[Review] Todd Rundgren: Faithful (1976)

Half an album of faithful re-creations of rock classics + half an album of new songs for the faithful.

Kronomyth 7.0: Todd’s got everything covered.

Faithful (in some cases, uncanny) reproductions on the first side. An album’s worth of original aces on the second. Like Utopia’s Deface the Music, it’s hard to know what to make of the first half. Is it an homage to the sonic pioneers that came before him or simply a knobby need to show off his production savvy? I’m impressed, of course, but I was already. And I don’t buy Todd Rundgren albums to hear The Beach Boys or Bob Dylan.

So onto the real payoff for the faithful: the ballads, the rockers, the breezy numbers. Todd gives us two of each, starting with the bleak and heavy “Black and White.” This and the vegetarian “Boogies (Hamburger Hell)”–perhaps a parting shot at ex-drummer and Beefsteak Charlie’s heir Kevin Ellman?–feature the compressed and distorted sound most often associated with Utopia. (In fact, there’s not a lot that separates the second side of Faithful from Oops! Wrong Planet.) Then comes the cooling “Love of the Common Man” and, later, “When I Pray.” I like Todd’s midtempo masterpieces the best, and these rank right up there with “Love In Action” and “Marlene.” The ballads are usually a mixed bag. “Cliché” doesn’t click with me because it’s too fragile, but “The Verb ‘To Love’” is flawless, providing the album’s lump-in-the-throat moment.

You’d think I’d be happy with half a great album, and I am, but I keep eyeing the first side and wondering if it isn’t taking up too-valuable real estate. Fans who indulged Deface will do the same for Faithful, but there’s only limited happiness to be had in hearing Todd and the rest of Utopia try so hard to sound like somebody else.

Original LP Version

A1. Happenings Ten Years Ago (Keith Relf/Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck/Jim McCarthy) (3:12)
A2. Good Vibrations (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) (3:44)
A3. Rain (John Lennon/Paul MCartney) (3:16)
A4. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine (Bob Dylan) (3:24)
A5. If Six Was Nine (Jimi Hendrix) (4:55)
A6. Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (3:53)
B1. Black And White (Todd Rundgren) (4:42)
B2. Love of the Common Man (Todd Rundgren) (3:35)
B3. When I Pray (Todd Rundgren) (2:58)
B4. Cliché (Todd Rundgren) (4:00)
B5. The Verb “To Love” (Todd Rundgren) (7:25)
B6. Boogie (Hamburger Hell) (Todd Rundgren) (5:00)

Original 8-track version
A1. Happenings Ten Years Tome Ago
A2. Rain
A3. Love of the Common Man
A4. When I Pray
B1. Good Vibrations
B2. Strawberry Fields Forever
B3. Black and White
C1. Most Likely You Go Your Way and Ill Go Mine
C2. If Six Was Nine
C3. Cliches*
D1. The Verb to Love
D2. Boogies (Hamburger Hell)

*This should be “Cliché.”

The Players

Todd Rundgren (guitar, vocals), Roger Powell (keyboards, trumpet, rhythm guitar), John Siegler (bass, cello), John Wilcox (drums). Produced by Todd Rundgren.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in April 1976* in the US and Canada (Bearsville, BR/BEA M8-6963), the UK (Bearsville, K 55510), Japan (Warner, P-10185W) and the Netherlands (Bearsville, 200757) with innersleeve; reached #54 on the US charts. 8-track features different track listing and erroneously lists “Cliché” as “Cliches.” (*First appeared in 5/1/76 issue of Cash Box.)

  1. Re-packaged with Initiation on 2-for-1 2LP and 2CD in 1988 in the UK and France (Castle/That’s Original, TFOLP 16 1/2).
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1988 in Japan (Bearsville/Rhino, VDP-28021).
  3. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1990 in Japan (Bearsville/Rhino, VCP-2015).
  4. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in 1993 in the US (Bearsville/Rhino, RNLP/RNCD-70868) and the UK and Germany (Bearsville/Rhino, 70868-2).
  5. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1998 in Japan (Bearsville/Victor, VICP-60263).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1999 in Europe (Essential, ESMCD-702).
  7. Re-released on super high material compact disc on March 18, 2009 in Japan (Bearsville/Victor, VICP-70064).
  8. Re-packaged with Initiation on 2-for-2 2CD in 2011 in Germany (Bearsville).
  9. Re-released on limited edition white vinyl elpee in 2019 in the Netherlands (Music on Vinyl, MOVLP2512).

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