Runt + The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren...Plus
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producer extraordinaire (Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell”, XTC, Psychedelic Furs,
New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Tubes, Hall & Oates, Steve Hillage etc)
Todd Rundgren maintained his own highly successful recording career throughout
the 70s and 80s, always encompassing a wide range of musical styles, from Philly
soul to full-blown electronica, via pop ballads and heavy metal. Philadelphia-
born Todd started his career with The Nazz, an Anglophile quartet whose three
albums were written by Rundgren. Their hit, the Who-influenced “Open My Eyes”,
features on Lenny Kaye’s original “Nuggets” compilation. Todd next turned to
engineering and producing, manning the controls for The Band’s “Stage Fright”
album, before convincing Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan’s manager) that he should
sign him to his new Bearsville label.
album “Runt” (1970), features the hit pop single “We Gotta Get You A Woman” as
well as the nine-minute rock epic “Birthday Carol”. The Band’s Levon Helm and Rick Danko
play on “Once Burned”, while “There Are No Words” hints at future
edition features for the first time ever on CD, all the different mixes,
performances and exclusive songs from the November 1970 mis-pressing of the
album. The songs “Say No More” and “Baby Let’s Swing” (complete version) appear
Ballad Of Todd Rundgren” (1971) features more of Todd’s Laura Nyro-inspired
soul/pop ballads, and another hit in “Long Flowing Robe”. The four bonus tracks
are all radio performances from this era. The package contains ephemera and rare
photos, all the lyrics, and extensive notes by Paul Myers, extracted from his
recent definitive book on Todd Rundgren “A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren In
|| ||Broke Down And Busted|
|| ||Believe In Me|
|| ||We Gotta Get You A Woman|
|| ||Who’s That Man?|
|| ||Once Burned|
|| ||Devil’s Bite|
|| ||I’m In The Clique|
|| ||There Are No Words|
|| ||Baby Let’s Swing / The Last Thing You Said / Don’t Tie My Hands|
|| ||Birthday Carol|
|| ||Broke Down And Busted [Intro: There Are No Words]|
|| ||Believe In Me [alternate mix]|
|| ||We Gotta Get You A Woman [alternate mix]|
|| ||Hope I’m Around [early version]|
|| ||Devil’s Bite [alternate mix]|
|| ||Baby Let’s Swing [full length song]|
|| ||Say No More|
|| ||Birthday Carol [alternate mix]|
|| ||Long Flowing Robe|
|| ||The Ballad (Denny & Jean)|
|| ||Wailing Wall|
|| ||The Range War|
|| ||Chain Letter|
|| ||A Long Time, A Long Way To Go|
|| ||Boat On The Charles|
|| ||Be Nice To Me|
|| ||Hope I’m Around|
|| ||Remember Me|
|| ||Broke Down and Busted [live at Carnegie Hall, 8th June 1972]|
|| ||Believe In Me|
|| ||Be Nice To Me|
|| ||Hold Me Tight [live broadcast on WMMR-FM, 30th June 1971]|
Considering that Todd Rundgren’s single albums are frequently double-vinyl length, these reissues represent superb value. There are excellent sleevenotes, lyrics, outtakes and alternate mixes, plus some of the thinness of the original LP sound is eliminated. Runt (June 1970) was always lo-fi, with Rundgren purely interested in getting his songs across. Though is sounds like hippieville NY, it was cut in LA with rhythm section of Hunt and Tony Sales, mid-teens brothers who were later to work with Bowie, and Rundgren playing almost everything else.
In what became his standard style, it oscillated between earnest ballads (Believe In Me), mad rockers (Who’s That Man?) and musical gags. When it worked, it really worked, as on the hit We Gotta Get You A Woman, later covered by The Four Tops. Runt. The Ballad Of… was more cohesive, opening with Long Flowing Robe, which ranks among Rundgren’s most uplifting songs. Two ballads were singles, the best of which was Be Nice To Me (though the riff rocker Parole might have made a better choice).
Something/Anything (1972), often said to be Rundgren’s masterpiece, kicks off with the mellow smash I Saw The Light, and includes the romantic classic Marlene, the city soul of Wolfman Jack and the alluring, rhythm-switching Cold Morning Light. Todd played every note; and that’s only Disc One. The second half rocks more and featured a band, while a further classic arrives in return to the Nazz song, Hello It’s Me. The extras include radio promos for the LP and it all sounds as fresh as frost.
The following year’s A Wizard, A True Star was a career highpoint; an epic song suite that found Rundgren so confident that it’s hard to believe he was struggling to get this thing out of his system. All his influences flowed out in one Technicolour tracking shot, taking in vaudeville, soul (a medley that works for once) and electronic. From the massive International Feel to the closing anthem Just One Victory, it was an incredible achievement. The 1974 double-set Todd, with which its twinned here, couldn’t match it, which is understandable; little could. Synthesisers slopped cosmically all over the album, and not in a particularly subtle way; the light opera (!) was overegged; but there were gems; A Dream Goes On Forever and The Last Rise bore the hallmarks – scars? – of his best work.
1975’s Initiation was more to the point – half of it. Though the band was partly the allegedly over-adept Utopia, Rundgren connected with his soul on Real Man, The Death Of Rock and Roll and Fair Warning. Side Two comprised the 35-minute A Treatise On Cosmic Fire, an instrumental freak-out that vaguely resembles The Orb in places. The following year’s Faithful found Rundgren covering songs that moved him in the mid-60s, as the first track, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, suggests. Strawberry Fields, Good Vibrations, Rain… they lived up to the album titles and feel pointless. The second half was Rundgren’s compositions, including Love Of The Common Man and The Verb’s “To Love”, both worthy of Something/Anything, making it a peculiar if cheery mixture after Initiation’s ramblings.
Famed record producer Todd Rundgren (Meatloaf, New York Dolls, XTC, Hall and Oates etc) maintained his own successful recording career throughout the 1970s and 80s.
He began with The Nazz (my old band The Move covering two of their songs, Open My Eyes and Under The Ice), before going solo.
His first album, Runt, from 1970, includes American top twenty hit We Gotta Get You A Woman plus the nine-minute long rock epic Birthday Carol.
The following year The Ballad of Todd Rundgren was released, the best track being Long Flowing Robe. These two albums are now paired on one CD, plus bonus live and radio tracks.
The 1972 double-LP Something Anything is surely Rundgren’s best work and a pop masterpiece, especially the brilliant I Saw The Light, It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference and Hello It’s Me.
More off the wall tracks include Slut, You Left Me Sore, Wolfman Jack and Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me.
All the best bits of the last 50 years of pop music, plus some very wigged-out synth stuff, lots of nice proggy bits, some unreleased gubbins tacked on – notably the never-before-released Alternative Version of Runt – and some engaging sleevenotes. Reissues, yes, but at two CDs per pack and a budget price, it’s a good way of filling any lingering holes in the collection. Some would argue that at times it’s a bit self-indulgent and in need of editing, but then you’d probably lose some of the most engaging bits – as you would if the White Album were sliced to a single album.