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Utopia - Todd Rundgren's Utopia CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 258 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars For most of my adult life, I never would have imagined that I would purchase a Todd Rundgren album. I have heard his name quite often, but the only song I knew of his was about banging on a drum and not working--not exactly progressive territory.

How glad I am that I have once again taken the advice of my colleagues in prog!

Rundgren put together a band with 3 keyboard/synth players and just let it rip. It reminds me a little of a jazzier Spock's Beard, with more rock. I'm glad they did it.

Utopia Theme. This is the absolute highlight for me. I'm usually not into live tracks, but this has taken over #1 from Do You Feel Like We Do in my book. This is just a great tune that completely satisfies every time, with extremely powerful recurring themes, virtuosic guitar, and a flair for the dramatic. There's the spacey intro, the Focus-like jam (great work by the keys), the powerful anthem midway, and the mindblowing finale. It's amazing to me that Utopia would not come remotely close to this quality of music ever again (including this album). The most credit has to go to Rundren, of course, who makes incredible contributions throughout--not just from the blistering solos, but from also playing absolutely fabulous backing guitar while the keys are soloing, and the result is incredible musical fusion. For an even better description of this masterpiece, check out russellk's review above--I couldn't agree more. In short, one of those rare tunes that I would not change one thing about--worth the price of admission alone!

Freak Parade. This is a meandering piece that mixes some mellow jazz with funky bits. The playing is tight and the mix is nice, but there's really nothing particularly moving or memorable. The lyrics say it all about their RIO attitude and make me smile: The world's biggest freaks are the ones with no balls.

Freedom Fighters. Unlike some reviewers, I don't see this as throwaway pop. It's a nice rocker with some nice harmonies, catchy melody, and even some brief 7/4 time change-ups. It compares favorably with standard classic rock.

The Ikon. Of course, I probably wouldn't have bought the album without the lure of the 30 minute epic. Here's my take: this baby is not really an epic, and as a whole is not that great. If I could chop it in half, I'd take the first 14 minutes and be very happy with some great hard rock, jams, and funk. Unfortunately, the last half really falls of the rails, as the tempo slows (with the lone exception of the enjoyable, but misplaced, hoedown section), the melody is inconsistent (putting it nicely), and the finale is by no means fitting for based on what's come before. So everyone agrees that some of this material should have been left on the cutting floor, and I would happily put the last half of the tune in the category.

In short, Utopia Theme is the highlight, with some inspired parts of The Ikon to sweeten the deal. This album really occupies a unique place within prog, fusion and Rundgren's career, and from that perspective it should be given appropriate respect.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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