Todd Rundgren

A Cappella

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A Cappella was the end of the road, as far as Bearsville was concerned. Rundgren, who was already at odds with the label and had taken his Utopia elsewhere, had to struggle to get the label to release the record, and it didn't hit the shelves officially until Warner stepped in and negotiated him out of the contract. Perhaps Bearsville didn't want to release A Cappella because they perceived it to be too weird, too bizarre to cross over into the mainstream, which is true. However, that thread of logic ignores the fact that ever since 1973, Rundgren had positioned himself as a cult artist. He may have proven himself to be an enormously successful cult artist, one capable of landing the odd hit single every now and then, but he remained a cult artist precisely because he was willing to take risks like A Cappella, an album he created entirely with his voice. To some listeners, such a tactic seemed like a gimmick, which is a fair criticism, since the compositions themselves don't necessarily explore new ground (he even throws in the requisite novelties and covers). Then again, the production and the recording are precisely the point of A Cappella, and that's why it's such an involving listen. Many times, it's hard to believe that all of the sounds on the record originated from the same larynx, since each layer of the production is filled with astonishing details. Even more impressively, by forcing himself to use just his voice (albeit electronically processed), Rundgren has devised fresh, unexpected arrangements that enliven a set of solid but unrevelatory songs. That inventive spirit is enough to turn A Cappella into something unique and special.

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