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Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, a True Star CD (album) cover


Todd Rundgren

Crossover Prog

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Prog Metal Team
5 stars First off I'm hyped about Todd Rundgren's addition to Prog Archives that I support completely!

Don't really know how to start things off so I'll play my hand straight...I just love this album! It's so different from anything else that Rundgren has ever done and in some instances it even surpasses the most progressive material of that same year. There must have been something in the water since this is the only such progressive deviation that I believe Todd Rundgren has done in his career.

The album begins with a multi-part song medley which basically takes up the whole first side of the release. It is here that the progressive tendencies begin to show and have this material actually created a prog suite I would have easily added it among the best in that category. The only weak track is the short but somewhat annoying Hungry For Love, but it's safe to say that the rest of the material makes up for that tiny error.

If you like your pop music with a twist of psychedelic-prog then, by all means, pick this album up and keep spinnin' it til' you can sing along to these crazy compositions even when you're fast asleep in the comfort of your bed.... Don't you think of anything but sex?!?

***** star songs: International Feel (2:50) Never Never Land (1:34) Tic Tic Tic, It Wears Off (1:14) Dogfight Giggle (1:05) You Don't Have To Camp Around (1:03) Flamingo (2:34) Zen Archer (5:35) When The Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Blvd. (4:02) Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel (4:16) I Don't Want To Tie You Down (1:56) Just One Victory (4:59)

**** star songs: You Need Your Head (1:02) Rock & Roll Pussy (1:08) Just Another Onionhead; Da Da Dali (2:23) Le Feel Internacionale (1:51) Does Anybody Love You? (1:31) I'm So Proud: Ooh Baby Baby/La La Means I Love You/Cool Jerk (10:34) Is It My Name? (4:01)

*** star songs: Hungry For Love (2:18)

Total Rating: 4,52

Report this review (#196789)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is Todd's most experimental album, but it is not his best by any means.

The first side is a kaleidoscope of short tracks bookended by the International Feel theme. There is some interesting stuff in here. The weird choice of a cover of Never Never Land works, Tic Tic Tic is a nice instrumental, as is Flamingo, and Rock and Roll Pussy will be forever remembered as Todd's challenge to John Lennon. Just Another Onionhead is a cogent attack against an approach to art, while When The Shit Hits the Fan is a great song. That's the first half of the album. There's some great stuff here, but there's also an awful lot that is less than great. I've heard the first half of this referred to as one epic piece due to the bookending of International Feel, but it's not that coherent. The first half is hit or miss.

The second half starts out well with Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel and continues in the same vein with Does Anybody Love You? The medley that follows this is ok but not great, while Hungry For Love really btrings things down. I Don't Want To Tie You Down is probably one of the best short slow songs that Todd ever recorded, but it's so short. It's not really a detriment mind you. This song definitely doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's just that it is so short that it can't affect my rating so much. After that, we get the rocker Is It My Name?, which doesn't add anything to the album except for energy. It's well placed in the album, but it's not a great song, The album caps off with One More Victory, which is one of Todd's best anthems. It's inspiring and well worth the listen.

This is the middle in Todd's series of three double LP albums, and in my opinion the weakest. A Wizard, a True Star doesn't really know what kind of album it wants to be. In some places it wants to be an experimental masterpiece, in some places it wants to be a pop album, and in some places it wants to be trite and offensive.

I'll give this three stars. It's good, but there is very little here that is compelling.

Report this review (#198971)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A star is born

By 1973, Todd Rundgren was at the peak of his creative inspiration, releasing a succession of fine albums which were jammed full of exciting and innovative songs. While he reverted to the single LP format for this release (which was sandwiched between two double albums), Todd manages to pack no less than 56 minutes and 19 songs into this album. Unlike the previous "Something/anything", here Todd is happy to bring is as many supporting musicians as are required, including a brass section plus future Utopian Moogy Klingman.

The first side alone has 12 mostly brief numbers which have been sewn together in the way of "Supper's ready" or "Abbey road". The ride through that first side is a crazy, breathless affair where Todd challenges the listener to keep up with him as he jumps from idea to idea. The music ranges from the delicate cover of "Never never land" (From the "Peter Pan" musical) to the delightfully incoherent madness of "Dogfight giggle". The highlight of the side is the anthem "Zen Archer" which also happens to be the longest track. While fitting in perfectly in its place in the suite, the song also stands alone as one of Todd's finest compositions.

As a whole, side one of the album is a 26 minute prog epic; indeed had Todd decided to give the piece an overall title we may well be hailing it now as one of the major works of prog.

