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Up Against It

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Product details

  • Audio CD (11 Nov 1997)
  • Label: Pid
  • ASIN: B000005JYO
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,672,622 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mungo Binkie on 15 Aug 2003
Format: Audio CD
Another off the wall project for the master. This time it's the music inspired by the script of what was to become the third Beatles movie. The details of the play and its trials and tribulations are outlined in the liner notes so let's get down to the music.
Often referred to as a collection of demos, the sound quality and production lacks nothing to these ears. The music itself is neither poppy Todd nor rawk n roll Todd. It's a musical journey in the manner of Bernstein etc. and it really works. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea but for the already converted it's a must have. One of Todd's finest musical moments lies within but you'll have to find that out for yourselves.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Todd's Lost Masterpiece 11 Sep 2007
By Gareth Davies-Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Given how few people have commented on this, I figure another opinion is needed, though I agree whole-heartedly with the other reviewers that this is a terrific "lost" Todd release that hardcore fans should know about. If you just like a few tunes or are new to Todd, then probably Rhino's quite decent Best Of is the place to start. But if you like Todd's more complex work (Initiation, RA, TR's Utopia, and especially the piece A Wizard A True Star), you'll find this work, recorded 86-88 but not released until 1997, a wonderful discovery.

As has been noted, this is Todd's score to the stage adaptation of playwright Joe Orton's Up Against It, the unfilmed screenplay originally mooted as the third Beatles film (after Hard Day's Night and Help). They declined it, so he reworked it to lessen their presence, successfully sold it to the producer Oscar Lewenstein, and then was violently done in by boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell in a notorious murder-suicide. With Orton no longer around to help push it along, development stalled and the script was never filmed. It was published in book form a couple of times, however, and in the 80s Joseph Papp decided to give the script a new lease on life as a piece of theater. Hence this score.

In the liner notes, Todd observes that he probably got the gig based on having created the various Beatles parodies on Deface The Music; whoever hired him must not have known about Todd's general disinterest in rock musicals or the overt contempt he had voiced for John Lennon during the former Beatle's infamous "lost weekend" (he wrote Rock'n'Roll Pussy about Lennon, evidently; you can find their exchange of words in Melody Maker at: [...]

Certainly, anyone expecting Beatlemania wouldn't find it here; this is pure Todd, in the melodies, the arrangements, and above all the vocals. There are no Beatles similarities at all, really, except the deliberate echo of the Billy Shears theme at the start of From Hunger, which I'd guess was intended for the Ringo-style character. All quite fitting, given that the Beatles rejected the screenplay and Orton died thinking it wouldn't be a Beatles film anyway; what we get instead is effectively a new piece of theater scored with a great set of Todd songs. The story's dated but certainly reflects 60s concerns: gender roles, women's rights, sexual liberation, and revolution. In the plot, the battle of the sexes is taken into outright civil war, with the women winning and men losing all political rights. It's sort of like Norman Lear's All That Glitters encountering a bizarre gender twist on Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but it's entertaining, no doubt, and I wish I'd seen it staged in its brief run.

The production sound is similar to Healing or Ever-Popular Tortured Artist Effect: rich synths, electric piano, and syndrums (in fact, you could almost say that you get an hour's worth of Shine or Hideaway here). It helps if you like musicals such as West Side Story or anything by Gilbert & Sullivan, or if you at least enjoy Todd's musical-hall songs like Emperor of the Highway or his cover of Lord Chancellor's Nightmare song. It's most definitely a musical, after all, with repeating themes and multiple vocal parts. But it's Todd, too, so it rocks, at least in places: ie, You'll Thank Me In The End, Lili's Address, & the title track. Sadly, there's no guitar, thus what you don't get are any of Todd's trademark soaring solos, which usually appear at least once on any of his albums. In terms of performance, the real strength here is Todd's vocals. He sings all of the parts -- yes, in character in several places, such as Lili's Address, When Worlds Collide, and the Finale. But that adds to the fun, I think, and makes this the closest thing to a cast album that we'll ever get.

