Here We Discuss Todd Rundgren's Bizarro "Healing"

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

I am just now beginning to listen to what is one of the oddest records of what is admittedly a very strange career.

In some ways one of his most purely electronic records, Healing came out in 1981 after the Wizard had been a Utopian for several years. It features super fake synth drums, lots of keyboard pads—but also Middle Eastern vocalisms, recorders and other psuedo-ethnic non-suchery that adds to the spiritual vibe he's going for here.

Or he is at least part of the time, because the themselves are all over the map. You have creepy, echo-ey piano ballads with bizarre atonal melodies, wailing guitar solos, hyperactive sequencers playing over oompah beats...and that's all on the same song ("Shine"). Elsewhere, there's the requisite Gilbert and Sullivan rip on "Golden Goose" and the single, "Compassion," which I can't really decide if I like or am bored by.

On the positive side of the ledger is the three-part "Healing" suite, which has the electronic soul thing that he would (very successfully) return to on Liars featuring a long, LONG middle section I've seen compared elsewhere (and not favorably) to The Secret Life of Plants. The record concludes with "Tiny Demons," which has an awesome sense of mystery to it.

All in all, a pretty confused-sounding record. Given that Mark David Chapman was a huge Todd fan, thought Todd was beaming messages to him, and apparently constructed a tableau in his hotel room the day he shot John Lennon that consisted of a bible, a Wizard of Oz poster and the sleeve to The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, maybe it's understandable.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:01 (ten years ago) link

god i love this album. not a bum note. more thoughts later. "compassion" is a jam but i've always liked todd's hamfisted 'save humanity' stuff. musically, it reminds me of "mated" from uhh.. POV is it?

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:12 (ten years ago) link

i would say this is a not an especially odd record for todd, in the grand scheme of things (especially when you look at a capella a few years later). but yeah although the tunes themselves are (for the most part) 'conventional', they all sound strange. like, the arrangement of "healer" is so weird: no drums, no anchoring besides todd's voice breaking through that holy mix of chorused guitar arpeggio and clean clean synth.

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:21 (ten years ago) link

just picked this randomly out of a box of records, so, i guess its fate. playing now.

scott seward, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:22 (ten years ago) link

this has some of todd's strongest vocal moments, imo. he really belted it out in the 80s. say what you will about those later utopia records, but his voice sounds awesome.

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:23 (ten years ago) link

here's a great clip of todd playing "tiny demons" solo on the bbc

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 19:26 (ten years ago) link

i would say this is a not an especially odd record for todd, in the grand scheme of things (especially when you look at a capella a few years later)

I actually haven't heard A Capella -- but I have to disagree. Healing is definitely a strange record, even for him. True, it's no more stylistically varied than, say, A Wizard, A True Star or Todd. But to me, this feels like the record where he kind of goes from whiz kid to weird uncle.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:18 (ten years ago) link

yeah whiz kid to weird uncle is a good analogy. he sounds really focused here: no throwaways (golden goose debateable, i guess), a couple of classic singles, every track is really purposeful and nothing seems too excessive or indulgent... i'm too in awe of "healing 2" to really call it indulgent, though. sounds so alien. the psuedo-ethno thing he injects into this album is really one of a kind. i guess as you say it's a bit of a "confused album"

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:37 (ten years ago) link

you should check out a capella. catchy tunes, odd sonics. most (all?) of the sounds are todd's voice.

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:40 (ten years ago) link

i've had this on hard drive for a while but hadn't listened to it. thanks for reminding me.

nonightsweats, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:53 (ten years ago) link

I kind of like it. And to me, his 2004 "Liars" album (which was his best for ages - at least since "Healing") sounds like some kind of a followup, only with a more modern sound.

You're Twistin' My Melody Man! (Geir Hongro), Tuesday, 29 March 2011 22:05 (ten years ago) link

'Healing' part 3 is for me one of the great Todd tracks...absolutely adore's sooooo up...Tiny Demons is fantastic and Golden Goose is bizarre but in a good way

sonnyboy, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 22:05 (ten years ago) link

fans of private eyes era hall and oates surely would love "time heals"

blank, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 22:09 (ten years ago) link

Well this is interesting, courtesy of


This is your last chance
to see one of these epic concerts! presents
Todd Rundgren performing
the TODD & HEALING albums 2011!
The first-ever TODD & HEALING ALBUMS LIVE concerts in September 2010 were a huge success and the reviews were oustanding including many "best ever" from fans that have been going to Todd concerts for decades! A large LED display and lasers were on display throughout the shows with Todd and the band dressed in extravagant costumes. Todd brought out his SG Gibson "The Fool" replica guitar and even performed a few songs while playing the piano. The music was outstanding with an all-star band consisting of Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland, and Kasim Sulton. Local choirs, led by Choir Master Dirk Hillyer, joined Todd and the band during parts of the HEALING set and added a brand new element to the music for fans that had only heard it by listening to the album. The shows closed with the song, "Sons Of 1984" which included fan participation even after Todd and the band left the stage!