The second side of the album is slightly more conventional, but retains the fine diversity of the first. Here we have three four minute songs, a hat trick of shorter piece similar to those on side one, and a 10˝ minute medley of four old American pop songs. "Sometimes I don't know what to feel", which opens the side, has a Motown soul feel, the brass accompaniment adding a retro mood to this emotionally charged and at times dramatic piece.

The medley seems to me to be a little indulgent, but perhaps my remoteness from the source music clouds my judgement here. In any event, the Delfonics' classic "La la la means I love you" is always worth hearing. The album closes on a real high though with the wonderful "Just one victory". If ever a track summed up an album this is the finest example of that. The intricate vocal melodies of the first part of the track lead towards the crowd pleasing refrain which brings the album to a close. This is Todd at his absolute best.

"A wizard, a true star" is where Todd discovered his prog credentials. The simplicity of the brief songs can be misleading if taken is isolation. This album demands a full hour of your time to be fully appreciated, and even then it will take many, many listens before it even begins to reveal its true glory.

Report this review (#200273)
Posted Friday, January 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars He is answering in the following interview. 「The torrent of the consideration of the seed that was this album was made a table so. It started putting out the feeling that existed exactly in the whirl of music. 」This album might succeed if Rundgren exactly expresses the torrent of consideration. "Something/Anything?" that had been announced in 1972 was a work that splendidly exactly demonstrated the ability and the creation of his composition.

And, it is guessed that expanding the directionality of his music further by thinking that it will express music where he whirls by this album resulted. The tune that Rundgren invents overflows really in originality and all music and the cultures also have taken it. "It was necessary to think the album is what kind of work it was further" His of this remark became a work by which it became the result of expanding the sense that Rundgren originally exactly had to the outside, it appeared in music, and the expression method also stimulated visually and aural. The respect to his humour and music is paid enough of course.

He disliked making a usual love song. It challenges a free expression and an experimental sound in this album so that he may really achieve the torrent. The composition of the quotation of the collage of the sound and the tune from the musical and the flowing tunes is splendidly expressed. Philadelphia Soul and the medley of Motown Detroit will have been a natural flows for him. The album progresses quite naturally.

It is true that Rundgren was at the center of the torrent. And, the torrent of his consideration is continuing now. His sense is digested splendidly and expressed even though expresses what music character. The utopia that gathered by the musician who participated in this album and had been formed might have been in the torrent of Rundgren, too. Rundgren exactly receives one the top with this album.

Report this review (#226028)
Posted Saturday, July 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Todd Rundgrens best album, and one of my favorite albums ever! This album is amazing it sounds like The beatles Abbey road album, like if you whuld take the suit of short songs on the second side of that album and make an whole album of it 60min of musical blizz, prog pop at its best, this was my first Rundgren album at it remain my favorite by far, this album is a must for any collection, sure at first i was a bit anoyed by all the love songs, but since i got older some love songs here and there dont bother me and there is lot of cool experimentation too, nice keyboard playing and effects, the music is as colorfull as the artwork, a prog pop/rock masterpice no one shuld live without, get it you whont regret it! 5 glowing golden stars!
Report this review (#238211)
Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Although this album is often regarded as Todd's most creative, I can't really be very enthusiast about the first side of the original album which is a collection of very short tunes with no related item to cement them.

At times the music sounds funny as well as innovative. But I could never be truly impressed. To consider this bunch of short pieces put together like a prog epic as "Supper's Ready" is an exercise I can't not endorse, even if some parts are quite OK ("Zen Archer").

Production is of course excellent and for the occasion, Todd is also being supported by several musicians. There is also a definite "10CC" feel ("Just Another Onionhead") which is of course not to dislike me. The whole of this piece ends like it all started: The closing "Le Feel Internacionale" being the counterpart of the opening track.

The second leg of this album is more melodic and to some extent more attractive even if some pop-rock angle is not alien. It combines some fine rock melodies and ballads (as usual). But I'm still perplexed to see a medley of more than ten minutes featured on a studio album. Quite fine while playing live (like the Heep for instance), I believe that the exercise is not very useful in the studio.

The evidence is that this "Wizzard" thing is not a masterpiece IMHHO. But a good album with some crazy feel and definite unconventional approach.

Report this review (#248525)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It took Rundgren gonads of steel to put out an album like this after the critical and commercial success of Something/Anything? Here he experiments and the results are very consistent. On the next two solo albums and the first two Utopia albums he experiments even more but the end results are not as consistent. On A Wizard, A True Star he starts to really use synthesizers more. But by the time of Initiation he went overboard with the synths. "Flamingo" is an instrumental that is almost entirely done on synthesizers; this must have seemed way ahead of it's time in 1973. I love the sound and production here. Todd went out of his way here to modify almost every instrument except the synths and majority of the vocals. There are little oddball sound effects here and there which add to the songs.

