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UTOPIA

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 in 2011

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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UTOPIA discography


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

4.15 | 312 ratings
Todd Rundgren's Utopia
1974
3.67 | 146 ratings
Ra
1977
3.13 | 66 ratings
Oops ! Wrong Planet
1977
3.23 | 51 ratings
Adventures In Utopia
1980
2.87 | 45 ratings
Deface The Music
1980
2.12 | 37 ratings
Swing To The Right
1982
2.95 | 37 ratings
Utopia
1982
2.48 | 37 ratings
Oblivion
1983
2.92 | 27 ratings
POV
1985
2.90 | 10 ratings
Disco Jets
2012

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

3.18 | 47 ratings
Another Live
1975
3.55 | 18 ratings
Redux '92 Live In Japan
1993
3.00 | 8 ratings
Last of the New Wave Riders
2003
4.67 | 3 ratings
Live at the Electric Ballroom, Milwaukee, 23rd October 1978
2014
4.00 | 10 ratings
Live At The Chicago Theater
2019

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

2.10 | 2 ratings
Live in Boston 1982
2004

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

1.78 | 18 ratings
Trivia
1986
2.32 | 17 ratings
Anthology (1974-1985)
1989
3.96 | 11 ratings
City in My Head
1999
3.04 | 4 ratings
Benefit for Moogy Klingman - Live from Peekskill and New York City
2020

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

UTOPIA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.15 | 312 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by AJ Junior

4 stars Todd Rundgren's Utopia is the debut album released by the American Progressive Rock band Utopia. Masterminded by former pop artist Todd Rundgren, this album is one of the classic prog albums of all time. Todd put together a 6-piece band in 1974 (the greatest prog rock year in my opinion), featuring 3 keyboardists (Mark Klingman, Jean Labat, and Ralph Shuckett) that mainly toured as a live act. I absolutely love this album and was truly shocked when I first heard it because I had only known Todd as the pop-oriented rocker that he was earlier in his career.

The opening track is the 14-minute epic, "Utopia" recorded live in concert in 1974 for the album. Featuring some of the best keyboard work in all of prog. If you thought Greenslade's combo of Dave Greenslade and Dave Lawson on keys was impressive, think again. The trio of the aforementioned keyboardists (Mark Klingman, Jean Labat, and Ralph Shuckett) put on an absolutely stunning show during this monster track. All the while, Todd himself starts completely shredding the [&*!#] out of his guitar around the 9-minute mark for some remarkable soloing. The drum tone on the song sounds very 80s which is odd considering that this was released in 1974. The song finishes up on its main theme which sounds like a cross between Deep Purple and Iron Maiden but more progressive. "Freak Parade" is another 10-minute+ epic. It starts off on an off-beat rhythm, before going into a soft section with some nice Wurlitzer. Around the 4-minute song the main theme with a very Gentle Giant and Yezda Urfa-sounding verse. The lyrics here are super weird, and it's probably the weakest song on the album, but it's not bad at all. "Freedom Fighters" is by far the shortest song on the album sitting at 4 minutes, yet it is one of the strongest. Featuring one of the strongest vocal performances from Todd in his entire career, the song has a great classic rock feel with heaps of keys backing it up. It also features a consistent cowbell beat throughout the verse of the song.

After the spectacular side 1, side 2 is dominated by one single track. "The Ikon," spans over 30 minutes, being one of the longest songs I've ever heard, if not the longest. The first part starts off very fast-paced with an electric piano and guitar-based riff. At around the 3:30 mark, the song enters its main theme and Todd's vocals enter along with organ, Moog, and a plethora of other synths from all 3 keyboardists. The chorus has some really beautiful harmonies from Todd, countered by cynical clavichord. After an extended ambient section, the song picks back up again at around 11:00 minutes with a really nice synth solo. As much as I love long songs, I must admit that this song does consistently go stale every 5 minutes or so and wanders a lot. It goes into some other really good parts throughout the song (notably at 22:00 and near the end at about 27:30) but it regurgitates a lot of the same theme. Still an "Ikonic" song and very unique.

There is not much to be said about the greatness of this album that has not been said already. An amazing effort by Todd and some of his follow-up works are also awesome. Eventually, Rundgren would return to more poppy works, and this album still remains his most progressive project to date. Very accessible and recommended to ALL.

