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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


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

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

4.14 | 297 ratings
Todd Rundgren's Utopia
1974
3.70 | 138 ratings
Ra
1977
3.15 | 62 ratings
Oops ! Wrong Planet
1977
3.25 | 48 ratings
Adventures In Utopia
1980
2.90 | 44 ratings
Deface The Music
1980
2.12 | 36 ratings
Swing To The Right
1982
2.95 | 36 ratings
Utopia
1982
2.47 | 37 ratings
Oblivion
1983
2.92 | 26 ratings
POV
1985
3.13 | 8 ratings
Disco Jets
2012

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

3.18 | 47 ratings
Another Live
1975
3.52 | 17 ratings
Redux '92 Live In Japan
1993
2.98 | 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 | 9 ratings
Live At The Chicago Theater
2019

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

2.14 | 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
 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
3.70 | 138 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
3.70 | 138 ratings

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Ra
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Dapper~Blueberries

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.

 Live in Boston 1982 by UTOPIA album cover DVD/Video, 2004
2.14 | 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
4.14 | 297 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.

 Live At The Chicago Theater by UTOPIA album cover Live, 2019
4.00 | 9 ratings

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Live At The Chicago Theater
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Reverting back to the original name for the band, and also down to the quartet format which they used from the late Seventies through to when they original disbanded, here we have Utopia on fine form. Todd Rundgren (lead guitar, lead vocals) again has John "Willie" Wilcox '(drums, percussion, lead vocals) and Kasim Sulton (bass, lead vocals) close to hand, with just keyboard player Gil Assayas being new to the band. This reminds me so much of the 'bootleg' albums released some 15 years ago for both Todd and for Utopia, with the latter being the 7-disc set 'Last of the New Wave Riders' which obviously hadn't been retouched or re-recorded and was so much better for it. Like many I have followed Todd's career with great interest for many years and consider myself to be incredibly lucky to be present when he made a small club appearance in New Zealand some years back with a put-up band. He was playing blues that night, but anything he does is simply magical.

A quick check down the track-listing and I was smiling even before this hit the player. Any set which includes the mighty 'Trapped' is always going to find favour with me, and 'Love In Action' is just putting the icing on the cake, but there are 24 songs on this two-hour long set so there is plenty here for everyone. Todd may be 70 years old, but that is no reason at all to slow down, and he provides great guitar and his voice is still surprisingly strong, and if it cracks here and there who cares? Just adds to the honesty. He may not hit the high notes with as much oomph as he used to, but the crowd lapped it up. Three of the guys hadn't hit the stage as Utopia since the early 90's, and haven't recorded together in more than 30 years, so many never expected to see this ever happen, and the ones who were that night had a blast. To get the full experience fans are going to have to raid the piggy banks, as this has been released as a deluxe 4-disc digipack including a Blu-Ray, DVD and 2 CDs. Utopia are back!

 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 297 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by WFV

4 stars Prog pomp at it's most preposterous.

This album is in your face, no holds barred prog. It's like Rundgren and his crew are literally trying to break new ground with their instrumental attack, but to my ears they only dig themselves deeper in the hole of their own creation. I'm no Rundgren fanatic, in fact I'm really only familiar with Something/Anything, and of course Bang the Drum all day. So I've let him sit, marinating, for the right time to get acquainted. I've heard Todd referred to as a rock and roll maverick, which I like the sound of.

Still It's hard for me to get over judging him based on hearing Hello It's Me in the dentist office when I was ten or so. One listen to that song and it was obvious to me Todd is a pop master - that melody always stuck with me after thirty years. Of course it's not prog so I really want to judge his material on it's own merits without bias.

I'm not sure of his ambitions as a progster though. I think this album embodies half of what prog was developed upon - grandeur. A sound bigger than a sextet. The first track is really good prog, the second Freak Parade is a highlight for me, to me it sounds like a solid Frank Zappa song from that period with Todd Rundgren on vocals. Freedom Fighter is just there and the Ikon is a manufactured overblown epic that rivals any other prog song in pomp factor. I can definitely see how some out there think it is the greatest epic in history but I think it's required prog listening albeit an exercise in over the top.

The definition of a three star album for me in my collection, but required listening at some point for any serious prog fan out there. Obviously Todd Rundgren is a big name in the music biz and that lends legitimacy to this record that many one off prog albums don't have.

 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.70 | 138 ratings

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Ra
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
3.18 | 47 ratings

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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.

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

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