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Utopia - Another Live  CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.15 | 36 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "I think at least I finally learned how to sing"

"Another live" is effectively the link between the prog (over)-indulgences of the first Utopia album, released under the name Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and the long term classic line up albums which started with the excellent "Ra". Here we have a collection of three new songs on the first side, and an eclectic mix of covers, reworkings and a solo spot on the second. Incidentally, the rather confusing title of this the band's first live album (their first album had one live track) is simply a variant on the title of the first track, "Another life".

In terms of the line up, John Wilcox has now taken up residence on the drums, while Roger Powell is the new boy on keyboards, making for three keyboards players in total. Powell also shows his dexterity by playing trumpet on the first two tracks. Most of the band which recorded the first album is still in situ though, Ralph Schuckett and Moogy Klingman sharing the solo spots with Rundgren.

"Another life", which opens the album, has all the progressive and fusion tenets which differentiated the first album from much of what was to follow. Rundgren's guitar work is as adventurous as it has ever been here. "The wheel" sets out in softer tones, sounding more like a Rundgren solo track than an early Utopia offering. The song includes the self depreciating lyric "I think at least I finally learned how to sing", an odd thing to say given Rundgren's excellent work on albums such as "A wizard a true star" and "Todd". Powell's contribution on trumpet is particularly effective here.

"The seven rays" reverts to the rock fusion which dominated the first album. Lyrically the track has a rather obscure theory about the key to life being the seven rays (colours) of the spectrum. "It may sound like a bunch of trumped up words, but we keep no secrets today The only hope for you is in your brothers my friend All you need is six more rays"

Roger Powell puts his first ever Utopia synthesiser solo on the track, something he should have done far more often on subsequent albums.

Side two is a completely different kettle of fish. It kicks off with a Roger Powell composition "Intro/Mr Triscuits". This exercise in indulgence allows the band to let off some steam with Powell testing the abilities of his synthesiser while Todd plays with the feedback, Hendrix style. The piece then settles down to a melodic instrumental with varying lead instruments.

"Something's coming" is a cover of a cover, the song being a Stephen Sondheim composition previously covered by Yes in their earliest days. Unfortunately, this version does not offer anything by way of improvement.

There are two renditions of songs from Rundgren's solo work here. The first of these is "Heavy metal kids" from the "Todd" album. This is still very much a Todd solo song, but the live setting does capture the essence of the piece. As the sleeve notes say, "this outing sports the always popular burn out ending". Rundgren light-heartedly claims the cover of The Move's "Do ya" here was recorded in retaliation for the The Move once performing his "Open my eyes" (by the Nazz) live. The song, which was also recorded by ELO, has a very distinctive riff which Rundgren exploits while adding his own trademarks to the version. The album closes with "Just one victory", originally from the excellent "A wizard a true star". The anthemic nature of the song makes it perfect for the closing part of a gig.

In all, a fine second album by Utopia which retains much of that which made the first album so appealing. The second side should not be taken too seriously, but side one demonstrates that the band had the potential to go on to be a respected prog band had they not lost their way after the next album.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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