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Utopia Todd Rundgren's Utopia album cover
4.15 | 316 ratings | 45 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Utopia Theme (14:18)
2. Freak Parade (10:14)
3. Freedom Fighters (4:01)
4. The Ikon (30:22)

Total Time 58:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Todd Rundgren / electric guitar, producer
- Mark Klingman / keyboards
- Ralph Schuckett / keyboards
- Jean-Yves Labat / synthesizer
- John Siegler / bass, cello
- Kevin Ellman / percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Haruo Miyauchi

LP Bearsville ‎- BR 6954 (1974, US)

CD Rhino Records ‎- RNCD 70865 (1987, US)
CD Rhino Records ‎- R2 70865 (1990, US) Remastered (?)

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Buy UTOPIA Todd Rundgren's Utopia Music

UTOPIA Todd Rundgren's Utopia ratings distribution

(316 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

UTOPIA Todd Rundgren's Utopia reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by corbet
5 stars For several reasons, this album tends to elude the average prog fan's "classic album" radar. First is that Todd Rundgren is a pop guy, right? This stuff isn't prog, right? Wrong. This is one of the most definitive prog albums of all time (definitive in the literal sense -- this album defines what prog is). People take drugs, people change -- Todd the pop guy has departed for a while, and here we get Todd the prog mastermind. It's not that strange. Second is that this lineup only existed for this one recording, meaning that if you buy any other Utopia album, it's a different Utopia than this particular Utopia. There are some awesome albums by the other Utopias, but I'm not going to make a fuss about them at all to the degree to which I'm about to here, about this album. And a possible third reason is that these guys are from America not Europe. Who pays attention to American prog bands? Anyway, all these reasons add up to one huge joke on musical mankind, because this is one of the top few BEST albums EVER MADE by ANYONE. Some stats for you: Utopia is a 6 piece, including no less than 3 keyboard players. Except for one, the songs are all long -- one of them is really long. Do you like psychedelic synthesizers that "burble"? High energy, ring-modulated keyboard solos? How about hyperactive crunchy drums, scorching guitar solos (some of the absolute best ever), and gorgeous vocal harmonies? Everything we need is here, in spades. THE IKON is 30 minutes long, and is one of the few true epic masterpieces (think Yes and ELP) to emerge from the genre. If you don't like "extended soloing" or "self-indulgence" you better turn away! There's nothing but the purest stuff here, so unless you're uncommonly adventurous for a Genesis fan you better save your bucks. I patiently await the day when music even remotely approaching the grandeur of THE IKON is being made again.
Review by daveconn
3 stars Not content to let FRANK ZAPPA have all the fun, TODD RUNDGREN surrounded himself with a quintet of musicians (including three keyboardists!), dubbed the venture "Todd Rundgren's Utopia", and released an album of progressive rock that sought to let the singer/guitarist's creativity run wild outside the confines of the short-form song. Over the course of the album, however, you'll be reminded that RUNDGREN is at his best when he's reined in -- despite some fascinating moments, the instrumental sections just don't captivate the way ZAPPA's did. ROGER POWELL (billed here as M. FROG LABAT) does take center stage with some lovely results, creating oases of calm with his synthesizers, but Utopia sorely lacks a GEORGE DUKE or RUTH UNDERWOOD to keep the intensity up when RUNDGREN steps back. What listeners can take from this are isolated moments that sound like they could have been made into good four-minute songs, most of which occur on "Freak Parade" and "The Ikon." Honestly, Todd's voice has never been suited to progressive rock, and at times he seems outmatched by progressive rock's potential for epic songwriting. For example, "Freedom Fighters" finds Rundgren retreating into the comfort of the short song. Compared to the music of YES, ELP and ZAPPA, UTOPIA is little more than a truck stop between pop and pomp. As much as individual sections show that Utopia might have some claim to art rock, there are moments like the off-key vocals on "Utopia's Theme" or the trite keyboard solos on "The Ikon" that'll send you running for the real stuff.
Review by Proghead
4 stars Now this is something surprising. Todd Rundgren, for the most part, recorded pop-rock and gave us the occasional hit like "Hello, It's Me", "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference", "I Saw the Light", "We've Gotta Get You a Woman", etc. But then he noticed that bands like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, etc., were making some really elaborate albums and were being rather successful at it, so he too hopped on the prog rock bandwagon with UTOPIA. This is the original UTOPIA, as a six piece, with Rudgren, three keyboardists (Frenchman Jean Yves "M. Frog" Labat, Moogy Klingman, and Ralph Schuckett), bassist John Siegler, and drummer Kevin Ellman. I don't know the backgrounds of many of these musicians, except for "M. Frog" and Ralph Schuckett. "M. Frog" was the odd one because he spent his youth in a monastery in France, but he wanted to pursue a career in avant garde classical (in the vein of Stockhausen, etc.) and rock and roll.

Eventually he came to America and got a hold of an EMS synthesizer, and released a bizarre album of electronic and prog rock in 1973 on the Bearsville label (same label as Rundgren/Utopia, although that album predates Utopia). Some sources wrongly say that "M. Frog" was Roger Powell, which is incorrect (although Powell also did release a pre-Utopia solo album in 1973 called Cosmic Furnace, it sounds nothing like "M. Frog" Labat's album from the same time). Powell was the guy who replaced Labat. Ralph Schuckett was a session musician, and he even played keyboards for Carole King (including her highly acclaimed classic Tapestry - it's so strange to see a guy playing for an easy listening singer/songwriter act, and then entering the world of prog rock).

