Friday, December 23, 2011

CD review of The Individualist by Jeff "weavil" Gauss

It will be edited and the site doesn't have the rights to post lyrics that
are that long. A line or two we can do, but not as long as I wanted.'s the full piece in unedited form

TR-i "The Individualist"
by Jeff"weavil"Gauss

Todd Rundgren's ever-changing diversity is often hard to keep up with and
difficult to follow and, with the birth of TR-i (Todd Rundgren
interactive) in 1993, he reinvented himself yet again, this time as an
artist wanting to share sound and vision with fans in an intimate fashion.
His first venture into his TR-i persona, "No World Order", was mostly
centered around producing a CD-i in which the listener could interact with
the music in a non-linear fashion. It represented a chance for Todd to
reinvent himself while providing an opportunity for the listener to talk
back to the music. Todd basically used this moniker as a way to denote his
more technologically innovative work. TR-i released three albums in as
many years and "The Individualist", released in 1995, would prove to be
the last of that era.

While "No World Order" was heavily influenced by electronica and rap, "The
Individualist" settled into more of a somewhat accessible smooth groove
assembled from many elements of diversity. His rap on this album is more
like recitation that emphasizes the importance of his lyrics. From the
power pop opener, "Tables Will Turn", to the call-to-arms rock of "If Not
Now, When?" and "Cast The First Stone", to dance material like "Espresso
(All Jacked Up)" and "Woman's World", to the Beatnick-Rap of the title
track, this album could his best of the '90's. There's even the patented
Rundgren soul-based ballads of "The Ultimate Crime" and "Beloved Infidel".
This album seems to have it all.

Todd's production values always come into play on his releases and this
could be one of his best once one gets past the use of computers instead
of "real" instruments, an essential part of TR-i's DNA. Rundgren had
played all instruments and sang all vocals on many of his classic albums,
like Something/Anything? and Hermit of Mink Hollow, so this approach
should come as no surprise to those familiar with this talented artist.
The album's title also implies that it was created by one man. Clocking in
at a bit over one hour, "The Individualist" boasts a sweetly clear sound
with layers of subtle instruments, double-tracked vocals, and stacked
harmonies spread about the stereo field with much of the punch coming from
the sub-woofers. The listener is hypnotized with the arrangements and
sound quality, evidence of Rundgren's seasoned production skills.

This fine album begins with a borrowed phrase that is adapted for the
album's setting, "Water, water everywhere and not a place to stand. My
foundation rests on bedrock but the bedrock rests on shifting sand." It
seems that the message of his career has always been about individualism
and getting to know one's self and taking responsibility.
This record is a a call to arms and about taking action. "Tables Will Turn",
the opening number, sets this tone, emphasized with changing verb usage
like "Tables will turn...tables can turn...tables have turned...tables are
turned." It is time for individualists in society to take notice and
change the hands of power back to the people.

"If Not Now, When?" takes the call-to-arms to the next level by presenting
changing mantras like "Too much effort, there's never time",
"Change the system, and please arrange it to change some way that I feel
no change", and "Leave the gun on the table loaded the first to grab it's
as good as voted in." Each mantra gets more intensely urgent, with rocking
guitars and a driving bassline, until it leads one to "the bullet or the
ballot box." This song contains some of Todd's best rocking vocals of the
album and asks "Are we good enough for us to care?"

"Family Values" is directed at high-powered politicians of the time like
Dan Quayle, whose quotes are sampled here, that ask for people to
implement family values. TR-i insists that "we already got them." The
"Faux P-Funk Honky Chorale", the only voices other than TR-i on this
album, brings the party home as "We gonna have a good time everybody,
because the family is all in the house!" Quayle is even told to "Shut Up!
'Cause we got them, we already got them. We got family values." A hip drum
beat and stellar keyboard bassline drive this hopeful sing-along tune
while a unique keyboard riff takes one out near the end as we move back to
the power, comfort, and shelter of our families.

The first of two beautiful ballads, "The Ultimate Crime", brings
'Philosopher Todd' to the forefront as he proves once again how he's in
touch with the human condition, one of my favorite aspects of this
timeless artist. This number builds tension as Rundgren continually teases
the listener with the concept of "What is the ultimate crime?", pulling
one into the lyrics until the secret is finally revealed,
"The ultimate crime is not to care."

"Espresso (All Jacked Up)" is a slight, and perhaps needed, departure from
the albums message of waking up and taking action. This song documents a
fun trip around the globe while wired on caffeine. A frantic pace builds
throughout this tune featuring a driving bassline underneath climbing key
changes, climaxing in another sing-along by repeating "I'm all jacked up."

The title track follows with Popeye's "I am what I am" phrase coming to
mind. Beginning with the spoken words, "Gather 'round children, I got a
tale to tell", this bit of Beatnick-Rap delves into the background of this
artist with lines like "There was a time when I couldn't bust a rhyme, had
yet to hit my prime, 'cause my mind was such a young mind" and "Check my
Wherever you are now you know I been there, done that
Don't need to sling the scat 'cause my resume' is too fat
Change my name to some funky fresh dingbat
Like "the artist formerly known as TR-i"
I got to laugh when they try to figure out what it's all about
And they doubt that I'm so devout
But it's something I can do without
I got to know why I wanna know what I wanna know
Why do I go where the others won't go?
My eye is on the prize that's in disguise
That you can only theorize, but I can utilize
To rise above the lies about reality
'Cause you can't relive the hype don't ya see?
'Cause I got a special answer meant just for me
Somewhere in my immediate vicinity"

The repeated chant of "Here comes the Individualist" builds to an ecstatic
free-form jazz groove that leads to ecstatic wild applause and then
brought down to a pin drop.
"And if there's time enough to find it, then in time I'm gonna find it."
He IS The Individualist!

