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OOPS! WRONG PLANET

Utopia

Eclectic Prog


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daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Though it followed close on the heels of "Ra", "Oops! Wrong Planet" is a marked departure from their previous work, eschewing longer epics for short, sometimes noisy songs with layered harmonies and a certain amount of Beatlesque charm. With TODD RUNDGREN involved in writing most of the material, the result often feels like a RUNDGREN solo album from the same period (e.g., HERMIT of MINK HOLLOW). Far from the spacey subject matter of their earlier work, Oops! is concerned primarily with social criticism: "Rape of the Young", "Gangrene", "Back on the Street." Nothing on here is as heavy-handed as "Hiroshima", but you'd have to look forward to Swing To The Right to find another UTOPIA album so cynical. As one would expect, any dozen songs from TODD (even when he cowrites them with the rest of the band) are bound to include some winners: the soulful ballad "Love Is The Answer", the caged fury of "Trapped" and the energized "Love In Action" are all top-shelf TODD. True to the UTOPIAn model, each member takes their turn at the microphone with better-than- expected results. Highlights from this side of the band include the pretty "Crazy Lady Blue" from WILLIE WILCOX (again suggesting shades of ELO), "The Martyr" featuring KASIM "KAZ" SULTON, and a funky turn from ROGER POWELL on "Abandon City." Because little light shines into this album, some who prefer RUNDGREN in the role of spiritual optimist might want to opt out of Oops!, though the album is careful to close both "Sides" on an upbeat note.

It's worth noting that this album marked a crossover from prog rock to edgier pop music, thus starting the second phase of UTOPIA's career ("Ra" was something of a transition between the two). Fans of TODD/UTOPIA would do well to add this to their collection at some point, since there are a handful of moments (like the neat ending on "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell") that represent pop music at its most sublime.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#26503)
Posted Tuesday, May 04, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Oops, wrong direction!

The follow up to the excellent "Ra" and the second album by the long lasting four man Utopia line up, "Oops wrong planet" is a far more commercial offering, consisting of a batch of pretty straightforward songs. It does contain one gem "Love is the answer", a wonderfully moving piece which was translated into a successful hit single by England Dan and John Ford Coley. It stands head and shoulder above the others, as a Rundgren mini-masterpiece.

There is none of the prog experimentation or more complex tracks which appeared on previous albums here, the songs are all basic pop rock. In all there are 12 tracks, six on each side, the longest being a shade over 4 minutes. Each song has a simple verse chorus type structure. The album title bears no direct relationship to any of the songs, there's certainly no concept here, or indeed anything to link any of the tracks together.

The opening "Trapped" uses a favourite tool of Argent's Russ Ballard, where he takes a word and develops a song around it. It is effective when used in moderation, and this Rundgren composition is attention grabbing in its own way. Roger Powell takes lead vocal for his own composition "Windows", a softer piece which features Beach Boys like harmonies and some nice synth.

"Love in action" has some of Rundgren's most atrocious lyrics ever, such as Yes you could be the last trace of the master race, the Nazis really send you to another place Still you can't stop it, you can't stop love in action

. The song itself is enjoyable if superficial though. John "Willie" Wicox" becomes the vocalist for his joint composition with Todd, "Crazy lady blue", a standard love ballad. The democracy extends to all four band members when bassist Kasim Sultan sings Todd's "Back on the street", an examination of the challenges facing a criminal when he has served his time, and is released back into society. The lyrics are certainly more thought provoking that the rather prosaic melody.

The first side is completed by "The marriage of heaven and hell", which does include the line "I must be on the wrong planet". While the first half of the song is a rather ordinary new wave type number, the latter half becomes a repetitive anthem.

Todd dominates the song-writing on the second side, collaborating with other band members on all but the last two songs. Kasim returns to centre stage to sing "The martyr", an impressive power ballad with the rest of the band proving strong backing harmonies. Todd adds a fine guitar solo to this, one of the album's stand out tracks. Powell brings out his trumpet for the funky, TSOP like "Abandon city". While it is good to see the band exploring other directions, this is one they should have overlooked.

"Gangrene" plumbs new depths lyrically and melodically, even the most deranged of punk bands would have passed on this turkey. Fortunately Powell and Rundgren restore some sort of order with "My angel", but it sounds like it would have been better placed on one of Todd's solo albums. Todd, whose voice ventures into the higher ranges, even plays sax on the track. "Rape of the young" includes some very pointed lyrics addressed to such people as "Mr. Exxon", "Mr. Chrysler", "Mr. General" and "Mr "President". Once again though, the song itself is dull and prefunctory. The album closes with the aforementioned "Love is the answer" a Rundgren solo composition and pretty much a solo rendition. The closing section of the track builds wonderfully through a repetitious chorus making for a memorable conclusion to the album.

For me, this was pretty much the end of the road for Utopia. This album signalled that Todd and the rest of the band had completed their dabbling in prog, and decided to focus entirely on seeking commercial success. The decision proved to be misguided, as their sales continued to decline with successive albums. "Oops wrong planet" has just about enough of the good old days about it to make it worthwhile, but it is nothing like as impressive as the preceding "Ra". On the other hand, nothing which came after was even up to this standard.

Have a look at the band mug-shots on the rear of the sleeve by the way. They look like the wanted ads for a particularly surly bunch of criminals!

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#135206)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars By this, their fourth album, Utopia seemed to be tiring of progressive music. This one time highly progressive band released this album with only one truly prog piece, The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell. This doesn't diminish the rest of the album. there are some very good songs on it, some even come close to prog, just not the soaring compositions of the previous albums.

Trapped, Abandon City and Rape Of The Young all have a bit of progressiveness to them, and all are fine and entertaining songs. Love In Action, Gangrene and Abandon City are less prog, but still pretty cool. And Love Is The Answer is a classic Todd Rundgren ballad.

In my opinion, this is really the last Utopia album worth owning.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#379626)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permalink

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