Tribute albums are certainly a tricky proposition. There are those who feel that it's impossible to improve upon another artist's original work (and in some cases, they're certainly right -- the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, etc.), while others are interested in hearing other artists' interpretations. But you also have those who feel that a cover song should stick closely to the original, while others feel cheated if it's not a complete overhauling. The 1998 release Grok This! Defacing the Music of Todd Rundgren will certainly please some Rundgren admirers and displease others. Gathering a group of musicians who are Todd fanatics, most pen an original song that, in some way or another, was influenced by Todd. In other words, this is certainly not your ordinary tribute album. Some of these "interpretations" turn out to be surprisingly good and could easily be considered songs actually penned by Rundgren -- especially "Any Way But Love" by Doug Powell. Although there are a few instances where an artist merely covers an actual Rundgren track, such as a version of Utopia's "I Just Want to Touch You" by Phil Gill, the original tunes fare much better. In a perfect world, Todd Rundgren would be a household name. But the next best thing is to know that he's left his mark on other artists, and Grok This! serves as a loving tribute -- albeit not in the traditional sense. Todd probably wouldn't have it any other way.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato