Having already recorded with The Nazz, Rundgren was still only 22 when he recorded his solo debut. Even though he’d grow appreciably with each of his subsequent three albums, Runt is already a remarkably assured solo debut. Musically, Runt veers between 1960s pop – inspired largely from the British Beatles/Zombies/Kinks axis – and early seventies singer-songwriters like Carole King and Laura Nyro. Additionally, Rundgren’s penchant for guitar heroics and progressive rock is also present, especially in the closing ‘Birthday Carol’; Rundgren states in the liner notes that he thought that every album should end with an epic a la ‘A Day In The Life’ on Sgt Peppers. On his first effort with artistic control, Rundgren produced and played the vast majority of the instruments – mostly he’s just assisted by the rhythm section of Tony and Hunt Sales, who later played in Iggy Pop’s band and Bowie’s Tin Machine.
It’s the more lightweight, conventional tunes that are among the weakest, while the two lengthy efforts at the end of the album are among the album’s best. ‘Birthday Carol’ starts off as a blues jam before settling as a pretty piano ballad, while ‘Baby Let’s Swing/The Last Thing You Said/Don’t Tie My Hands’, dedicated to Laura Nyro, jumps effortlessly and joyously through a bunch of melodic tunes, showing the soulful potential in Rundgren’s voice. The appropriately titled ‘There Are No Words’ shows an obvious Brian Wilson influence, while the low, croony vocal in ‘Once Burned’ is actually all natural, created without studio effects. The best known song is the hilarious lightweight piano pop of ‘We Gotta Get You A Woman’.
Runt is a strong start to Rundgren’s solo career – incredibly, each of his three next albums build on the previous, growing in scope without sacrificing his natural tunefulness and playfulness.