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Arena

4.3 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 30, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Recorded in Todd's current home state of Hawaii, 'Arena' is yet another notable addition to Rundgren's remarkable career as a performer, songwriter, and producer. The album showcases his unique songwriting style and sonically captures the essence and energy of arena rock with bombastic, guitar-driven tunes like 'Mountaintop', 'Strike' and 'Mad', while the anthemic song 'Mercenary', transports you to a stadium with its epic chorus, with 'How Do You Like Me Now?' resounding to every seat in the house.

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What a return to form for Rundgren! Arena's baker's dozen, one-word-named tunes are from another time entirely: thoughtful, intense and expertly crafted rock songs that straddle the line between pop and prog. Rundgren continues to make music that pushes the envelope of his best work, regardless of current musical trends. The great songwriter and genius producer of Cheap Trick, the Runaways, Meat Loaf, Hall and Oates, and XTC is neither resting on his laurels nor performing his greatest hits at the Kansas state fair--although he did assume Rix Ocasek’s mantle with the New Cars, but that's something else entirely. The album title is ironic. Music like this hasn't been an arena draw in twenty-plus years. --Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 30, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Hi Fi Recordings
  • ASIN: B001EZ6OLE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,712 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ralph Garcia on October 4, 2008
Format: Audio CD
While some guys go through their mid-life crisis by indulging themselves with a fast, two-door convertible, Todd has had no apparent crisis. In his 40s, Todd simply announced to his fans that he'd found his second wind by releasing an album of the same name. Todd has done it again. In a career that is full of twists and turns, he has taken the logical next turn. Having recently turned 60, Todd Rundgren's new album Arena could alternately have been called Third Wind. At 60, some musicians are content with having found a niche and continuing along that path for the remainder of their career, but not Todd. His fascination with music and its many intricacies is quite obvious to anyone who knows Todd's varied musical catalog. Those of us fortunate enough to have been following his career for many years, have seen Todd evolve and move forward in ways that would make any other musician's head spin. The ultimate irony here is that the new album finds Todd taking a musical step backward while simultaneously moving forward. And the idea works like a charm!

In the late `60s, Todd's band The Nazz had him front and center as a guitar wielding army of one. Showering the musical landscape with guitar licks straight out of the British invasion with a touch of American-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band, teenager Todd made it look easy. Since then his career has included pop music (Something/Anything?, Hermit Of Mink Hollow, Nearly Human, Second Wind), synthesizer rock (Initiation, Todd), guitar extravaganzas (Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Adventures In Utopia), identical recreations of classic Hendrix, Beatles, Bob Dylan and Beach Boys songs (Faithful) and rap (No World Order, The Individualist).
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Format: Audio CD
This release is incredible on a number of levels. Recorded on a laptop Mac, no amps, minimal hardware interfaces, mixed on headphones, all in just a few weeks.

For those complaining about the mix: Get a quality set of headphones [Sony MDR 7506 or Beyerdynamic DT 770]and run your EQ flat. Sure, the vocals are a bit more distant than we're accustomed to but this material would come off as preachy if they were more forward in the mix. LISTEN for the vocals and they will crystallize between your ears.

I'm not sure if it was intended but this is the most trippy production I've heard in decades. ONLY Todd has the vision and TALENT to pull this off. The "psychoacoustic" phenomena [purposely or unintentionally] engineered into this CD are fantastic beyond description.

Make up your own mind about the material. Music is a smorgasbord for the senses.

Overall, ARENA is an audio oasis in the current xeric wasteland of audio crap that passes for creativity and music nowadays.

Thank you Todd.
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Format: Audio CD
Todd's been floating around in one form or another for the past decade. He's been releasing albums through his own website, remixing his old albums, and even had a short stint as the frontman for The New Cars. He really hasn't put out anything really new since his electro-album Liars in 2004. Arena not only marks his first album in four years but maybe his best in almost two decades. There's a lot of vintage sounds here including his great guitar and keyboards, although it's too clear that his cheap sounding drum kit sabatoges much of the album. Aside from that, there are songs that rock hard with such big sounds that one might wish he'd put Utopia back together to do them. The opener "Mad" echoes "Trapped" from Oops, Wrong Planet. "Afraid" is a lush introspective power ballad with those great harmonies he's known for. "Mercenary" shows no mercy with in your face guitars and Todd's hook chorus of "How do you like me know?!". "Gun", the followup, could be a bookend to Hamburger Hell from his Faithful album or the title track from Oops!. Todd then goes back to his awesome pop relationship songs with great harmonies on "Courage". "Weakness" could be a one of his great soul ballads along the lines of "Only Human" but the distorted fuzzy guitar edge especially in the intro tends to make the song too edgy for what it tries to accomplish. One of the biggest surprises is the masses rallying cry of "Strike" ("Are you ready to rumble? Are you just staying humble?"). Todd's powerchords and vocals taps into his inner AC/DC when he yells "Strike while the iron is hot"! "Today" is a solid techno-track which throws back to Liars. "Bardo" is a slow blues ballad which just doesn't seem to go anywhere, but things immediately pick up with the crowd chanting-struttting "Mountaintop".Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
That's up to every one of you but I make an arguement for yes. I was lucky enough to hear the songs live before I heard the recorded versions so I knew what to expect to a degree. This disc does not disappoint.

In virtually every song, you hear references to other songs. Some are subtle, some not. Some sound like Todd songs of past, some not. It's a mixed bag. Start with "Mad" for instance and try not to be reminded of Buffalo Grass from One Long Year. "Afraid" has a little Temporary Sanity-like interlude that's hard to ignore. "Mercenery" reminds me of Fascist Christ although I'm not exactly sure why while "Gun" has a ZZ Top kinda thing going.

Things shift gears a bit with "Courage." One of the more subtle songs on the disc but also one of the best. "Weakness" is a mind-blower. Incredibly intense bluesey intro with a Hawking-like chorus that just melts you. Then you get to "Strike." Imagine AC/DC backing up Todd playing one of their songs. That's "Strike" in all of it's fist-pumping glory. "Pissin" is fun although it might take some time to grow on you as it did me. "Today" is the closest sounding song to anything on Liars and in my opinion, the discs best tune. It's a call to action that gets you motivated. "Bardo" is basically Bridge of Sighs 2008. "Mountaintop" is the sports anthem that Todd would like to replace Bang The Drum. "Panic" is the most technically challenging song on the disc according to Todd and in my opinion, the one that sounds closest to a Utopia tune. I could see that song being on Swing to the Right or POV and wouldn't know any better. "Manup" wraps the disc up in nice, straight-forward rock & roll fashion.

At 60, Todd won't generate many/any new fans with this disc. Die-hards like me will probably love it.
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