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Utopia - Todd Rundgren's Utopia CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 270 ratings

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3 stars Not content to let FRANK ZAPPA have all the fun, TODD RUNDGREN surrounded himself with a quintet of musicians (including three keyboardists!), dubbed the venture "Todd Rundgren's Utopia", and released an album of progressive rock that sought to let the singer/guitarist's creativity run wild outside the confines of the short-form song. Over the course of the album, however, you'll be reminded that RUNDGREN is at his best when he's reined in -- despite some fascinating moments, the instrumental sections just don't captivate the way ZAPPA's did. ROGER POWELL (billed here as M. FROG LABAT) does take center stage with some lovely results, creating oases of calm with his synthesizers, but Utopia sorely lacks a GEORGE DUKE or RUTH UNDERWOOD to keep the intensity up when RUNDGREN steps back. What listeners can take from this are isolated moments that sound like they could have been made into good four-minute songs, most of which occur on "Freak Parade" and "The Ikon." Honestly, Todd's voice has never been suited to progressive rock, and at times he seems outmatched by progressive rock's potential for epic songwriting. For example, "Freedom Fighters" finds Rundgren retreating into the comfort of the short song. Compared to the music of YES, ELP and ZAPPA, UTOPIA is little more than a truck stop between pop and pomp. As much as individual sections show that Utopia might have some claim to art rock, there are moments like the off-key vocals on "Utopia's Theme" or the trite keyboard solos on "The Ikon" that'll send you running for the real stuff.
daveconn | 3/5 |


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