We gave it a D
Bombast and pretentiousness are nothing new to rock albums. Think of such seminal works as Deep Purple’s 1970 Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a high-water mark of overkill. Well, Todd Rundgren loves a challenge as much as the next guy, so he’s followed 1989’s downright tuneful Nearly Human with this mess, recorded live-to-tape in San Francisco with a large band. Not even Deep Purple juxtaposed such an array of clutter: kitchen-shtick arrangements with everything from string sections to choral voices to tacky hard-rock guitar; overinflated songs, including several of Rundgren’s ersatz Gilbert and Sullivan tunes from his 1989 Off Broadway musical, Up Against It; even, bless his heart, a drum solo, thereby re-creating the full, interminable effect of a ’70s concert. On a few tracks, like ”Change Myself,” Rundgren reminds us he’s capable of making bighearted pop that’s as warm as an embrace. But those moments are overwhelmed by the likes of the gimmicky ”Love Science,” which reeks of Rundgren’s worst excesses with his old band, Utopia. Unfortunately, the album does not include ”Jesse,” Rundgren’s scathing anti-Helms diatribe. (Although he has been performing it in concert, Rundgren says he dropped the song at the last minute because its bare-boned piano arrangement didn’t fit the rest of the album.) But in the context of 2nd Wind, that song probably would have made far too much sense.