangements and trombone

Lou Marini- tenor sax

Lew Del Gatto- baritone sax

Ellen Foley- backing vocals

Eric Troyer- backing vocals

What surprised me after doing a bit of homework on “Bad For Good” was how well it actually did commercially. In spite of many criticisms from the rock magazines at the time, it went to 62 in the US, 14 in Sweden and even broke into the top ten in the UK. With that success and an album that I actually liked, I remain surprised as to why Mr Steinman never has cut another album.

Next post: Grace Slick- Welcome to the Wrecking Ball

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

Great Rock Albums of 1980: Utopia- Adventures in Utopia

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by 80smetalman

Adventures_In_Utopia

Staying on the subject of rock/metal acts who were considered great in their own country but never made headway into others, Todd Rundgren’s band Utopia comes to mind. I can’t think of anyone I know in Great Britain who has heard of them, however, when I have played this album to some of my British friends, they liked it. It is funny how at times music, no matter how good it is, never makes it across the Atlantic.

I read a review of a Utopia album sometime in the future. The critic stated that the rest of the band aren’t up to the talents of Todd Rundgren and as a result pull him down. My only speculation here is that the critic never heard this album. True, Todd Rundgren is nothing short of a musical genius and it is frustratingly shameful that he hasn’t been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, but the other members of Utopia are all good song writers, musicians and especially in the case of bassist Kasmir Sulton, good vocalist.

First, the album begins with the very strong track “Road to Utopia” where the space age intro grabs your attention straight away. Straight away, the talents of all four members are highlighted and it in no way downgrades over the rest of the album. I also love the element of humour in songs like “You Make Me Crazy” and Sulton’s vocals show their full potential on the track, “Set Me Free.” After the lengthy but not boring “Caravan” is a total bang your head rock out, “Last of the New Wave Riders.” Then there’s the “The Very Last Time,” which has some personal meaning for me and the slow love song “Love and Love Alone” that again showcases Kasmir’s vocals. Finally, the song goes out not just on a high, I’m talking cloud ten with “Rock Love.” A great closer to an album and an excellent song in it’s own right.

Track Listing:

1. Road to Utopia

2. You Make Me Crazy

3. Second Nature

4. Set Me Free

5. Caravan

6. Last of the New Wave Riders

7. Shot in The Dark

8. The Very Last Time

9. Love and Love Alone

10. Rock Love

Utopia

Utopia

Todd Rundgren- vocals, guitars

Kasmir Sulton- bass, vocals

Roger Powell- keyboards, synthesisers, backing vocals

John “Willie” Wilcox- drums, backing vocals

Anyone who agrees with the critic who said that Utopia diminish the talents of Todd Rundgren, should definitely go and listen to this album. In no way does “Adventures in Utopia” do that, in fact, it serves to showcase the talents of the other members. This is in my opinion, their best album.

Next post: Pat Benatar- Crimes of Passion

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

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Great Rock Albums of 1979: Todd Rundgren- Back to the Bars

Posted in 1978, 1979, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by 80smetalman

It has been said that Todd Rundgren released this 1979 live album in an attempt to cash in on the success of other live albums such as “Frampton Comes Alive” and Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” I’m not completely sure that I agree with that premise because of the content of the songs on this album. While “Back to the Bars” concludes with one of Rundgren’s greatest hits, “Hello It’s Me,” it doesn’t include some of his other noted songs. Furthermore, when he was preforming the live shows in 1978, it was around the same time his studio album “Hermit of Mink Hollow” was released.  So, if he wanted to cash in on a live album, surely he would have included a few songs from the new album, especially “Can We Still Be Friends.”

Enough speculating for now because “Back to the Bars” is actually a pretty good album. A good way to reminisce over Todd Rundgren’s creative days of the seventies. What I have always liked about him is the fact that you can’t completely pigeonhole him. Yes, many of the more known songs are in the progressive rock vein and he has his share of Top 40 singles but he is also capable of laying down some rocking jams as well and there are some on this album. Most notably, two songs from the “Something/Anything” album: “Black Maria” and one I’ve always really liked, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.”

Track Listing:

1. Real Man

2. Love of the Common Man

3. The Verb To Love

4. Love in Action

5. A Dream Goes On Forever

6. Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel

7. The Range War

8. Black and White

9. The Last Ride

10. Cliche

11. Don’t You Ever Learn

12. Never Never Land

13. Black Maria

14. Zen Archer

15. Medley: I’m So Proud/ Oh Baby Baby/ La la Means I Love You/ I Saw the Light

16. It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference

17. Eastern Intrigue

18. Initiation

19. Couldn’t I Just Tell You

20. Hello It’s Me

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

Mark”Moogy” Klingman- keyboards

Kasim Sultan- bass

Roger Powell- keyboards

John Willie Wilcox- drums

Additional appearances by Rick Derringer, Stevie Nicks, Daryl Hall and John Oates

For Todd Rundgren fans and novices, this album is a good way to reminisce or explore the mid seventies period of Todd Rundgren with some classic songs. Now, one or two people have said that he isn’t too good live, but listening to this album, I can’t agree with that sentiment. If Todd Rundgren isn’t in the Rock Hall of Fame, then it’s just another proof that the people who run that institution are just plain idiots.

Next post: Pat Travers- Live! Go For What You Know

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

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Great Rock Albums of 1978: Meatloaf- Bat Out of Hell

Posted in 1978, Heavy Metal, Music with tags , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by 80smetalman

This is probably the most commercially successful rock album of 1978, if not one of the most of all time. It is the album that will always be looked upon as Meatloaf’s greatest musical achievement. It has been argued that the album was successful on account of it’s timing, that it filled a gap in the rock market while disco was still in its hey day. I don’t know about that nor would I agree with it if I did. I put the success of “Bat Out of Hell” down to the masterful production and great musicianship that appears on it. The result is seven good songs that withstood the test of time.

I know that I am probably being biased when I say this, but I put the success of this album down to the fact that it was produced by Todd Rundgren. Rundgren saw something in the album which some record companies didn’t and insisted in producing it. The result was in the listening and it is most likely why in a 1989 interview, Jim Steinman referred to Todd Rundgren as “the only genius he ever workded with.” One thing that he did which was a major contributor was to line up good musicians, which included members of his part time band Utopia.

Singing the praised of the producer and the musicians in no way means that I am in any way taking anything from the artist who appears on the album. Meatloaf has a very versatile voice, one of the most versatile in rock. I can picture him barking away to a thrash metal song and then slowing down to a love ballad the very next. Possibly an argument that they should have put “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” right after the title track to demonstrate my point. Of course, I have to add my all time favourite part on the album, the baseball commentary on the song “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.”

Track Listing:

1. Bat Out of Hell

2. You Took The Words Out of My Mouth

3. Heaven Can Wait

4. All Revved Up With No Place To Go

5. Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

6. Paradise By the Dashboard Light

7. For Crying Out Loud

Many years ago, I happened to catch a glimpse of “Pop Idol” (I don’t watch that rubbish, honest) and Simon Cowell denied a good singer a shot at the next round becuase he was overweight. Cowell justified this by saying it might work for Pavarotti, but not in the pop world. The comment set my mind racing straight away. If it had been 1978, Simon Cowell would have rejected Meatloaf on the same grounds and we would have been denied this great rock album.

Next post: Rush- Hemispheres

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