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Utopia - Oblivion CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

2.44 | 32 ratings

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Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer
3 stars UTOPIA began life as a musically 'Progressive' venture for eclectic musician TODD RUNDGREN leading up to the mid-70's. Having successfully tread these wonderfully colourful paths with amazing results, the down-sized line-up comprising of Rundgren (Guitars/Vocals), Roger Powell (Keys. Synths, Vocals), Kasim Sulton (Bass Guitar/vocals) and Willie Wilcox (Drums/Vocals) latched onto space-hero STEVE HILLAGE and cut the album 'L', after which the brilliant Utopia album 'Ra' was recorded. The later Seventies offered the band successful possibilities within the growing 'New-Wave' scene. Here we are at 1983....... - musically, much water has passed under the bridge, and the Utopian musicians have learnt just as much in the ensuing years. Todd has always been up-to-date with revolutionary Production techniques, the newest technology, and the endeavour to produce a 'perfect album' (as if Meatloaf's 'Bat Out Of Hell' didn't receive anough accolades......of course, not an album I particularly enjoy....) so 'Oblivion' offers up an album worth of 'New-Wavey' and rather synthetic sounding material composed democratically by all members of the band. Perhaps they've taken on a more 'Progressive' approach to their writing/recording (considering the usual 80's values ??). Around this time, drummer Willie Wilcox had a rather primitive form of a Midi drumkit (Musical Instrument Digital Interface - actually, we could still be talking 'analogue' for now ??) in the form of some supersonic Bob-Sled (or motorbike) - just some pads and cymbals which were linked to a sound-base that was able to re-create the sounds of a full drumkit (and then some - hitting a drum and hearing bubbly synth sounds surely must've been innovative...) Same goes for Kasim's Bass - at times, we hear a Synth-Bass, and, perhaps some Taurus Pedals, along with his vibrant Bass-Guitaring. MIDI was all the rave during these 'plastic' times, for sure interesting, but took the 'heart' out of a natural approach to playing music, even though some musicians used it sympathetically (Bill Bruford, Phil Miller, among others). Those who have seen footage from this phase of the band will be astounded with the result these great musicians had with their craft. Roger Powell is responsible for a lot of the synth innovations displayed here - he has long been a dear friend of the late Dr Robert Moog, had an immediate know-how of synthesis and software programming and pretty much a virtuoso keyboards player to boot. 'Oblivion' is quite an over-polished affair never-the-less, containing some well written material, precision playing and tight harmonies. Nothing a Prog-Head would die for, but some of the songs featured on this album are really enjoyable, the playing really is tight, and we can hear the vaguest of prog-related ideas as well (if one looks hard enough...) To mention high-lights, as always, opening song 'Itch In My Brain' recalls a light resemblance to the Prog-Pop tune 'Caravan' off their successful 'Adventures In Utopia' album, with a great progression and brief Roger Powell synth and Todd R. guitar trade-off. 'If I Didn't Try' is a tastefully performed ballad in the vein of the lovely Rundgren blast 'The Verb 'To Love', complete with some unique Powell synth colourings - the vocals and harmonies are absolutely superb, and the main organ melody is just beautiful (this track rates up there with, say, the 'Utopia Theme' (from the debut) 'The Seven Rays' (from Another Live) 'Singring...' (from 'Ra') etc... Definately my favourite piece from this album (and I'm hardly a 'die-hard' Utopian follower). 'Cry Baby' is a really good Pop tune with a driving beat, memorable riff and chorus - I have to mention that Todd's lead-guitar breaks speak volumes - melodious, intelligently constructed and performed well (on most tracks, too), and the epic wanna-be 'Welcome To My Revolution' should strike a chord for some Prog-lovers, even if a frad repetitive. With the up-tempo song 'Winston Smith Takes It On The Jaw' Kasim shows off somewhat elaborate Bass-lines which are admirable considering its basic Pop construction. Perhaps a tad daggy, 'Oblivion' is still an interesting listen and worthy addition to most music collections. 3 stars.
Tom Ozric | 3/5 |


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