Todd Rundgren

Can't Stop Running

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This box set compilation of some of the archival albums of live material Todd Rundgren took to releasing in the late '90s contains six CDs and runs more than five and three-quarters hours. Its four shows, Live in N.Y.C. '78, A Cappella Tour, Live in Chicago '91, and Another Side of Roxy, trace Rundgren's concert performances over a period of 13 years. Versions of most of his hits are included, sometimes more than once. In fact, there is considerable overlap: "Real Man" and "Love of the Common Man" are heard four times each; "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," "Can We Still Be Friends?," and a medley of "I'm So Proud," "Ooh Baby Baby," "La La Means I Love You," and "I Saw the Light" each get three performances; and 11 other numbers are heard twice apiece. These performances are not identical, of course, the major differences coming in the songs on A Cappella Tour, which tend to be more stripped-down. (Rundgren performed that tour alone, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar or keyboards, plus tapes of the vocal overdubbing he had used on the A Cappella album.) A large swath of Rundgren's career is covered, from the two 1978 shows (Another Side of Roxy is undated, but clearly comes from that year) that found him performing material from the early and mid-'70s to A Cappella Tour, devoted largely to that 1985 album, and Live in Chicago '91, which is dominated by songs from 2nd Wind and '80s material. There are plenty of interesting rarities, such as Utopia songs and covers of Moogy Klingman's "Lady Face" and the Tubes' "Feel It," with the biggest curiosity being the obscenity-laden "Jesse," with its caustic references to Jesse Helms, Tipper Gore, and Pope John Paul II. But what impresses, listening from one show to another, is the consistency of Rundgren's writing and performance. Even when the arrangements are overly busy the songs are melodic and the lyrics emotional, delivered by Rundgren in his characteristic blue-eyed soul style. Can't Stop Running may be more than any but a devoted Rundgren fan would want, but it demonstrates his talents as well as any of his best albums.

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