All the songs on what was originally Side 1 are segued together but the overall effect is not really of an epic suite. Rather it is closer in feel to the 'Long Medley' of Abbey Road than say, "Supper's Ready". I really like how it starts with "International Feel" and ends with "Le Feel Internacionale", similar songs which bookend the first side of the album. On the latter Todd even sings: "Wait another year/Utopia is here". I'm sure no one in 1973 understood what he was talking about. Other highlights of the first half include "Zen Archer" and "When The Sh*t Hits The Fan/Sunset Blvd". The second half of this album is generally less 'proggy' if you will than what came before. The "Medley" of '60s R&B songs here is a real head-scratcher. Not horrible per se, but it does ruin the flow of the album. I'm not exactly familiar with all the originals but I think "Ooh Baby Baby" sounds pretty close to the Miracles tune. Rundgren was a guy who loved Yes as much as he loved Motown.

"Hungry For Love" is probably the worst song here(if your not counting the sound effects piece "Dogfight Giggle" on side one). But even this song has it's charms. "I Don't Want To Tie You Down" is a lovely song that is way too short. I find this song stuck in my head sometimes. The people who audition for American Idol should really listen to this song to hear a great example of emotional pop music. "Is It My Name?" is the most rocking song on the album. It includes one of my favourite lines from any song: "There is cause and effect/There's a reason I'm so erect". It also includes the completely '70s and un-PC line: "My voice goes so high you would think I was gay". The album ends with the great "Just One Victory" which he has apperently finished every concert with since this album came out. 4 stars.

Report this review (#304554)
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars An essential of any collection, here Todd expresses his his pop-prog roots with this masterpiece (before spiraling into the 80's fever). Todd is a man with many voices; sweet, serious, and silly. We have a little of each in this album. The album kicks off with Todd's swansong, 3 songs that tie together so perfectly, International/Never Never/Tic Tic. Each of these are on the same wavelength of beauty this album withholds. It quickly (almost too soon) transitions to to Head/P***y/Dogfight in which the silliness takes over, but without ever leaving the psychedelic-prog sound. Compared to the somewhat-resembling instrumentals of Sidewank Cafe (of Todd's future release) and Flamingo, Flamingo seems to have a bit more variety so it takes the win (though they're both catalog classics of Todd's). But the 'True Star' here is Zen Archer, a far underrated tune (as I've never heard it on the radio) possibly my favorite song on the entire album. The I'm So Proud suite is lovey-dovey Todd, taking classics and making them his own while still fitting the mood of the album as a whole. The tone of the whole thing is very addictive. Perhaps compared to Todd Rundgren's Utopia, this won't appeal to some people (especially due to the ratings on this album) but these 2 albums are in different galaxies. Both essentials. How can't you love Todd's voice? If you don't like this album at first, let it build on you and you'll enjoy every second of this epic. The highest recommendation, 5 stars.
Report this review (#754131)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you stick with the same old stuff, no matter how wild it is, sometimes it feels like you've heard everything there is to hear. Luckily, if stick with prog you'll eventually get completely blindsided by something you never saw coming. That's what just happened to me with Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star. Well, the first half at any rate.

The first half, bookended by International Feel and Le Feel Internacional is a stunningly complex and sprawling pop-prog cascade. Parts of it are reminiscent of the better clips of Tales from Topographic Oceans (released the following year I'll have you note) and the primal utterances of Tubular Bells, but for the most part it is a uniquely manic and ecstatic musical expression. Todd himself admitted that he was experimenting with drugs and wanted to replicate the experience on album, thus accounting for the unpredictability. Todd is clearly unhinged on this album and I love it. It unfortunately slows to a crawl through the middle section generic 60s/70s pop middle section, but is unexpectedly revived with an embedded cover of Cool Jerk by the Capitals part way through another track. From there it doesn't quite veer back to the frenetic joy of the first half, but Todd does manage some more excitement before the end of the album, particularly on Is It My Name.

In essence, this album is almost 40 years old and it's still one of the freshest things I've yet heard. I'm shocked only 36 people prior to me managed to review it. It isn't perfect, but damn is it close. I highly recommend it at 4 stars and am looking forward to the allegedly even more progressive follow up Todd.

As a slight aside, I recently posted in the forum bemoaning the lack of upbeat prog rock, anybody looking for the same should check this out.