 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.15 | 312 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Progmin23

5 stars Where to begin with this album...

It's been stated again, and again, but I'll say it once more: Todd was just a pop/three-chord kind of guy, and suddenly he took a cocktail of psychedelics and began his progressive experiments. Todd created Utopia like the Beatles created Sgt. Pepper: he used this new alter-ego to create complex music. This album combines many types of progressive genres into a hard-to-describe sound.

"Utopia Theme" is a power struggle between stabby keyboards and roarin' guitar and has some dissonant stabs that make me think of ELP. The song then changes to a calmer, more spacey mood, and Todd's singing kicks in. To think this a live performance. The remaining songs are done in the studio.

"Freak Parade" is very silly in both lyrics and song sound. Lots of time changes in this one. When the singing starts, it gets somewhat funky and the lyrics and voices become Zappa-like. Wild synth tones in this one someways in some. Lots of ring modulations and LFOs to go around.

"Freedom Fighters" is some great prog-pop with a strong AOR feel, but an unusual psychedelic sound. The shortest track too.. not much else to say,

"The Ikon" is my favorite Utopia track, and one of my favorite prog-rock epics. This one bounces all over the place. I couldn't possibly describe all of it, One listen does all the talking... Some parts sound like hard rock highway tunes, while others are spacey bridges between moods, and to even at points, symphonic-esque interweavings. There are even Jazz fusion and country-hoedown-tinged moments in there that make this sound like no other prog band around. This song alone is worth buying the album.

Album's sound quality itself is rather muddy and reminds me of Nursery Crime. These days this album goes for quite a bit of money, partly because it's been out of print... I recommend buying any format you can. I spent 30 USD on a used CD, and it was. Worth. Every. Penny.

 Anthology (1974-1985) by UTOPIA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1989
2.32 | 17 ratings

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Anthology (1974-1985)
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Progmin23

2 stars I had heard about Utopia and was hoping to buy a sampler that hopefully wouldn't cut too many corners. Of course, given the nature of prog band compilations, it'd probably be more of their commercial cuts. I ignored this warning completely when I picked it up at a local record store. You are greeted by late (some early) 70's to mid 80's Pop Rock and some new wave flavor too. The only pure exception is the 15th track being the artsiest and progressive.

The music in terms of sound is nice. Some synths and keyboards are in the background while guitars take the main portion of the sound. However, the sound is rather cluttered and muddy on many tracks.

I had 2 big takeaways: The first being the lack of progressive rock or art rock songs I was hoping to find, and second, for whatever reason, the CD version I have has an odd error where the beginning of another song abruptly starts at the end of another track. This means that if I was selecting a specific track to throw on somewhere, I'd have the first 2-4 seconds chopped off at the beginning. Maybe It's just the way I am, but I find that a tad annoying... anyhoo, Utopia seems to be very good at writing pop rock, in fact so good that some hits dented the charts in America briefly. If you're looking for prog or artsy compositions from this band, this compilation will not help that..

 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.67 | 146 ratings

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Ra
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Sidscrat

5 stars As I read through the reviews I didn't notice a great deal of 5's. I am cautious about that last star as it can be too easy to personally like something and not be objective for what the review is supposed to be. That is what was wrong with media reviewers addicted to 3 minute pop songs giving us their grand opinion on prog; their most hated genre. If they all hate it, it must be great! Utopia's first just Utopia album (minus the TR) is their 3rd entry but it the first from this line up and this group would go onto be the lineup for the rest of their career for the most part.

As has been mentioned, Todd is odd as in Odd Todd. He has always been off the wall and never followed the usual dots everyone else did. He was rising to become the "male Carole King" and decided to run away and his next entry, his solo Wizard, A True Star goes down in history as one of the most incredible pro albums of all time. Sadly, his venture into prog would not last all that long. This album marks the end of the prog for the band. I bought this album when it was released in 77 and it was a blow away. To this day when I drop on a mediocre pair of headphones and close me eyes to listen I am taken away into a sonic disaster that somehow all syncs together. I could do without the filler track Eternal Love and maybe even Jealousy, but that track has some solid mean bites in it.

