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Eclectic Prog • United States

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Utopia picture
Utopia biography
Formed in 1973 in New York, USA - Disbanded in 1986 - Reunited briefly in 1992 - Reformed from 2011 on

UTOPIA was initially an ensemble, formed by TODD RUNDGREN as a counter-point to his solo work. Various musicians came and went, but the main stays of the band were ROGER POWELL (keyboards), KASIM SULTON (bass), and JOHN "willie" WILCOX (drums), and of course TODD himself handling the guitar work, all four members supplied both lead and harmony vocals.

Their first album "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" consisted of only four tracks! This was at the height of prog/fusion, and so the quality of musicianship was undeniably high. Between this and "Ra", the line-up was amended, until the four members noted were "the band". Further albums were forthcoming, with a more democratic look to the songwriting credits, but it was always Todd's band. Lead guitar, and most of the lead vocals, plus the major chunk of songwriting were his, this was not to the detriment of the other members, but the boss was always pre-eminent.

For your further listening pleasure, find the following albums. "Another Live", "Oops! Wrong Planet", "Adventures In Utopia", "Deface The Music", and "Swing To The Right". You may find the last couple too "poppy", but you have to realise that Todd Rundgren has always been, and still is, one of the best writers of the infamous "three minute ditty". However, if your taste is for ten-thirty minute, multi-part epics, you won't find many better than on the first two quoted albums.

Take half an hour out of your day, and listen to "The Ikon", the track which takes up the entire second side on the vinyl version of "Todd Rundgren's Utopia", I guarantee you will come away impressed.

: : : Ian Yeldham, SPAIN : : :

See also: WiKi

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Buy UTOPIA Music

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A Different P.O.V. (Record Store Day Black Friday 2017)A Different P.O.V. (Record Store Day Black Friday 2017)
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UTOPIA discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

UTOPIA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.14 | 229 ratings
Todd Rundgren's Utopia
3.67 | 99 ratings
3.15 | 43 ratings
Oops ! Wrong Planet
3.25 | 38 ratings
Adventures In Utopia
2.90 | 32 ratings
Deface The Music
2.11 | 26 ratings
Swing To The Right
2.97 | 28 ratings
2.47 | 28 ratings
2.96 | 19 ratings
4.00 | 4 ratings
Disco Jets

UTOPIA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.15 | 36 ratings
Another Live
3.52 | 15 ratings
Redux '92 Live In Japan
3.02 | 7 ratings
Last of the New Wave Riders
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live at the Electric Ballroom, Milwaukee, 23rd October 1978

UTOPIA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

UTOPIA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.71 | 15 ratings
2.22 | 11 ratings
Anthology (1974-1985)
3.96 | 9 ratings
City in My Head

UTOPIA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

UTOPIA Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.67 | 99 ratings

Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Wasted Potential. Epic Ruined.

This album should have been great. It begins with a great opening track "Mountaintop and Sunrise: Communion with the Sun", a classic late-1970s progressive rock song. It ends with an 18-minute epic. There are some great guitar solos, and some excellent musical sections. However, the album falls flat, badly. First of all, the ruined epic: On top of what would have been a good-to-excellent composition, Rundgren adds a narrator telling the tale of the main character in a FAKE Scottish accent (on "Singring and the Glass Guitar"). It is unlistenable (except perhaps once, or for a good laugh at a party!). Only about seven minutes of music from this 18-minute epic are NOT ruined by this narration. This was totally unnecessary, as the listener can easily get enough of the story from the regular lyrics (and/or Rundgren could have simply typed the story on the album). AND, it is a really unintelligent story in the first place. Between the opener and the closer are a collection of tunes that border on cheesy for different reasons. Some are just sappy ("Eternal Love"), others are over the top silly ("Hiroshima") while the rest are just not that musical. It is almost as if Rundgren decided to sabotage this album out of spite or something. At the very least, the result is that there is only about 15 minutes of decent music on this 45-minute album (the opener, and parts of the other tunes). Really disappointing waste of great potential. I give this album 3.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates as low 2 PA stars.

 Another Live  by UTOPIA album cover Live, 1975
3.15 | 36 ratings

Another Live
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

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.

 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 229 ratings

Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

5 stars Totally Essential. The Best Utopia/Rundgren Album!