Report this review (#929085)
Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Much revered by Todd fans, I was a little less enthusiastic about much of this incredibly dense album (two sides of almost 30 minutes of music, each!) "International Feel" was an immediate winner--as was Side Two opener, "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel"--and concert favorite "Just One Victory" was great, but the rest, the sophomoric (though clever) humor and Motown/R&B remakes, were just not my cup of tea. The only song I've gone back for during the past 40 years is "Sometimes I Don't Know." Don't get me wrong, Todd is a genius--and I was a super fan ("Todd is God!") throughout the 70s and 80s, but this album was just a bit . . . overwhelming.
Report this review (#943249)
Posted Saturday, April 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whilst I found the subsequent Todd Rundgren's Utopia to be hopelessly overblown, on A Wizard, a True Star Todd Rundgren indulges his prog instincts in a more adept manner. The first side is a suite of hyper-short snippets, tape experiment, pocket songs, and sheer musical delirium, which puts me in mind of the first side of Absolutely Free by the Mothers of Invention less in terms of its musical style (quintessentially 1970s prog-tinged USA art rock) and more in terms of its structure. The second side finds Todd blending prog and classic 1960s Motown numbers in a number of longer, more developed pieces,

If both sides were like side 2, this would seem like a natural evolution from Something/Anything?, but with side 1 in place it becomes a sonic revolution, and a well-realised and intriguing one at that.

Report this review (#1559232)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars His Best Solo Album, although not as good as the first Utopia album.

It is amazing to think this was made right after 'Something/Anything'. While the latter is light and poppy (and yet also too long!), 'Wizard' is innovative, provocative, soulful, counter-cultural. Made around the same time as the first Utopia album, this album also features Moogy Klingman on keys. The two albums are complementary, yet totally different. While TR's Utopia is a symphony of highly complex, virtuoso but beautiful music all flowing together perfectly, Wizard involves a collage of short and often whimsical fragments thrown together in order to disrupt and provoke, often with humour. Utopia is by far the higher achievement, and a far more musical album. But Wizard also deserves special recognition, as only on some of Zappa's earlier albums (eg "We're Only In It...") does this kind of collage work so well. The first side starts and ends with "International Feel", which clearly shows its lineage to the music on Utopia, with very short snippets filling the space between them, some great, some that don't work so well as music, but all of which maintain the collage momentum. The second side contains longer and more soulful pieces, some of which seaugue or collage, others which stand on their own. The hit from this album, "Sometimes I don't know what to Feel" is a great Rundgren soul tune. But the real standout here is "Just One Victory", probably Rundgren's best solo song, and often played live by Utopia later on. In between, Rundgren has a few humourous but good-quality tunes, such as "Hungry for Love" and "Is It My Name?", and a four-part medley of some of his favourite soul pieces (one of which - "Cool Jerk" - Rundgren put into 7/8 time instead of 4/4). While the musicality is up and down on this album, it is Rundgren's most inventive, and contains some of his best solo songs. I give it 8.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is on the higher end of 4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1698213)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Something/Anything was a big commercial and critical success, he was branded as the male answer to Carole King, which I guess he didn't want that comparison, so he purposely made his followup, A Wizard, A True Star to be very different. Much more quirky, twisted, and experimental, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Frank Zappa was a big influence on him at this point. "International Feel" sounds pretty normal, but a great piece. It sorta reminds me of Spirit's "Mr. Skin" if dominated by clavinet, but then after that it's clear that he really took the VCS-3 synthesizer to much greater use (he used it in a more low-key manner on Something/Anything), here he uses it frequently for strange electronic effects. He was purposely trying to record an album that won't give a hit single, and I'm not too surprised if this irritated the rock critics at the time. I have to admit I never cared for the medley of soul and Motown songs, it just doesn't fit too well with the more artsy and experimental pop surrounding the album. Regardless, listening to this, it's little surprise that he would actually explore prog rock for real with Utopia the following year. The more mainstream crowd would be more comfortable with Something/Anything, but for the more adventurous, if you forget about that soul/Motown medley, this is really some great stuff and worth having.
Report this review (#2010080)
Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am gonna be blunt, I am not a huge fan of Todd Rundgren's work. I like a few Utopia albums but I feel like he is definitely the front facer of why so many people think Progressive Rock is a pretentious hogwash of a genre due to him putting so much music on his albums, sometimes even creating side long pieces that are 30 minutes. While you could argue he is meant to try and be ambitious, it feels like he ends up hurting himself more than he likes to admit by creating these big 50+ minute albums with 20+ songs that are like a minute or two long. Each time I see his albums whether at a store or on Spotify I end up not wanting to listen to them because of how much music, most likely filler music I have to stomach throughout it, but that is why I shall listen to this album. I am gonna give it a fair shot and see if I may be wrong about Todd's music and ambitions or if my fears are absolute.

