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Utopia Adventures In Utopia album cover
3.25 | 47 ratings | 7 reviews | 4% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Road To Utopia (4:53)
2. You Make Me Crazy (3:38)
3. Second Nature (2:34)
4. Set Me Free (3:07)
5. Caravan (6:59)
6. Last Of The New Wave Riders (4:19)
7. Shot In The Dark (3:42)
8. The Very Last Time (3:49)
9. Love Alone (3:52)
10. Rock Love (5:31)

Total Time: 42:24

Line-up / Musicians

- Todd Rundgren / vocals, guitar, producer
- Roger Powell / synth, vocals
- Kasim Sulton / bass, vocals
- John Wilcox / drums, vocals

Releases information

Artwork: The Creative Directors with John Wagman (logo)

LP Bearsville ‎- BRK 6991 (1980, US)

CD Bearsville ‎- RNCD 70872 (1987, US)
CD Bearsville ‎- ESM CD 761 (1999, UK) Remastered (?)
CD Bearsville ‎- 8122-70872-2 (2002, Germany) Remastered by Bill Inglot

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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UTOPIA Adventures In Utopia ratings distribution

(47 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(4%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (49%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

UTOPIA Adventures In Utopia reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
4 stars UTOPIA arrived at a compressed cuteness on "Adventures In UTOPIA" that would serve them well over the next few years. The change was necessary: 1980 was a watershed moment in music, as artists anticipated the futureworld of "1984", so many moved forward lest they be left behind. RUNDGREN wasn't a musical groundbreaker like DAVID BOWIE, PETER GABRIEL or TALKING HEADS, but he did share their interest in video as a new frontier, creating a television video (called simply "UTOPIA") to accompany this album. I haven't seen it, but the standalone nature of these songs doesn't require a visual explanation anyway. The story here isn't what you're missing but what you're getting: ten tightly conceived tracks that finally deliver on the band's UTOPIAn ideal of four engines simultaneously humming (and pulling their share of the weight). Earlier UTOPIA albums seemed to rise and sag as they corresponded to TODD's level of participation, but here Todd (and the rest of the band) seem to be equally engaged on every track. Some of its consistency stems from the decision to mask the vocals using effects, so all four members end up sounding about the same. And catchy choruses (long a RUNDGREN hallmark) abound, seemingly spreading RUNDGREN's influence evenly over the entire album. Despite a couple of slow moments, like the synthetic torch song "Love Alone", "Adventures In UTOPIA" is memorable for its swift, contagious energy. "The Road To UTOPIA" provides an intoxicating entrypoint, and the inevitable hissing of air from the balloon never happens. Playful pop songs rendered with new wave stylishness ("You Make Me Crazy", "Shot In The Dark"), crowd-pleasing kiss-off songs ("The Very Last Time", "Set Me Free"), and spacey stories ("Caravan", "Last of the New Wave Riders") follow, all of them keepers in the canon. As an outside producer, RUNDGREN was certainly aware of the new direction in popular music established by acts like THE CARS and GARY NUMAN; in adopting a similar approach for UTOPIA, Todd mapped out a new future for the band that discarded the outmoded prog rock approach for a cleaner, quirkier sound.

To my tastes, this ranks right up there with the best UTOPIA has to offer; in fact, it's the UTOPIA album I play most often.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Adventures in Utopia was part of a kind of whirlwind of activity for Todd Rundgren in the late 70s and early 80s. He had this, Deface the Music, and Swing to the Right with Utopia; Hermit of Mink Hollow, Healing and The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect as solo works; and production credits for albums like Meat Loaf’s mega-platinum Bat Out of Hell and the Psychedelic Furs Forever Now. He was indeed a very busy man, but his own musical works would consistently fall short of the success of those he produced. Part of the reason, particularly with Utopia, was that the band couldn’t seem to find a purpose and stick with it. It’s one thing to be experimental in progressively developing sounds as a band, but with Utopia the feeling was more like they were trying on other people’s clothes to see which persona they wanted to adapt. Adventures in Utopia, like Deface the Music, reflects this attitude in spades.

“You Make Me Crazy” is a blatant rip-off of Ric Ocasek and the Cars. I’ve heard this song hundreds of times, and it’s still amazing that an innovator like Todd Rundgren would release such a transparent attempt at piggy-backing on someone else’s sound. The guitar riff sounds like it was lifted right off of “Let’s Go” from the Cars 1979 Candy-O album. I guess it’s not surprising that Rundgren has recently replaced Ocasek in the reformed ‘New Cars’ touring lineup.

