Todd Rundgren - vocals, guitars, keyboards; Various musicians
Todd Rundgren emerged from the Philly music scene in 1967 with a pop band called The Nazz. Gradually, they moved in the direction of hard rock psychedelica, before splitting up, after three albums, in 1970. Rundgren, the band's main singer, writer and lead guitarist, decided to pursue a solo career. He signed with Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin's manager, Albert Grossman, and his just-formed new label, Bearsville. He had a Top 40 hit with a catchy pop song called "We Gotta Get You A Woman," from his 1971 solo debut, Runt; but his second album, Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, despite great reviews, was a commercial disappointment. One music journalist who raved over each Rundgren release was future punk princess Patti Smith, who Rundgren would end up producing in 1979.
Something/Anything, Rundgren's 1972 ambitious double album, filled with one brilliant pop song after another, was the catalyst that broke his music career wide open. A number of popular albums followed, including A Wizard, a True Star Initiation and Todd; Hermit of Mink Hollow, among others. Rundgren became increasingly more experimental with his own pop music, but usually stayed on the inside fringe of the charts. He also had remarkable success with a run of hit albums that he produced for other artists, namely Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger, Cheap Trick and Patti Smith. Many of his own songs would be hits for other artists, such as British U.K. singer Robert Palmer and U.S. pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley.
By the mid-1970s, it was apparent that Todd Rundgren was one of rock's most accomplished songwriters. Even today, he considers writing the apex of his artistry. "The way that I write is that I think about the songs, lyrically and melodically, for a long time before I write them," he said in a 1997 interview. "I think about all the aspects of what I want to say, before I do it. It doesn't actually come together until a relatively short period before I record them. But the writing process, in general, is a long time." In addition to his work as a solo artist, he also formed Utopia, a progressive rock band that recorded several albums and did a number of tours between 1977 and 1992.
This recording, which aired on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, is a compilation of three classic Rundgren shows that took place between 1977 and 1985. When combined, these tracks make up a greatest hits collection of Rundgren's most successful radio songs. His versions of "Real Man" (two different ones here, recorded seven years apart), "Can We Still Be Friends," "Couldn't I Just Tell You," "I Saw The Light" and "Hello It's Me" excel, with passionate vocal performances by Rundgren. Lesser known FM staples such as "Black Maria" and "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," moreover, illustrate just how incredible Rundgren is as a guitarist and arranger.
These recordings also feature a number of Rundgren's favorite covers, including Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," and "Mercy Mercy Mercy;" The Impressions' "I'm So Proud" and The Stylistics' "La La La Means I Love You." Another highlight is Rundgren's version of "Never Never Land," from the musical Peter Pan. "It's always been about the live performance for me," Rundgren said. "Even when I'm doing all the playing I'm still attempting to deliver a great live performance. It's about the passion. I don't mind mistakes in my playing."