A compilation of early, primarily unreleased tracks from rock godd TODD RUNDGREN’s first bands, Evolution: From Woody’s Truck Stop to Nazz 1966-1968 is a welcome addition to any Toddfan’s collection. With a fistful of tracks from Woody’s Truck Stop (recorded in June 1966) followed by numerous Nazz demos, alternate mixes and even a radio commercial collage, this single CD compilation has been newly mastered and approved by the artiste himself.
The five tracks from Todd’s pre-Nazz group are standard Nuggets-style psychedelic tunes: they’re pretty much what you’d expect from a ’66 rock group. The lead-off cut, “That’s Right You’re Wrong,” is narrowly the best of this bunch, followed by “She Must Be Blind,” which features a fairly blistering guitar solo but it’s not clear who played it. Could be Todd, could be a dude named Alan Miller. The lead vocalist (not sure which guy it is from the liner notes, but it’s not Todd) is nothing special and neither is the rest of Woody’s Truck Stop; it’s not surprising that Rundgren jumped ship over a directional dispute.
Nazz is where Todd Rundgren started to really find the voice (whether from his mouth or via his fingers) that we know and love. And on Evolution there are numerous Nazz-tastic takes on familiar Todd tunes. From a ballad-tempo “Hello It’s Me” audition tape from late ’67, to a “long version” cover of the Paul Revere & The Raiders hit “Kicks,” to an alternate take of this group’s best known tune, “Open My Eyes,” the Nazz is what gives this release pizzazz. Beyond those there are a handful of unreleased songs (including a killer tune called “Forget All About It”), the aforementioned demos and the finale, a tune called “Cissy Strut” which can’t be The Meters’ tune (because it wasn’t released until 1969), nor do the liner notes indicate any kind of provenance of its creation. Doesn’t really matter – I excel at nitpicking! – because ultimately it’s the historical relevance of this release that is our main concern.
If you’re new to the Nazz then this is not the “greatest hits” you seek. (Likely the 2002 Open Our Eyes anthology is still available, or else a used copy of Rhino’s 1984 Best of Nazz.) However, if you’re a Todd fanatic then this Nazz-centric CD should be on your shelf.
3/5 (RockBeat ROC-3406, 2018)