After two albums, Todd Rundgren had one hit and a burgeoning cult following, plus growing respect as a hitmaking record producer. There's no question he was busy, but as it turns out, all this work only scratched the surface of his ambition….
Billed as the first official collection of live bootleg recordings, the triple-disc For Lack of Honest Work is a live anthology stretching back to live-in-the-studio recordings of “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” and “Broke Down and Busted” in Philadelphia from 1971 and running all the way to 2006, when Todd belts out “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP” in Toronto. In between these extremes are many other extremes – Todd indulging in the early days of Utopia, cuts from his A Cappella tour, a doo wop arrangement of “Real Man,” a synthesized piss-take of “Bang on the Drum,” a solo electric “Hammer in Your Heart,” slickly accomplished on-stage jamming – all loosely arranged so the first disc contains the poppiest material, the second the proggiest, the third his mature phase. It’s not quite a straight-on realist portrait but a hazy abstract impression of Todd’s multifaceted abilities, with the overall range being somewhat more impressive than individual moments.
Todd Rundgren considered 1966 the beginning of his professional musical career, largely because the Nazz formed around that time. As a celebration, he recorded Faithful. Presumably, Faithful celebrates the past and the future by juxtaposing a side of original pop material with a side of covers. Actually, "covers" isn't accurate – the six oldies that comprise the entirety of side one are re-creations, with Rundgren "faithfully" replicating the sound and feel of the Yardbirds ("Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"), Bob Dylan ("Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine"), Jimi Hendrix ("If Six Was Nine"), the Beach Boys ("Good Vibrations") and the Beatles "("Rain," "Strawberry Fields Forever"). All of this is entertaining, to a certain extent, especially since it's remarkable how close Rundgren comes to duplicating the very feel of the originals.
Healing is Todd Rundgren's ninth studio album, released in 1981. Spirituality and the human condition is Healing's theme; something Rundgren had touched on many times in earlier works but never with the consistency exhibited here as every track explores a different aspect. The back cover image of the album (artwork by Prairie Prince) shows the caduceus overlaid by a treble clef and a Qabalistic Tree of Life overlaid by a bass clef, reflecting Rundgren's linking of his spirituality and music.
These albums represent the first five solo single albums of TR with the omission only of 1973's A Wizard, A True Star, 1975's Initiation and 1981's Healing. Given the brilliance of his 1970s double albums including the classic Something/Anything? you might be forgiven for perhaps regarding this set as "the remnants" but what you actually have here are his first two pop-style solo albums that immediately preceded Something/Anything? (both confusingly named Runt), a mixed album of covers and original material, Faithful, and two excellent later albums.
Healing is a subdued, reflective effort unlike anything else in Todd Rundgren's catalog. Certainly, there are some familiar elements throughout Healing, particularly on majestic ballads like "Compassion," but there are more new variations on his style since any album since Initiation. Not coincidentally, that record had hints of the spirituality that surges to the forefront on Healing, but it was nowhere near as musically focused as the latter record.