Up Against It - Todd Rundgren

Review by Anthony McGarrigle (Switch to

The latest offering from Todd consists of music composed a decade ago when the composer was commissioned to write the music for a Broadway production of a musical based on screenplay by English playwright Joe Orton. Four of the tracks included here can be found on previous Rundgren albums. The album consists of a collection of demos of the various songs making up the show which have been 'tarted up' for the listeners pleasure. Unfortunately they haven't been tarted up enough as the arrangements are quite sparse. This is most evident in comparing the versions of 'The Smell Of Money' and 'Love In Disguise' appearing here to those on 'Second Wind'.

In his sleeve notes Todd acknowledges that his influences in this particular area range from Gilbert & Sullivan to Bernstein & Sondheim. This will be no surprise to fans as this is apparent from some of his earlier work (check out 'The Lord Chancellors Nightmare Song' from 'Todd', 'Emperor of the Highway' from TEPTEA or 'Somethings Coming' from 'Another Live') and the influences are also apparent here.

The album kicks off with 'When Worlds Collide' which carries the recurring theme. It also sees the composer performing three different parts of the characters who perform the song in the show. The song just about works but at other times the practise of performing unfamiliar voices simply does not succeed, most notably on 'Lili's Address' in which Todd sings the lead vocal in the voice of the lady PM from the show and which is frankly irritating.

The Bernstein influence comes to the fore in songs such as 'Free Male & 21', 'Life Is A Drag' and 'Maybe I'm Better Off' which could have jumped straight from the score of 'West Side Story' or even South Pacific'. The songs however lack body and leave the listener wondering what they might have become had they been afforded the type of orchestration afforded 'The Smell Of Money' on 'Second Wind'. This is especially so on 'We Understand Each Other' which features one of the most complex arrangements this writer could hope to hear performed live.

The album will be of interest to those seeking the origin of the various tracks which appear in fuller form elsewhere and in this regard it can be likened to purchasing one of the Beatles' Anthology albums. The problem is that in the majority of the cases here we are unlikely to ever get the finished article. I also enjoyed the lyrics which are exceptional and one can get a feel of how the show must have been by following the script. It is the only opportunity you will get in this regard as the show bombed after just one performance. All in all an album with rich potential unfortunately unrealised and possibly for completists only. Sorry!

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