A Wizard, A True Star

61hhiulqool_ss500_Barney Hoskyns, in Mojo magazine, once penned that Todd Rundgren sounds like “the missing link between the White Album and Sign O’ The Times.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Artistically, Rundgren is indeed a strange beast; his body of work feels schizophrenic, random, rootless, and ironically, in his own strange way, very focused. Focused in the sense than it sounds like he always knows what he is after, what he wants – and if his audience cannot, or will not, keep up, well, that’s their loss. From shimmering power-pop to experimental progressive-rock freakouts, the man has dabbled in it all — albeit with varying results.

Rundgren’s solo debut (ed. the album solely listed under his name), 1972’s Something/Anything, a bonafide four-sided sprawling pop classic, put him on the map both critically and commercially. A map he ostensibly wasn’t all too interested in remaining. One could postulate that like Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” off Harvest, Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me”, which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, landed the artist in a mainstream he had little interest in. In doing so he followed Something/Anything up with what I consider his masterwork, 1973’s A Wizard, A True Star. Neil headed for the ditch, Todd headed for the weird.

Unlike his previous work, A Wizard, A True Star contains virtually no singles, instead employing the listener to take in the album as a whole. Those hoping for a “Hello, It’s Me” part II were in for a bizarre surprise. Beginning with album opener “International Feel” the tracks slide into one another forming a long psychedelic medley with half of the material barely breaking the one minute mark. It’s remarkable how ahead of its time this album feels: the arrangements, sequencing, studio wizardry, everything; especially in light of the past decade of indie pop/rock orchestrated experimentation. First three tracks off the LP below; you’ll want to listen to them in order.

MP3: Todd Rundgren :: International Feel
MP3: Todd Rundgren :: Never Never Land
MP3: Todd Rundgren :: Tic Tic Tic It Wears Off

12 thoughts on “A Wizard, A True Star

  1. Todd also stretched the limits of the LP cramming more music that could physically be fit into a disc to match his vision so if you own the Lp you’ll notice the sound is not the best. That is due to the shear length of the whole thing where they had to modify the grooves in some way. Not sure about the technicalities. If you want to heat Tic Tic Tic it wears off in a different context, head out to my Blog where I included it as part of a mix alongside Magnum, Bt Express, Brother Jack McDuff and other greats..
    Link: http://colmenadehumo.blogspot.com/2009/05/mixtape-6-this-is-tomorrow-meets-la.html#comments
    Hope you enjoy

  2. Actually just checked Wikipedia and they mention it
    See below excerpt

    “Its length (55:56) pushed the limits of just how much music could fit on a long-player record (LP); as a result, the sound quality of this LP is usually less-than-stellar. The compact disc version was thought to avoid these difficulties. The first issue on vinyl (JW – 1 is written in the trail-off), the only pressing made from the original master, has the best fidelity; finding one in near mint condition is not easy.”

    And I agree, my LP sounds really thin!

  3. oh damn…timing is strange cause I just 2 weeks ago was telling everyone about SOMETHING/ANYTHING…now I need to hear this next album…greatness

  4. I’m not sure how you’re defining ‘solo album’ — but ‘Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren’ certainly qualifies, and precedes Something/Anything. And to some — well, okay, me — it’s the best record he ever made.

  5. absolutely, I like Runt too, but consider S/A to be his first real solo lp – bar the last 3 songs he played every instrument. impressive.

  6. Actually there were two solo albums before Something/Anything
    1970’s Runt, which featured “We Gotta Get You a Woman” and 1971’s aforementioned Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.

  7. Thanks for that correction Alan on July 17th, I was about to do that but you did it for me. As far as the 1st pressing thing, as a long time fan, since I was a teenager, now pushing 50, I never heard about the 1st pressing being a better copy. I guess I can’t disprove it because who the hell knows how many were made and what marker decodes that fact? Is it the “JW on the trail off”comment? I can attest to the vinyl sounding very limp, knowing the warmth that Something Anything has in comparison. Todd even mentions on the sleeve that because so much music was crammed onto the disc and to try recording it onto cassette at a louder volume, then playing it back, you might get a better sound, or something to that effect only to be outdone by his own future release “Initiation” 1975 which he again comments that the record company had to use a process called “Microgroove” pressing, in order to fit over an hours worth of music. Another great TR album. Side 1 has 5 songs with Real Man to start it off, and was also a single with a different mix and heavier phase shift in the middle, anyone with that piece of ear candy has a collectable. I was hoping that the CD release would contain that alternate mix, which I prefer to the album one which is more sanitized if you know what I mean, over polished, or over compressed perhaps.
    How about it Todd? If you’re reading, I’ll bet I’m not the only person to have brought this to your attention. Anyways he brings back the reprise at the end of side one of Real Man phase-shifted and fade out. Just like International Feel, and as Todd put it “Le Feel Internationale” reprise of International Feel at the end of side one of Wizard which fans have cramped into the anagram AWATS, which just rubs me the wrong way. I know it cuts down on characters, but something is lost.
    Just another onion head, whose opinionated. Peace out.

  8. Please join us as Todd Rundgren performs A Wizard A True Star live in Akron, Stamford, Bethesda, Chicago in September 2009 or London and Amsterdam Feb 2010.

    Tickets at AWATSlive.com

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