One Track Mind: Todd Rundgren, "Love My Way" (2011)

Is there another mainstream performer who could go — who, you know, would go — from making a bashy Yardbirds-do-Robert Johnson blues album over to this aridly propulsive synth-pop? Just Todd Rundgren being Todd Rundgren.

What’s interesting about this restless wanderer’s redo of the 1982 hit “Love My Way,” a track Rundgren originally produced for the Psychedelic Furs’ album Forever Now, is what it doesn’t have, at least at first: Vince Ely’s memorably crisp drum signature. In fact, the tune is slowed down almost to the point of being unrecognizable. As a robotic female singer metronomically repeats the song title — lovemywaylovemywaylovemyway — Rundgren begins pasting layer upon layer of electronics, his own melancholic background vocal pastiches, a thrumping beat and then finally a cluster of live wordless improvisational lines.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Digging into a trio of classic Todd Rundgren favorites -- from 'Rust,' 'Something/Anything?,' and 'Back to the Bars.']

Whoa. Hold on, though: Rundgren is just getting started, as “Love My Way” is included on a new release called (Re)Production, which finds him shape-shifting a number of tunes for which he originally worked the soundboard. There are oddities (a version of XTC‘s “Dear God” that’s somehow both over drum-machined and somnambulant), things that hew curiously close to the original (Hall and Oates‘ “Is It a Star?”) and some interesting techno-crunchy updates (Badfinger‘s “Take It All,” and Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot”). Elsewhere, there are tracks he originally produced for the Tubes, Meatloaf, the New York Dolls, Jill Sobule, Cheap Trick, Rick Derringer and Grand Funk Railroad, among others.

You wonder if Rundgren originally thought these tracks would sound better after a radical makeover, or if he’s simply been mulling it all over ever since — while carefully maintaining his do-everything computer gizmos, of course. Either way, Rundgren’s oddball “Love My Way” is perhaps the most perfectly, head-scratchingly reformulated of the bunch. Not something that bests the original, mind you, so much as rips the frame out from around it and begins wildly splashing exciting new colors on the canvas.

“I follow,” Rundgren sings, drowned in wave after wave of synth sounds, “where my mind goes.”

No shit.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.