If psych-pop with a twist is your bag, baby, this compilation is definitely where it's...
Chris Jones 2003
Fans of pop prodigy and all round whiz kid Todd Rundgren will already be aware of The Nazz's place in their hero's history. Formed in 1967 in Philadelphia, they were not originally Todd's band but quickly fell under the vision of the intense young anglophile. At a time when the happening synapse-melting sounds emanating from the West Coast, such as the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, were seeing bands across the US throw away the three-minute template, the Nazz were going against the grain.
With Rundgren taking the songwriting and production reins, the four-piece managed three albums in a short two years. In fact all the material was recorded in their first year and by the time of their second album (Nazz Nazz) Todd, and bassist Carsen Van Osten had actually left. Their first opus (Nazz) was a template of concise songcraft heavily influenced by Todd's heroes; the Who, the Small Faces and the Kinks, yet Rundgren's desire to make the follow-up a double album (with the working title of Fungo Bat) ran foul of both bandmates and record company executives. With Rundgren pursuing his muse alone, frustrated by short-sightedness and musical shortcomings, a third album (with hastily re-recorded vocals) compiled from unfinished work was the last the world would ever see of The Nazz.
All three albums have been compiled here (along with rarities etc.) to give a complete picture of the sublime pop dynamics of this underrated outfit, and as a testament to the vision of Rundgren. Sixties hipsters will already know their punchy original single ''Open My Eyes'' (immortalised by Lenny Kaye on his seminal Nuggets compilation, and also a b-side to Todd's later-reworked ''Hello Its Me''), yet there's a wealth of other gems to choose from. The sound not only draws on the aforementioned British invasion vibe but also dares to combine it with Beach Boys' harmonies, Philly soul funkiness (check the Archie Bell and the Drells spoof opener ''Loosen Up'') and Laura Nyro's winsomeness.
In the end, Todd's burgeoning sophistication was always going to be far more than this garage band could handle. Let's not forget that in a matter of a year or two he was producing his own double albums - and playing everything on them as well! Yet, this is no mere footnote to greater things to come. Rundgren and Van Osten, along with Robert 'Stewkey' Antoni and Thom Mooney were a bona fide pop phenomenon and, as a band, deserve to be remembered as more than just Todd's springboard to fame. If psych-pop with a twist is your bag, baby, this compilation is definitely where it's at...