Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Todd Rundgren - Runt (1970)
Known primarily for the hits off of his 1972 album Something/Anything? including "Hello It's Me" and "I Saw the Light," Todd Rundgren was heavily influenced early on by Laura Nyro. When Rundgren was in his original group the Nazz he was even approached by Nyro to head her band. What's most interesting is how Rundgren adopts Nyro's eclecticism and applies it to his roots in the rock idiom. In case you are doubtful about the connection, the track "Baby Let's Swing" refers to Laura Nyro by name. On Runt, Rundgren is deep into the "Runt persona" which one could interpret as both his departure from the Nazz in spirit as well as his first foray into writing a whole album. As far as the content is concerned, the album's subject matter is practically the antithesis of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. While Nyro concentrated on what it meant to be a woman in "Lonely Women," poor in "Poverty Train," or dealing with lustful men in "Eli's Coming," Rundgren concentrates on distrustful women and being heartbroken. Contrasting the two albums track-for-track, it seems as if Rundgren sought to make his own album out of Nyro's model. The best single of the album is "We Gotta Get You a Woman," which consequently was Rundgren's first hit and past its chauvinist lyrics is really a great song for its excellent use of layering voices. It also showcases how well Rundgren lays a foundation for the song with the piano and bass, using the guitar as a solo voice and for texture. As for eclecticism, Rundgren occasionally uses unfamiliar instruments to the pop idiom. For instance on the aforementioned song you will hear a triangle part integral to the texture of the piece. Similarly, Rundgren will utilize handbells or chimes. The real magnum opus of the album in my opinion is "Birthday Carol." It's the most unusual to be present on a pop-rock album, but it's "Birthday Carol" that shows Rundgren is more than a rock star. He displays real talent in songwriting and arranging. Transitioning from such varied sections as a string quartet, a straight-ahead rock section, and a pop ballad, "Birthday Carol" shows that Rundgren really knows what he's doing. This particular version of the album is a personal assemblage of three or so versions of the album. It mixes vinyl and electronic copies, but I kept the songs with the best audio quality. Some of the vinyl rips had too much record noise and the electronic copies had bad hiss in parts.