Fred Kirby – “Willows Have No Roots / Nazz: Flare No Fire” (1968)

December 22, 2012 at 7:37 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, Todd Rundgren)

A short concert review on Todd Rundgren’s first band The Nazz, taken from a Sept. 21, 1968 issue of Billboard magazine. Also mentioned is Debbie Harry’s obscure first band Wind in the Willows…

Two young groups created varying impressions at the Cafe Au Go Go on Wednesday (11). The Wind in the Willows had the elements and promise of being a winning unit, but were not together, while the Nazz was together, but lacked a distinctive quality.

The latter group was relentless in sound, but rarely showed an individual flair. One such rare instance was in the concluding “Why Is It Me?” when lead guitarist Todd Rundgren flashed his ability.

Until then, the strongest asset of the SGC Records quartet was the singing of Nazz’s organist, known as Stewkey, and by Rundgren. The latter’s bluesy “Skinny Boy” was a good number for him. Bass guitarist Carson van Osten and drummer Thom Mooney occasionally joined in the vocals.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the group was that, despite the emphasis on amplification, the vocals did cut through. “She’s Goin’ Down” and “Back of Your Mind,” from their SGC debut album, were included in the set. But Nazz failed to live up to the strong promotion.

The folk-flavored Wind in the Willows showed its lack of performing experience, but also had good lead vocalists in Paul Klein and Deborah Harry, and a unique pop musician in Ida Andrews. One of the instruments she played, a flute, is not surprising these days, but a bassoon is indeed unusual in a pop group.

Organist Harris Wiener and bass guitarist Steve DePhillips also contributed well in vocal groupings. The intricacies of the seven-member group’s arrangements doubtless will be mastered as they perform more.

Among their better numbers were four from their Capitol debut album: “Moments Spent,” “The Friendly Lion,” “Little People,” and “She’s Fantastic and She’s Yours.” “Quite Respectable Old Lady” with its changing pace was one of the most intricate selections.

“Left to Do” was the best song, as lead guitarist Peter Brittain and Miss Andrews joined in the vocals. Drummer Gil Fields was steady throughout.

Fred Kirby


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