’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
, 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.