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




Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 258 ratings

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5 stars The first track on Todd Rundgren's Utopia may be titled "Utopia Theme", but it's really the closing section of "The Ikon" that defines the idea of utopia: many different themes and ideas of varying color and complexity not only co-existing, but complementing each other to form a beautiful, working whole. They're all themes heard earlier in the 30-minute piece, an extremely eclectic and well-thought out epic that would qualify as a great jam that may even sound like a mess at first with so many things being thrown into the pot, but closer inspection brings it into higher realms, having a sublimely detailed compositional structure and arrangement, vivdly colorful and varied soundscapes, and inspiring lryics. The last sung part of the piece is most definetely my favorite part of the whole album, where the dreamy falsetto vocal harmonies and the three keyboardists create a bubbly space world that's one of the most enticing prog atmospheres I've ever come across. There's even a nice, brief Jethro Tull-like renaissance section before one of the guitar solos that is probably often overlooked when listing the many styles the song and album boasts, where Todd performs a great alternation between electric and classical style, on the electric. The other side of the vinyl (which has a surprisingly clear sound considering the amount of compression it must have taken to fit as much music on a side), has 3 songs, and they're all equally great in they're own ways. The first, "Utopia Theme", was recorded live, and is a great showcase for the band's lineup at the time, a group of finely talented musicians who were clearly influenced by what was going on at the time but still very expressive of their indivuality, the presice notes they chose coupled with the perfectly timed accents they all seem to have nailed being the facet that demonstrates that quality the best, especially in Rundgren's first guitar solo, one of the most melodic and orgasmic guitar solos ever put to tape. The synths solos in the song are equally sublime. It all finishes with a big, bombastic, symphonic rock ending that fades into the first studio track, "Freak Parade", which is a highly unique concoction consisting of funk, prog-power-pop, avant-garde jazz fusion, and psychedelic, with lyrics that are sung and written somewhat clumsily and possibly intentionally. There are some great electric piano and slide guitar lines in this one, and I can hear a strong influence of Floyd, Yes, Zappa, and Return to Forever (just to name a few) in the album as a whole, but especially the first three in this song. The multifarious themes that come together at the end are even better and perfectly placed than the ones at the end of "The Ikon." The remaining track, "Freedom Fighters" is a lot closer to Rundgren's standard rock side (NOT pop), but it still has strong progressive elements, with time-signature changes a-plenty, more of the great soaring-to-the-depths-of-space guitar soloing that Todd demonstrates on this album, and a slightly convoluted song structure. Put with it's encouraging anthemic lyrics (some of the best of its time) and a production that lives in the best parts of badly recorded murky world side of production of its time, it's unforgettable. There are some superbly written reviews on this site of Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and while it may not be the defining progressive rock album, it is just as high in quality as what would be, and justly loved by many.
7headedchicken | 5/5 |


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