Although it may be difficult to imagine at this point, there was a time when Todd Rundgren was a rising star in the pop music scene. In 1972, Todd came out with his most popular album to date - SOMETHING/ANYTHING, which boasts two top-40 hits in "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me." What was it about this album that clicked with the public? I think it was because S/A? was an eclectic, tuneful collection of pop and rock songs that sometimes looked back at past styles, but also managed to look forward as well. It had verve, humor, heart, and imagination. Not a bad combination.
The double album is divided into four parts - on the first three, Todd plays all the instruments. Side One consists of "a bouquet of ear catching melodies." The highlights include a Motown-inspired song on the late DJ "Wolfman Jack", a bittersweet ballad of unrequited love: "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference", and an even sweeter ballad appropriately called "Sweeter Memories." The rest of the songs on this side live up the bouquet metaphor.
Side 2 is known as the "cerebral" side and show Todd looking forward to his next magnum opus A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR. Songs include the flashy instrumental "Breathless," an experimental number called "I Went to the Mirror", and his first foray into Gilbert and Sullivan inspired material: "Song of the Viking."
Side 3 is where "the kid gets heavy" and lives up to that mantle with the rock staple "Black Maria" , a power pop raveup: "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" and the Zeppelinesque "Little Red Lights", but he also includes an underrated ballad called "Torch Song."
Side 4 is a mock operetta called "Baby Needs a Pair of Snakeskin Boots" which really only makes sense if you read along with the witty lyric booklet. Some people see this side as the lowlight of the album, but I disagree for two reasons: 1) He employs session musicians here thereby giving the numbers a fuller sound, and 2) I find many of the songs very humorous (albeit politically incorrect). "Some Folks is Even Whiter than Me", another witty Motown-inspired number, "You Left Me Sore", a catchy number about VD, and the Stones meets Rod Stewart rocker "Slut" are all audacious and hysterical. These numbers are balanced out by the earnestness of the Moogy Klingman composition "Dust in the Wind" and a nifty remake of "Hello It's Me" which Todd wrote for his old band, the Nazz.
While there are a few songs I could do without on S/A?, I feel this is one of those few double albums that does not seem padded and actually merits being a double album. It is a classic in every sense of the word.