Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star - Review
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critics' view

Nothing like he had done before, A Wizard, A True Star was Todd Rundgren's breakthrough into more progressive realms after the pop triumph Something/Anything" and the subsequent unwanted stardom hits such as "I Saw the Light" and the Nazz cut "Hello It's Me" had brought the Philadelphian musician. Certainly a departure from anything he had done before then and perhaps a reaction against this looming stardom he had no intentions of indulging himself in, Rundgren threw himself head-first into his work as he had during the sessions for S/A" and emerged months later with several minute Ritalin-fueled vignettes sandwiched between a handful of lengthier tracks that ended up forming a side-long psychedelic suite entitled “The International Feel (in 8).”

The suite, personally, is by far Rundgren’s finest achievement with a perfect balance of off-the-wall excursions into studio experimentation (“Dogfight Giggle”), showtunes (“Never Never Land”) and bizarre rants, most notably the John Lennon put-down “Rock and Roll Pussy,” which actively disparaged the musician for what Rundgren saw as a phony attempt at garnering favor by taking up a new persona as a “musical activist.” On the other hand, the more developed cuts such as “Zen Archer” and “When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Blvd.” saw Rundgren’s pop sensibilities take hold as opposed to the manic rock of the suite’s shorter segments.

Wizard’s second half, in comparison, is much more eclectic thanks in part to the inclusion of a ten-minute oldies medley, featuring 60s soul classics such as The Impressions’ “I’m So Proud” and The Delfonics’ “La-La (Means I Love You)” as well as Rundgren’s own soul pastiche “Hungry For Love.” Bookending the medley are the minute-long pop bites of “Does Anybody Love You"” and “I Don’t Want to Tie You Down,” although the real standouts of Wizard’s back-end are “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel,” a track that channels quite a bit of the Motown classics; “Is It My Name",” a heavy and in-your-face rocker that finds Rundgren in a confrontational mood, and the anthemic “Just One Victory,” which is perhaps Rundgren’s signature song.

As a whole, A Wizard, A True Star is a masterfully executed slab of pop genius that’s cleverly disguised as an impregnable progressive rock album, although it’s quite easily more challenging than any pop album that was around in 1973 and more intricate than any progressive record of its era.

Aaron W.
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