"Cast The First Stone" is the seventh track and he borrows from the best
again by placing a Biblical proverb in a heavy-industrial-punk setting
with a 'hammer on anvil' snare sound and in-your-face kick drum propelling
a thick bassline, nasty keyboard washes and swirls, and an
out-of-this-world guitar solo. Again, the lyrics are in the listener's face,
"Please do not complain to me of moral relativity
The crimes of others you deplore
But of yourself, you don't keep score...
Like you never in your life cursed an evil god before...
(and culminating with the repeated title words)
Cast the first stone, cast the first stone
Let the righteous among you cast the first stone."
Some of Todd's best rocking vocals on the album can be felt here,
reinforcing the albums main theme of taking action as an individual's

This is followed by the contrast of the other gorgeous ballad, "Beloved
Infidel", which features a thick bed of sparse keyboard tones and a
sweetly simple clean-tone guitar solo along with Rundgren's production
expertise. "Ring the liberation bell" as he will not be longing much more.
"False gods they will erect offerings they will burn, I am lost in
meditation and awaiting your return" show that his ballads can contain
serious subjects yet still be one of the most beautiful songs he has ever

"Temporary Sanity" returns to the main theme of the album with another
dark synth bass riff that features cutting Fagen-esque chords and an
overdue screaming guitar solo with an end result for the situation we are
"We must be crazy, we must be crazy
There's no explanation so we must be crazy."
Some rapping returns here as direct delivery of lyrics is in order. This
divided some of the "TRoups", much like "No World Order", but the heavy
lyrics like these MUST reach the listener,

"There's a chance that we would still get the picture
If reality just came up and bit ya
But the news team would never report it
Because there's too much evidence to support it
If we was stupider the problem would vanish
But our brains are much more than we can manage
We say we want something so bad we can taste it
But once we get it, then we turn 'round and waste it
We got a twisted fixation with the marketplace
And every sufferin' soul is just another face
We think we're bein' manipulated from outer space
It's the collective guilty conscience of the human race
We get joyful when we look upon a lesser man
A specimen we can be sure that we're better than
There is no shortage of supply of pride and vanity
There is no explanation but INSANITY.

You're listening to Prozac while the message goes unheard
It's the final word."

"Woman's World" is an excellent closer with an up-tempo big finish
featured on many of his fine albums. (See "Just One Victory" on "A Wizard
A True Star", "Fade Away" on "Hermit of Mink Hollow", or "2nd Wind"). This
track puts men in their place by reinforcing that there's "No surprises,
it's a woman's world...'cause it always was." This also contains a heavy
bridge that reprises the heavy industrial guitar sound heard earlier in
the album yet climaxes with a most upbeat positive ending featuring
stacked harmony vocals atop an upbeat progression, providing hope for the
future of (wo)mankind.

"The Individualist" shows that Rundgren still believes that society can be
saved from its wallowing tumble and that human kind's compassion will
prevail. It is up to the individual to make this happen.

TR-i's original release of "The Individualist" on Digital Entertainment in
1995 featured an enhanced CD which paired each song with its lyrics,
graphics, and video. It was also one of the first CDs to be offered over
the internet, where subscribers could download the music before it was
released in stores.

The recent remastering of this album by Esoteric is fantastic, presenting
the album in a new light by sounding better than when it was first
released. It also includes an excellent booklet featuring interviews,
photos, and lyrics. Sounds and colors flow out of the speakers with
"surround sound effect." This remaster is not squashed or a victim of the
loudness wars as it features lots of breath and dynamics. Close your eyes
and inhale as it almost sounds like high-resolution audio, which Esoteric
would be smart to offer. They do the remastering in high-res and I know I,
and many others, would pay extra for it.
In the meantime, be sure to seek out the remaster of this often
over-looked mid-90s Rundgren Classic!

As the closing lyric gloriously emphasizes, "It's absolutely fabulous!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Todd Rundgren Museum

Over 10 years ago, Robin Ambrose and I co-purchased a collection of Todd memorabilia to add to our own individual collections, and dreamed of one day facilitating an interactive Todd Rundgren brick and mortar museum (preferably in the Woodstock area), to be able to share with all fans and welcome all contributions from anyone who shared our vision. As the years went on, we both realized the best way to involve the greatest number of fans and have the memorabilia be accessible by everyone around the world, would be to create a virtual museum instead.

Enter our Ever Popular Master webmaster Roger Linder! Roger has been the catalyst in turning our dreams into reality!! And just in time for the holidays, I am pleased to unveil release 1.0 of the Todd Rundgren Museum!!

It is release 1.0 because this is the foundation of all the museum will grow to become, in content and design, by everyone who wishes help build it. It is for you to enjoy, share your collections and ideas, and will be the definitive archive for all of those “Todd Who?” folks out there!!

Special thanks to Ruth Rundgren for her memorabilia contributions and to Ralph Garcia, Jon Risen and Roger for providing digital images of some of their memorabilia to help build the foundation. Together, let’s grow this museum into all it can be . . . for Todd, for all fans, and for the world to discover our best kept secret!!

To be a part of this project and start uploading your memorabilia, just contact Roger and he will set you up with a curator account. It’s as easy as that!

Happy Holidays to All! and hope you enjoy the museum!