Vermilion Sands

posted: 2024-02-25 Todd Todd Rundgren

Maybe some listeners thought that the sonic trip A Wizard, A True Star was a necessary exercise in indulgence and that Todd Rundgren would return to the sweet pop of Something/Anything? for its follow-up. Not a chance. As it turned out, A Wizard was the launch pad for further dementia, and, depending on your point of view, indulgence. Its follow-up was Todd, an impenetrable double album filled with detours, side roads, collisions and the occasional pop tune. That those pop tunes are among his best may come as little consolation to the lightweight fan who has stumbled upon Todd. Conceptually, A Wizard, A True Star may be the wilder record, but Todd is a more difficult listen, thanks to the layers of guitar solos and blind synth prog tunes, such as “In and Out the Chakras We Go.”

Large stretches of the album are purely instrumental, foreshadowing the years of synth experiments with Utopia that were just around the corner. The murk subsides every so often, revealing either exquisite ballads (“A Dream Goes on Forever”), blistering rock (“Heavy Metal Kids”) or, more murk and dementia (particularly with how Gilbert & Sullivan rear their heads not only on the requisite novelty “An Elpee’s Worth of Tunes,” but an honest-to-goodness cover of “Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song”). These are some major additions to his catalog, but the experiments and the excesses are too tedious to make Todd a necessary listen for anyone but the devoted. But for those listeners, the gems make the rough riding worthwhile.