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SWING TO THE RIGHT

Utopia

Eclectic Prog


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daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Apparently Healing wasn't, and UTOPIA came out swinging on "Swing To The Right". This is their nastiest, most cynical record since "Oops! Wrong Planet", taking aim at REAGAN-era America with all the smartass satisfaction you'd expect from the new wave of know-it-alls. Twisting their pop songs into brutal, discordant pieces like "Last Dollar On Earth", "The Up" and "Junk Rock" illuminates the melodies in blacklight. Far from the overly cute approach of "Deface The Music", Swing is the scariest album in the UTOPIA collection. But underneath all the standoffish screaming and cutting-edge cacophony are some remarkably catchy tunes, which is the record's real appeal. Who else could turn totalitarianism into an infectious dance parody like "Fahrenheit 451" or paint mankind as a bunch of monkeys and still make it a barrelful of fun? If you said FRANK ZAPPA, give yourself a star. UTOPIA has often slipped into Zappa's camp at night, stealing some of the avant jazz noisiness and overcaffeinated arrangements found on FRANK's mid '70s work. "Swing To The Right" will attract the same sort of listeners who don't mind climbing up sometimes inscrutable passages for the vein of musical gold concealed therein. And the melodies wrapped in "Shinola", "The Up" and a radical rework of "For The Love of Money" are worth the effort. Of course, it wouldn't be a TODD RUNDGREN affair without some lump-in-the-throat love songs, and the anti- war "Lysistrata" is worth the album price alone ("Only Human" is also very good, but out of place on this album). The record closes on the upbeat (and optimistic) "One World", which tones down the electronic onslaught for an acoustic TOM PETTY/JOHN COUGAR vibe. It's not enough to dispel the negative energy that accumulates over the course of the album, but the song's minty simplicity removes some of the bad taste. Me,

I'll ride along with energy (negative or otherwise) where I find it, and "Swing To The Right" has provided plenty of good rides over the years.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#26511)
Posted Tuesday, May 04, 2004 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars As interesting as it is to see Rundgren make an overtly political album, I can't really recommend this album to prog fans. Perhaps you should bear in mind that I'm of those people who thinks that Utopia's best prog (found on Todd Rungren's Utopia and Ra) is overrated, but I really don't think the most dedicated fan of Utopia's prog will maintain that Swing To The Right is a prog album.

What it is is basically some quality 80s pop-rock with lyrics that criticise the hypocrisy and outright stupidity that fuelled Ronald Reagan's America. With some decent songs (Swing To The Right, Lysistrata, Last Dollar On Earth, the soulful Only Human and the totally exuberant closing anthem One World) I actually think it can be compared quite favourably with contemporaneous albums by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Jackson Browne, but then again, it's also got some real tuneless synthy rubbish like Junk Rock (Million Monkeys), For the Love Of Money and Farenheit 451. Aside from the opening track, there are hardly any solos to speak of, which is just more evidence that points to the fact that Swing To The Right is not a prog album.

It's hard to believe that just five years earlier this same line-up of Rundgren, Powell, Sultan and Wilcox made Ra. ... 18% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#35302)
Posted Sunday, June 05, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars You can't blame the president this time!

"Swing to the right" represented the end of Todd Rundgren and Utopia's long association with Bearsville Records. The band were becoming increasingly disillusioned with Bearsville's apathy towards them, and the consequent lack of promotion of their releases. It is perhaps appropriate that their final album for the label should be filled with bitterness and anger. In fact though, the vitriol is not (overtly at least) directed at the record company, but at the politics of the then US president Ronald Regan. Regan had only recently taken up his presidency, so the songs here reflect the fears of the moderate centre about the direction their country might be heading in.

As had become the norm for Utopia, the album is made up entirely of short pop based songs. Unfortunately, they are generally lacking in strength of melody or performance, rendering the album mediocre at best.

Things start off fairly brightly with the title track, which does indeed gently swing. The song has a 10CC like sophisticated pop feel, and a decent hook. Things immediately begin to slide after that though, "Lysistrata" ("I won't go to war no more") being a cod 60's plea for peace, and Kasim Sultan's "The up" proposing eternal optimism in the face of the daily challenges of depressing news, all to a lightweight pop tune. If that was not bad enough, side one finishes with a couple of real misfires. "Junk rock" is a shambles of off key vocals and computer voices, and "Shinola" sounds like it was thrown together in 10 minutes.

Side two opens with a cover version of the O'Jays song "For the love of money", perhaps indicating even more clearly that the tank was empty. At times, the original song is hard to pick out in a cacophony of backward recordings and discordant rambling. Roger Powell fare's no better with his "Last dollar on earth" which has some highly irritating processed vocals.

It is hard to single one track out as the worst, but "Fahrenheit 451" is just awful, a hand clapping chant with a needlessly repetitive hook.

Finally, as we near the end of the album, we are treated to a decent Rundgren ballad in "Only Human". In truth, this song is more of a Rundgren solo album number, but it does serve here to brighten up an otherwise lifeless album. The closing "One world" is another plain pop song, with a catchy repeating chorus.

Considering how creative and innovative Rundgren was, both as a solo performer and as a member of Utopia, it really is distressing to see him put his name to an album such as this. Sadly, things would not improve for the remainder of Utopia's existence as an album making band.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#102890)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
2 stars I was looking forward to Utopia's political take on the Ronald Reagan era. But as much as I might have agreed with the politics, I was severely disappointed.

The songs on this album are various styles of bland techno-pop. Yep, Utopia at this point had barely any trace of their progressive roots. Here and there, mostly in Roger Powell's keyboard parts, we hear vague inklings of what might have been a progressive idea, but nothing breaks through.

Maling the album slightly worthwhile is a spirited version of The O'Jays' classic For The Love Of Money. Other than that, skip it. The only thing progressive here is the politics.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#401331)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars Agreement with Trotsky of basically an 80s pop-rock with lyrics that criticise the hypocrisy and outright stupidity that fuelled Ronald Reagan's America.

It is even poor 80's pop rock at this.

It reeks of the paranoia by those afraid of the Reagan administration similar to those fearing the Obama administration

Sadly, this recording received great reviews by certain university and mainstream media outlets when it came out in.

These are the same outlets who would give and A++++ for a recording with George W Bush stinks lyrics, but would equally give an F------- for a recording claiming G W B is the best.

Apparently Rundgren has released similar political recordings, but should be judged based on actual listening and not the media outlet reviewing it

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Send comments to SMSM (BETA) | Report this review (#401335)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars From 1982, SWING TO THE RIGHT is Utopia's take on what was going on in America politically during the Reagan years. While I agree with the sentiments here, the power-pop approach of Utopia at this time offers nothing new musically besides the song ideas. Typical 80's music of Utopia included catchy tunes, good but simple melodies, sometimes interesting lyrics, fine band playing and vocal harmonies,etc..but nothing that screams "PROG!!". RA and their first release were distant memories by the time SWING TO THE RIGHT was released. While Todd and the guys made some fine power-pop during the 80's, it is not enough to sustain my interest. SWING TO THE RIGHT is better than TRIVIA, but way below ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA. 2 stars for political effort.

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Send comments to mohaveman (BETA) | Report this review (#452183)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink

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