I just listened to this the other day using my Phillips Fedilio headphones and it brought back a flood of audio melodies and newness. I fell in love with the album the first time I heard it and that has never grown cold. So I disagree it has not held up well over time. The beginning instrumental Overture is one of the best prog intros ever recorded. I am not as much of a fan of his production methods though I have to admit it works on this one. I prefer a mix and sound that is crisp, clean and punchy with solid bass. That aside this album is sensational. Apart from the first track, my favs are Sunburst Finish, Hiroshima and of course, Singring. Keeping in mind I was on many of the (ahem) same "medications" he took, that last track was hilarious as well as a sonic collision of sounds in that mood if you will but today long after my haze daze it still is great.

Utopia would go onto depress me with their future releases where aside from an occasional song, they are just another pop new wave entry. The album Deface The music was a good album as a parody of Beatles type tunes (I would recommend for Beatles fans). As prog rockers they were truly unique. This album is a 5 star!

 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.67 | 146 ratings

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Ra
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I am fairly familiar with American Progressive Rock with bands like The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, and Kansas. However I never fully invested my time to that sort of thing. I love a few bands but I never fully formed a true relationship with it. But there I was, in the Great Plains of a Spotify playlist with a bunch of 20 minute Prog rock songs. Some well known bands like Rush and Genesis was in there, but also some bands I never heard before. I was trying to find something new there, what band or album should I check out? Randomly I decided to hit shuffle, and what popped up was interesting. A 18 minute track where it starts off with some fairy tale. I was intrigued, and I decided to just listen to the full album to not ruin any surprise whatever that song was gonna be throughout, and what I found was something I could never anticipated for on this sort of album.

I think the best thing about this album is how much stuff that is one it. A lot of lengthy tracks on this one, with the smallest being only a little over 3 minutes long. It is also fairly accessible for a Prog record, however that is not counting the last song, but we'll get there when we get there. I feel like each track is pretty pop rock like, which is not a bad thing. In fact I do really like this style, especially on tracks like Magic Dragon Theatre and Eternal Love where they do still feel like Prog tracks, but with a pop edge to them so you groove out. Some of the tracks also are pretty hard hitting to. For example, the song Hiroshima feels like a hard rock song, and definitely would go well in a hard rock pub if it was played on the radio. I should also mention the vocal work is not half bad. It definitely feels right with the songs and their instrumentals. However while I do like the vocals, I feel like I've heard these same sort of vocal performances in bands like Kansas, Styx, and Blue Öyster Cult. It sort of makes it feel less original, and brings it down a bit for me.

I guess I should also talk about the last track on the album, Singring And The Glass Guitar. Now before I say my piece, I want to let you know that I do really like this track. It is epic and catchy when it needs to be and it does a good deal making a very nice Prog suite, albeit a little silly in a few moments, but I don't mind it. However, I have some problems with this track. I feel like the weakest parts of this track is the middle parts with the keys. When the hero is collecting the keys, they start to play a solo. For the river, it plays a drum solo, for the dragon it plays a guitar solo, etc and etc. Now I do love my fair share of solos, I think they are a fun way to flex the skills of a musician of the band, however I feel like done to much and you'll gain some problems, since I think it'll make the song feel a little clumped up with nonsensical sounds. The appeal of progressive rock suites that they are big and have a great layer of substance, this song feels like it has rarely any substance to be heard of, aside from the start and that very magnificent ending. While the track isn't bad, it is a very weak Prog suite, maybe the weakest one I have heard.

Ra by Utopia is a pretty good album. It has it's shining moments and has some great work to be found on it. However sometimes it feels a little nonsensical and maybe weak at times, maybe more than I'd like to admit. Overall, good album, but not the best.

 Adventures In Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.23 | 51 ratings

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Adventures In Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As with my recent-enough listen-thru of Oops! Wrong Planet, it's been a long while since I've heard and/or appreciated Adventures In Utopia front-to-back. This now feels a bit more significant, and maybe even more understandable, too, with Oops! truly being the last Utopia album that left any lasting impression on me (regardless of its own weaknesses). Adventures marked the beginning of Utopia as moreso the thing Todd was doing most steadily and consistently from this point through to the mid-80s, to their final album; they put out about an album a year until the end, his solo output being significantly less than '70s Todd.

