Release Date: May 12, 2017
Record label: Cleopatra
Who are Todd Rundgren's peers? While his fellow artists from the classic rock era have long solidified and embraced their legacy, Rundgren remains elusive. As a producer, he assisted the evolving sounds of the 1970s' most innovative acts (New York Dolls, Patti Smith, XTC), but he was equally involved in its more commercial moments (Meat Loaf, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk Railroad). As a songwriter, he gave us some of the era's most earnest love songs and its most confounding piss-takes--several defining albums and many obscure left-turns.
Todd Rundgren's latest fuses his pop-wizard side and his studio-contrarian side more than usual, pulling an impressively odd array of stars into his vortex - from Trent Reznor (the android-apocalypse "Deaf Ears") to soulstress Betty Lavette (the bleary electro-hustle "Naked & Afraid") to Robyn (the Eighties tearjerker "That Could've Been Me"). Inconsistency is like a muse here, but he seems to work best with Seventies peers like Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall and Donald Fagen, whose smooth Donald Trump parody "Tin Foil Hat" is a timely highlight. .
Todd Rundgren prides himself in defying easy categorization and while that restlessness has resulted in brilliant work, it's also led him to cut confounding records. White Knight belongs to the latter category. A star-studded affair -- 12 of the 15 songs feature a collaborator -- White Knight covers a lot of stylistic ground (as would be fitting on a record that features Daryl Hall, Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor, and Robyn), but it's constricted by its chintzy production.
It has never been easy for Todd Rundgren fans. Between the artist's attempts to stay relevant and push outside the singer-songwriter elements that made his earlier work so commercially and artistically successful, Rundgren has followed his ever evolving muse down a twisted career path. It has taken him through guitar heavy prog (with Utopia), reveling in his Philly soul roots, a hard-rocking Robert Johnson set of blues covers, experimental soundscapes, and, lately, a vaguely new wave-ish synth based indie pop.