Unlike the Utopia albums that would follow, it is clear that a ton of love, time, and devotion went into writing this music and making this album. The compositions are so intricate and well worked-out, and the playing is so tight. It is only on this album that you have such top-notch musicianship. Unfortunately, Moogy Klingman - whose virtuoso keyboard work is one of this album's characteristics - would leave, as would Frog Labat on synthesizers. Listening to the Utopia catalogue, it seems that Rundgren's energy just got zapped with each new project. But it is here in full force. This album is not only Rundgren's best overall, but it contains his -and Utopia's- best-ever piece, "The Ikon". This is a 30-minute piece of music that never gets boring. Indeed, it is fast-paced, laced with excellent solos, and lots of dynamics. Unlike other long tunes, this one actually functions as one single piece of music (which is difficult to write) and not a collection of songs strung together. There are primary, secondary and tertiary themes, which come and go and vie with one another at different points in the composition, including the ending. It is so complex and difficult to play that Utopia (with different members once they began touring, after Klingman left) rarely ever played it (only on their 1974 tour). In addition to this, the album contains the band's theme song, recorded live in Atlanta: "Utopia". This is one of progressive rock's essential anthems. Finally, the album contains a really fantastic piece "Freak Parade", a quirky 10-minute piece that mixes jazz fusion, military marching music, electric funk, and lyrically a philosophical treatise on what it means to be a 'freak'. These three compositions are all 10/10, a feat that would never be repeated in Rundgren's career. The only lesser song on this collection is the very short "Freedom Fighters", which interestingly is one song on the album that the maintream rock critics (eg Rolling Stone, AllMusic) seem to really like, probably because it sounds like any other of Rundgren's solo songs. But it is just a normal rock song, nowhere in the same league as the rest of the album. This was recorded around the same time as Todd recorded his best solo album ('A Wizard, A True Star') but that album comes across as fragmented and more of a collage of (brilliant) snippets, while this album is a symphony. Make sure you listen to this album multiple times, as it is quite dense, and so will seem inaccessible at first. But on multiple listens the fullsome musiciality becomes clearer, and you will find the effort worth it. I give this 9.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale.

 Deface The Music by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.90 | 32 ratings

Deface The Music
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by CassandraLeo

5 stars

This album seems to be either loved or hated, with little middle ground. Count me in the "love" category. This album had the severe misfortune of being released around the time of John Lennon's assassination, which doomed it to commercial failure, but in musical terms it rivals the Rutles as being as superb a Beatles pastiche as has ever been assembled; as evidence, Rundgren submitted the lead-off track, "I Just Want to Touch You", for the soundtrack of the film Roadie, and it was rejected because the film's producers were afraid of getting sued due to its strong similarity to the Beatles' music.

The album effectively sounds like a 1980-era update of the Beatles' sound, and it goes roughly through the band's career, with the opening song sounding a lot like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" and the closing track having obvious similarities to "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus". It's fun to pick out all the musical references to the Beatles' catalogue, with "Feel Too Good" seeming a bit like "Getting Better" and "All Smiles" being awfully reminiscent of "Michelle", but the songs are enjoyable on their own merits even without the spot-the-Beatles-reference game. They're simply great pop songs in their own right. The lyrics often veer more towards the side of parody, but it's certainly on the affectionate side; an album that mimics the Beatles this well couldn't have been recorded without significant love for the source material.

The album's only real weakness for me comes on the "Eleanor Rigby" pastiche "Life Goes On", which suffers from using a synthesizer rather than an actual string quartet to replicate the original song's string arrangement. If this album had been recorded today, using a synthesizer might have been less of a problem, but the synthesizers of the early 1980s were not particularly great at producing the sounds of string instruments. Other than that, I have no complaints with this record. Rundgren and company don't do dead-on Beatles impersonations vocally like the Rutles did, but that's fine; they're capable singers in their own right, and the album's vocal harmonies sound great.

One does, of course, end up wondering how much this belongs in a prog collection, and the answer ends up being "it depends on the listener". The Beatles are, of course, one of the most important precursors to prog music, and thus many prog aficionados will end up enjoying them. Whether a listener will enjoy this record mostly comes down to whether they will enjoy an affectionate parody of/tribute to them or not. That's obviously a bit subjective, but as far as Beatles parody-tributes go, I can only place the Rutles in the same league, so I can't help giving it anything but the full five-star rating.