When "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" was released in the fall of 1974, the rock critics were quick to shred this album, accusing it of being pretentious, pompous, overindulgant, etc. (but then this was 1974, and such bands that used to have some respect from the critics like YES and JETHRO TULL started releasing albums that might have pleased the fans but hardly the critics - like "Tales From Topographic Oceans" and "A Passion Play"). With the exception of the very short "Freedom Fighters", none of the music is under 10 minutes long. The music is all unbelievable complex, with extended solos, different keyboards (EMS synthesizers, electric pianos, pianos, etc.). You can see that with the opening piece, "Utopia", which was recorded live in Atlanta, giving the audience a preview of UTOPIA's sound. The rest are studio efforts. "Freak Parade" is a more quirky number, I can't help be think a little of GENTLE GIANT (another prog rock band that rock critics hated, for the most part, but gets lots of respect, for good reason, in the prog community). "Freedom Fighters" is the shortest piece, and I guess Rundgren needed a piece that would go over well on the radio. So this ends up sounding like something he's done on his solo efforts. Then the album ends with "The Ikon", which literally clocks at over 30 minutes (prior to me buying this LP, I never thought that much music can be crammed on to one side, but it's true).

This is, as you expect early UTOPIA. Different themes, changes, some tedious passages that seem to exist to show off each member's instruments, in a nutshell, prog rock at its most extreme and excessive. Sure this album didn't please the critics any, but it still sold quite well (meaning at that time, many people simply ignored the ROLLING STONE and CREEM critics - because many thought the critics didn't know what they were talking about, and should have stuck to albums they know and like already, such as The VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO, or Van MORRISON's "Astral Weeks" - not that I'm criticizing those albums, it's just that the mainstream rock critics worshipped those albums while slamming prog rock in general). Obviously if you're looking for a more pop-oriented Rundgren (in the vein of "I Saw the Light", "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference", and "Hello, It's Me"), look elsewhere. If you want Rundgren at his more prog rock excessive, this is an album worth checking in to.

Review by slipperman
5 stars THE ULTIMATE!!! Headed by pop ikon Todd Rundgren, this album's birth was written on the wall if one listens to the 1st side of his 'A Wizard, A True Star' album (1973) and the strangest parts of the 'Todd' album (1974). Rundgren's psilocybin intake of the era just had to lead to what is one of the ultimate progressive rock albums of all time.

An exhausting listen, these 4 songs clock in at just under an hour, running through nearly every progrock trick and hallmark in this vast, versatile genre. You get cosmic overload on "Utopia" and "The Ikon", peaks of anger and valleys of mellow on "Freedom Fighters" and "The Ikon", frightening funk on "Freak Parade" and "The Ikon", indulgent excursions from every member and seriously damaging riffing on "The Ikon". and every damn thing else under the sun on "The Ikon". Clearly, "The Ikon" is a monumental piece of work, 30 minutes of total excess that's still built like a real song, with recurring themes and a sense of solid structure, written by a genius that just happened to find 5 other impossibly talented members to help him realize this bizarre, bizarre vision.

It's amazing it works as well as it does. Built of zillions of parts, it remains focused at every turn. Especially impressive considering how much material Rundgren was churning out in the early '70s. Prolific and just a little bit nuts, Rundgren did the impossible with this album, topping nearly every other prog band out there in terms of instrumental dexterity and epic scope. Without ignoring the other incredibly-talented members, this is really the album that makes Todd Rundgren a god to me, even if I only like a small fraction of his total output. His beyond-McLaughlin guitar insanity, his warm, friendly vocal tone, and the fact that he wrote and directed this monumental, impossible collectoin of music...I am forever in awe. It's just too bad the initial lineup didn't last beyond this album. 'Ra' is definitely an excellent work of prog, but after that the band began mirroring Todd's more straightforward solo work, and the albums became less and less interesting. Though those later records have their own weird twists, they don't come anywhere close to equaling the sheer greatness of this gonzoid mindblower.

Review by loserboy
4 stars Either hated or totally loved, "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" offers for this music lover an album of wondrous progressive instrumentation and highly crafted epic tales. With 3 keyboardists at hand UTOPIA definitely takes some cosmic twists and turns here with some lovely progressive tendencies. This album offers it all... some fantastic melodies, some wild frenzied moments, lots of cosmic symphonia all encased in 3 epic tracks. Side two is essentially a 30 min epic called "The Ikon" which to this day still represents one of my many beloved epic tracks. Without a question this album showcases the more experimental side of Todd Rundgren blending in elements of Frank ZAPPA with perhaps the aura of KANSAS and bits of YES for good measure.
Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars When I had bought the album "Ra" I went on a quest to find more excellent material from Todd Rundgren's Utopia. This one is still one of my favorite records from Utopia.

1. Utopia theme (14:18)

In general this track (live recorded in the USA) delivers a lot of excitement: great interplay and a dynamic rhythm-section, lush keyboards (three keyboardplayers including a certain Moogy Klingman) featuring dazzling synthesizer flights, some sensational breaks and of course Mr. Rundgren himself with his distinctive fiery and often biting electric guitar sound. Unfortunately at some moments my attention slips away because it sounds too longwinded.

