Rundgren fans are divided over this album. To put it in context, it was the second of a three-album arc which began with 1973's playfully experimental, occasionally astounding, A Wizard, A True Star and ended with 1975's dense (but noodley) prog-rock exploration, Initiation. The albums are comparable to Neil Young's 'ditch' trilogy; an iconoclastic reaction to mainstream success. 1972's Something/Anything? was very much Rundgren's Harvest (released in the same month no less). Some think this trilogy of albums represents Todd's best work, but others, perhaps in greater numbers, believe that they were an interesting tangent which spun a great deal of essential tracks, but far more which were dull and masturbatory.
Whilst A Wizard, A True Star and Initiation are both very fine albums, Todd is by far the best album to come out of this experimental detour (before recapturing the pop/rock sound which made him famous with Faithful and Hermit of Mink Hollow). The album is a schizophrenic and uneasy mix of genres - something which is often cited as a shortcoming. It does not ease you in, beginning with a severely monged crescendo of unintelligible spoken word, buzzing and repetitive electronic noises, a perfect build up to the first killer ballad, 'I Think You Know'.
With the exception of the slightly abrasive (but titularly-inspired') 'In and Out The Shakras We Go (Formerly: Shaft Goes to Outer Space)'', this album features some of Todd's most tight and appealing instrumental tracks, featuring the density of 'Initiation's compositions, but succinct, groovier and, like on A Wizard A True Star, of a curious, playful personality. The superb 'Sidewalk Café' is the best on the album, but the ambient waltz of 'Drunken Blue Rooster' and the colourful dizziness of 'The Spark of Life' are also great instrumental tunes.
Todd's virtuosity has always lain in his penchant for immaculate rock/ pop ballads, however, and 'Todd' has its fair share. One of his best-known songs, 'A Dream Goes on Forever' is a simple but moving, electric-piano led ballad, 'Useless Begging' is an pithy and understated tune (with a memorable windscreen-wiper rhythm), and 'Izzat Love?' is a trademark Rundgren ballad, whose uplifting harmonies are capable of lifting any dark mood. ‘I Think You Know’ and ‘Don't You Ever Learn’ are slow and deceptively simple ballads, but offset with an uneasy atmosphere, with Rundgren's typically boyish croon more drowsy and cynical - eyebrow cocked and pupils dilated. The standout track on the album, however, is the epic and intimate 'The Last Ride', featuring, on the outro, one of Todd's most electrifying guitar-solos and a passionate, half-spoken lyrical delivery.
The rest of the double album does not quite match the quality of these ballads and instrumentals, but the quirky ‘An Elpee's Worth of Toons’, with it’s oblique appraisal of the music industry, the manic yet joyous ‘Heavy Metal Kids’ and the final singalong, ‘Sons of 1984’, with it’s stirring chanted chorus, are all memorable demonstrations of Rundgren's eclectic gifts. Though one has to be in the mood to appreciate Todd's wide spectrum of musical styles, It is this variety which makes it such a fine showcase of Rundgren’s talents and the crowning achievement of his very respectable repertoire. @256