Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Pop, Rock, Classic Rock, Metal
Recorded in Todd's current home state of Hawaii, 'Arena' is yet another notable addition to Rundgren's remarkable career as a performer, songwriter, and producer. The album showcases his unique songwriting style and sonica... more »
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Recorded in Todd's current home state of Hawaii, 'Arena' is yet another notable addition to Rundgren's remarkable career as a performer, songwriter, and producer. The album showcases his unique songwriting style and sonically captures the essence and energy of arena rock with bombastic, guitar-driven tunes like 'Mountaintop', 'Strike' and 'Mad', while the anthemic song 'Mercenary', transports you to a stadium with its epic chorus, with 'How Do You Like Me Now?' resounding to every seat in the house.
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It's good to be the King!
Ralph Garcia | New Jersey, USA | 10/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While some guys go through their mid-life crisis by indulging themselves with a fast, two-door convertible, Todd has had no apparent crisis. In his 40s, Todd simply announced to his fans that he'd found his second wind by releasing an album of the same name. Todd has done it again. In a career that is full of twists and turns, he has taken the logical next turn. Having recently turned 60, Todd Rundgren's new album Arena could alternately have been called Third Wind. At 60, some musicians are content with having found a niche and continuing along that path for the remainder of their career, but not Todd. His fascination with music and its many intricacies is quite obvious to anyone who knows Todd's varied musical catalog. Those of us fortunate enough to have been following his career for many years, have seen Todd evolve and move forward in ways that would make any other musician's head spin. The ultimate irony here is that the new album finds Todd taking a musical step backward while simultaneously moving forward. And the idea works like a charm!
In the late `60s, Todd's band The Nazz had him front and center as a guitar wielding army of one. Showering the musical landscape with guitar licks straight out of the British invasion with a touch of American-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band, teenager Todd made it look easy. Since then his career has included pop music (Something/Anything?, Hermit Of Mink Hollow, Nearly Human, Second Wind), synthesizer rock (Initiation, Todd), guitar extravaganzas (Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Adventures In Utopia), identical recreations of classic Hendrix, Beatles, Bob Dylan and Beach Boys songs (Faithful) and rap (No World Order, The Individualist). However, it would be difficult to generalize these albums into the afore-mentioned categories simply because each has a smattering of other music styles scattered around for good measure. Suffice to say, Todd has shown that he can master any music genre he chooses to delve into, much to the joy of his diehard fan base and much to the confusion of the general population who just don't "get it". We, the lucky few who get it, are rewarded with musical gems at every turn, while at the same time we are left scratching our collectives heads and wondering why the rest of the world just doesn't get it. Here's hoping that this new album will change all of that.
Todd celebrated his 60th birthday by writing, recording and, of course, producing this new album of original music that pulls together the music styles of Jeff Beck, AC/DC, Robin Trower, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, and ZZ Top, with a little bit of Burt Bacharach and Sade thrown in to balance things out. The result is a masterpiece, a journey through rock's finest moments as interpreted by Todd. Catchy guitar hooks and excellent solos abound everywhere on this album. It's amazing how many cool guitar riffs there are on this album. Some musicians would have to wait to release a "best of" album to collect this many brilliant songs. For Todd this is simply par for the course. Infectious melodies draw listeners in and keep us paying attention to every nuance. The catchiest in the bunch is easily "Courage", a song that recalls the album Faithful (Todd's 1976 solo album) and many songs from the pop side of the Utopia catalog. Beautiful harmonies and a guitar solo that could have fallen right out of "I Saw The Light" (from Something/Anything?) or "Love Of The Common Man" (from Faithful). Another new song that stands out is "Weakness" which alternates between two different styles, one employing a nicely distorted guitar sound and the other featuring lush background harmonies and a vocal that reminds me of "The Last Ride" (from his 1974 solo album named Todd).
There are several songs on Arena in which the source inspiration is painfully obvious. One is "Strike", a nod to AC/DC, complete with the signature vocal style that band is best known for. Another song is "Bardo", which recalls Robin Trower's song Bridge Of Sighs.....only Bardo is even better! And then there's the ZZ top inspired "Pissin'" with its twangy guitar riff and Texas-style vocal. This entire album is full of music that brings us back to a place we all know well and yet also takes us somewhere we've never been. Nicely done!
But let us not forget the lyrics. Todd has always had a way with words and although this album does emulate the styles of other bands, it's in the lyrics where Todd reminds us that it is still Todd and not someone else at the controls here. His ability to turn a phrase and make the listener perk up is unrivaled. No one even comes close. There is the soul searching in "Courage" ("Humbly pretending to be brave and strong, inside I'm wondering, what if I'm wrong"), or "Mad" ("Crowded world, how can I find peace of mind, with so many small agendas pushing at me all the time"). There is the call to arms in "Manup" ("Listen to me my friend, what you will not defend, somebody else will end up takin'"), or "Strike" ("Time to strike while the iron is hot") from the AC/DC sound-alike song. I bet AC/DC is smacking their foreheads wondering how they missed using a perfect phrase like that in one of their songs.
