Over the course of 1977, Todd Rundgren
toward a more pop-oriented direction, winding up with the slick mainstream arena rock of Oops! Wrong Planet
. With that in mind, it makes sense that The Hermit of Mink Hollow
-- his first full-fledged solo album since Initiation
, if you discount the half-cover/half-original Faithful
-- finds Rundgren
in his pop craftsman persona. The difference is, he's heartbroken. His relationship with Bebe Buell
collapsed during 1977 and it's clear that the separation has pained him, since pain and melancholy underpin the album, whether it's on ballads ("Can We Still Be Friends") or on apparently joyous revelries, like "All the Children Sing." That said, this is a Rundgren
solo album and he has not abandoned his trademarks, which means that the lush ballads are paired with novelties ("Onomatopoeia," which sounds exactly how you hope it does), ersatz soul ("You Cried Wolf"), and pure pop ("Hurting for You"). Hermit
is also the first record Rundgren
recorded completely alone since Something/Anything?
Where that record sounded like the inner workings of a madman, with each song providing no indication what the next would sound like, Hermit
is more cohesive. It also feels less brilliant, even if it is, in many ways, nearly as excellent as Rundgren
's masterwork, mainly because it doesn't have such a wide scope. Still, the reason The Hermit of Mink Hollow
is such a milestone in Rundgren
's career is because it's a small album, filled with details, and easily the most emotional record he made.