AOR sounds off this release in a most effective manner to my ears on "The Road to Utopia", a minute and a half in calling Rush to mind to me, most surprisingly. The vocal style (Todd fronting) and melody is very them though. Clear, pop-oriented, even still apparently Blue-Eyed-Soul melodies give it its strength. The progginess is limited, and coming out just over two years after Oops! in 1977, the same year as their final Progressive Rock statement, Ra, definitive changes to their sound were pretty clearly made. Anyways, solid opener in my opinion, and this second-wave era sound works pretty well, even if it is a Pop Rock track far more than it is Prog. Continuing in a not-too-surprising direction even glancing back to Ra, the Willie Wilcox-lead "You Make Me Crazy", not exactly the AOR Pop Rock sound I associate with him, seems to directly reference The Cars sonically--and now thinking back to when Todd fronted The New Cars whenever the hell that was, that puts an interesting spin on things. I've been listening to a lot of Power Pop over the past few years, so I am so for this track; I don't recall really enjoying it much before today. Another I'm already keenly suspecting I'll enjoy, with Philly Soul vocals from Todd, is "Second Nature", sporting some soft keys, and Todd's sweet falsetto (or simply upper register). And with all the tastiness herein from the start, we then get this beautiful Disco Jets-esque synth solo. Spacy, imaginative feature for such a now-Adult Contemporary-type track. I like labels. And I like this song. Will you? I have no idea.

Mixing it up, Kasim Sulton fronts "Set Me Free" next, another poppy number which will have limited miles here. Really enjoying it, though, it has an upbeat, swinging lilt you might find on an ELO tune. And even the group vocals may evoke them, as well as others. "Caravan", the only track lead vocally by Roger Powell, begins much like "Determination" from Todd's Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978). What it has far more in common to my ears, though, is early-80s America. It's very radio-friendly, at least before you notice its 7 minute track length. It's a fairly interesting song, and the guitar solo nearing the halfway mark feels a lot like a Utopia solo of yore. In that, it's awesome, and is followed by an equally excellent, far shorter solo from Powell. And then it's John's turn on the drums; this section alone I found very successful, clearly making for the most progressive thing thus far. There's a second jam-out solos trade from the final chorus to the end, lasting a good 2 minutes or so. Very cool. Kasim and Todd trade off vocals as they're apt and welcomed to do on "Last of The New Wave Riders", a meta-lyric about New Wave musicians(?) turning to "New Age"? I don't understand it much on my own; Genius.com also lacks an answer. This is a chunky, metal-inflected AOR song through and through, like Styx from around this time perhaps. It's a pretty cool sound, with Todd's guitar once again the ever-shining entity, from his long-held melodic strikes to his lead work. Yet another I don't remember enjoying so much; to say it, though, not Prog.

Our vocal duo sticks together on "Shot in the Dark", a song with a pretty daring and surprising sonic mix. It reads very Art Rock to these ears (Sparks? 10cc?). Kasim's vocals are so high, matched fittingly with this bright, chiptuney chirp from the keys. The guitars are... heavy? Sometimes. Now this is the most progressive thing so far haha; the first I can really recommend. Then we're back to AOR form, with the Todd-lead "The Very Last Time". I like it, but it is approaching Meatloaf. Jerkin' us around once again, but with the lightest touch possible, Kasim Sulton croons over Roger's faux-organ on "Love Alone". Very soulful, it's also sort of hymn-like. The group vocals are of course standout. Finally we have "Rock Love", of course yet another genre pastiche. It's like disco and... whatever it is, it is hokey, [pause for effect] schlock. I like how it doesn't seem to take itself all that seriously, at least. But the line "Get thee behind me Satan" certainly rings out strong. As celebrated throughout this release, the solos are quite nice. If anyone can schlock incredibly well, next to the likes of Sir Paul, Utopia's got the chops.

An odd, but not totally untethered album from a favorite band.

True Rate: 2.75

 Oops ! Wrong Planet by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.13 | 66 ratings

