So, the latest album by Todd Rundgren is finally out in stores – Todd Rundgren’s Johnson. It’s basically Rundgren’s take on ol’ bluesman Robert Johnson, just in time to celebrate what would have been Johnson’s 100th birthday. This project was recorded in the same fashion as 2008′s Arena album. Essentially Rundgren recording by himself (except for Kasim Sulton on bass) onto his laptop.
What a missed opportunity!! I’m pointing out the obvious but come on, drum machines and “the blues” absolutely DO NOT mix. YES, YES, I understand that Rundgren had no recording budget for this project but this is just “demo quality” work that he’s passing off as a “real” album. The drum samples sound horrid on the CD – almost “casio keyboard” like in quality. I’m not sure if the drum samples (especially the cymbals) used are of low bit rate quality but it’s almost comical. No one is going to take these Robert Johnson covers seriously when it sounds like something any dude could have done using “garage band” on a MAC in his bedroom.
Rundgren and/or the record company (MPCA) should have put up the extra dough to overdub Prairie Prince (Todd’s drummer) on top of these tracks, at the least. They definitely had the time to do it since MPCA sat on the album for over a year. well, I can’t really blame them now that I’ve heard the “finished product”. They probably didn’t have any confidence in the recorded material and just kept on delaying the release date of the album ’til they could figure out how to market this thing.
If I were MPCA, I would have pushed back and released Rundgren’s live performance of the Johnson album instead of these “demos”. Since the April 11th, 2010 performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse was recorded for streaming purposes via the web, I’d think that it wouldn’t have taken much more effort to issue the live recordings in place of Todd’s demos. Maybe just a remixing and mastering issue. Todd and the band performed these Johnson covers a hundred times better live than what was recorded by Todd alone. Plus the live setting and the interplay among the musicians in the band would have given these blues covers a bit more authenticity in my book.
But again, it’s just a long line of miss opportunities in the history of Todd. Oh well, it’s par for the course I guess. now don’t get me wrong, it’s not ALL bad. I like Todd’s arrangements and his guitar work is stellar on the new CD. But in terms of the way the CD sounds, it’s just embarrassing. You won’t find me playing the CD for any of my buddies. Actually, there’s not much desire to relisten to this at all.