Review for Demos and Lost albums

Review by René Bosman (Switch to

"Demos and Lost albums" is the fourth release in Nippon Crown's Todd Archive series, being the first to contain studio tracks where the others are live recordings. As the title already suggests cd 1 is a compilation of demo's Todd recorded on cassette to listen to them at home, ranging from the period 1978-1985. On cd 2 there are two unreleased albums: "Froggy went a pumpkin" and "Disco Jets".

Listening to the demo cd it appears the sound quality is quite lousy sometimes, e.g. recorded too loud. Further disappointment is beared by the impression there hardly seems to be any difference between these and the final recordings. Songs like Lucky guy, Second nature & There goes your baybay are nearly the same as the final mixes on the official Todd Rundgren albums.

Some songs are sung by someone else. Libertine is sung by Roger Powell instead of Kasim Sulton and Mimi gets mad and Umbrella man are sung by Todd instead of Kasim. Interestingly the songlines are exactly the same, so it didn't really matter who did it cause they all could. On the other hand it's a nice surprise to hear Todd sing the lead on songs he let over to others later, because he's the best lead singer of course. And yes, I would have loved it if the demo cd also contained Back on the street and I will wait. Can't we turn Todd over to sing a remix album with Utopian tunes originally sung by the other Utopians? I'd buy it! Finally, there are two demo's asking for special attention, the unreleased Attitude, recorded in 1981 (for a movie soundtrack?), a song that would have been nicer if it was played with acoustic drums instead of the boring drummachine used, and an unconvincing Utopian version of the Runt-track Don't tie my hands.

Cd 2 offers more satisfaction. The first unreleased album "Froggy went a pumpkin!" is a collection of ten demo's Rundgren made for and together with M. Frog Labat, the French synth-player appearing on Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974). The tracks, recorded in 1973, perfectly display the simple but solid rockbeat sound of that time: get the house rockin'! Amongst original new songs covers like The Doors' hello I love you, The Mysterians' 96 tears pass by. Also Nazz's Magic me deserves a place. I'm in between appears to be a remake of Runt's I'm in the clique with different lyrics. With M. Frog Labat, leaving his synths behind and doing the groaning, barking and screaming and Todd rocking the guitar a bigger contrast with the first Utopia album is hardly imaginable. I wonder if Todd also played the drums, as The Nippon Crown commentary suggests, it wouldn't surprise me if it were Kevin Ellman. Anyway, this lost album makes a good sound and could have been a fun hit in my opinion. The second lost album called "Disco jets" is made by Utopia in a line up consisting of TR, Roger Powell, Willie Wilcox and John Siegler. The songs were recorded just before the departure of Siegler in 1976. The tunes breath a mixed up atmosphere of freehand instrumental disco, jazzrock, philadelphia and movie-soundtracks. With no lyrics and steady bass/drum patterns, Roger and Todd have lots of space to excell on their instruments in songs never lasting longer than up to four minutes. The result is a coherent set of ten songs that surely could have been brought out as an album if there had been a record company interested. I'm happy Nippon Crown 25 years after finally decided to take the chance.

René Bosman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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