Todd Rundgren – A Wizard, A True Star (1973)

AllMusic Review: Something/Anything? proved that Todd Rundgren could write a pop classic as gracefully as any of his peers, but buried beneath the surface were signs that he would never be satisfied as merely a pop singer/songwriter. A close listen to the album reveals the eccentricities and restless spirit that surges to the forefront on its follow-up, A Wizard, A True Star. Anyone expecting the third record of Something/Anything?, filled with variations on “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” will be shocked by A Wizard. As much a mind-f*ck as an album, A Wizard, A True Star rarely breaks down to full-fledged songs, especially on the first side, where songs and melodies float in and out of a hazy post-psychedelic mist. Stylistically, there may not be much new — he touched on so many different bases on Something/Anything? that it’s hard to expand to new territory — but it’s all synthesized and assembled in fresh, strange ways. Often, it’s a jarring, disturbing listen, especially since Rundgren’s humor has turned bizarre and insular. It truly takes a concerted effort on the part of the listener to unravel the record, since Rundgren makes no concessions — not only does the soul medley jerk in unpredictable ways, but the anthemic closer, “Just One Victory,” is layered with so many overdubs that it’s hard to hear its moving melody unless you pay attention. And that’s the key to understanding A Wizard, A True Star — it’s one of those rare rock albums that demands full attention and, depending on your own vantage, it may even reward such close listening. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

All tracks are written by Todd Rundgren except where noted.

Side one – “The International Feel (in 8)”
No. Title Length
1. “International Feel” 2:50
2. “Never Never Land” (Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jule Styne) 1:34
3. “Tic Tic Tic It Wears Off” 1:14
4. “You Need Your Head” 1:02
5. “Rock and Roll Pussy” 1:08
6. “Dogfight Giggle” 1:05
7. “You Don’t Have to Camp Around” 1:03
8. “Flamingo” 2:34
9. “Zen Archer” 5:35
10. “Just Another Onionhead; Da Da Dali” 2:23
11. “When the Shit Hits the Fan; Sunset Blvd.” 4:02
12. “Le Feel Internacionale” 1:51
Total length: 26:21
Side two – “A True Star”
No. Title Length
1. “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel” 4:16
2. “Does Anybody Love You?” 1:31
3. “Medley”

  1. “I’m So Proud” (Curtis Mayfield)
  2. “Ooh Baby Baby” (Smokey Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore)
  3. “La La Means I Love You” (William Hart, Thom Bell)
  4. “Cool Jerk” (Donald Storball)
10:34
4. “Hungry for Love” 2:18
5. “I Don’t Want to Tie You Down” 1:56
6. “Is It My Name?” 4:01
7. “Just One Victory” 4:59
Total length: 29:35

 

Schill Score: 6.75/10

 

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Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972)

AllMusic Review: After two albums, Todd Rundgren had one hit and a burgeoning cult following, plus growing respect as a hitmaking record producer. There’s no question he was busy, but as it turns out, all this work only scratched the surface of his ambition. He had decided to abandon the Runt pretense and recorded a full double album by himself (save for one side). Others had recorded one-man albums before, most notably Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, but Rundgren — without borrowing musically from either artist — captured the homemade ambience of McCartney with the visionary feel of Music of My Mind, adding an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music from Gilbert & Sullivan through Jimi Hendrix, plus the crazed zeal of a pioneer. Listening to Something/Anything? is a mind-altering trip in itself, no matter how many instantly memorable, shamelessly accessible pop songs are scattered throughout the album. Each side of the double album is a concept onto itself. The first side is “a bouquet of ear-catching melodies”; side two is “the cerebral side”; on side three “the kid gets heavy”; side four is his mock pop operetta, recorded with a full band including the Sales brothers. It gallops through everything — Carole King tributes (“I Saw the Light”), classic ballads (“Hello It’s Me,” “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”), Motown (“Wolfman Jack”), blinding power pop (“Couldn’t I Just Tell You”), psychedelic hard rock (“Black Maria”), pure weirdness (“I Went to the Mirror”), blue-eyed soul (“Dust in the Wind”), and scores of brilliant songs that don’t fall into any particular style (“Cold Morning Light,” “It Takes Two to Tango”). It’s an amazing journey that’s remarkably unpretentious. He may have contributed self-penned liner notes, but Rundgren peppers his writing with self-aware, self-deprecating asides, and he also indulges his bizarre sense of humor with gross-outs (“Piss Aaron”) and sheer quirkiness, such as an aural tour of the studio at the beginning of side two. Something/Anything? has a ton of loose ends throughout: plenty of studio tricks, slight songs (but no filler), snippets of dialogue, and purposely botched beginnings, but all these throwaways simply add context — they’re what makes the album into a kaleidoscopic odyssey through the mind of an insanely gifted pop music obsessive. Rundgren occasionally touched on the sheer brilliance of Something/Anything? in his later work, but this extraordinary double album is the one time where his classicist songcraft and messy genius converged to create an utterly unique, glorious record. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

Side one: A Bouquet of Ear-catching Melodies
No. Title Length
1. “I Saw the Light” 2:56
2. “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” 3:50
3. “Wolfman Jack” 2:54
4. “Cold Morning Light” 3:55
5. “It Takes Two to Tango (This Is for the Girls)” 2:41
6. “Sweeter Memories” 3:36
Total length: 20:52
Side two: The Cerebral Side
No. Title Length
1. “Intro” 1:11
2. “Breathless” 3:15
3. “The Night the Carousel Burnt Down” 4:29
4. “Saving Grace” 4:12
5. “Marlene” 3:54
6. “Song of the Viking” 2:35
7. “I Went to the Mirror” 4:05
Total length: 23:41
Side three: The Kid Gets Heavy
No. Title Length
1. “Black Maria” 5:20
2. “One More Day (No Word)” 3:43
3. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” 3:34
4. “Torch Song” 2:52
5. “Little Red Lights” 4:53
Total length: 20:22
Side four: Baby Needs a New Pair of Snakeskin Boots (A Pop Operetta)
No. Title Length
1. “Overture–My Roots”

  • “Money (That’s What I Want)”
  • “Messin’ with the Kid”
2:29
2. “Dust in the Wind” 3:49
3. “Piss Aaron” 3:26
4. “Hello It’s Me” 4:42
5. “Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me” 3:56
6. “You Left Me Sore” 3:13
7. “Slut” 4:03
Total length: 25:38

 

Schill Score: 7.5/10

 

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