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

TODD RUNDGREN'S UTOPIA

Utopia

 

Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 258 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars After the Nazz's demise, Rundgren started a production career and recorded a few highly rated solo albums (of which Runt is clearly the best-appreciated) and in 74, he started his own band that will last until the decade turned over. A rather surprising move from one of the best-known pop-rock icons of the US. And this album is no-half hearted attempt at a progressive gimmick, quite on the contrary, and we get an album load of prog (some minutes in total) . Although future albums will lack the same impetus, drive and enthusiasm at

It is clear that Todd had heard Yes when playing the 14 min+ plus opener, Utopia, but the influences are not overpowering. The track was recorded live and perfectly executed. The sound is quite "full" - this is a sextet with two KB players - the reminds you (a bit too much for my comfort) of a lesser-convincing Yes at its best. The second track, Freak Parade (10 min interrupted in its middle section by a freaky passage) is more in the vein of Gentle Giant, but less enthralling, mostly due to a boring and needless bass outro that last way too long. Only very partly successful, this track is

Unfortunately the second side of the vinyl, starts with the thankfully short and sadly insipid Freedom Fighter (so this is where Dubya got his inspiration or his Utopian stupidity ;-) and it was most likely the attempt at a single but its very average FM rock sound. But this is quickly forgotten as the monster Ikon is a clever attempt at mix Yes, GG with some jazzy-funk-rock ala Edgar Winter Band (or his earlier White Trash - some passages anyway, listen for yourself), with its bizarre sound reminding you of Frankenstein especially on the Parade track. Note that another time when those two meet again (but not through influences, that time) is Meatloaf's awesome Bat Out Of Hell debut album. But I am getting sidetracked from this record, but not uselessly, because this album is a real mix of UK prog done Stateside and its slicker American recording industry, and with Kansas and Starcastle, you are very close at how this album sounds. One of the most irritating thing for me, though is those precise synths used by the twins KB attack: they sound like synths like the ones from that dreaded 80's decade, crappy, cheap and only the playing on them instruments well made the differences. And it is certainly the case in this album; although one must remember that they were two of them players, which makes it a lot less impressive compared to their UK counterparts.

Nevertheless this album will be a bit of an almost-logical UFO in this utopic discography, clearly their more progressive in a symphonic kind of way. Not sure I would call this a masterpiece but it is certainly one of the most notable US prog of the 70's. This album is mainly getting the occasional spin every two years or so (this was one time, although another spin was necessary for a proper review) on this proghead's turntable that has known thousands of records since it came out in his early teens. Just another good prog record.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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