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Oops ! Wrong Planet
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Entering more definitively into the late-70s, Todd Rundgren's project Utopia had solidified into its formal 4-man lineup directly following their first with Ra. The changes seen here reflect numerous variables at play. Pop Rock was becoming heavier (Todd essentially the main force introducing American Power Pop to the world, years prior), Hard Rock was in turn becoming poppier and more radio-friendly, and clear here, years before the high-gloss of '80s Glam and Hair Metal, AOR (the vaguely termed Album-Oriented Rock radio-format-turned-maybe-genre) was ruling the charts. To my ears, there are still plenty of artful and progressive moments and signifiers throughout this and their next album, Adventures in Utopia (1980), both of which I've not listened through in a very long time. But also, in mentioning Ra, this being released the same year as that, their second, this album shows a pretty monumental shift in the band's sound. Tracks most similar, from there compared to here, if anything, are "Jealousy" and "Eternal Love", solid tracks in their own right, though signs of expected 'other' influence in the band. Todd Rundgren always wore his Philly Soul heart on his sleeve, for instance. It's over the top, but "Eternal Love" specifically is some of the shiniest, most wondrous (and, even then, progressive) love songs I know. He knows the inner workings of my heart haha. At least Oops! Wrong Planet possesses some of that same mysterious magic.

The whole affair kicks off with the very of-the-time AOR-style opener "Trapped", a track I've long been fond of. Lead vocals for verses are handled by bassist Kasim Sulton, providing his soft tenor before the solid, chugging heaviness of the choruses, lead vocally by Todd's well-matched, shredded yells. I think it's artful enough to please plenty here, although classic-era Proggers will likewise likely already be warned. Synth choices are plastic. If it matters that much to you, I would say this track resembles some of Styx's catalog around this same time. Nice, though, to get a searing guitar solo from Todd this early in the disc. Next, a reflection of those aforementioned 'other' influence, is the soft rock "Windows", written and lead by keyboardist Roger Powell. It's a lot less offensive than I remember--I'm sure I haven't heard this song in like 10 years haha--although, I'd rather listen to, I dunno, "You Can Do Magic" by latter-day, post-Peek America. It's a bit boring; they do a similar thing with significantly more success on the classic closer, "Love Is the Answer". The occasioned soloing from Todd and Roger are nice, but aren't gonna win you or me over any time soon.

Up next is the chunky, rootsy Rock of "Love in Action", a sort of familiar Pop Rock style Todd has dipped into throughout his career, e.g. Ra's "Jealousy", and from his solo material, "Slut", and "Is It My Name?". Although I haven't heard this song in years also, I have fonder feelings about it, for sure. It has a memorable and simple chorus, and the verses are nearly Glam-ready. I like it! Straight up sounding like the title of a contemporary Styx number is drummer John Wilcox's "Crazy Lady Blue", which honestly sounds like a B-side to any likewise-contemporary Billy Joel album [Genuinely, I'm actually a big fan of The Stranger, I feel I must add]. Decent chorus, featuring expectedly solid group vocals, but honestly not a track I've enjoyed returning to in years past; it's kinda boring? The post-chorus composition is vaguely neo-classical. But then we do have this more than delightful guitar solo I've utterly forgotten from Todd; kind of a special moment, surprisingly. Another ever-skipped is up next, "Back on the Street". Probably Kasim Sulton's weakest vocal performance on the first verse... The chorus is pretty alright, with a solid Rundgren melody, at least. I feel honestly, though, this song did continue to improve... For whatever it's now worth. You will definitely be able to identify this as Utopia haha /s.

One I played certainly more than the prior two is "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"! The verse is solid Hard Rock Todd, and the chorus is actually the origin of our album's title. It's good, but nothing too special... But then this bridge!!! Sulton back in finer form, this is the reason I always returned to it... And as it goes, it just dips me into euphoric frisson (aside from the fact that this now counts as 'nostalgia' for me). It's a fun, light cabaret ballad thing. Then, I don't know what it could be exactly, but Mr. Rundgren was a master of writing these infectious, anthemic singalongs, which sort of acts as the bridge's second half. This song is followed by easily, and definitely, my favorite track of the whole, "The Martyr", again with the talented Kasim Sulton doing one of the things he's best at (ya know, along with prodigy-bassist-talent aplenty). The glassy guitar tone at the start is just... wow... This track booms, and it soars. I think it's got the f*ckin' knack, man. This specifically is the moment most resembling that special sort of magic that "Eternal Love" had. Another infectious chorus with excellent group vocals, another delicious bridge. At the end of the latter, Kasim's piercing falsetto on the final note lighty bleeds beautifully into lead guitar, not totally unreminiscent of that wonderful moment in Boston's "More Than A Feeling" from a year before this.

