TR King Biscuit Record Review

Review by Bruce Gomez (Switch to

The recent release "King Biscuit Flower Hour presents Todd Rundgren Live" is basically some live recordings from radio broadcasts taped in 1985, 1977, and 1978.

It opens with "Real Man" acapella-style from 1985 in Chicago and this version makes you realize just how difficult the acapella style is (it sounds easier than it appears) because the tuning here is a bit off, particularly the bass ostinato parts. Perhaps a few more African-American voices in the blend might have helped... (I'm recalling the excellent background vocals from the Todd Rundgren's Utopia album "Another Live" released in 1975.) Things however do get a little better with the following medley and "Can We Still Be Friends."

The next three selections were recorded in '77 in N.Y.C. and feature the Utopia instrumental and vocal quartet. "Last Ride," although heartfelt and impassioned, unfortunately displays Kaz Sulton's upper bass string being tuned sharp which is a bit of a bummer considering what is overall an excellent rendition of this composition.

"Eastern Intrigue" is quite seviceable (although Todd's vocals push the meter a little) and this segues into "Love of the Common Man" where the guitar mix predominates although it has that overly compressed and direct (flat) mixing board sound to it which makes it somewhat lacking in dynamic range. Roger Powell's keyboard is volume-wise pretty distant here as well. "Couldn't I Just Tell You" rounds out the '77 material and is the high energy rocker that has been a highlight of Todd Rundgren's concert career.

The end of the disc was again recorded in N.Y.C. but one year later in 1978. Utopia's version of "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" is one of the better moments on this record; great tempo shifts (the verses slow down a little) which add to the emotional intensity of this classic Rundgren composition.

The soul medley taken from the "A Wizard A True Star" album also works quite well but the last song tacked on, the pop gem "I Saw the Light," has the most embarrassing moment on the record where one of the guitar lead double stop parts is horribly botched (I'm not sure who or what the culprit was here) and you wonder when Todd laughs aloud after the lyric " jest" if he's laughing in relation to the sung line or the disastrous guitar break.

The disc ends with a pedestrian and sparse "Hello It's Me" which makes you recall how the fleshed out instrumentation and arrangement of the recorded version on "Something, Anything" really is such an integral part to the success of that song.

The overall sound quality is slightly lifeless here, but that's radio board tapes for you...Todd is credited as "premastering" the tapes but I'm not quite sure what that means, possibly "premixing." (I guess some "postmastering" might have helped...)

The sequencing of the disc also maybe would have been better flip-flopping the N.Y.C. recordings.

One highlight which should be noted is the fine drumwork of Willie Wilcox - solid, tasteful and quite musical throughout.

Pretty much for the true fan the King Biscuit CD probably isn't one you'd recommend to someone who wants to discover anew the artistry of Todd Rundgren and Utopia. Those records would arguably be from their creative musical prime during the years 1971 - 1974, hence the albums (abbrev.) Ballad, Something/Anything, A Wizard, Todd Rundgren's Utopia and Todd.

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