Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Todd Rundgren’s first band is this sacrilegiously named group (a shortened reference to “Jesus of Nazareth”) which combined pop and psych and created a powerful, original sound that is still eye-opening today.

This first album starts off “Open My Eyes” with strong piano chords, a soaring fuzz guitar riff and, after the full band blasts in, amazing melodies, harmonies and an instantly memorable chorus! Some nice – but not overdone – psychedelic studio affects add to the number and there is plenty of wild Todd guitar work! What an amazing intro to this band!

They continue in this vein for “Back of Your Mind” – more fuzzy licks, interesting call-and-response verses, another great chorus and super playing by the whole band. This song is a little darker and moodier, but still quite rockin’!

“See What You Can Be” is mellower, a piano-based ballad-y tune that sounds a lot like some later Rundgren solo numbers. Plenty of layers of harmonies and more alternating vocals all work to create a nice, pretty song. This feel continues in the super-slow original version of “Hello It’s Me”. While obviously the same song that became his first solo hit, this is much quieter and not nearly as upbeat. Still good, but it is clear why the later version broke the charts.

The Nazz crashes back into the rock with one of the record’s highlights, “Wildwood Blues”. Heavier than you can imagine, this is pretty far from blues, but is superb, overdriven psych with fantastic guitars! There are still plenty of cool vocals, but cymbals smash and guitars slash and organs swell in a massively loud and wonderful jam at the end.

That was the end of side one of the vinyl and side two opens with another softer tune, similar to “See What You Can Be”, this one titled “If That’s the Way You Feel”. Even the vocal lines are reminiscent of the previous tune. Still, it is good and has some unique parts, such as the climbing bridge and an addition of strings. Todd shows off his sweet falsetto and wide range here, as well.

More terrific psych appears in “When I Get My Plane” – still quite poppy and an incredibly catchy chorus but also rockin’ with a highly textured, effects-laden guitar section. About as good as psych-pop can be! This shoulda been a hit!

Even more rollickin’ is the upbeat “Lemming Song”. A galloping groove drives this number and Todd stretches out for another fine guitar solo, also. Intensely rockin’ and the band really locks together and everyone shines right through to the crescendo ending.

Dialing back the energy again for another pure-pop tune the band highlights their harmony work on “Crowded”. This is a fairly brief interlude before they bash out the suggestively titled “She’s Going Down”. This is wildly energetic, with another monster guitar workout before the keys take over for a bit of a psych bridge and then the rhythm section gets to display their chops with a tasteful – and short - drum solo before they are come back for another repeated chorus. Fine, fine stuff!

For lovers of melodic psych that is more pop-oriented than acid-drenched. The band is super strong all around and the song writing is fantastic! A late 60’s classic!