Roger Powell comes to try to cool us down on "Abandon City". I really like the rhythm here. The soulful, even funky, group vocals are lovely. These sorts of moments will be defined beforehand, based upon your own tastes. I know it's not gonna be for everyone. And honestly again, I'm pleasantly surprised hearing this now after so long. Funky, spunky keys through and through, and then in an even greater surprise to me, something I don't remember at all, Roger Powell then plays a frankly sizeable trumpet solo?! Just as depending-on-your-tastes is "Gangrene" up next, with John back on lead vox. This is literally "Jealousy 2.0" to my ears haha. This is like... Meatloaf. It's not really something I'm into. At least they're good at it?... They're good at schlock HA! Back into cool? Yes please! Next is the blue-eyed soulful "My Angel", in which Kasim and Todd trade lines. I forgot about this one hahaha. I like it; but I also like Todd in so many of his varied stripes. Hopefully people can look at tracks like this with at least respectful frames... This is so Philly Soul. So, also, speaking of whiteys, if you're a fan of earlier Hall & Oates, here's this track!

Coming to the close, we have the obviously terribly awkwardly named "Rape of the Young"... I'm sure the title is not the reason I seldom heard this one back when. But... it's actually a lot of fun! Like some of the material off of the AWATS medley, or Todd! Certainly bordering on the--to be completely transparent--Rock 'n Roll Boomer schlock that I abhor. It's faster. It's tastier. There's a sick guitar solo. I mean, I guess it's not rocket science why this works haha. And we are finally here, the Todd anthem to end all Todd anthems, the give-your-mama-chills ballad, "Love Is the Answer". I mean, this is a great song. England Dan & John Ford Coley had a big hit with their rendition.

Ummm... And that's all I have to say! This is an interesting album at an interesting time in popular music. It has its moments, but it also has its unfortunate markings of age. How progressive is the majority of this release? Not a whole lot. Some tasty flavorings here and there, some still rather interesting compositional moments throughout. It's for you to decide, but I certainly hope this can provide some direction [and from a millennial, too?].

True Rate: 2.75/5.00

 Live in Boston 1982 by UTOPIA album cover DVD/Video, 2004
2.10 | 2 ratings

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Live in Boston 1982
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

2 stars My low rating for this DVD is admittedly pretty subjective. The All Music Guide's highly positive four-star review talks of Utopia "certainly firing on all cylinders during this period", and of a "strong performance on Live in Boston 1982". But I also feel that, for a prog-minded viewer in general, this particular set of songs is quite disappointing for the most part, in addition to the fact that both sonic and visual quality are average at best.

At first I better deal with my own relationship with Utopia and Todd Rundgren. Well, it's frankly rather thin. The Utopia debut (1974) is gorgeous, and there are a few of Todd's solo albums from the 70's I have more or less enjoyed, especially Initiation (1975). But the straight pop / rock & roll oriented era of Utopia in the late 70's and early 80's is another case.

The all-singing quartet of Rundgren (guitar), Roger Powell (keyboards), Kasim Sulton (bass) and Willie Wilcox (drums) are doing well what they do here, I'm not denying that. It's just that I really had no emotional connection whatsoever to the majority of the music which I found totally uninteresting. Actually I kept on pressing the ">" button, wondering how similar the songs sounded with each other. Uptempo, outgoing, "let's have a party and play some rock&roll" attitude. This deeply disappointed and uninspired feeling of mine continued till the 18th track, the slower and more emotional 'Only Human', originally from the album Swing to the Right (1982). The other highlight was the powerful performance of 'Caravan' (from Adventures in Utopia, 1980) which contained the fusiony musical inspiration lacking from most of the songs in the 90-minute set.

The DVD also features retrospective interviews with each member separately, probably around 2004 when the DVD was released. Nicely the questions / themes are listed, so one can directly jump to the certain section of the interview. I personally wasn't interested enough to view the lengthy interviews entirely, but undoubtedly they offer a lot of information to interest a fan of Utopia.

Feel free to add at least the third star. But for me this certainly wasn't a DVD I'd ever wish to return to, or to waste all 90 minutes of my time in the first place (I borrowed it from my friend).