On “Second Nature”, Rundgren adopts a bit of a falsetto to give this song a feel that’s very much in the vein of some of the earlier disco divas and crooners such as Maxine Nightingale, Chaka Khan, the Sylvers, and the Ohio Players. He adds some spacey keyboards, but these can’t mask the true pop undertone of the song. It’s an okay song and the band is tight in their execution, but this is pure pop all the way, and not particularly original at that.

One of the bright spots on the album is “Set Me Free”, which of course was a pop hit, but a very catchy and original one. The trademark Utopia vocal harmonies, funky keyboards, simple and grooving rhythm will get your toes tapping no matter how hard to try to stop them. Kasim Sultan’s voice is pleading as he begs his girl to let him go and “go find some other man”. Roger Powell adds some trumpet as well, used to good effect.

“Caravan” is actually almost an art rock work, with some very good vocal interplay among all four band members, a mesmerizing synth riff, and some interesting tempo changes as it chugs away toward a climax. One problem though is that there is no climax, as Rundgren takes the easy way out and simply fades the song to black.

The back of the album does get a little more interesting. “Last of the New Wave Riders” is closer to the big psychedelic sound that was so appealing on the band’s debut and Ra albums. I guess this is Utopia’s last blast to the past as the 80s decade began. They wouldn’t generate another throwback like this again. Six or seven other songs like this one would have made for a very good album.

“You Make Me Crazy” starts off like it’s going to be an “Obladee Obladah” kind of tune, and the comparisons to the Beatles are justified (as they are for much of this band’s career). This sounds more like the kind of Beatles clone that would be attributed to someone like Klaatu though – not distinguished in any way.

“The Very Last Time” is another Rundgren ‘girl-done-me-wrong’ song, but a decent one. Musically this is a very simple song – straightforward pop rhythm and simple keyboards, but the strident backing vocals and Rundgren’s own just-left-of-normal voice give this one a little bit of an edgy feel.

The first time I heard “Love Alone” I thought it was Barry Manilow. This kind of reminds me of when Neil Young did his Everybody’s Rockin’ album. I saw this on tour back in 1983 (two days before the rest of the tour was canceled due to lack of interest), and the loafer-light glee club guys in pink tuxedos and doo-wap vocals caused a number of old hippies in the crowd to swear off the hard stuff that night. This one is kind of like that; kind of a “what the f*!k was that?!”. ‘Nuff said.

“Rock Love” is a slightly Motown-tinged pop tune to close out the album. This song has always reminded me of the Gap Band – disco beat, shout-and-response vocals, accentuating brass at all the appropriate places. Very catchy beat and a solid disco work, but ultimately forgettable as anything else.

Adventures and Deface the Music came out about the same time. The latter was a kind of tribute/spoof of the Beatles, and wasn’t particularly well-received. Adventures fared quite a bit better thanks to the hit single “Set Me Free” and the fact that the band spread their style cloning around instead of just parroting the Beatles. But in the end this album would not leave a long-lasting impression, and the band would never again achieve the level of creativity they did with Ra. The band is a tighter unit here, but one of the things that made their debut and Ra work so well was that there was an aura of unpredictability about what was going to come out of them next that is sadly lacking here. There are a few surprises (“Love Alone”, “You Make Me Crazy”), but more of the ‘shocked’ variety than the ‘what a delight’ kind.

I’m going to give this three stars, largely for “Set Me Free”, “Last of the New Wave Riders”, and “Caravan”, but if you are looking to experience Utopia for the first time, don’t make this the album you do it with – try the 1974 debut first, then Ra, then maybe this one if you are still interested.


Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars No sense of adventure

One of two Utopia releases in 1980, "Adventures in Utopia" continued the trend established on the previous "Oops wrong planet" where the band moved inexorably in a pop direction. The vast majority of the ten tracks here are short pop based songs. Fortunately, the Rundgren stamp of quality remains, but both he and the other band members are writing and performing so far inside themselves they are coming out the other side.

The album contains a rare hit single for the band in "Set me free" sung by Kasim Sultan, a song very much in the mould of Todd's "I saw the light". The other songs are a predictable mix of upbeat pop rock and ballads. Tracks such as "Second nature" and "Love alone" fall neatly into the latter category, such songs would have been equally at home on the prolific Todd's concurrent solo output.