Four tracks have appeared elsewhere, and one track dropped from the performance is reinstated -- thankfully, as it's one of the best here. Todd shrewdly reworked the Tony-nominated Parallel Lines on Nearly Human, but while that version was clearly geared for top-40 radio, the original is much slower and more pensive, but ever bit as enjoyable. Three other tracks, The Smell of Money, If I Have To Be Alone, & Love in Disguise, were rerecorded on Second Wind, and those performances are, I imagine, very similar to how the stage versions must have sounded. I like them a lot, but finally enjoy Todd's solo originals more. As for the dropped song, We Understand Each Other, its bluesy shuffle belies the highly complex counterpoint of the vocal lines, which were evidently just too hard for the actors to learn. Go figure, lazy bums; no wonder Todd's solo version is the only one we'll ever hear - or need to!

As for the packaging, this is a Japan-only release, and the extra-thick jewel case allows for two versions of the libretto, one in Japanese, one in English (in an odd two-piece fold-out). Todd provides brief but humorous liner notes, including comments about the lyrics and performances on certain tracks. My only complaint about this marvelous project is the artwork. We get nothing more than a frankly awful photo of Todd that looks like a colorized version of his back-cover shot on Oops Wrong Planet. I don't understand why Pony Canyon couldn't have used a promotional shot from the play or a page from its program, or even a photo of the marquee showing the play's title during its brief run. Someone must have had that memorabilia. Or even better, a still from the Orton biopic Prick Up Your Ears, a fine film with Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina that features a very brief recreation of the proposed last scene from Up Against It (Miss Drumgoole in bed with the Fab Four). Any of those would have nicely tied the play to Todd's score and shown us something a bit more appealing. Oh well, a minor gripe about a major work in the career of this ferociously talented artist. Again, if you like his progressive side in particular, you should discover this little-known gem.

A word on the price: some people are demanding ridiculous amounts of money for this disc. I got mine from an online auction site for $30 including shipping, which seems a perfectly reasonable price to pay (rather than five times that amount, as at least one person is asking). That should give shoppers something against which to gauge their prospective purchase. Nonetheless, if you can afford to, pay any amount - it's that good!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HIS MUSICAL ! 18 Sep 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I 've just read the firt customer review and wanted to say I totally agree with his opinion.No doubt about it:UP AGAINST IT deserves a much better place than the one he's got in the opinion of real Toddheads (in fact I think many of them don't even really know the existence of this item in his discography).Still, it's Todd concentrating on melodies,vocal harmonies, drum machines and keyboards:we,Todd fans ,all know what it means!I only put 4 stars just because, the project being a musical for Broadway,his maverick musical spirit is nowhere to be seen here.But what gorgeous melodies!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Up against YOU 4 Jan 2010
By Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a real treat for any true Toddhead. After attending the San Francisco performance of A Wizard a True Star I realized Todd was meant to do show tunes. Up Against It like any other Todd Rundgren undertaking is not understood by traditional reviewers. The same people that trashed the AWATS tour previously trashed Up Against it. I think it is a story perfect for the stage and the music is fantastic. Hearing the "raw" versions of Smell of Money and If i have to be alone and Parallel lines is a total treat. I was fortunate to recently acquire a copy of this piece of work and love it. I would love for Todd to try to present this to the Todd Army.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Better than that awful cover would make you think. 21 July 2011
By cordell jeffries - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
There are some lovely tunes here, presented in a very minimalist way. I think this was meant more as an instructive piece for the performers in the play, and it more than delivers if that's the goal. (The for-placement-only synth accompaniment would also support this theory.)

With that said, there are some very good songs here, not to mention some marvelous harmonies of Todd doing the vocals for each of the various parts. And while some of the Up Against It! songs wound up resurfacing on 2nd Wind, there are a couple others that I, for one, would love to hear more fleshed out (or stripped down to piano&voice)...like Maybe I'm Better Off and We Understand Each Other.

But that cover. It's disgraceful. It's heinous. It's an eyesore. It's your-favorite-gross-adjective. Worse than that, it absolutely guarantees for eternity that hardly next to no one will ever hear this CD.

With some luck, the two tracks mentioned above and the shorter version of Parallel Lines might wind up on a TR box set, should one ever be attempted.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Todd as theatrical scorer - not to be missed! 24 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Another fine example of the depth and breadth of Todd's music. The tunes are fantastic, the lyrics - whimsical. Sorry I missed this play when it was out, but this is a great second -- Loved it!
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