The album opens with International Feel. This song has a pretty big ELO vibe mixed with some stuff from Kansas or Styx since Todd is from America and all. To be honest there isn't a lot in it to really warrant much of an opinion, it just kinda comes and goes. Nothing really impactful to be honest.

Next song is Never Never Land, and it's kinda boring. The singing is fine but it feels a bit too short handed by the lack of much of anything in the instrumentation and how it feels. Really just like the last song, it kinda comes and goes.

I'll be honest, I feel as though these short, nothing of note songs are gonna be a trend here, and I think I confirmed that theory with Tic Tic Tic It Wears Off. Going back with the whole American Progressive Pop vibes, it kinda just comes and goes for me, though I do like it's sorta weird keyboard playing, but it is still too short for me to really appreciate it.

And the songs just get shorter with You Need Your Head, which simply goes from one ear and out the other, and is really not too interesting. In fact the songs afterwards, Rock and Roll Pussy, Dogfight Giggle, You Don't Camp Around, Flamingo are basically that, small filler songs that are just nothing really, and I feel like this trend really breaks this album for me. To me, simply making an album with a lot of songs just to have a lot of songs is really dumb. In fact I feel like if you made these smaller songs into one conjoined melody or suite then I would really enjoy this album much more, but as it stands, especially with all these short, 1 minute or so songs, it just feels very much like nothing to me.

However, what isn't nothing is Zen Archer, the best song on the album. It definitely is of note how different it feels since it feels like the most developed song on this album and one I truly really like. I love its cryptic European feel, and I know they came about long after this album's release, but it does remind me of The Dear Hunter, especially tracks like The Poison Woman and The Bitter Suite IV and V. It has that awesome baroque feel I really do wish more Prog bands attempted, especially in this day and age. Also that saxophone solo is very lovely, super dream-like and just nice to listen to. Honestly I want more of this, cause it is actually just really good.

However I feel as though my wish will not come with Just Another Onionhead / Da Da Dali. It just feels so, fillery you know? It is a perfectly fine song but man does it just feel confusing after that awesome 5 minute doozie of a song Zen Archer. It feels like Todd struck gold, held it up, and tossed it aside because he thinks it isn't as good as digging for iron. It is a waste of his talents that he clearly has but also doesn't seem to want to pull off the bat. It's honestly kinda sad.

I do think it does kinda redeem itself with When The Shit Hits The Fan / Sunset Blvd. which is a fun, sorta surf rock song with some nice and fun riffs and playing. I do like it a bit more because I can at least tell Todd really did try to develop this song a bit more than some of the other stuff here, which I appreciate.

What I do not appreciate is instantly going back to the same 1 minute song structure with Le Feel Internacionale. It makes me confused as to why he would develop one song to where it'd actually be a full and complete song, but not do so for other's, or make the small one minute songs like just one conjoined suite so it can be better appreciated? It feels like a waste of good talent.

Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel is another developed track, a slow ballad that definitely has some good moments and emotion, something much needed by this point.

After that, and another small track called Does Anybody Love You! (Seriously stop doing these short songs, they are kinda peeving me off) we get a?a melody of short songs that encompasses into a full piece. Ok, why wasn't this done with the other short songs this album had? Why now? Is it because these tracks flowed better into one another so it was just a thought to make them into a melody, but the other tracks also did, so why not make them melodies too? It baffles me how Todd, a man who clearly shows his worth, doesn't use it until stupid moments like this. The melody is fine but man does it just make me confused.

I don't think I need to talk about I Don't Want to Tie You Down and Hungry For Love, they are those in and out the ears songs that I clearly have a gripe for.

The second to last song is Is It My Name? which goes for a more British hard rock style like The Who or The Rolling Stones does. It is actually kinda cool, and definitely a fun song to listen to if you just want a good time so I definitely applaud Todd for making another good song.

This also stays true with Just One Victory, the last track on the album. It is a lot more R&B based but it is still pretty fun and a good closer for this album. I clearly like this song, but the fact this is the last song on an album filled with filler is just sad, cause Todd really puts in effort when he making tracks like Zen Archer or When The Shit Hits The Fan, but he never utilizes it with the shorter songs due to how nothing they feel like, which just puts a bad taste in my mouth.

I really did want to like this album, it has good moments, and songs that I really enjoy, but it has so much small amounts of filler in it to where if you subtracted the 1-2 minute songs and only included the full developed songs, no matter how short, it'll turn out to be a much better album, and with that, I think my fears are definitely true for my feelings with Todd's music, and all I can say is that I hope the best for him wherever he is now.

Report this review (#2776622)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2022 | Review Permalink

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