A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR: TODD RUNDGREN Monday 16 June, 2014

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I’m English and I wasn’t born until the late 70s. This means that, until recently, I had no idea who Todd Rundgren was.

I was vaguely aware of his name but I just assumed that the music he made was of the awful MOR rock ilk. How little I knew and how wrong I was.

There I was merrily minding my own business and bobbing along, happily un-Rendgren-ed when his name kept cropping up in TV programmes. His name crops up a few times in 30Rock and I’m pretty sure he’s name-checked elsewhere too. Eventually I found myself wondering who the hell is Todd Rundgren and why do these people keep referring to him. I assumed it was because he must be awful. Having now listened to him that may actually have been the case. They may well think he’s awful. The thing is that if they do think that then they’re all wrong.

Let’s get this out of the way, A Wizard, A True Star is fucking bonkers. Apparently Todd Rundgren was experimenting with Ritalin (the ADHD drug) at the time of recording this album. If ever there was an argument against the efficacy of Ritalin then surely A Wizard, A True Star is it. The album is one, long medley mad of tiny songlets that span the genres. It’s like a whistle-stop tour of crazy music and weird sounds. The thing is, it works…really well.

It’s astonishing to think that it was recorded in 1973. The production and the mix is so far ahead of what everyone else was doing at the time. Having already fallen in love with this album it came as no surprise when I discovered that Rundgren started out as a recording engineer and producer. This album really pushes through the boundaries of production styles. Just listen to the drums. It wouldn’t become acceptable for drums to sound like that for many many years. The production still sounds cutting edge, over forty years later.

I’ll accept that this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea…because some of you are heathens. Joking aside though, this album throws so many ideas up into the air that it can be a bewildering experience to listen to it. That’s perhaps why I love it so much though. The scattergun approach to creativity is so exciting. The truly exceptional thing is just how many of those little creative ideas land so perfectly. As an album it defies genre classification but it has touches of music hall, soul, prog, rock, weird electronica. If the Super Furry Animals had a dad it would be Todd Rundgren.

I’m not going to pick out the standout tracks for that would ruin the fun of digging for the hidden gems that are strewn across the landscape of this album. My advice would be to do what George Michael said…(no, not that bit) and listen without prejudice to this most wonderful, brilliant and beautiful album.

 

 

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