2. Freak parade (10:14)

The atmosphere (with jazzy hints) on this composition often reminds me of FRANK ZAPPA featuring splendid interplay and a varied and alternating sound with many great musical ideas like a break with a catchy bass riff and sensational Moog runs or a final part with spectacular synthesizer sounds, followed by a swinging rhythm and sparkling piano.

3. Freedom fighters (4:01)

This is progressive pop, the rhythm is catchy and we hear the typcial 'Todd Rundgren' vocal harmonies and fiery electric guitar.

4. The Ikon (30:22)

This is perhaps Utopia their finest moment including many changing climates, breaks and accellarations, sensational keyboard work (Moog, clavinet, piano) and Todd Rundgren with lots of inspired fiery and biting guitar soli. Despite the long running time of 30 minutes this composition hardly contains weak moments, GREAT!


Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In 1974, this American group released what would be an astonishing amount of music crammed onto a single LP, an entire hour. The first side is comprised of three tracks, two exceed the ten minute mark, and the finale is a whopping 30 minutes. Overall, this is enough to entice a listener. But there is so much depth and sophistication to the music, one can easily get lost in the panoramic landscapes of sound.

Todd Rundgren leads the pack with searing guitar solos and crunchy riffs that are complex and catchy. And yet, he also has some quiet lead swells and has a memorable voice. Add three keyboard players to the mix, Moogy Klingman, M. Frog Labat, and Ralph Schuckett, and you get a wide variety of sounds and some incredibly fascinating synth soars. And finally, when you add the tight and cohesive rhythm unit of Kevin Ellman and John Siegler, and you get the incredible ensemble of Utopia.

The album opens with the Utopia Theme, a 14 minute musical adventure that takes 7 minutes of alternating solos and muddy riffs until Rundgren sings of a "Utopia/City in my head". Add memorable riffs and some great lead play, this semi-live song is a highlight of the album. The second song, Freak Parade, has some Jazz overtones and has a slight Zappa feel to it with alternating solos and tight interplay between the musicians. The moods and tempos of the track shift sublimely, and there's enough invention there to keep one interested for a long time. Freedom Fighters is the "single" of the album, and is the only track to not exceed 10 minutes. With a memorable chorus, and some tight interplay, it certainly drips "Progressive Pop". The finale, the whopper, an anamoly to the length a side of vinyl could hold, the Ikon. With tight solos, superb shifts in tempo and feeling, and some great lyrics/vocals to back up. Superb work from the keyboard unit makes this the highlight of the album.

Overall, there is nothing to fault this album with. It is superb in every facet and should be in everyone's collection. 5/5.

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On the surface, one would think that Todd Rundgren and prog were made for each other. After all the trio of sprawling double albums (Something/Anything?, A Wizard/A True Star and Todd) that he released from 1972 to 1974 visited a myriad of styles and when he formed a new six-piece group Utopia at the height of the prog craze, it seemed that the world was at his feet. Nonetheless, even though I'm fond of a lot of Utopia's music, I do feel that Rundgren's songwriting style was at odds with the kind of prog he wanted to make.

I'm come to the conclusion that Rundgren is at his best writing shorter pop-rock songs (a la Jackson Browne, only with cosmic fills where Browne employs a country-rock touch). His solo songs like We're Gonna Get You A Woman, I Saw The Light, Love Of The Common Man and A Dream Goes On Forever are among my favourite Rundgren tunes (and better than the average prog track he cut). Even a lot of his more creative pieces prior to forming Utopia had a distinct pastiche feel that makes his prog seem a little forced. Still, he did have a lot to say, and each of Utopia's first three albums has some great playing that will attract proggers. In fact most of that great playing is on this debut.

Now, there are some prog-rock fans who are wildly enthusiatic about this album, but I do have some reservations. Despite some outstanding moments, this reveals a lack of focus, particularly during the half-hour long closer The Ikon. Nonetheless, its highlights are enough to make it, not just the finest Utopia album, but a landmark of American progressive rock.

What can I say about the storming 14 minute opener Utopia Theme that kicks off this album? Largely instrumental, and full of scorching solos (I count at three great keyboard solos alone!) and some excellent twists and turns, the mind-boggles at the fact that this was recorded live! The follow-up Freak Parade is another fine piece, with a storming, rolling intro, a largely reflective, electric-piano dominated segment, a lengthy jam that's centered around a quirky synth riff and spoken vocals over funky backing (I'm not particularly fond of this part which sounds like revved-up Steely Dan with weak vocals!).

The third track Freedom Fighters is a potent reggae-inflected shorter song that sticks out simply because it's not prog at all (despite what the rippling synths might try to tell you!). Still, it's a great Rundgren moment and one of his best-ever pop/rock songs. The Ikon, on the other hand has some lows that include moronic vocal parts and dull meandering moments, but also has some inspirational high-octane jazz-inflected rock with great solos ... some of the electric piano/synth exchanges blow me away and Rundgren's muscular guitar escapades can also be engrossing ... yet even those portions can seem a tad overlong. I can scarcely think of a piece in prog that needs more editing (although Singring And The Glass Guitar from the third Utopia album Ra runs it close!)

