Rhino Records releases a dazzling 4-LP re-mastered vinyl of a pop masterpiece.
Todd Rundgren – Something Anything, 50th Anniversary Edition – Bearsville Records (1972)/Rhino Records 603497839513, 4-LPs on Ruby, Grape, Cobalt And Light-Blue 45 r.p.m. stereo vinyl in a double gatefold box 69:25 *****:
(Todd Rundgren – guitar, piano, electric piano, saxophone drums vocals and all other instruments on Sides 1-6; Including guest performances on Side 7-8 by Rick Derringer, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Ben Keith, Jim Horn and many others)
One of the ways to describe Todd Rundgren would be a cultural maverick. For more than 5 decades, he left an indelible mark on rock music. In addition to being a member of two bands (Nazz and Utopia), Rundgren forged a vibrant and creative solo career as a songwriter, versatile instrumentalist, arranger and vocalist. Runt: The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren (1971), Something Anything (1972), A Wizard A True Star (1973) and Todd (1974) were both commercially and critically successful, producing singles like “We Gotta Get You A Woman”, “I Saw The Light” and “Hello It’s Me”. Additionally, Rundgren was a studio engineer and producer (Hall & Oates, Badfinger, Meat Loaf). His innovations in electronic music, videos and computer software contributed to his lofty auteur status. His uncompromising commitment was widely known, and subsequently immortalized by defiantly skipping the overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. His mercurial presence in rock music continues to this day.
Rhino Records has released a re-mastered 45 r.p.m. multiple colored 4-LP boxed double gatefold commemorating the 50th anniversary of Something Anything. This album embraced Rundgren’s roots with an ambitious mixture of Beatle-esque pop rock, progressive chords, Brian Wilson-inspired studio aesthetics and Gamble & Huff Philly soul. On the original release, Rundgren performed all of the instrumentals and vocals on the first three sides (Sides 1-6 here) Side 1 opens with a well-crafted romantic pop song, “I Saw The Light”. It is concise with multi-tracking and a breezy vibe. The guitar solo is melodic, and the vocals are stellar. Perhaps drawing on his hometown, “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” is more soulful and counters the optimism with some angst. The harmonies are compelling and a hard-rocking bridge elevates the arrangement. Shifting gears, “Wolfman Jack” is a mixture of gritty rock and gospel-infused r & b. Rundgren stretches out on vocals with lively falsetto and blues talking, ending in a hypnotic coda. His grasp of observational whimsy is captured on the flexible “Cold Morning Light” which features a waltz-time break and unusual chord modulation. With an underlying groove, “It Takes Two To Tango” is more pop structured, but with nuanced motifs and earnest delivery. Reverting to soul, he delivers a slow-burning intensity to “Sweeter Memories”.
A hilarious “inside” exploration of cautionary recording technology (‘Intro”), leads into a rare instrumental (“Breathless”) that offers a shot of old time rock and roll with ample studio effects. Rundgren has insight into various contexts of time passage. The dream-like circus sway of “The Night The Carousel Burned Down” is a perfect example of this ethereal tapestry. Making a personal statement is represented in the jauntiness of “Saving Grace”. Rundgren’s cheeky humor and heartfelt sentimentality are at the core of “Marlene”. His tenor voice (and layered backup singing). complements the loping good-natured melody, and the slight urgency at the end is effective. In what sounds like homage to Gilbert & Sullivan, “Song Of The Viking” has a speedy tempo and operatic articulation. In contrast, “I Went To The Mirror” is very bluesy with a deliberate pace (that has piano vamps). At the 3:07 mark, Rundgren injects a jagged hard rock guitar to livens things up.
Side 5 veers into “heavy” (as described by Rundgren in the liner notes) on “Black Mariah” with raucous guitar riffs and punctuated timing. It is an example of his considerable guitar expertise and rocker essence. He wails on vocals with sharp emotion. “One More Day” has a breezy piano accompaniment with trademark chord changes. The song is infectious and reflects on the premise of folks having too much time on their hands. Cutting loose, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (Side 6) is straight ahead rock with call and response vocals, and crisp guitar licks. “Torch Song” is mostly voice and piano/organ framing a resigned acceptance of fallout from a broken relationship. “Little Red Lights” is a hard as nails power rock that describes a common theme of youth…driving!
Side 7 changes the dynamics considerably. Rundgren brought on a wide variety of session musicians to do live one-take cuts in a sort of operetta, Baby Needs A New Pair Off Snakeskin Boots. On “Overture/Money/My Roots/Messin’ With The Kid” they put together a very ragged version of the classic, “Money (That’s What I Want)” that segues into an equally loose jam (“Messin’ With The Kid”). In a considerable departure,. “Dust In The Wind” is a soul/rock affair with emotional vocals (especially the backup singers), muscular saxophone and a searing guitar solo. “Piss Aaron” can be described as a graphic funky tale of a school rebel in blues/rock mode. Rundgren reprises his biggest hit, “Hello It’s Me” in an accessible expanded pop translation with organ and horns. The tortured hero recounts his mix of influences on “Some Folks Is Whiter Than Me” with rollicking instrumentation. Catchy hooks, nasty vocals and a scorching electric guitar on “Slut” bring this unique album to a close.
This re-mastered vinyl box set of Something Anything is a great celebration of an artist who exemplifies the spirit of independence. The re-mastered sound (Chris Bellman) is energetic and has distinct stereo separation. The double gatefold and photo/lyrics inserts are top-notch. Vinyl enthusiasts will be thrilled with the differently colored vinyl discs.
Side 1: I Saw The Light; It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference; Wolfman Jack
Side 2: Cold Morning Light; It Takes Two To Tango (This Is For The Girls); Sweeter Memories
Side 3: Intro; Breathless; The Night The Carousel Burned Down; Saving Grace
Side 4: Marlene; Song Of The Viking; I Went To The Mirror
Side 5: Black Mariah; One More Day (No Word)
Side 6: Couldn’t I Just Tell You; Torch Song; Little Red Lights
Side 7: Overture-My Roots/Money/Messin’ With The Kid; Dust In The Wind; Piss Aaron; Hello It’s Me
Side 8: Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me; You Left Me Sore; Slut.
More information available at Rhino Records, or Record Store Day: