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Todd Rundgren - Runt CD (album) cover


Todd Rundgren


Crossover Prog

3.13 | 57 ratings

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Stressed Cheese
4 stars Well, this is a pleasant surprise. Todd Rundgren's first two albums don't come up too often, and tend to be overlooked a bit compared to his pop masterpiece "Something/Anything?" and the more experimental albums that followed that one. As such, I was mostly expecting a prototypical S/A experience here. In a way, that's what I got, but there's more here than just some pleasant pop tunes from a not yet fully developed Todd.

One thing that immediately stood out to me after my first listen was the division of the album into two distinct sides. I don't know if this was intentional (I couldn't find anything about this), but considering "Something/Anything?" has its songs divided up into four titled sides, I wouldn't be surprised if it was. The first side indeed has the proto- S/A style pop/blues/ballads I was expecting. A lot of these will remind you of songs off that double album, though the mix, arrangements and Todd's singing aren't quite as polished yet. It still sounds rather good for 1970, and I do love Todd's voice, but the growth between this album and 1972 is clear. Think of how The Beatles' early singles showcased their style well but weren't as polished yet as, say, "A Hard Day's Night", and you get the idea ? the seeds for "Something/Anything?" are there. This first side consists of generally solid tunes. The highlights here are "We Gotta Get You A Woman", a minor hit for Rundgren which sports the album's catchiest chorus, and "Who's That Man?", an energetic rock-and-roller that shows off Todd's humorous side.

Side two, however, is where the more ambitious songs lie. All of the four tracks on this side stand out for one reason or another, and I will now dryly describe them to prove the point. "I'm In The Clique" starts the side off with some ominous ghost noises that I'm guessing are coming from Mark Klingman's keyboards, and evolves into some jazzy bass and drums improvisation. In the eerie acapella "There Are No Words", there are no words, but it does feature some of Todd's best vocals on the album. After that is a medley of three songs preceded by a short doo- wop parody. These three songs return to the pop stylings of the first side, but by having them stitched together like this, they fit in well with the second side's more experimental nature. They also feature some of the hookiest melodies on the album and despite my praising of the experimental touches on this side, this medley of pop songs is my favorite track on the album.

The closing track's the multi-part "Birthday Carol", and it's easily the most proggy track here. Its arch form contains an orchestral intro and outro, and a bluesy jam sandwiching the main body, which is a very Rundgren-y ballad. The lyrics are more complicated here than on the rest of the album, though don't ask me what it's supposed to mean. It's essentially a prog track on a pop album, and ends the album on a good and memorable note.

In all, not a bad first solo album, though it's not really a solo album technically, as it was originally credited to Runt. Runt is Todd, and the brothers Hunt and Tony Sales on respectively drums and bass, but since all the writing and production is done by Rundgren, and he handles most instruments aside from drums and bass, Runt = Todd Rundgren as much as Frank Zappa = The Mothers. Apparently Todd wasn't quite comfortable yet putting out an album credited to just himself, and as he was relatively fresh (The Nazz had their debut album released two years before this one), and young at 22, you can't blame him. He still sounds a little insecure in his singing at times too, I find. Later albums show a better eye - or ear, I guess - for details (not that there's nothing like that here ? e.g., one nice touch is the way the main ballad segues back into the blues jam on "Birthday Carol"), but's still a good start, and one that prog fans should be able to appreciate given the interesting tracks on side B.

Rating: 8/10 Highlight of the album: "Baby Let's Swing"/"The Last Thing You Said"/"Don't Tie My Hands"

Stressed Cheese | 4/5 |


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