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Utopia - Another Live  CD (album) cover



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3 stars I used to hate this album, mostly because I thought it was a joke compared to what came before it (TR's Utopia) and what came after (Ra). Those are two of my favorite albums ever, and this one is just... well, actually it's pretty awesome. But it is still the lame duck of the bunch. First off, drummer Kevin Ellman is gone, and that changes everything. Whereas on the next album John Wilcox comes into his own and is perfect, here he is less than mind-blowing and after Ellman, that definitely takes some getting used to. You also have songs like "The Wheel", which is where you learn whether you can hang with Todd's "Mr. Spiritual" lyrics or not. And then there are some covers, and live Rundgren songs. Ok, so why did this album turn out to be pretty damn good anyway? Well, alot of the credit goes to "Intro/Mister Triscuits," which is an archetypal prog jam as delectable as anything on the other Utopia classics, no question. Electric guitar, synths, freaking out -- perfect. Both "Another Life" and "The Seven Rays" are really good too, featuring more excellent guitar playing and synth mania (Seven Rays has a particularly magical synth section). Also, The Wheel is actually a very pretty song. So, in the end, this is another great Utopia album; but if you need to be reminded that they created some of the best prog music ever, go throw on the first album and listen to "The Ikon."
Report this review (#26481)
Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars The second album from "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" was, oddly enough, a live record. They didn't repeat anything from their first record (thank goodness for small favors), instead focusing on a wonderful new trio of songs on the first side, rounding out the second side with a few covers and hits from TODD's catalog. The two "Sides" are apparently from different venues; the first is remarkably clear (it almost sounds like the studio), the second is sonically challenged. While it's an uneven record -- and when isn't a Todd Rundgren affair? -- the new music is definitely the high point of Utopia's first incarnation. It took a few tries, but RUNDGREN finally seems a match for FRANK ZAPPA's deft arrangements on the opening "Another Life." "The Wheel" is mellow by comparison, but fans of his solo work to date will agree that this is a winner. I can't explain it, but "The "Seven" Rays" (written by Rundgren and bassist JOHN SIEGLER) is my favorite UTOPIA track of all time; it just gets under my skin, musically and lyrically. The second side is something of a ripoff, since it's really a TODD RUNDGREN record. Versions of "Heavy Metal Kids" and "Just One Victory" are in danger of being fuzzy concert curios -- you wish they'd cleaned these recordings up a bit. As for the covers of "Something's Coming" and "Do Ya", you can hear why they didn't go to any extraordinary lengths to preserve them -- UTOPIA's versions are okay, but YES and ELO (respectively) did these better. ROGER POWELL's fans will enjoy his five- minute "Intro/Mister Triscuits", featuring some nice synthesizer soloing; elsewhere, the multitalented Mr. POWELL even plays the trumpet. "Another Live" is best viewed as half Utopia and half live TODD, and is indicative of the incestuous nature of the two (for example, live versions of UTOPIA's music first appear on TODD's Back to the Bars).

Even at half an album, UTOPIA has grown by leaps and bounds from their debut. Unfortunately, this incarnation of the band dissolved soon after, with MARK "Moogy" KLINGMAN, RALPH SCHUCKETT, and SIEGLER off to other projects.

Report this review (#26480)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars An extra star for this album because I saw the accompanying tour, and have very fond memories (as well as a cool triangular program). Todd invited fans to walk around the entire auditorium to get all the "angles" of the stage production. "The Wheel" features instrumentation that has never been repeated on any Todd/Utopia album that I've heard, and comes across as completely guileless (an adjective I wish could be used to describe more music these days). "The Seven Rays" is wonderfully progressive. The rest isn't bad.
Report this review (#26484)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Another Live is an unusual second album for Utopia to have recorded. Stuck between the group's (and Rundgren's) most progressive albums ever (Todd Rundgren's Utopia and Ra), it's a live work that contains nothing from either album. Rather it offered four previously unreleased originals and four cover songs (even if two of them are Rundgren songs from his solo albums). Despite being blatantly flawed and far from consistently progressive, it has a couple of the best songs in Rundgren's vast catalogue.

The opening track Another Life has some fierce synths (there were three keyboardists in the line-up at this point!) and is one of the better attempts to link Rundgren's pop/rock tendencies with his desire to do prog. The mellow acoustic track The Wheel is one of my favourite Rundgren songs ever, but despite the trumpet, glockenspiel and accordion additions, doesn't really do much in terms of variation of chord patterns and tempo. Still, I love it.

The Seven Rays begins with a power-prog riff, before another memorable vocal melody from Todd kicks in. There are loads of great solos from synth player Roger Powell (Rundgren's main side-kick in Utopia) and one from Todd himself on guitar. I particularly like the bit where the song breaks down into a moody synth and organ driven passage that could have come straight out of the Genesis handbook, and really the outro of this song might just be Powell's career highlight! Intro/Mister Triscuits on the other hand is a schizophrenic piece. The "Intro" part featuring Rungdren on guitar and Powell on synth is nothing more than some flashy showing off, but then when the rhythm section kicks off and each of the three keyboardists (Powell, Klingman and Schukett) and Rundgren interlock impressively, this instrumental becomes an excellent spacey fusion tour-de-force.