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 30 March 2011 04:14 (ten years ago) link

god i love this album. not a bum note.

Hmmmmmmm, I listened to this album recently and noticed his singing was frankly flat in places. Good album tho!

Tom D (Tom D.), Wednesday, 30 March 2011 10:53 (ten years ago) link

eleven months pass...

He's playing on March 2 and 7 in NYC. Should I make the extra effort to see him? I never have....

Iago Galdston, Thursday, 1 March 2012 02:49 (nine years ago) link

absolutely, his band is awesome (kasim from utopia, prarie prince). But if it's Todd Rundgren's Johnson (leaden blues covers), avoid

lost dion/tomita collab (blank), Thursday, 1 March 2012 03:51 (nine years ago) link

i saw him do a wizard a true star all the way through last year in sf and it was uhh really amazing. tons of costume changes, tight playing. also saw the same lineup play around the time Arena came out; they were super tight as well. played stuff from throughout his catalog.

lost dion/tomita collab (blank), Thursday, 1 March 2012 03:54 (nine years ago) link

three years pass...

been listening to this album a LOT lately, there indeed is something very "off" and alien about the whole thing, and quite frankly I think Todd's the first person to use drum machines this way. some of the distorted sounds remind me of IDM in a way. and the entire second side is totally ace. what other records are like this?

Abstinence Hawk (frogbs), Friday, 27 March 2015 13:50 (six years ago) link

four years pass...

great album. the flutey part of drifty "healing 2" has been going through my head lately. beautiful stuff.

brimstead, Tuesday, 9 April 2019 01:23 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

the more I hear this the more I swear this is one of the most unique sounding albums ever made. there's such an alien vibe to everything on it. I don't know how he got some of these sounds. it's like he built all his electronic gear by himself.

frogbs, Thursday, 18 February 2021 04:26 (two months ago) link

I mean the 8 minutes of "Shine" is just....what da fuck

frogbs, Thursday, 18 February 2021 04:28 (two months ago) link

Yeah it's a very unique album sonically, especially his use of drum machines (frogbs, you were otm about this a few years ago). A few of the tracks on The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect explore this vibe too (thinking "Influenza" and "Don't Hurt Yourself" and "Chant" in particular). But Healing is really special, definitely the best of Todd's one-man-band albums. The entire side 2 "Healing" suite is one of my favorite pieces of music--about as serene and spiritually affecting as rock-adjacent music gets. Sandro Perri's "In Another Life" from a couple years ago a achieves a similar zen-to-infinity effect

J. Sam, Thursday, 18 February 2021 14:56 (two months ago) link

Actually just listened to those Tortured Artist Effect tracks I mentioned, and the drum machines and synths sound way more run-of-the-mill compared to Healing than I remembered

J. Sam, Thursday, 18 February 2021 15:11 (two months ago) link

yeah all those sounds going off on “healing part 2” O_O

brimstead, Thursday, 18 February 2021 15:19 (two months ago) link

I've listened to this a few times, including this morning. I'm a Todd fan but don't know what to make of it; I think his spiritual aims are sincere, but I'm not won over. The textures are unusual for the era but the songs aren't compelling, except for "Time Heals", which I enjoy but is kind of Todd-by-numbers. I actually like some of the Utopia stuff from this era, I'll keep listening.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 18 February 2021 18:18 (two months ago) link

i am listening to this for the first time on spotify and i really enjoy it thus far (at healing part 1) and i possibly enjoy it more than any other todd rundgren album ive heard (all the 70s ones)

Dusty Benelux (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 18 February 2021 18:56 (two months ago) link

xp yeah that's what makes this so odd, of his 30-some odd albums this is the only one that seems completely sincere. even the requisite novelty tune ("Golden Goose") is more bizarre than fun.

one of the things that always gets me is that booming, slowed-down bass drum sound on "Flesh" sounds like an old PC game glitching out

frogbs, Thursday, 18 February 2021 19:00 (two months ago) link

I love “time heals and “tiny demons” both very very much

brimstead, Thursday, 18 February 2021 20:30 (two months ago) link

‘Healing’ pt 3 is one of favourite tracks...nobody does gorgeous warm euphoria like Todd

X-Prince Protégé (sonnyboy), Thursday, 18 February 2021 21:21 (two months ago) link

I mean the 8 minutes of "Shine" is just....what da fuck

Yes. Even tho I mentioned it in my OP, I had forgotten what a truly unique lump of strange this song is.

I will rep until I die for the Healing suite. When it comes to Todd I will always make time for the melisma-tizing, the wobbly homemade electronics, the “spiritual” percussion and Fauxtown sax riffs.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 21 February 2021 19:24 (two months ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.