Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren's Johnson

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Nominally, Todd's punningly titled 2011 album Todd Rundgren's Johnson is a tribute to the legendary Robert Johnson -- delivered just in time for the great man's 100th birthday -- but Rundgren has never shown much interest in the blues. He threw away a cover of Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid" on Something/Anything?, but it was an introduction that played like an afterthought -- but he's always pledged allegiance to British blues. That's the blues he celebrates on Todd Rundgren's Johnson, the kind powered by overdriven Marshall amps that pumped out heavy riffs and long solos, a sound many miles away from Johnson's spare, skeletal Delta blues. This being Rundgren, things aren't quite so simple, of course. Eschewing the basic two-guitar/bass/drums lineup of British blues, he recorded everything but the bass himself -- longtime running mate Kasim Sulton manned the four strings -- never resisting the opportunity to layer on digital effects, piling on harmonizers and watery choruses at will. All this flair skews Todd Rundgren's Johnson toward a bizarre mutation of Faithful, Arena, and Nearly Human, a curious concoction of lumbering blooze and shimmering cleanliness that's as bewildering as anything Todd has released…which is no small feat but not necessarily an interesting one, either.