What Todd Rundgren’s vision was back in 1973 was anybody’s guess but he produced an album so rich and diverse and overflowing with ideas it has gone down as a classic record.
Written by: Explorer
ARTIST: Todd Rundgren
ALBUM: A Wizard, A True Star
SERIAL: K 45513
CD REISSUE: Discogs reissue details
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Todd Rundgren – vocals, guitars * Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker – horns * Rick Derringer – guitar * Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman, Ralph Schuckett – keyboards * Jean-Yves ‘Frog’ Labat – synthesizer * Barry Rogers – trombone * David Sanborn – saxophone * John Siegler – acoustic bass, cello * John Siomos – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 International Fee * 02 Never Never Land * 03 Tic Tic Tic, It Wears Off * 04 You Need Your Head * 05 Rock & Roll Pussy * 06 Dogfight Giggle * 07 You Don’t Have to Camp Around * 08 Flamingo * 09 Zen Archer * 10 Just Another Onion Head/Dada Dali * 11 When The Shit Hits The Fan/Sunset Blvd * 12 Le Feel Internacionale * 13 Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel * 14 Does Anybody Love You? * 15 Medley: I’m So Proud / Ooh Baby Baby / La La Means I Love You / Cool Jer * 16 Hungry For Love * 17 I Don’t Want to Tie You Down * 18 Is It My Name? * 19 Just One * 20 Victory
WEBLINKS: Site Link
‘Go ahead, ignore me.’ These are the words that appeared on a Bearsville Ad for his then current album ‘Something/Anything?’.
There’s no way an artist as diverse and unique as Todd could ever be ignored. Todd Rundgren is a true one off. The word genius is banded about far too often in the music world, but in this case it is truly justified. In his early days Todd was seen on one hand as a Wunderkind and the other the enfant terrible and throughout his long and illustrious career he has dabbled in power pop, hard rock, prog, soul, R’nB, well you name he’s done it.
This album, his 4th solo outing (after a brief foray with Philly power poppers The Nazz) could well have seen the great man commit commercial suicide after the mainstream breakthrough of his previous album ‘Something/Anything?’
Aware that he may be becoming somewhat formulaic, Todd Rundgren decided to go out on a limb and record an album that was so diverse and experimental that his peers thought he may have bitten off more than he could chew.
Around this time Todd had also started to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs which would explain much of the album’s technicolour vision. Whichever way you look at it, this album is a work of a genius. So, take a deep breath and dive into the wonderful stream of consciousness that is ‘A Wizard, A True Star’.
At 55 minutes in length, back in 1973, this was seen as a bloody long album, and as a consequence the sound quality on the original vinyl left little to be desired, but with the advent of the CD format, it can now be fully enjoyed the way Todd wanted it to be heard.
For the first time a fledgling Utopia is used as his band, alongside some of the day’s top session men also lending a hand to proceedings. This album offers up delight and bafflement all at the same time!
Side One (In old money) contained some 12 tracks with most coming in at the 1 to 2 minute mark. With these ‘songs’ Todd demonstrates how to really utilise the studio and deliver up a seamless and at times cacophonous noise, but always entertaining. I dare you not to laugh at ‘Dog Fight Giggle’!
Within side one there are some longer pieces such as ‘Zen Archer’ and ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan’ being particular favourites, displaying all the sonic trademarks that Todd Rundgren is so good at. Fabulous harmonies, stellar arrangements and some absolute top notch playing and with a beautiful ear for melody.
Side Two is definitely song structured and takes a more standard journey rather than the sound bytes of side one. The two real highlights of this side are the soul medley which sees Todd take on songs by soul greats such as The Impressions, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Delfonics and The Capitols.
What you get is Blue-eyed Philly Soul at its very finest, which around the same time Hall And Oates were making a real mark with too. Todd makes these his own in a way only he can. In his capable hands he delivers a beautiful patchwork quilt of music that still sends shivers up my spine.
The album ends with a true Todd classic ‘Just One Victory’ with all its attendant triumphalism which even today is a fan favourite and still gets an airing live. In truth though, there is not a single wrong step on this record. Yes, at times it’s a hard listen but so worth it.
1973 was indeed a busy year for Todd Rundgren, not content with releasing this masterpiece he also found time to produce albums by Fanny ‘Mother’s Pride’, The New York Dolls debut and Grand Funk Railroad‘s ‘We’re an American Band’.
Never one to rest on his laurels he was soon off on his Prog Rock journey with Utopia, which for me at least was a brilliant concept producing some stunning and innovative music.
In recent years Todd has taken to performing ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ in its entirety, with a host of elaborate costumes to compliment his vision. What his vision was back in 1973 was anybody’s guess but suffice to say he produced an album so rich and diverse and overflowing with ideas which has rightly gone down as a truly classic piece of work.
To find out more about the recording of this album look no further than Paul Myers excellent book ‘A Wizard, A True Star in the Studio’ which chronicles not only this album but also others he has worked on throughout his career.
Todd continues to release albums to this very day and even now can confuse and baffle, but also in equal measure delight and astound. As his fans love to say and I am proud to say I am one of them. Todd is indeed God.