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Utopia - City in My Head CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.94 | 11 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Utopian?

While Todd Rundgren's solo work over the years has been so diverse that no one could possibly love all of it, his work with Utopia has been significantly more consistent. That is not to say that it has not changed at all, it has. Their migration from the prog of their self titled first album to the Beatles parody of "Deface the music" and the pop rock of their later albums, was however more subtle. While the band's line up changed significantly over the 10 years or so of their existence, Rundgren always remained in control.

Initially Utopia was based on Rundgren's backing band for his solo work (his solo career was to run in parallel with Utopia's), and was somewhat changeable, but it stabilised with the classic line up of Rundgren/Wilcox/ Sulton/ Powell when it also become more of a democracy. Vocal duties and writing credits were often shared by band as a whole. That said, Rundgren still actually wrote most of the material, had he left the band Utopia would undoubtedly have ceased to exist.

This compilations includes tracks from all seven Utopia releases up to "Swing to the right" in 1980, but none from the three they made after leaving Bearsville. They are presented in chronological order with the exception of "Utopia theme", the first track on their first album, which bizarrely closes this set. Over 30 minutes of music from that album is included, with only the 30 minute "The Ikon" missing. The fact that the collection is spread over 2 well filled CDs means that each album is well represented. Whether or not the best tracks have been selected is as ever a matter of taste.

The gradual migration of the band from long prog inspired, almost jazz prog pieces to much shorter pop orientated songs is more apparent when heard in the context of a compilation such as this. Utopia probably peaked around the time of "Ra", represented here by three tracks including the excellent opener "Overture: Mountain top and Sunrise". It is a pity space was not available for more of this album, such as the daunting "Hiroshima" and the prog fairytale "Singring and the glass guitar". The following "Oops wrong planet", which contributes 4 tracks, was more pop rock orientated but did include the pleasing ballad "Love is the answer".

By the time of 1980's Beatles/Rutles inspired "Deface the music", all traces of complex prog had been removed, and while "Swing to the right" restored the balance back toward rock rather than prog, tracks like the melancholy "Only human" were probably more suited to a Rundgren solo album (good as the song is!).

In all, "City in the sky" represents a fine budget priced way of discovering the music of Utopia, while dipping a toe in the water of Todd Rundgren's musically schizophrenic mind. The package is completed with some informative and well written sleeve notes.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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