Unfortunately, Mister Triscuits segues into a cover of Stephen Sondheim's Something's Coming! I admire the ambition involved in doing a prog version of a Sondheim showtune, but I do not like the final product. This heralds the start of a rather disappointing second half of the album in which Utopia revisit the boogie bar band sludge of Heavy Metal Kids (from Todd) and the white-boy soul of Just One Victory (from A Wizard/A True Star). The best cut of the second half of this album is a take on The Move's Do Ya (but even that is a little too similar, not to mention distinctly inferior, to the version that the Electric Orchestra would cut on 1976's A New World Record album).

Listening to this though, it's obvious that Utopia was an exciting live band, and I would like to hear these guys tackle some of the more exciting material from either Todd Rundgren's Utopia or Ra (Utopia Theme, Freak Parade, Communion With The Sun, Singring And The Glass Guitar all come to mind, and yes I know the latter two weren't written when Another Live was made!). The band's sound is pretty strong and even if Todd's vocals are occasionally flat, there are some great harmony parts, which is quite rare on a live record.

Still Another Live is way too inconsistent for me to recommend it wholeheartedly. I do believe that Rundgren and his cohorts had an absolutely classic prog album within them, but that it never got out. I'd get this only if you've already heard both the first and third Utopia albums and like what you hear. ... 46% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#35299)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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.

Report this review (#135172)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars The second album by Todd Rundgren's Utopia brings them one step closer to the lineup that will record all of the rest of the albums to come. On this album, drummer John "Willie" Wilcox joins the fold, leaving only bassist Kasim Sultan to join.

The album itself is something of a mixed bag. The first (and better half), contains all new, and fine fusion based material. The sound quality on this is very good. and the music is sensational. The second half contains some cover songs (Do Ya, originally recorded by ELO, and Something's Coming, from "West Side Story"), plus two songs from Todd's solo albums Heavy Metal Kids and Just One Victory. While the perfomances of these songs are spirited, the sound quality is quite murky. You would think that a supposed studio wizard like Todd Rundgren could have come up with better sounding recordings to release.

Report this review (#325654)
Posted Thursday, November 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is true that overall, Utopia's second album (which I count as being their full-fledged second album, since even though it's a live album, it doesn't repeat any tracks from the first one) does come across as a cross between a live Utopia album and a live solo Todd Rundgren album, and it's not as serious (overall) as the debut, some of Side Two even bordering on mediocre ... and it's even true that hardly any of the music is as technically impressive as what was on the first one, but there is a noticable improvement in sound quality, and there are 3 gems that brighten the whole affair quite brightly. Both "Another Life" and "The Seven Rays" show a lot of growth in sound and composition, with great use of choir and truly memorable hooks applied to progressive songwriting, and a warm sense of band unity. "The Seven Rays" in particular is a wonderful example of the unmistakeble sonic identity this incarnation of the band had. The other gem is a deeply felt version of "Just One Victory", which in my opinion is a song that can't go wrong. Elsewhere we have "The Wheel", which is pretty decent, even if it is based on a riff that sounds a lot like the opening riff for Joni Mitchell's "California," a very impressive keyboard explosion piece from Roger Powell, two covers, one good ("Do Ya"), and one okay but a little rushed sounding ("Something's Coming"), and the Todd song, "Heavy Metal Kids." It's all at the very least entertainling, and in conclusion, Another Live is obviously not as mindblowing as the debut, but since the 3 gems are hidden in just the right places (the beginning, middle, and end), it's a very satisfying listen.
Report this review (#579080)
Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Decent, but not in the same league as the debut.

After recording their first album (Todd Rungren's Utopia), Frog Labat left the band, so Rundgren recruited Roger Powell to play the synths, and Powell became an important force in the band from that point on (and Moogy would leave after this album, a big loss). This album reflects tunes they played on the tour, which no longer included their amazing epic, "The Ikon", because it was too hard for the band to play live! (Todd practiced the band to perfection in the studio when recording the debut, explaining how tight that album is. However, The Ikon is found on the Ambassador Theatre 1974 Live Album). The songs here are good, but not in the same league as TR's Utopia. They are easier and definitely more accessible. Saying this, this music is still progressive rock, at least the first half of it. "Another Life", "The Seven Rays", and "The Wheel" are on the first side and are the best tracks along with "Mister Triscuits" (which is where Powell gets to shine). All of these are original tunes first appearing on this album. On the second side, the band also played "Heavy Metal Kids" from Rundgren's solo album 'Todd', "Just One Victory" from the solo album "A Wizard A True Star", and the Move/ELO single "Do Ya". Each of these tracks on side 2 is just OK. Indeed, when I play this album, I only ever put on side 1. Rundgren's vocals on Do Ya in particular are rough, and it is not clear why he would even release it (other than he liked to play it, which is fine I guess, but it doesn't add to this collection). While this is a lot better than all the Utopia albums that would subsequently follow, it is a huge disappointment compared to the amazing debt Utopia album (but of course, expectations were going to be huge after that one, so perhaps this is not a fair statement). On the whole, I give this album 6.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to mid 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1698206)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permalink

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