Still in many ways, there's nothing quite like this album. If you're only ever going to get one Utopia album, make it this one. ... 72% on the MPV scale

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A wizard, a true star

Whatever else you got from Todd Rundgren in the 1970's, you got value for money. This album has just four tracks yet runs for almost an hour, even on a single LP. Given that LPs normally had a maximum capacity of around 20 minutes a side, the quality of the recording inevitably suffers by the time it reaches the turntable due to the level of compression required.

This is Todd at his progressive best. The album was actually credited to "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" rather than simply Utopia. At the time, Utopia were every much a backing band for Rundgren, this being well before long serving members Powell, Sulton and Wilcox arrived to complete a stable quartet.

The opening "Utopia Theme" is a 14 minute, largely improvised piece which showcases Rundgren's guitar prowess (a talent he has never received adequate recognition for). Unlike the rest of the album, this is a live recording from a gig in Atlanta, USA. Each of the three keyboards players also appears to get a shot at centre stage as the piece weaves its way through the type of prog territory occupied by early 70's YES and EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER, and more recently by bands like the FLOWER KINGS.

The move to the studio is apparent from the opening bars of "Freak Parade", a further 10 minutes of complex interplay and time signature changes. The vocal sections here are muddled and superfluous, but thankfully brief. Already we're well past the 24 minute mark on the first side of the LP, yet space is still found for a four minute coda. "Freedom fighters" is the most commercial piece, indeed the only commercial piece on the album. The song would have fitted in well on one of Todd's early solo albums such as "A Wizard, a true star", but even here it sits well alongside its lengthy peers.

And finally we have "The Ikon". Occupying one complete side of the album, and running to 30― minutes, this track is one of the criminally under-known masterpieces of prog. Yes it is derivative, drawing influences from many of the major prog bands of the time, but it melds them together in a stunning amalgam of everything which makes prog great. There are strong hooks, wonderful melodies, extended instrumentals, harmonic vocal passages, you name it, it's here. Despite the length, there simply is not one second of padding, the piece is tight and always focused. The track is not broken down into sections, this is a complete piece which flows from start to finish occasionally repeating themes, frequently changing mood, but with a fluidity which bands such as the Flower Kings can only dream of. This piece should be in every prog lover's collection.

Utopia went on to make several more excellent albums, notably the following "Ra". After that, they moved into uninspired pop rock territory, ditching all the things which make this, the first Utopia album, so inspired.

Here Todd Rundgren shows that he is indeed A Wizard, a True star.

Review by Chicapah
3 stars I've been a fan of Todd Rundgren ever since the first Nazz LP came out in 1968 and I always will be. His solo debut, "Runt," is still one of my all-time sentimental favorites and I've collected seven or eight of his albums over the course of his illustrious career. So it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that in 1974 when I heard that Todd had assembled a new group called "Utopia" (with not one or two but three keyboard men!) and that they intended to lean in the jazz rock/fusion direction I could hardly wait to get the shiny black vinyl on the turntable.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the opening song that shares the band's name. Recorded live at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, it has all the necessary ingredients to qualify as an epic, progressive behemoth. There's a full-scale salvo to get things started that evolves into a rolling drum rhythm, then into a straight rock beat behind a stirring, upwardly mobile chord progression. You get a savory taste of synthesizers and organ before the verse commences, featuring Rundgren's unmistakable voice. An anthem-like movement takes you through a repeat of some of the parts, building steadily towards an emotional, frenzied end. With Todd's passionate guitar leads being exceptionally awesome, it's far and away the high point of the album. The downside is that they never reach that lofty plateau again.

The remaining three songs are studio recordings and, unfortunately, the group's lack of cohesion can't be glossed over. "Freak Parade" isn't terrible but after listening to the spirited liftoff that is "Utopia" it pales in comparison. It has a tangible, satirical Frank Zappa influence and Rundgren lays down some David Gilmour-ish slide to get it airborne but when he starts singing it loses altitude in a hurry. There's a creepy laughing synthesizer effect, some general weirdness and a lone bass line that trails off into oblivion at the end for no apparent reason. This song more or less reflects the overall problem here. They have a lot of ideas and pieces that just don't fit together. Moving on, "Freedom Fighters" is an okay rock and roll tune but the loose drums are clumsy and Todd sounds like he's hollering the words more than singing them half the time. Another glaring blemish on the project is this. Despite the fact that the engineering, mixing and production are all supervised by the well-respected and very knowledgeable studio rat himself (Rundgren); the sound quality on all but the first song is amateurish, atrocious and inexcusable. Whatever happened to high fidelity, Todd?

This brings you to the closer, "The Ikon," that clocks in at a healthy 30:22. It's better than the last couple of tunes but it's also a blend of good and not-so-good moments. The Mahavishnu-inspired riff at the outset is not bad at all and the keyboard and guitar rides are inspirational. But when they tap into a funky and then a disco beat underneath Rundgren's thin vocals the momentum gets buried. Even Todd's game attempt at some smooth falsetto lands short of the mark during one of the song's quieter spells. A wild jam session ensues with every member of the six-piece group getting several turns in the spotlight as they go 'round the horn a few times. But instead of thrilling it's just way too busy and some of the synthesizers sound strangely like old Farfisa electric organs from the sixties. Things improve afterwards with a more serene section that introduces a new melody. It's a decent detour but it comes off like it's a leftover from one of his previous solo efforts and seems a little out of place here. They transition to a whimsical but engaging "Hoe-down" segment that is played once at normal speed, then after a brief piano/guitar interlude, is re-introduced at almost double-time tempo. If they'd stopped there it would have been preferable to the sloppy mesh of multiple instrumentations that crowd their way into the finale. I get the feeling that it was all arranged too hurriedly and could have benefited from some much-needed editing.

