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21 May 2017

Todd Rundgren "‘White Knight" 2017 new album






Todd Rundgren  "‘White Knight" 2017  new album
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Todd Rundgren’s latest fuses his pop-wizard side and his studio-contrarian side more than usual, pulling an impressively odd array of stars into his vortex – from Trent Reznor (the android-apocalypse “Deaf Ears”) to soulstress Betty Lavette (the bleary electro-hustle “Naked & Afraid”) to Robyn (the Eighties tearjerker “That Could’ve Been Me”). Inconsistency is like a muse here, but he seems to work best with Seventies peers like Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall and Donald Fagen, whose smooth Donald Trump parody “Tin Foil Hat” is a timely highlight. …Rolling Stone…………….. 

Who are Todd Rundgren’s peers? While his fellow artists from the classic rock era have long solidified and embraced their legacy, Rundgren remains elusive. As a producer, he assisted the evolving sounds of the 1970s’ most innovative acts (New York Dolls, Patti Smith, XTC), but he was equally involved in its more commercial moments (Meat Loaf, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk Railroad). As a songwriter, he gave us some of the era’s most earnest love songs and its most confounding piss-takes—several defining albums and many obscure left-turns. In recent years, Rundgren has remained gloriously all over the place. He’ll follow familiar routes, like making a trad-blues covers album or performing a canonical record on tour. But he’ll also run in stranger directions, like dabbling in EDM, acid house, and remixes—all while working at a pace that makes Neil Young look refined by comparison. 
Rundgren’s latest album seeks to represent him in a more holistic, reflective light. White Knight is a genre-spanning collection that finds him pairing up with artists new and old to highlight his myriad gifts and to demonstrate the reach of his influence. But even if White Knight makes for Rundgren’s most marketable album in ages, it’s characterized by the cozy, homemade sound that’s defined all his work since 2004’s Liars. This is not the music of an artist attempting to prove himself to a new audience or to reacquaint himself with old fans. Instead, it’s the sound of one of music’s most restless listeners inviting others into the world he built—playing off them like instruments at his disposal. 

The album’s greatest moments are often its simplest. Robyn provides lead vocals on “That Could Have Been Me,” and their connection is immediately apparent. Together, they focus on well-worn territory—lonely nights, broken hearts, empty beds—and embellish them with a sadness that feels distinctly their own. Fellow Philadelphian Daryl Hall shows up on “Chance for Us,” and the two pal around over an infectious disco beat, leading to a saxophone solo that feels both inevitable and triumphant. Other tracks put the spotlight on Rundgren’s songwriting. The chugging, Cheap Trickisms of “Let’s Do This” elicit a warm rush of familiarity, while “Fiction” breezes along with stuttering sci-fi synths. Like any of Rundgren’s best-loved work, White Knight is full of pop gems beneath its conceptual framework. 

The album’s relaxed charm makes it an easy, endearing listen, but some of its collaborations don’t transcend their novelty. While it’s easy to see what Trent Reznor loves about Rundgren’s music, their track “Deaf Ears” feels disappointingly flat. Reznor and Atticus Ross’ trademark drones fail to spark Rundgren’s imagination, inspiring lyrics that do little more than verbalize the dystopian atmosphere of the music (“We enact The Hunger Games/It’s raining ashes”). The Donald Fagen-assisted “Tin Foil Hat” is a well-meaning protest song, but its surface-level jabs feel like punching down from two of the ’70s’ sharpest songwriters. “He’s writing checks to his accusers/With those tiny little hands,” Fagen sings, and even he sounds exhausted by the futility of these kinds of jokes. 

Of course, Rundgren is nothing if not self-aware, and throughout White Knight, he’s quick to laugh at himself. In the faux-Prince funk of “Buy My T,” Rundgren admits to the increasing negligibility of album sales, hawking his own merchandise to stay afloat on tour. Even funnier is “Look at Me,” a mid-album interlude that finds Rundgren barking rhymes with a hypeman who introduces him as “M.C. T.O.D.D.” “I’m a spectacle of myself,” Rundgren shouts to a roaring crowd, “I’m electrical as all hell.” It sounds like his critique of aging artists trying to keep up with the times—demanding their audience view them with the same reverence they did back in the day. Or maybe it’s totally sincere, a testament to his individuality in an industry that demands artists choose a lane and stay in it. Either way, it’s classic Rundgren: weird, charming, and dotted with his favorite kind of jokes—the kind that only he’s in on…….by Sam Sodomsky…………….. 
It has never been easy for Todd Rundgren fans. Between the artist’s attempts to stay relevant and push outside the singer-songwriter elements that made his earlier work so commercially and artistically successful, Rundgren has followed his ever evolving muse down a twisted career path. It has taken him through guitar heavy prog (with Utopia), reveling in his Philly soul roots, a hard-rocking Robert Johnson set of blues covers, experimental soundscapes, and, lately, a vaguely new wave-ish synth based indie pop. To make things even more challenging, after a long stay at Warner Brothers through the ’80s, he has shifted record labels faster than you can say Something/Anything? and has recently been mining his archives for a bewildering set of live releases (six in the past four years, with one being a triple-disc set) taken from various stages of his nearly five-decade career. How those in his cult base can keep up, let alone stick with him, as he genre hops is unclear. 

White Knight (or Rundgren version 2017) finds the restless auteur laying down more synth-dominated originals while employing a diverse variety of guests. These range from soul diva Bettye Lavette and pop singer Robyn, to guitar rockers Joe Walsh and Joe Satriani and hip hop impresario Michael Holman, all of whom add vocals and/or instrumentation. The results are, perhaps not surprisingly, all over the place. 