This is an album that should be spinning in everyone's CD player. Anyone who has ever liked rock anthems and classic guitar-driven rock music should immediately proceed to checkout and add this to their collection. This is yet another brilliant album by an icon in the music business. And what makes it yet more amazing is that there's no band playing here, it's Todd on all of the instruments, as he has done before on other albums. The difference here (as was on the previous Todd album Liars) is that this album was recorded entirely in Reason, a computer-based recording program. The sound on this album is outstanding, especially the guitars. On some tracks it's obvious the drums are programmed but they sound fine and fit in the context of the track quite well. On other tracks the programmed drums sound more real than a live drummer. His vocals excellent as always and the backing vocal harmonies are superb. Todd has captured the feel and essence of Arena rock, while in the process making us want to jump out of our seats and sing along. After you buy this CD, you might want to complete the experience by going to see Todd and his band on tour. You'll be glad you did.
For more information and tour dates, check out:
For an excellent Todd interview (done by Jesse Gress) about the album Arena, pick up the October 2008 issue of Guitar Player magazine. The interview includes guitar tabs done by Jesse for several of the songs on Arena.
For information about Jesse Gress, check out:
James Simon | New York, NY USA | 10/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Todd's been floating around in one form or another for the past decade. He's been releasing albums through his own website, remixing his old albums, and even had a short stint as the frontman for The New Cars. He really hasn't put out anything really new since his electro-album Liars in 2004. Arena not only marks his first album in four years but maybe his best in almost two decades. There's a lot of vintage sounds here including his great guitar and keyboards, although it's too clear that his cheap sounding drum kit sabatoges much of the album. Aside from that, there are songs that rock hard with such big sounds that one might wish he'd put Utopia back together to do them. The opener "Mad" echoes "Trapped" from Oops, Wrong Planet. "Afraid" is a lush introspective power ballad with those great harmonies he's known for. "Mercenary" shows no mercy with in your face guitars and Todd's hook chorus of "How do you like me know?!". "Gun", the followup, could be a bookend to Hamburger Hell from his Faithful album or the title track from Oops!. Todd then goes back to his awesome pop relationship songs with great harmonies on "Courage". "Weakness" could be a one of his great soul ballads along the lines of "Only Human" but the distorted fuzzy guitar edge especially in the intro tends to make the song too edgy for what it tries to accomplish. One of the biggest surprises is the masses rallying cry of "Strike" ("Are you ready to rumble? Are you just staying humble?"). Todd's powerchords and vocals taps into his inner AC/DC when he yells "Strike while the iron is hot"! "Today" is a solid techno-track which throws back to Liars. "Bardo" is a slow blues ballad which just doesn't seem to go anywhere, but things immediately pick up with the crowd chanting-struttting "Mountaintop". "Panic" is a fast rocker that still reminds me of something off Oops, and "Manup" is muscially fast rocker that somehow lacks the lyrical power to equal the driving guitars, though Todd still plays great, it's not the closer I would hope for. It's not a masterpiece, but certainly a solid mix of songs and sounds that make Todd's aptly titled ARENA rock a much welcomed addition to the Rundgren discography."
The most rockin' Todd ever?
Roger Steel | Hudson, Ohio | 09/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"That's up to every one of you but I make an arguement for yes. I was lucky enough to hear the songs live before I heard the recorded versions so I knew what to expect to a degree. This disc does not disappoint.
In virtually every song, you hear references to other songs. Some are subtle, some not. Some sound like Todd songs of past, some not. It's a mixed bag. Start with "Mad" for instance and try not to be reminded of Buffalo Grass from One Long Year. "Afraid" has a little Temporary Sanity-like interlude that's hard to ignore. "Mercenery" reminds me of Fascist Christ although I'm not exactly sure why while "Gun" has a ZZ Top kinda thing going.
Things shift gears a bit with "Courage." One of the more subtle songs on the disc but also one of the best. "Weakness" is a mind-blower. Incredibly intense bluesey intro with a Hawking-like chorus that just melts you. Then you get to "Strike." Imagine AC/DC backing up Todd playing one of their songs. That's "Strike" in all of it's fist-pumping glory. "Pissin" is fun although it might take some time to grow on you as it did me. "Today" is the closest sounding song to anything on Liars and in my opinion, the discs best tune. It's a call to action that gets you motivated. "Bardo" is basically Bridge of Sighs 2008. "Mountaintop" is the sports anthem that Todd would like to replace Bang The Drum. "Panic" is the most technically challenging song on the disc according to Todd and in my opinion, the one that sounds closest to a Utopia tune. I could see that song being on Swing to the Right or POV and wouldn't know any better. "Manup" wraps the disc up in nice, straight-forward rock & roll fashion.
At 60, Todd won't generate many/any new fans with this disc. Die-hards like me will probably love it. Middle-of-the-roaders might take to it over time. Regardless of who it appeals to, it's an outstanding disc start to finish. And by the way, see the tour!!! These songs are great live which is really what Todd was going for from the start. At least on the first legs, he played the disc in it's entirity, in order. And I'll see all of you Pittsburghers on 10/10."