Monday, March 15, 2010

Todd Rundgren 1: Runt

The cover reads simply Runt, lending the listener to believe that’s either the name of the skinny long-haired kid on the cover or the name of the band on most of the cuts. The album is definitively the work of Todd Rundgren, who’d cut his teeth in the psychedelic garage band Nazz, and who’d already produced one album by The Band. While Levon Helm and Rick Danko appear on one track, the bulk of the remainder is handled by the rhythm section of Tony and Hunt Sales (both sons of Soupy, and destined to play with both Iggy Pop and David Bowie one day) and Todd himself, on guitars, keyboards, vocals and even sax.
No stranger to the arithmetic of the album side, Todd loads the first half of the album with straightforward melodic songs, from bluesy guitar parts to pop confections like “We Gotta Get You A Woman” and “Believe In Me”. “Once Burned”, that one song with Rick and Levon, is unfortunately derailed by a jokey soul vocal; before long he’d learn how to perform such material without trying to be funny.
Side two is a little more experimental. “I’m In The Clique” mixes free jazz a computerized voice (something of a harbinger) before going into a wordless interlude. An odd medley combines three decent Laura Nyro-inspired songs into one rushed track, while “Birthday Carol” is a journey in itself, from a Beatlesque orchestral piece to a Blood, Sweat & Tears-flavored workout.
Runt is full of the hooks that would endear Todd to his fans, from catchy tunes to smart leads. It’s also full of the left field moves that would mark his entire career. Vocally, he doesn’t always sound that strong. But then again, he was just getting started.

Todd Rundgren Runt (1970)—3

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