Monday, February 10, 2003

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My mother and I went out on Saturday. She had gotten the itch to buy a new love seat for her living room, and had found one in a closeout retailer. While she was writing the check and arranging to get it loaded into her truck, I went wandering around to see what I could see, and I soon found (as I am wont to do) their cutout CD section. It was there I spied about the only thing, IMO, worth picking up for five bucks, the 1992 Rhino compilation An Elpee's Worth of Productions.

An Elpee's Worth of Productions is a various artists-type collection which spotlights the long and varied production career of Mr. Todd Rundgren. I'm a fan of Todd, especially his pre-1975 output, and have always gone out of my way to pick up music projects he's involved in, whether it be as a session man or producer or what-have-you. I remember when this disc came out, and I'm not really sure why I didn't pick it up then; I suppose I thought I already had the best stuff on vinyl or disc or whatever...but now I'm happy to have many of these songs in one place.

I won't discuss my impressions of Todd's often spectacular but just as often disappointing career as a musician; this CD and this piece are just concerned with him as a studio guy. Todd has produced a hell of a lot of artists since the early 70s, from the overwrought schlock rock of Meat Loaf to the good-natured hippie vibe of Steve Hillage, and somehow not only managed to remain true to the artists, but true to those who expect a certain sound from the producer himself.

There are a few tracks from the likes of the Felix Cavalliere, the Rubinoos, Lords of the New Church, and Rick Derringer all of whom I've heard of but have never really cared for, and one from a group called "Hunter", whom I've never heard and based on the example given never want to again. But the good stuff, at least the good stuff in MY opinion, is good indeed. From the tumultous XTC/Rundgren sessions that gave us the amazing Skylarking album, "Dear God" Andy Partridge's scathing atheist plaint, is included. From the unfortunately short-lived Bourgeois Tagg we get their best song, the gorgeous "I Don't Mind At All". A great Tubes song from Remote Control, an interesting song from the obscure all-female 70s group Fanny, excellent tracks from outstanding songwriters like Jules Shear and Jill Sobule, and the funny, witty rocker "I'm An Adult Now" by the Pursuit of Happiness also grace the set. The song I love the most, however, is the aforementioned Steve Hillage's 1976 cover of George Harrison's "It's All Too Much" from Hillage's album "L". Hillage may have had his head in the clouds, but his hands were firmly on the fretboard. He is one of the most fearless and amazing guitarists I have ever heard, and "Much" features one of the best guitar solos that has ever graced my aural facilities.

When you add the great Grand Funk Railroad song "We're An American Band" (I always loved GFR, especially pre-1977), what you have is a pretty damn good sampler of music. It's like someone who had everything Todd has ever had a hand in decided to make you a mix CD. While it's not really current (and I don't have any idea, as I write, if Todd has produced anybody in the last 10 years), it was still well worth the five bucks I paid. Maybe you'll think so too, who knows?

Maybe I'll do a list one of these days. My ten favorite guitar solos of all time. You do remember guitar solos, right? From back when guitarists had a signature sound and didn't sound generically similar...