In 1973, Todd released the follow-up to the previous year’s wildly successful Something/Anything? While that album—two records’ worth of pop perfection, three sides of which were performed all by himself, via copious overdubbing—appealed to a wide segment of the population, people expecting A Wizard, A True Star to deliver more of the same would have been gravely disappointed.
AWATS (as the Toddheads call it) begins promisingly enough with the anthemic “International Feel”, yet soon descends into a series of short mindwarps, a sort of bizarro version of side two of Abbey Road. If he wanted to alienate the teenyboppers, this was the way to do it.
We’ve tried to figure out if there really is a difference between the two sides, and we’re not so sure there is. There are still enough moments that rank up there with the best parts of S/A? (as the Toddheads call it), and even the stranger songs have some incredible chord changes that stick in your brain. Some pet parts:
• the grand opening of “International Feel” (mentioned above), which soon develops into a faithful cover of “Never Never Land”, from Disney’s Peter Pan
• the mysterious yet soaring “Zen Archer”, which winds up with a David Sanborn sax solo and bow-and-arrow effects that have not a hint of novelty
• the reprise of the opening track, for some reason titled “Le Feel Internacionale” this time, that closes side one and ends abruptly (just like Abbey Road, oddly enough)
• “Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel”, which would have tricked listeners into thinking side two might be an easier ride
• the passionate performances of three sexy soul covers, which spin up into a completely undanceable “Cool Jerk” in 7/4 time
• “I Don’t Want To Tie You Down”, which puts us back into S/A? territory, before throwing some more “demonic” fretwork at us (that would be “Is It My Name”)
• and the rousing anthemic (there’s that word again) closer, “Just One Victory”, which winds up the album on a crowd-pleasing mainstream note, complete with football cheers in the chorus that don’t seem hokey at all.
A Wizard, A True Star is still a very odd album. Part of it might be down to the fact that each side has nearly 30 minutes crammed into the grooves, making for a compressed, cramped listen. Maybe it’s because the sumbitch probably did half of it by himself again, before he turned 25. But don’t be surprised if you keep going back to it.
Todd Rundgren A Wizard, A True Star (1973)—3½