Runt: The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren
One of Rundgren’s more focused albums, The Ballad Of is his take on the singer-songwriter idiom prevalent in 1971. Rundgren’s too much of a pop craftsman to give much of himself away, and this is perhaps closer in tone to something like Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection. Rundgren’s often predominantly on piano or acoustic guitar here, and for most of the tracks, he’s joined by Tony Sales and drummer N.D. Smart.
The radio friendly pop of ‘Long Flowing Robe’ kicks off the record, and it could have easily fitted onto Carole King’s Tapestry with its lush, piano-driven arrangement. At the other end of the spectrum, the haunting ‘The Wailing Wall’ is pared down to just Rundgren’s piano and voice. The fun, faux-country of ‘The Range War’ provides some subtle diversity, while the slighter pieces like ‘A Long Time, A Long Way To Go’ and ‘Remember Me’ are also charming. It’s only the rockier tracks that are slightly problematic; ‘Parole’ especially isn’t abrasive enough to be effective, but still too abrasive to fit onto the album properly.
The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren doesn’t smack you over the head, as pretty much every other album in Rundgren’s catalogue tries to, but every song here is a worthwhile, subtly ingratiating, piece of pop-craft.