On the downside, Rundgren’s reliance on keyboards to replicate drums and bass—and everything else—results in a chilly, metronomic sound that lacks organic, rootsy inspiration. For better or worse, that musical thread stays consistent throughout the 15 tracks, even as the guests bring their own talents to songs that span prog to rock, pop and soul with a smattering of rap. 

The opening “Come” sets the tone of the somewhat retro, severely synth, multi-overdubbed approach as Rundgren asks his audience to “come with me” in some sort of ambiguous societal revolution. Things improve when longtime friend Daryl Hall duets with Rundgren on “Chance for Us,” a love song apparently between two men trying to work out their relationship. Unfortunately, slick Kenny G. styled sax is overdubbed at the end of the generally solid track, sending it into schlock-ville. The addition of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and soundtrack buddy Atticus Ross on “Deaf Ears” results in a predictably eerie electronic dystopian performance, with “It’s raining ashes” a repeating motif on the creepy atmospherics. Lavette simply feels out of place on the thumping techno of “Naked and Afraid.” While it’s tempting to give both her and Rundgren props for trying something different, the song never transcends its dense beat underpinnings. 

Rundgren goes falsetto on the anti-merch tirade of “Buy My T,” one of the few times a bleak, edgy humor enters the picture as he sings, “That’s a limited edition/will that be cash or charge/push the cotton, we pushin’ cotton.” Along with Donald Fagen’s typically edgy, sardonic tone on his anti-Trump album highlight “Tin Foil Hat” (“He puts Pluto in plutocrat/it’s going to be a yuge yuge yuge new world”), these tracks provide a much needed break from the album’s overall serious tone. After all, this is from a guy who once titled a song “Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me.” 

It’s far from prime Rundgren and there’s little doubt that most of this would sound better with a full band instead of Rundgren’s “I’ll do it alone and save some money” keyboard dominated music. But once you warm up to the concept, there are enough moments on the eclectic smorgasbord to keep most fans engaged, at least until the next track……………By Hal Horowitz ……………. 

Just when you thought it was safe to rest on your Todd Rundgren collection with ‘Global’ carefully filed next to ‘State’, the Runt returns. This time with some A-list collaborations. Whilst this might immediately bring to mind his 2002 album of re-recordings (when he enlisted the help of Edgar Winter, Steve Lukather and other luminaries) ‘White Knight’ is an album of all new material. 

As with Todd in the live context, we’re never quite sure what to expect . His last two album outings were typically bombastic, synth driven, and bizarrely dated-sounding whilst the earlier ‘Arena’ is one of the more straight ahead rock albums he has produced. And of course ‘Liars’ remains a modern classic. 

The opening ‘Come’ sets the scene here and gives us everything that is good about Rundgren’s music: including great vocals and a sumptuous, enveloping, chorus. This is one of three Todd-only tracks including ‘Fiction’ (which harks back to ‘Wondering’ on Liars) and the Prince-infected ‘Buy My T’. 

‘I Got You Back’ is Rundgren with rapper KK Watson but retains the characteristic rich harmonies and synth textures. ‘Look At Me’ with Michael Holman is a tad more more throwaway. 

Rundgren grew up in Philadelphia and has always been influenced by Philly Soul. ‘Chance For Us’ pairs him with Philly crooner Daryl Hall on a song that could have been released in that genre’s golden era of the 1970s. A super sax solo from Bobby Strickland tops things off. 

There’s still a chance for contemporary political or social comment with Donald Fagen lending an almost inevitable Steely Dan-groove to ‘Tin Foil Hat’ whilst ‘Deaf Ears’ is darker and features Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails). ‘Buy My T’ is the perfect antidote for the internet age from one of those artists who has remained at the cutting edge in a career spanning five decades. 

Swedish singer Robyn guests on ‘That Could Have Been Me’ and along with ‘Let’s Do This’ with Moe Berg and ‘Sleep’ with Joe Walsh all are highly accessible and radio friendly. Soul chanteuse Betty LaVette sings on ‘Naked & Afraid’ and adds a brilliant female counterpoint to Rundgren’s resonant tenor. 

And, appropriately, the album is rounded off with Rundgren’s current rhythm section of Prairie Prince and Kasim Sulton, spearheaded by Joe Satriani on the track ‘This Is Not A Drill’. 

On this album Rundgren has chosen to work with those artists he admires and in doing so will bring their music to his own audience. And vice versa. It’s like the collaborators have reined in any excesses. To be honest, on “White Knight” there is little buggering about. It may be the most focused, and certainly the most tuneful, Todd album for a decade. **** ………..Review by David Randall……….. 


Track Listing 
“Come” 
“Got Your Back” – featuring KK Watson w/Dam Funk 
“Chance For Us” – featuring Daryl Hall w/Bobby Strickland 
“Fiction” 
“Beginning (Of The End)” – featuring John Boutte 
“Tin Foil Hat” featuring Donald Fagen 
“Look At Me” – feat. Michael Holman 
“Lets Do This” – with Moe Berg 
“Sleep” – with Joe Walsh 
“That Could Have Been Me” – featuring Robyn 
“Deaf Ears” – with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross 
“Naked & Afraid” – feat. Bettye LaVette 
“Buy My T” 
“Wouldn’t You Like To Know” – feat. Rebop Rundgren 
“This Is Not A Drill” – featuring Joe Satriani with Prairie Prince, Kasim Sulton  

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..