Todd Rundgren’s résumé documents 40 years of a musician who has been there, done that, and has all the t-shirts. On his own, he has recorded 20 albums (depending on how you count). In the mid 70’s, he formed the progressive group Utopia, which produced another 12 albums. In 2005, Todd joined The New Cars, a super group featuring the music of the original The Cars as well as Todd’s solo music in the set list. As a music producer, he has worked with The Tubes, Bad Religion, Cheap Trick, New York Dolls, XTC, and one of the top ten selling albums of all time, Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.”
His musical repertoire does not contain chart topping “hits.” Many casual fans may not easily recognize a Rundgren composition. But, what he has done for decades is to produce consistently enjoyable music. With the ability to play several instruments and drawing from many musical genres, Rundgren has been entertaining his fans year after year.
“Arena” is his latest solo offering and first since 2004 which delivers 13 enjoyable tracks. The hard, but not over the top, rock leads off with the song ‘Mad’ and and ‘Mercenary’. The blue eyed blues are noticeable on the songs ‘Mountaintop’ and ‘Gun’. He can slow the tempo down with ‘Weakness’, but not to the sappy drivel of boy bands and Disney musicians. Change the guitar solo and increase the volume and ‘Strike’ could be something on the new AC/DC album. The album ends with good ole rock ‘n roll tunes ‘Panic’ and ‘Manup.’
In the end, “Arena” clocks in at over 50 minutes of good music. The word good has appeared several times in this review and it really is the most appropriate. This album was not made to shakeup the music world. There isn’t a new subgenre of music being made. It doesn’t try to match up with whatever passes for popular. When you listen to each song, you feel it was a good song. A week later, you discover that the CD has been constantly playing in your car or on you iPod because you enjoy listening to it. Good is a perfect adjective for this album because that’s what it is.
If you went to a small club and heard “Arena” performed, you would walk away highly entertained having enjoyed some really good music. It reminds me of that local musician in every town that the locals treat as their own little secret. The kind of guy you would take visitors to see because you don’t get this kind of music anywhere. Except, Todd Rundgren has been everywhere and he is no secret. He may not play in the big arenas, but he leaves his fans happy after every performance.