Faithfulby Todd Rundgren
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. Still, it's hard to see it as much more than a flamboyant throwaway, especially when compared with the glorious second side. For the first time since Something/Anything?, Rundgren allows himself to write and -- more importantly -- record straight-ahead pop songs. Certainly, A Wizard, A True Star, Todd and Initiation had their share of great songs, but they weren't delivered as pop songs; they were telegraphed as art. Here, Rundgren delivers pop and rock songs with ease, letting the melodies glide to the forefront. There are embellishments, of course, but the end result is a lushness that's apparent even on the hard rockers. If Rundgren had made all of Faithful originals, it would have been a pure pop masterpiece. As it stands, it's essential for the faithful -- not only for hardcore Toddheads, but for devoted pop fans as well.
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The concept is admirable: Todd wanted to pay homage to a handful of sides that influenced him mightily as an aspiring rock star. Side 1 is devoted to these. But they're not cover versions-- they are facsimiles of the originals, every note reproduced ''faithfully''. It's amazing; to the casual ear, Rundgren's ''Good Vibrations'' is indistinguishable from the Beach Boys. Dylan, the Yardbirds, the Beatles, Hendrix, all get the same loving treatment. The tracks are amusing the first couple of times you hear them. After that, they're more a nuisance than anything else. Problem is, why listen to ''Strawberry Fields Forever'' here when you can just play the original? As a result, Side 2 is the only justification for sustained interest-- and it is WONDERFUL. Fans of S/A? will rejoice to find a crop of resplendent pop masterpieces and convincing rockers. In the latter category, ''Black and White'' is one of his best. In the former, ''Love of the Common Man'' and ''Cliche'' are Rundgren classics. Incidently, with the exception of John Siegler, this is the band Utopia-- a trial run, seemingly.