The 800 pound Gorilla in the room here is the fact that when a band steps into the "fusion" ring they'd better be ready to take on the heavyweight division boxers (i.e. Return to Forever, etc.) and these guys weren't in fighting condition. I was disappointed with this album in '74 and I still feel the same way now. No one wanted Todd to succeed with "Utopia" more than me and I have to give them the proverbial "E" for effort but, in the end, I have to say this was admirably adventurous but ultimately mediocre. 2.9 stars.

Review by The Pessimist
5 stars What a direly underated album from an underated band!

The way I see it is already mentioned before me: proggers don't WANT to give this album a listen because Todd is a pop guy, not prog. However, he can compose both superbly i think.

The highlights of the album are undoubtedly Utopia's Theme and The Ikon, which are amongst my favourite epics of all time. The other two are also brilliant, but nowhere near the standards of the first and ultimate songs. There is also a strong sense of eclecticism within, as well as some straight forward rock n roll. I recommend it to most prog heads, and encourage them not to be put off by Todd Rundgren's poppy past. Certainly a forgotten masterpiece.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Utopiaīs debut album is a mixed bag. Pop/ rock and progressive rock blended together. When Utopia sounds most proggy I think they sound pretty good, but when the pop elements appear itīs quite annoying but there are also some of the progressive parts that seem to be a bit too much show off for the sake of it, and that is always dangerous.

There are only four songs on the album but three of them are pretty long. The Ikon is 30 minute + long and IMO the best song here. I also like Freak parade, but I find Utopia theme to be too much of a show off song. I think it lacks direction. The short song called Freedom fighters are too poppy for me.

The musicians are very competent and itīs one of the things I like about this album. I donīt care much for Todd Rundgrenīs voice though. Very average IMO.

The sound quality is pretty good too.

This is by no means a masterpiece of progressive rock, but Iīm glad I listened to it as there are some good moments here. Overall itīs not that exciting to me though, but as the quality is very good Iīll rate it 3 stars. Itīs not my style but to a certain degree likable anyway.

Review by russellk
5 stars A blueprint for progressive rock, 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' is sixty minutes of riotous, ecstatic pleasure and is, I believe, an absolute must for every progressive rock collection.

Yes, TODD RUNDGREN is a ridiculously talented and lamentably inconsistent pop star. He's still out there, believe it or not, part of the latest incarnation of THE CARS: there's really nothing he can't do. But for a few years, amid all his pop/rock innovation, he spearheaded UTOPIA, who produced this debut album of outstanding music. UTOPIA were at this point a sextet, including three (!) keyboardists, and this album makes maximum use of the sonic weaponry at their fingertips.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the opener, the live 'Utopia Theme'. This is, in my opinion, the best live jam I've ever heard, and ought to be the template for frenetic rock soloists the world over. From the unusual opening motif this song - almost completely instrumental - is totally convincing. Odd time signatures vie with synth stabs, funky bass and truly exhausting drumming to set the scene for five memorable solos. Heralded by a rising sequence of chords and swirling synths, the main theme comes in at the 2-minute mark, a fast one-note guitar bringing in the first minute-long keyboard solo. Yes, it's so show-off it ought to be up for a Petrucci Award, but its charm lies in its ridiculous over-the-top nature. Then it's back to the main theme to introduce the second keyboard solo, which blows the first solo away.

Eventually RUNDGREN gets to sing a few lines, essentially a prelude for his guitar solo, which begins with the same melody as he's just sung. This, guitarists of the world, is how it's done. Guitar solos do not exist in isolation. They must be prepared for. They need a context. DAVID GILMOUR knew this, and his solos were always notable for when they occurred. PETRUCCI could learn from this: RUNDGREN clearly knows. It's such a lyrical solo, which then grows into a shred-fest of the highest order, a glorious freak-out in which the listener cannot fail to lose his/her mind. Truly magnificent, and over so soon.

The song has a pleasing shape to it, lifting us up and bringing us down by turns. What I appreciate most about this is RUNDGREN proves he has the oh-so-rare ability to 'let go', to compose and play music so over-the-top it transcends cheese and becomes simply brilliant. And don't the crowd love it! There's a rhythm-led diversion after RUNDGREN's solo, and a recapitulation of the main theme and a final short guitar solo before the closing motif: perfection.

Three paragraphs on one song? It's that good. Listen to it and let yourself go.

The great thing about this incredible album is that there are three songs still to go. 'Freak Parade' is ten minutes of moody and somewhat quirky progressive nirvana, full of hooks, and we are brought down (as we need to be) by 'Freedom Fighters', a short, poppy number which has a few twists amid its BEACH BOYS harmonies. Then, at the point where many artists would be struggling for material, UTOPIA unleashes - well, utopia, in the form of 'The Ikon', a full thirty-minute prog classic. This track is sadly under-appreciated by the progressive community, possibly because at the time American progressive bands were relatively rare, and were not noticed by their target audience. It's a ridiculous melange of just about every style in the book, from jazz, rock, funk and disco to a country hoe-down, all wrapped up with hook after hook in the acclaimed RUNDGREN style. No, it's by no means a symphonic prog classic in the traditional mould: rather, it's a lucky dip in which you'll not like everything but you'll be kept interested and constantly surprised. And after a few listens it will begin to work its magic on you. This is how LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT might have sounded with good material.