 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.15 | 312 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Squire Jaco

4 stars I'm an avid prog rock fan, but I also have a pretty extensive collection of Todd, whose music most may view as "eclectic" if nothing else - dabbling at times in pop, prog, electronica, computer-based effects, etc. So if you never spent the time to get to know the Todd beyond his Carole King-like ballads, then you might have missed some pretty cool music of his. (You also would have missed some not-so-great stuff in and around, but we won't go into that here;-)

He was perhaps at his proggiest in 1974 and 1975 when he gave us "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" and followed it up with his "Initiation" album (which I've already gone on record as promoting as a personal "Top 5" album). But this Utopia album is different from all of the subsequent Utopia albums in one major way: the personnel that comprised all subsequent studio albums of the prog-pop Utopia were Todd, Kasim Sultan (bass), Roger Powell (keys), and John Wilcox (drums), while this one-off first Utopia album consisted of Todd, John Siegler (bass), Kevin Ellman (drums), and THREE keyboardists: Moogy Klingman, Ralph Schuckett, and Jean-Yves "M. Frog" Labat. Different sound and different musical focus.

The bottom line here is that this album is really something special for prog fans. The opener, "Utopia Theme", was recorded live in Atlanta, and really is superb for all of its 14 minutes, featuring GREAT guitars (by TR), synths, vocals, melodies, and mystical lyrics. The remainder of the album is studio recorded. The 10-minute "Freak Parade" begins with a great vibe, and ends with the solo bass line fading out. In between, you get a little Zappa-like quirkiness - a bit weird for me in places, but it does hold together pretty well. "Freedom Fighters" is not quite as "poppy" as some reviewers might have you believe. Yeah, it's written in 4/4 time and only lasts about 4 minutes, but it's also a pretty good song. And you kind of need that before the 30-minute-long album closer "The Ikon". This cut is classic prog that runs the gamut from symphonic to spacey (think "Treatise on Cosmic Fire" in spots), to jazz fusion, to Western hoedown! Lots of soloing and jamming combined with clever transitions to new sections.

If you like adventure and a plethora of keyboards in your prog diet, this first unique Utopia album is a great way to escape to musical nirvana. Recommended.

4-1/2 stars

 Benefit for Moogy Klingman - Live from Peekskill and New York City by UTOPIA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2020
3.04 | 4 ratings

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Benefit for Moogy Klingman - Live from Peekskill and New York City
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars In 2011 Mark 'Moogy' Klingman was seriously ill (he would pass away later that year) and his medical bills were mounting up. Todd Rundgren decided to help out his old friend and bandmate, and reformed Todd Rundgren's Utopia to put on a show to raise funds. Of the six people who played on the debut album back in 1974 ,only Jean-Yves Labat was missing, his place on keyboards being taken by Kasim Sulton so they still had the three-keyboard line-up of the debut, plus four singers. This is a six-disc set, with two CDs of this show and two from later the same year, by which time Moogy had passed. There are also two DVDs with the set comprising the two gigs, plus some band interviews, but this review is just for the audio.

To be fair, when a large disc set like this is produced it tend to be expensive, obviously, so it is only real fans who are likely to purchase it, but is it worth the effort? Well, in the first place it is a scarce recording so there are going to be some who just have to have this, but for me the vocals on the first two discs (and consequently the first DVD I expect), just aren't strong enough. Hearing Moogy sing his most famous song, "(You Got to Have) Friends" is quite painful, but I do wonder how many people realise that he wrote one of the most important songs for Bette Midler, and took over as her musical director after the departure of Barry Manilow, plus as well as being in Utopia, Moogy played on ten Rundgren solo albums. The first gig on this set was the first time the five members of the original line-up had played together in more than thirty years, and I am not sure how much rehearsal time had been allocated, but it wasn't enough. The audience were having a great time, as were the band, but hearing it now some nine years after the event I cannot say it is something I am likely to play again as it is ropey and too disjointed.

By the time of the third and fourth discs the band was now in a far better place, with the loss of the backing singers and without distractions, and they had obviously had more time together. Again, they played all of the debut album, plus songs from others, but again it does not really feel quite right to me. My preference has always been the later period Utopia, and when comparing this against the 7-disc set which is 'Last of the New Wave Riders', released in 2003, there really is no comparison in my mind. That set, alongside Todd's own 'Can't Stop Running' 6-disc set released the same year, are the ones to get to really enjoy the master and his band in concert. This is okay, and I am sure fans of the Utopia are going to rush out and get this, but having listened to it all the way through a few times for review, I'll probably stick to the aforementioned sets for pure listening pleasure.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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