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UTOPIA

Eclectic Prog • United States


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Utopia biography
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 : : :

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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)

4.09 | 194 ratings
Todd Rundgren's Utopia
1974
3.75 | 81 ratings
Ra
1977
3.09 | 34 ratings
Oops! Wrong Planet
1977
3.22 | 29 ratings
Adventures In Utopia
1980
2.72 | 26 ratings
Deface The Music
1980
1.99 | 21 ratings
Swing To The Right
1982
2.89 | 23 ratings
Utopia
1982
2.40 | 21 ratings
Oblivion
1983
2.80 | 13 ratings
POV
1985
1.53 | 10 ratings
Trivia
1986

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

3.14 | 30 ratings
Another Live
1975
3.51 | 13 ratings
Redux '92 Live In Japan
1993
2.98 | 6 ratings
Last of the New Wave Riders
2003
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at the Electric Ballroom, Milwaukee, 23rd October 1978
2014

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

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

2.13 | 8 ratings
Anthology (1974-1985)
1989
3.93 | 7 ratings
City in My Head
1999

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

UTOPIA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Last of the New Wave Riders by UTOPIA album cover Live, 2003
2.98 | 6 ratings

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Last of the New Wave Riders
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover 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

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 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.75 | 81 ratings

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Ra
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

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 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.09 | 194 ratings

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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

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 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.09 | 194 ratings

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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.

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 Ra by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.75 | 81 ratings

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Ra
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.

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 Another Live  by UTOPIA album cover Live, 1975
3.14 | 30 ratings

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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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 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.09 | 194 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by 7headedchicken

5 stars The first track on Todd Rundgren's Utopia may be titled "Utopia Theme", but it's really the closing section of "The Ikon" that defines the idea of utopia: many different themes and ideas of varying color and complexity not only co-existing, but complementing each other to form a beautiful, working whole. They're all themes heard earlier in the 30-minute piece, an extremely eclectic and well-thought out epic that would qualify as a great jam that may even sound like a mess at first with so many things being thrown into the pot, but closer inspection brings it into higher realms, having a sublimely detailed compositional structure and arrangement, vivdly colorful and varied soundscapes, and inspiring lryics. The last sung part of the piece is most definetely my favorite part of the whole album, where the dreamy falsetto vocal harmonies and the three keyboardists create a bubbly space world that's one of the most enticing prog atmospheres I've ever come across. There's even a nice, brief Jethro Tull-like renaissance section before one of the guitar solos that is probably often overlooked when listing the many styles the song and album boasts, where Todd performs a great alternation between electric and classical style, on the electric. The other side of the vinyl (which has a surprisingly clear sound considering the amount of compression it must have taken to fit as much music on a side), has 3 songs, and they're all equally great in they're own ways. The first, "Utopia Theme", was recorded live, and is a great showcase for the band's lineup at the time, a group of finely talented musicians who were clearly influenced by what was going on at the time but still very expressive of their indivuality, the presice notes they chose coupled with the perfectly timed accents they all seem to have nailed being the facet that demonstrates that quality the best, especially in Rundgren's first guitar solo, one of the most melodic and orgasmic guitar solos ever put to tape. The synths solos in the song are equally sublime. It all finishes with a big, bombastic, symphonic rock ending that fades into the first studio track, "Freak Parade", which is a highly unique concoction consisting of funk, prog-power-pop, avant-garde jazz fusion, and psychedelic, with lyrics that are sung and written somewhat clumsily and possibly intentionally. There are some great electric piano and slide guitar lines in this one, and I can hear a strong influence of Floyd, Yes, Zappa, and Return to Forever (just to name a few) in the album as a whole, but especially the first three in this song. The multifarious themes that come together at the end are even better and perfectly placed than the ones at the end of "The Ikon." The remaining track, "Freedom Fighters" is a lot closer to Rundgren's standard rock side (NOT pop), but it still has strong progressive elements, with time-signature changes a-plenty, more of the great soaring-to-the-depths-of-space guitar soloing that Todd demonstrates on this album, and a slightly convoluted song structure. Put with it's encouraging anthemic lyrics (some of the best of its time) and a production that lives in the best parts of badly recorded murky world side of production of its time, it's unforgettable. There are some superbly written reviews on this site of Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and while it may not be the defining progressive rock album, it is just as high in quality as what would be, and justly loved by many.

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 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.09 | 194 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Todd Rundgren's first Utopia album is an exercise in prog rock by the numbers, a cynical release that ticks all the boxes for a prog release but which at the same time shows severe compositional deficiencies. On A Wizard, A True Star Rundgren proved capable of writing progressive music crammed into hyper-short songs and fired at the listener one after other like a musical gatling gun; here, he gives himself freedom to sprawl, and that proves fatal. Particularly on the album's two longest tracks, Utopia Theme and The Ikon, the group resorts to aimless, redundant riffing on a decidedly limited range of musical ideas.

And at the end of the day, none of the prog posturing disguised the fact that at his heart Rundgren is a power pop songwriter first and foremost, with both Freedom Fighters and Freak Parade essentially being power pop with prog layers smeared over them, and the end result is neither good power pop nor good prog. Any student of politics will tell you that utopias might sound like a good idea on paper, but when you try to put them into practice the idealised vision all too often turns into a dysfunctional reality. Todd Rundgren's Utopia is no exception.

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 Todd Rundgren's Utopia by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.09 | 194 ratings

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Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak

5 stars One of the most formative artists of my music education, IMO a very progressive and gifted songwriter, instrumentalist, stylist, imitator and innovator. Between this album, "Todd," "A Wizard a True Star," and "Initiation" Todd had quite a string of progressive/experimental albums. I think some people begrudge him the "progressive" mantle due to the fact that he was popular--had AM hits--crossed-over and came from the pop world. The guy just happened to have a genius for sublimely catchy melodies! And this band had three keyboard players!

"Utopia" (10/10) sublime; nearly perfect emotional ride. "Click" Todd turns off the mic and begins his solo.

"Freak Parade" (9/10) is a technical show, kind of his ZAPPA, GG, YES tribute.

"Freedom Fighters" (7/10) is one of Todd's syrupy, magical hit wonders--sorry! Even on a prog album the guy just can't help himself! (You gotta admit: it's a pretty, catchy, memorable [though you're loath to admit it] song.)

"The Ikon" (10/10) has so many memorable themes, melodies, and sections--all woven together at the end!--that you forget about them because the song is a monstrous 30 minutes long! Not a bit of wasted space or fluff. One of the stellar LP masterpieces of prog. (And there are three--count 'em--three keyboard players! And the lead guitarist is none too shabby, either!)

5 stars: This album rates in my personal all-time top 20!

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 POV by UTOPIA album cover Studio Album, 1985
2.80 | 13 ratings

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POV
Utopia Eclectic Prog

Review by mohaveman

2 stars Another 80's album from Todd Rundgren and Utopia that repeats the same pattern as the last few albums; short songs with pop sensibilities with little to no prog to be found anywhere. A few minor hits like "Play This Game" and "Zen Machine" are on POV. Both of these can also be found on the live album "Redux" in what I consider a better effort than on this studio release. While this is not really a bad album if judged on it's pop rock merit, as a prog album it is a no-go. I suppose there is enough good music here to rate a couple of stars, about what I have given Utopia for all there other albums of this time period. 2 stars.

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