There are occasionally forays into something a little more interesting. The opening title track for example attempts to deceive us into thinking that Utopia have decided to revert to their prog roots, the striking intro and slightly more complex arrangement offering hope to those of us who craved for another album to match the bands first release. Such digressions are all too rare though. "Caravan" may run for nearly 7 minutes, but it never strays from the new wave pop pleaser it starts out as. The quality of the pop here is undeniable, but pop it is.

"The last of the new wave riders" has echoes of Todd's "Sons of 1984", clearly being designed to be used as a crowd anthem in a live setting. The track is worth hearing though for the fine Todd guitar solo it contains. "The very last time" is more of the same with Todd in good voice up front and the band providing the massed chorus backing.

With Rungren running a parallel solo career, the boundaries between that and his work with Utopia were becoming very blurred. Instead of taking the opportunity to use the band environment as an opportunity to explore other styles, he simply used both vehicles to attack on the same front. As a result, Utopia albums such as this can only be described as frustratingly wasted opportunities.

Review by Tom Ozric
3 stars Initially, UTOPIA was the boundary pushing vision of POP Icon Todd Rundgren - for sure his solo work is superb, interesting Pop/Rock-music (though his Soul-inspired material of the late-80's loses this listener) - For Utopia, Todd enlisted a troupe of experienced musicians to fulfill his complex musical ideas (at the time, Todd was obsessed with the Yes album 'Fragile', particularly the song 'Roundabout'). A few years on (and minor line-up shuffling), the option of commercial radio/video priveleges and his own growing popularity as a solo artist won him over. This 1980 release, 'Adventures In Utopia', offers a fine melding of accessible tunes, with the instrumental integrity of well-seasoned musicians, enabling some of the tracks to go beyond the average fare. I have always thought highly of this record, (by chance, being the first red coloured vinyl LP I acquired) and with the focus on catchy arrangements (some bordering on cheezy - 'Love Alone' and 'The Very Last Time' are pieces I've never really appreciated...), each member sings lead on various tracks and their respective instruments can be heard clearly, courtesy of Todd and his band-mates production know-how. This record can be enjoyed by many music-lovers regardless of their pre- conceptions of Prog-Rock. I am only stating this because this album veers on the overtly 'Pop' side of things, with light Proggy touches here and there, but I certainly can vouch for Roger Powell's varied Keyboard playing (especially on 'Caravan'), Kasim's melodic and busy Bass-playing, the solid, punchy Drum-work of John Wilcox (albeit more straight-forwardly approached, but he's previously proven he can tackle complex patterns with a degree of ease...) and Todd will always be a marvellous, profound Lead-Guitarist/Vocalist and quite sentimental to me. 'Adventures In Utopia' may not be as reknowned as it should be, but features tremendous musicianship, and a handful of memorable and fun tunes, regardless. 3 stars
Review by ghost_of_morphy
3 stars The prog was sucked out of Utopia fairly early, but this is still one of the bands most solid offerings. This talented quartet still offers up some quality songs (indeed, only the tracks Second Nature and Love Alone are weak,) even if they have forgotten most of their prog roots. Still, Todd and Company are on their game in cranking out great songs, and if you like good music this is a good album.

Three stars for the best non-prog Utopia album (with the possible exception of Oblivion.)

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars For a few years, Todd Rundgren's Utopia was an extremely good prog rock band. But once they solidified into the line up of Rundgren, Roger Powell, Kasim Sultan and John Wilcox, they immediately began drifting toward power pop. Excellently produced and extremely well played power pop, but pop nonetheless.

This album, ushering in the awful eighties, is almost completely devoid of the prog elements that made their previous albums so much fun. Sure, there are some good songs (Rundgren made a few of them into videos for a pre-MTV show he worked on with Mike Nesmith), but prog, uh-uh.

The best of this set are Caravan, and the two hardest rocking songs, The Last Of The New Wave Riders and Rock Love, that almost get ruined by a disco beat, but is too good a song to be kept down.

The worst song is Love Alone, which, with heavily layered vocals, brings to mind some of the dismal Queen eighties songs, where they mistakenly thought that layering vocals over a lame romantic ballad could bring back the success of Bohemian Rhapsody.

On a better note, many of these songs fared better in concert, where the band could stretch the songs out, and make them better.

2.5 stars, rounded up (because it won't leave enough room at the bottom for the albums to come).

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is my favorite Utopia release. Lots of cool, high school memories go along with this album. The highlights are "The Road to Utopia" and "Caravan" which are 2 of the best numbers in the Utopia catalog. These are accessible to all, and still hold some "proggy' values. The only poor song for ... (read more)

Report this review (#280724) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, May 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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