 Last of the New Wave Riders by UTOPIA album cover Live, 2003
3.02 | 7 ratings

Last of the New Wave Riders
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars As with Todd's 'Can't Stop Running' boxed set, this is another collection of albums that have previously only been available as very expensive Japanese imports. Four albums, seven CDs, the set may be basic with no sleeve notes as such (and again, as on the other set, one of the albums has no dates) but this is excellent value for the Todd fan. The first CD (and the only single CD set) is 'Oblivion Tour', which was recorded surprisingly enough on the Oblivion Tour. This is the CD that has no details (but probably has the best sound), but would have probably been recorded in 1984. Utopia knew what was expected of them by now and Todd obviously relished being in a band, although he still played the rock god to the hilt. With harmony vocals in abundance Utopia do manage to come across sometimes as if they have been listening to too much Styx but that band never had the depth of musical ideas as these guys. Only "Trapped" and "Love Is The Answer" are sole Todd compositions, as Utopia were very much a band and to my ears it is the song that gives title to this boxed set that is the stand out ? a great song packed full of melodies and styles.

The second set is 'Deface The Music Tour' which was recorded in 1980, and this does suffer from some quite iffy sound levels, particularly at the beginning where on "I Just Want To Touch You" Utopia show that they can combine The Beatles with The Beach Boys to produce a sound that is fresh yet also belongs very firmly in the Sixties. But after all the discs are all marked as being bootlegs so the sound shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Twenty- five songs on this set, which obviously have never been touched up as Todd manages to slip in a few bum chords into "Where Does The World Go To Hide" but yet again the band seem to be enjoying themselves. The crowd are also having a blast, particularly when "Love Of The Common Man" makes an appearance. This album is probably one just for the fan due to the sound quality but is damn fine just the same.

The third set is the 'Oops! Wrong Planet Tour' from 1977 and opens with the complete intro tape as the band took the stage of "Mars, Bringer of War" from the Planets Suite (although here called "Intro" and strangely credited to the band?). Then it is straight into "Trapped", and the crowd going nuts. This is probably the rockiest album, and the one that I enjoyed playing most with songs such "When The Shit Hits The Fane ? International Feel" deserving a name check for the title alone, although Todd certainly gives his guitar some serious workout during this. Yet again Utopia show that there were few to live with them when they were on song, as they were this night in Chicago.

Lastly we come to 'Live In Tokyo '79' which features another lengthy workout of "The Seven Rays" (also on the third set) ? the guys have chance to stretch their musical wings and take off, but here they then slow down for Todd's ballad "Can We Still Be Friends". "Gangrene" means that the band don't slow down too much and show that this is a rock band that have so much pop melody and harmonies within all that they do that others pale into insignificance. With good sound, this is a great set to close with and with "Hello It's Me" also making an appearance this set is one that many fans will love.

Yet again a well-crafted collection of bootlegs that any fan of Todd Rundgren or Utopia will just have to have. Superb from start to finish.

Originally appeared in Feedback #78, April 2004

 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.67 | 99 ratings

Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Coming three years after the release of the 1974's 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia', 'Ra' was the final full-blown progressive rock record from the singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer's cult side project. After the release of the concert album 'Another Live', Utopia would begin to mine a streamlined, radio-friendly pop sound, partly because of the advent of punk-rock but also as a result of Rundgren's seemingly never-ending quest to explore as many styles and genre's as possible. As a result, Utopia's prog-rock phase was brief, yet it was also, at times, singularly brilliant. Whilst 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' featured a mixture of live and studio tracks that culminated with the extraordinary thirty-minute epic 'The Ikon', 'Ra' feature's all studio recordings and a collection of shorter tracks that sport a slight pop edge yet remain deeply symphonic in their construction. The key piece here, however, is the album's centrepiece, the eighteen-minute multi-part suite 'Singring & The Glass Guitar', a gleaming concoction of slinky synths, soaring guitars and expertly-delivered CSNY-style harmonies that doesn't quite match the incredible heights of 'The Ikon' but still comes pretty damn close. Rundgren(guitar, vocals) is here augmented by Roger Powell(keyboards), Kasim Sulton(bass) and John Wilcox(drums), each of whom are given scope to flex their considerable talents, placing 'Ra' in that indulgent category of prog-rock albums that delight fans of the genre yet frustrate and annoy non-believers. The style has a futuristic edge, as neon-tinged keyboards shimmer under a haze of intricate instrumentation, Rundgren giving the album a rich and deeply-layered sound quality that leaps from the speakers, making for an almost cinematic musical experience. As an overall album, 'Ra' is a complex and colourful affair, full of both catchy melodies and dazzling technical displays and a worthy successor to the group's excellent debut. Its a pity that only two studio albums were made under the Utopia moniker, though with such a restless and inventive spirit as Todd Rundgren at the helm it's no real surprise. Fortunately for us, both albums feature a dynamic and highly inventive array of progressive rock textures, with fans of the genre's 1970's output in for a real feast for the ears. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 229 ratings

Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Although initially started as Rundgren's foray into progressive rock territory, Utopia would quickly become a straight pop-rock outfit as the 1970's wore one. However, both this 1974 debut, it's stylish follow-up 'Ra' and the concert album 'Another Live' would, albeit briefly, feature fully-blown prog-rock pyrotechnics, showcasing Rundgren's at times awesome musical versatility. Best described as the USA's very own version of David Bowie, Rundgren has enjoyed a long and colourful career hat began with his late-sixties Beatles-inspired pop- psych outfit The Nazz. After a self-titled album and the modestly-successful single 'Open My Eyes'(which features on the seminal 'Nuggets' compilation) Rundgren went solo, producing a series of elaborate double- albums which took in a range of different styles - psychedelia, blues, folk and pop - in the process turning Rundgren into a successful solo act. He would also enjoy success as a producer, overseeing Meat Loaf's first 'Bat Out Of Hell' album, whilst his studio 'Bearsville', would feature state-of-the-art production facilities, bequeathing Rundgren a degree of independence rarely enjoyed by other musicians. With progressive rock at it's peal throughout North America thanks to the likes of ELP, Pink Floyd and Yes, Rundgren decided to dip his toe into more esoteric forms of music, putting together his group Utopia in 1973. Coming on the back of a series of well-received live shows, the group issued their debut album 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' on Rundgren's own Bearsville imprint. The album featured just four cuts, with opening piece 'Utopia Theme' recorded live at the Fox theatre, Atlanta during April of 1974. However, the album's major highlight is the fourth-and-final entry 'The Ikon', a thirty-minute symphonic prog extravaganza of the highest order. Featuring a multi-coloured blitz of keyboards, synthesizers and lightning-quick guitars, 'The Ikon' is an astounding piece of music, showing yet again Rundgren's impressive ability to work in a any number of genre's. One of the epic songs that demands multiple listens, 'The Ikon' is an essential prog-rock number, just as relevant to the prog canon as any of the multi-part epics produced by Yes, Genesis or Pink Floyd. It makes for a spectacular climax to an excellent album, which also features the snazzy 'Freak Parade' and the slick synth-rock sound of 'Freedom Fighters', tracks that also represent Utopia at their instrumentally- impressive best. Rundgren is an eclectic figure, and whilst his addition to the progressive rock genre maybe small, its well worth investigating. Excellent stuff. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 229 ratings

Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by AEProgman

4 stars Seems to be more loved than hated, but also very under reviewed. It is an album that I have really enjoyed over the years, so much so that I have had it in vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, and now MP3.

Is it a little over the top, yes, but it is quite good. The title track and The Ikon are worth the price of admission. The title track is quite progressive and heavy and keeps returning to its roots throughout the song.

The Freak Parade shows the typical humorous side of Rundgren but gets psychedelic in the middle and does have its moments.

Freedom Fighters is a semi-catchy prog attempt at a top 40 hit of the times, and is ok.

The final 30 minute epic, The Ikon, covers quite a bit of territory. It merges into the Jazz/Rock fusion area as all the instruments take there turns feeding off of one another in soloing back and forth and is done very well. It touches a bit in a typical Rundgren vocal section of the song to remind you who you are listening to and then back to buisness for the remainder of the song.

If you get only one Todd Rundgren album and are a prog fan, this is the one. For me, a good solid mid 4 effort but rounded down to 4.

I thing the name and reputation scare a lot of potential listeners away from this LP.

 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.67 | 99 ratings

Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by 7headedchicken

4 stars Their first full album of all studio tracks, Utopia's RA is very eclectic in mood and style, with the nice ballad "Eternal Love", the angry "Jealousy", the Beatles-like psychedelia of "Magic Dragon Theatre", the serious band workouts "Communion With the Sun" and "Sunburst Finish", the not-so-serious yet trippy band workout "Singring and the Glass Guitar", and the brooding "Hiroshima" all sitting along side each other, but it's also very consistant in quality. There's some very good playing on the album, namely in the excellent "Sunburst Finish", and "Magic Dragon Theatre" shows that Rundgren still had the ability to find melodies and chord sequences that sound like they've never been used before but always should have been. To round up or down? I gave Utopia's RA 4.5 stars with a 4 star "checked" rating mainly because I think it's nicer to see the lower rating up there first, then to read in the review that it's actually higher, rather than bring it down later. I would not, however recommend listening to RA while sitting inside the actual sun, though, as that could bring your rating down a bit.
 Another Live  by UTOPIA album cover Live, 1975
3.15 | 36 ratings

Another Live
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by 7headedchicken

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.
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