So, less than a year after Rundgren released his most adventurous album, he returned with something less experimental, but equally surprising.
Faithful, like Initiation, was actually two projects in one. Rundgren, a 1960s pop-geek, when he isn’t exploring new musical frontiers, jumped into the deep-end of the pop library. Side one contains six pop classics, all produced in almost exact sound to the originals, hence the “faithful” name.
“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” I was never that much in the Yardbirds, but this was one of their classic songs.
“Good Vibrations” This version sounds quite like the original, but also has a breath of freshness to it. It helps to have the vocal quality to achieve the layered harmony of the Beach Boys, or close enough.
“Rain” I like the song, but of all the Beatles work, I might not have chosen this one. The recreation is fine, although the instrumentation sounds a bit plastic, and Rundgren’s attempt to sound like Lennon misses the mark.
“Most Likely You Go Your Way I’ll Go Mine” From Bob Dylan’s catalog.
“If Six Was Nine” One of Jimi Hendrix’s most dynamic songs, if features some interesting guitar work. Doing Hendrix is obviously a huge task.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” Outside of “Good Vibrations” this was likely the most challenging of the six recreations. Thankfully, a decade of advancements in keyboard sound technology certainly makes Rundgren’s work somewhat easier.
Did the world need these six cover songs? How about if Rundgren had put his own fingerprints on them instead of copying the originals so intently? I respect this work, but in 45 years, I have rarely played side one of this album.
Side two is where the gold can be found. All six originals by Rundgren are quite good. These are very accessible songs. He uses members of his Utopia band as he did on the cover versions.
“Black and White” A hard rocker, Rundgren plays some meaty guitar. Not much gimmickry, just a lot of squeaky, noisy guitars. Good stuff.
“Love of the Common Man” One of the best songs Rundgren has ever written. This captures the 1960s in spirit much better than the cover songs. This is an up-tempo love song that has great hooks and Eagles’ type acoustic guitar riffs. I never get tired of hearing this song.
“When I Pray” A rousing, beat-heavy piano based song. It has a bouncy Island feel to it. Rundgren plays all the instruments.
“Cliché” Another acoustic guitar driven song, very melodic and another high point to side two.
“The Verb “To Love”” An elaborate love song, soulful with all the keyboard treatments, has that Philly soul sound. It is a really nice long song, although maybe a tad bit too long at over seven minutes. I have compared Rundgren’s soul ballads to Hall and Oates, it definitely has that vibe.
“Boogies (Hamburger Hell)” The weakest of his originals, it is a hard rocker. The music is okay, nothing special, but the lyrics are
I like this album. I respect the faithfulness of the covers, but Rundgren scores big with his original tunes.