Thursday, 22 May 2014

"A Wizard, A True Star" by TODD RUNDGREN (2014 Edsel Deluxe Edition Book Pack Reissue/Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Le Feel Internacionale..."

Coming after the double-album artistic high of "Something/Anything?" in March 1972 – in the eyes of most fans June 1973’s single LP "A Wizard, A True Star" only cemented Rundgren’s genius even more. It was psychedelic, fun, melodic and more adventurous than the double that preceded it – and it was cool too. It’s hardly surprising therefore that Edsel have chosen it as one of many Todd Rundgren albums worth celebrating with a packaging (book pack) upgrade. Here are the Zen Archer details…

UK released 19 May 2014 (27 May in the USA) - "A Wizard, A true Star" by TODD RUNDGREN on Edsel EDSA 5028 (Barcode 740155502836) is a single CD reissue of their October 2011 Expanded Version - only this time it’s in a limited edition Hardback Book cover (56:00 minutes).

1. International Feel
2. Never Never Land
3. Tic Tic Tic It Wears Off
4. You Need Your Head
5. Rock And Roll Pussy
6. Dogfight Giggle
7. You Don’t Have To Camp Around
8. Flamingo
9. Zen Archer
10. Just Another Onion Head - Da Da Dali
11. When The Shit Hits The Fan - Sunset Blvd.
12. La Feel Internacionale
13. Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel [Side 2]
14. Does Anybody Love You
15. Medley: (a) I’m So Proud (b) Ooh Baby Baby (c) La La Means I Love You (d) Cool Jerk [Impressions, Miracles, Delfonics and The Capitols]
16. Hungry For Love
17. I Don’t Want To Tie You Down
18. Is It My Name?
19. Just One Victory
Tracks 1 to 19 are the vinyl album “A Wizard, A True Star” – released June 1973 in the USA on Bearsville BR 2133 and in the UK on Bearsville K 45513.

The attached booklet within has liner notes by Paul Myers from his superb tome "A Wizard, A True Star – Todd Rundgren In The Studio" and is an excellent read. The gatefold sleeve to the Bearsville vinyl album is here – as is the lyric insert that came with original copies. Unfortunately the barely legible hand-written details and lyrics on that page insert are now shrunk – and even more unreadable. The hard card case bound book has a details sticker on the outer shrink-wrap that easily peels off (if you want to attach it to the book cover).

There is no new remaster that I can hear – this is the Edsel October 2011 version - that in itself was a PETER RYNSTON UK master using the 1993 American Rhino remasters. Don’t get me wrong – the sound is superb – but the only real upgrade here is the packaging - which is a rather lovely thing to behold…

Producing and playing every instrument whilst being (admittedly) stoned out of his tiny fuzzed-up mind – “Wizard’s” various 19 tracks sound like a splurge – but a good one at that. “Zen Archer”, “Le Feel Internacionale”, “Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel”, “I Don’t Want To Tie You Down” and the fabulous upbeat glory to “Just One Victory” – it’s all so melodic and trippy cool. Tracks like “You Don’t Have To Camp Around” and “Rock And Roll Pussy” with their one-minute madness can admittedly irritate and the four-cover-versions medley of 10 minutes may overstay its welcome somewhat especially when it gets into the mad “Cool Jerk” end piece (David Sanborn, Mike & Randy Brecker guest on Horns) - but the melodies are all gorgeous. And at a playing time of 56 minutes – the original vinyl LP was always a compromise as a listening experience – so the remaster alters all of that – and so much for the better. The “...gimme gimme gimme...” piano and guitar of “Hungry For Love” segues into the gorgeous piano warmth of “I Don’t Want To Let You Down” – one of the albums true masterpieces of melody. It ends on a song that is somehow now synonymous with Rundgren - the anthemic hope of “Just One Victory” – a tune that would melt the hardest of hearts – especially in a live setting.

Rundgren would release the massively disappointing double album “Todd” next in May 1974 - but would regain his crown with November 1974’s “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia” which was an entirely Prog Rock album - and is a masterpiece of the genre in my eyes – especially the astonishing 30-minute Side 2 opus “The Ikon”.

"A Wizard, A True Star" won't be everyone's cup of Darjeeling for sure and some may feel that in 2015 it's rather dated now. But for me this is a very cool reissue indeed – and from here its jump back Jack to "Something/Anything?" for more of the Toddster's glory daze… 

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