Are there any flaws? Yes, a few, chief among them the sound quality. I'm impressed by neither the mix nor the fidelity, partly, I think, because of the length of the album: sixty minutes is too long for one piece of vinyl. It's not an easy listen either: complex and lengthy, it probably needs a couple of sittings before it begins to make sense. Actually, 'The Ikon' never makes sense. Perhaps it would have been better had it been edited, but what parts? The bits I like are probably the bits you hate. Leave it in all its bizarre, bloated, lopsided glory.

Not to everyone's taste, but what album is? Certainly I'd argue that this is one album that performs as advertised: this is musical utopia.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is one of the most astonishing and peculiar prog efforts to come out of the USA: prolific and eclectic rock musician/writer/producer Tood Rundgren really nailed it when he became interested and obsessed with prog rock. "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" is a solid exposure to the straight pompous side of symphonic prog, with a prominent presence of keyboards (two in charge of piano, organ, clavinet and synthesizers plus a third one exclusively devoted to synthesizers), yet having a guitar that makes itself quite noticed. Rundgren was always grandiose in his musical endeavors, and during his age of prog fascination, the stage was set for yet another step toward this direction in his own musical journey. Meanwhile, the rhythm duo states a magnetic and powerful delivery of the complex tempo shifts and mood variations. Sonically speaking, Utopia sounds like a combination of two power-trios: one keyboard-based and other guitar-based. Stylistically speaking, the sound is based on a dynamic confluence of symphonic, heavy prog, prog-fusion and psychedelia-tinged space-rock: eclectic to the end from the very beginning. The opener 'Utopia Theme' is a surprising example of majestic combination of Return to Forever, early Nektar and complex bluesy hard rock, even anticipating some of the textures elaborated a few months later in Yes' "Relayer". 'Freak Parade' makes another disparate but again successful combination: symphonic melodic schemes and Zappaesque moods. There are certain circus and burlesque vibrations in some relevant melodic developments, which makes sense with the inclusion of Emersonian piano and synth flourishes. There are other calmer passages in which Rundgren states a jazzy approach to his guitar soloing, properly complemented by the electric piano. The Zappa thing is highlighted when the jazzy factor turns to a funky-friendly structure for the sung portion. 'Freedom Fighters' is the shortest track in the album. Catchy and stuck with a verse- chorus structure, it definitely preserves the album's prog essence quite efficiently, if only slightly watered by glam-rock dewdrops: the airs of heavy rock brought in by the guitar state a proper counterpoint to this particular tendency. This is only the album's A-side so far: 28 long minutes of pure, consistent prog rock explosion. The B-side is occupied by the 30 ― minute long 'The Ikon'. Of course, it is no surprise, since Rundgren was very akin to the idea of pushing the boundaries of the vinyl format. 'The Ikon' alone comprises the album's eclectic drive and energy, with lots of room for soloing (mainly, the keyboardists, with a special mention to the distorted electric piano that almost emulates a Hammond organ!). This song has three distinct sung sections, with the long instrumental passages serving as respective preludes and/or interludes. Some will remind you of an ELP'ed Return to Forever, other sections will remind you of Wakeman-era Yes, others will shock you with a vibrant confluence of Nektar and Pink Floyd, others will surprise you with its mixture of synth-based krautrock and standardized symphonic prog. The third sung section is my personal fave: it makes an interesting prog approach to soul music, even portraying a slight Broadway mood. The instrumental portion that follows is a very interesting one: it alternates fusion, country flavors, Celtic colors and Focus-like dialogues of piano and lead guitar. The finale retakes the sung portions' motifs combined through the opening motif's reprise. In conclusion: "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" is a major prog asset in any good prog collection. Rundgren did not just catch a formula: he and his fellow band members nailed the spirit.
Review by Roj
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars As a relative newcomer to PA, I have decided I will only review those albums which have not got so many reviews as yet, or where my opinion differs greatly from the vast majority. After all, what's the point in another review of CTTE by Yes, we ALL know it's brilliant. So my first review is Todd Rundgren's Utopia, an awesome album which is not very well represented on PA so far.

This is an album I bought many years ago, purely on the strength of the cover and the instruments the musicians played, including 3 keyboard players! I hadn't even heard of Utopia, but, boy did I make a good decision.

The opening track, Utopia Theme, performed live, is a truly outstanding slice of progressive rock. It is epic, bombastic, indulgent and quite brilliant, a mixture of swirling and warbling synths and killer guitar from Rundgren. The opening section is complex and leads into a slower part built around a great guitar riff, before we enter the faster section with phenomenal musicianship from the whole band. Drummer Kevin Ellman deserves a special mention for a truly outstanding display, as good as I have ever heard. Then follows a synthy spiral leading into the epic vocal section, and a stunning guitar solo by Todd, following the earlier vocal line. Brilliant stuff, it's a mixture of symphonic prog and space rock with a harder edge. It is probably one of my top 5 all-time tracks. The album is worth buying for this one track, I promise you.

