Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren
Where Todd Rundgren’s 1970 solo debut had been a three-person collaboration with bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales, 1971’s Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren is when the artist came into his own as the all-seeing, all-knowing studio wizard. Although Tony Sales plays bass throughout the album, Rundgren handles all the other instruments himself (except for “Parole,” on which Hunt Sales drums). Rundgren had consolidated his control over his music, but The Ballad of Todd Rundgren generally follows the blueprint of its predecessor. It alternates between lovely piano-driven power pop (“Long Flowing Robe,” “Parole”) and gentle balladry in the mold of Carole King and Laura Nyro (“The Ballad (Denny & Jean,” “The Range War,” “Boat On the Charles,” “Be Nice To Me”). A few songs presage the bold studio experiments Rundgren would undertake in the years to come. “Wailing Wall” is fragile and nearly acapella, as Rundgren duets with a chorus consisting of his own doubled voice. Meanwhile, “Bleeding” and “Chain Letter” are shapeshifting pop songs that suggest prog rock even as they exude the energy of early Who.