My "Initiation" review

Review by Jeff Baker (Switch to

This is a Todd album that I've always had mixed emotions about. Some wonderful tuneful moments but there's also a lot of moments where I think Todd let his ego override good judgement. After all, he insisted on putting 68 minutes of sound on one 12 inch piece of plastic when I honestly think there was about 40-45 minutes of truly good music...and all it would've taken was some self-editing on Todd's part to make this a much more pleasing album as a whole than it turned out to be.

Things get off to a wonderful, tuneful start with "Real Man". One of Todd's catchiest songs. It's deep and philosophical but yet grabs your ear like a wonderful Spinners Philly-soul type of song...if the Spinners were white, cosmic, and meditative..Just imagine that and you'll get what "Real Man" feels like. A real gem.

"Born To Synthesize"..Here's where the first 'problem' I've always had with Initiation takes place. Just a very faint high-pitched frequency with Todd's voice heavily treated for cosmic effect singing a kind of melody that that just has no purpose without an instrumental backing. This track has always just felt to me like somebody that's went overboard with believing their own cosmic hype. I will say that the only thing I've been enlightened by on this track is those effects on Todd's voice does make some cool things happen when you listen to it on Pro Logic and sitting in the 'sweet spot' in the room for the surrounds.

"The Death of Rock'n'Roll"..Now things get worthwhile again. One of Todd's greatest rockers. Great rolling, strutting, down and dirty guitar line during the verses and then the vibe and melodic feel suddenly changes on the '...vultures fill the sky..' section that always felt like somebody's spirit being set free after being held spiritually captive. Sort of like soaring like a bird. I've always loved the unusual chord that Todd hits on the guitar just before the beginning of each verse after he sings the title of the song.

"Eastern Intrigue"..This has given me lots of ethereal late night listening pleasure outside underneath the stars. This feels like a cosmically deeper "Boat On The Charles" after having some mind-expanding refreshments. :)

"Initiation"...This is another track that has never appealed to me. Yes, it has some impressive guitar work but the track in general just feels embarrassingly cheesy to me like some 70s high school kids trying to do a deep, cosmic 'it feels good to let my spirit free' musical in the school gymnasium before going home to watch TV.

Fair Warning..Now this is my favorite track on the album. One of my all-time favorite Todd songs, period. A very heartfelt, soulful melody sung by Todd, haunting background vocals also supplied by Todd, and mesmorising, emotional chord changes. However, I do feel it could've been faded out about two minutes early and there should've been some editing during the instrumental section where it needlessly meanders a bit. I love this song but it could've used some 'tightening'.

Also, the reprise of "Real Man" doesn't fit at all.

Now, here's the thing that REALLLLY bogs "Initiation" down:

"A Treatise On Cosmic Fire"

"Intro/Prana" is VERY enjoyable. It will grab your ear better than even "Real Man" can. Vibrant sound on the synthesizers playing exhilirating chords. Todd's guitar harmony on this section makes me think of the Boston harmony guitar sound if you were listening to it in a dreamy state on a radio station broadcasting from Mars. Very compelling.

The remainder of Treatise consists of few compelling musical moments that happen far between vast amounts of meandering dross.

"The Fire of Mind" is dreamy and tranquil in a 'floating on a cloud in the nighttime sky taking in the stars and midnight air' sort of way. Pleasant to hear around 2 A.M. after a hectic day.

"The Fire of Spirit" is, outside of Intro/Outro Prana, the most ear-grabbing, melodically pleasing section of Treatise. It does have an enjoyable, quaint goofy nerdiness in the way it feels. Sort of like what you might get if you combined a dervish with a joker bouncing up and down with one of those tourists who wears sandals with black socks, checkered shorts, nose guard, and a little Gilligan hat.

Outside of the exciting "Bam Wham Ma'am, etc..." section of "The Internal Fire" the rest of Treatise is an uncompelling, meandering snooze-fest of nothing that enlightens just pretends that it does.

As you can see, "Initiation" has always been a mixed bag for me. Some great things mixed with things that I have absolutely no use for. This is an album that does require quiet a bit of patience. Definitely one of Todd's most esoteric works.

One production aspect that I've always noticed is that this album has very different sonics than most Todd albums. It doesn't have the wierd EQ'ing that's always been characteristic of most Todd productions/mixes. Also, this is another Todd album that takes on some neat textures when listening to it in Pro Logic even though this is a 1975 release. You can tell a lot of (then) state-of-the art technology was used in the production of this album.

This is perhaps Todd's most 'difficult' album. Definitely more for the advanced Todd fan.....or one who is willing to accept some sweet incense with some beer farts.

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