The rest of the album is studio tracks. The production on these is, I have to say, a little light, perhaps a sign of the times. The next 2 tracks Freak Parade and Freedom Fighters are not a patch on the opener. Freak Parade is a decent enough slice of light, catchy prog, but Freedom Fighters is just an average pop song.

The final track, the 30 minute epic, The Ikon, is the album's other highlight. There are enough twists and turns, theme and time changes to keep any progger happy. The musicianship is again very tight and the vocal harmonies are a particular strongpoint. It is a difficult track to get into, given it's complexity. My recommendation is to give it several spins. Believe me, once it clicks you will love it, it's another all-time classic.

I would rate this a 4 star album based on the title track alone. Add The Ikon, and you have an undoubted 5 star album, and one that is an essential for all prog rock fans.

Review by crimson87
4 stars This record is one of the biggest surprises I found here on PA. Todd Rundgren... I had no idea he released an album as huge as this one!! When I say huge I mean it in all senses: Huge duration ( 60 minutes long in one vinyl) and a huge band ( 3 synths!!!)

This record has only 4 tracks and just one of them has a single length which is Freedom Fighters. The three remaining are epics ranging from ten to thirty minutes long. The record starts with a like track called Utopia Theme that is really energetic. It has a great intro that reminds me of the Overture from Rush's 2112. It also features exellent drumming and anthemic guitar solos by Rundgren.It's an exellent way to start an album.

The following track is called Freak Parade , this one is a bit different from the opener since it features hints of Zappa and jazz fusion that although not bad , sometimes it feel's like the band it's trying too hard to do prog. The third song is the single Freedom Fighters , a prog pop song with good vocals and a catchy chorus , Rundgren knows how to do that for sure.

Well the last one is the 30 minute monster epic called The Ikon , basically this song will guide you through lots of the genres described on PA. As simple as that. As a note , there's an amazing synth solo at 7:40 mins.

Overall , this is a very good album that suffers of a somewhat bad production and sounding and lack of cohesion between the ideas which were a lot. However I think this is one of the best prog albums ever released in the land of the free.

Review by Flucktrot
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.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars You could practically just look at the cover and the track lengths and convince yourself that this is already upper echelon prog rock at it's most superb. Imagine a pop superstar like Todd Rundgren getting an artistic itch, enlisting THREE (I emphasize the three) keyboard players and chucking out a half-hour epic would get lots of praise from the prog community. It certainly has the potential...

I admit that if there is one thing I really enjoy about UTOPIA is that it actually achieves a unique sound that is constant throughout the album. For some reason, funk broods into the sound here, mostly in the bass and electric piano, and the guitars (whenever I can hear them) bump this more into the rock spectrum. So, this has a great sound, but do the compositions work?

For me, slightly not. Take ''The Ikon'' for example; it's length and the first section are there to lull me into a false state of mind thinking that I've hit prog paydirt. As the epic evolves, I find many sections far too overextended, particularly the section where everybody gets to solo. All of the ideas are great barring a spot towards the end that seems to cop Genesis, but all ideas go far longer than necessary. It could've been one of the greatest epics ever had major trimming been done.

This complaint applies to the whole album. Parts of ''Freak Parade'' don't make any sense despite it's great funk foundation, the title track seems too tact after the vocals come in and ''Freedom Fighters'' is...well...a decent pop tune. Eh, UTOPIA had promise but it fails to keep my attention for too long.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I just can't get past the fact that this sounds like a pop singer getting a band together and doing a paint by the numbers Prog album. It's not fair to say that perhaps, but to my ears that's what this sounds like. I am a fan of Todd Rundgren and i'm not sure if he did a Prog record just because it was "in" at the time, or maybe he liked this style of music ? Motives aside I just think this album comes off a little messy, but the main thing for me is that I just don't enjoy it very much.

"Utopia Theme" is fairly bombastic to start. Lots of synths and drums 3 1/2 minutes in. It settles and the crowd cheers. Vocals follow. Some nice guitar before 9 1/2 minutes. I like the way it ends too with the drums and guitar leading the way. Great tune. "Freak Parade" has a good intro. Mellow guitar a minute in. Not a fan of this though. Piano joins in. A change after 3 minutes and vocals come in late. "Freedom Fighters" is a short vocal track that reminds me of Steve Hillage for some reason.

"The Ikon" is the over 30 minute closer. It's energetic and bombastic to start. Keyboards lead 3 1/2 minutes in and the vocals join in again reminding me of Hillage. Not a fan of the vocals 9 minutes in where they sound different. Lots of synths before 14 minutes, then it settles as synths continue. Vocals are back after 17 minutes. It picks back up with guitar 23 1/2 minutes in then settles again as contrasts continue.

Most Prog fans rate this highly, and while I respect the love that is out there for this album, it does little for me. A low 3 stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Utopia's first album remains their best.

Todd Rundgren originally formed this group to take advantage of the popularity of progressive rock in the mid-seventies. With three keyboardists, guitar, bass and drums the band certainly had a big sound. But the music press was accustomed to Rundgren playing ballads and love songs, and really couldn't understand this fine, complex album.

Three of the four tracks rival most of the top symphonic prog and fusion works from it's time. And the music itself is a spectacular blend of both of those styles. I hear echoes of Yes and the Mahavishnu Orchestra throughout (one keyboard break in The Ikon sounds like it could have been written by Rick Wakeman.

The opener. Utopia's Theme is grandiose and bombastic, everything I love in a prog epic. It makes a much better theme song than the comparitively lame Road To Utopia from the "Adventures" album.

The only time the album lets up is on the one short track, Freedom Fighters, which sounds more like the middle years of the later incarnation of the band. And the production sometimes gets overwhelmed by the dense instrumentation.

It's a shame Utopia moved so quickly away from this style into a more mundane power pop band.

Review by baz91
5 stars OK, so I'm gonna guess that the reason you're here is because you stumbled across this album somewhere and found it had a 30 minute long track and are now trying to find whether this is actually true. Well progheads, the answer is yes, somehow Todd Rundgren managed to fit 30 minutes of continuous music onto just one side of vinyl! Back in the 70s this caused the record to have a lower sound quality, and the disc was extremely fragile. There was a warning, telling listeners that they should record it to cassette the first time they played it! This didn't stop him later making one of the longest single LPs of all time 'Initiation' with one side lasting over 35 minutes. But that's a story for another time.

Indeed this album is very long. Todd Rundgren was looking to experiment in prog, and there are good signs: 4 tracks (3 are over 10 mins including one over 30 mins), bizarre artwork, and not one but THREE keyboardists! However is the music any good? Why sir, yes it is!

The album opens with a staggering 14 minute live track, Utopia Theme. What a theme! There's a lot to excite prog fans here. The track itself is mostly instrumental, save a tiny amount of lyrics situated right in the centre of the song. There is some virtuoso keyboarding and guitaring going on, and the whole thing rocks very hard. The drums are sublime, especially the rolls he gives on the toms during the 'build-up' sections. If you're not a fan of live tracks, then there's no need to worry, as there is virtually no sound of the audience until the very end (oh apart from one moron whooping in the middle). If you don't like sprawling instrumentals, then you probably won't like this one. In fact you probably won't like the whole album either! Begone with you! The rest of you, buckle down for some more great prog.

Reaching the second song, one realises Freak Parade is actually quite an apt title for this extremely quirky track. The instrumentals are extremely odd, with moments of beauty being surrounded by odd time signatures, and 'freaky' themes, but they are nonetheless progtastic. In common with the preceding track, this song also has a tiny amount of lyrics placed right in the centre of the song. They begin 4:40 into the song, and end 4:20 from the very end of the song, which is almost exactly central! The lyrics themselves are fantastic, and sound extremely syncopated. Proggish stuff indeed, you should love it!

By this point, we are over 24 minutes into Side 1, which would be a perfectly reasonable time for the record to stop, and for you to turn over. This doesn't happen though, as we are faced with the 4 minute Freedom Fighters. Usually I try not to have prejudice against shorter songs in favour of longer ones, because judging a song by it's length can be fruitless. Your prejudice would be justified in this case though, as this is a real stinker amongst some truly fantastic music. Four minutes spells pop song to me, and apparently this is an attempt at a pop song. It's just awful though! The melodies are terrible, the singing awful, the lyrics unbearable, the sound effects stupid, and on top of that, the sound quality just gives it a glaze of horribleness. I truly have no idea why Todd Rundgren recorded this pile of crap. How he thought that putting this song on the album could make it commercially justifiable, that casual listeners would hear this, and perhaps buy the album just for this song. It's a nightmare, but it's only 4 minutes, so it's over quickly!

Now we're there - we've reached possibly the longest continuous progressive song of the 70s (on one side of vinyl), The Ikon! Amazingly this song is longer than the conjoined impressions of Karn Evil 9, which was spread across two sides of vinyl as ELP felt it was too long for a single side! Longer than Cygnus X-1, spread across two albums! But before you charge headlong into listening to this song, you'd probably like to hear why you should devote even a single half hour of your life to this track, let alone multiples of half hours.

For those of you who have heard A Treatise On Cosmic Fire, Rundgren's epic 36-minute synth-dominated instrumental production, and were perhaps disappointed by it's lack of structure (or perhaps anything musical), you should know that The Ikon is a completely different (and better) kettle of fish. Upon my first listen, I started to grow impatient of the repetitive riff at the beginning, and at the 3 minute mark I decided to skip through to see if the rest of the track would be based around this riff. I felt very foolish to discover that lyrics were just around the corner, and I should have trusted more in prog! From then on I listened to the track without skipping about. What I found was very rewarding indeed. This track skips about from theme to theme, whilst fleshing them out fully before moving on. There are lyrics, although in total about 6 minutes, and they are few and far between. These lyrics make the song feel very different from an instrumental track, which gives it a huge advantage in my mind, as this would seem like a bizarre jam otherwise. The lyrics are great, with tongue-twisters and the like being thrown in at around 9 minutes. It's extremely difficult to describe the vast amount of musical ideas being thrown around in this song. My favourite thing though is that they resurrect the opening theme for the end of this song, and combining the three keyboards and guitar, manage to play a lot of the other themes on top of this! This track is Ikonic indeed!

All in all, this album is a wonderful obscure gem, and The Ikon is a testament to the experimenting of musicians in the 70s. To be able to write a 30 minute song that is interesting and exciting all the way through is very difficult, but Todd more than pulls it off! If you have half an hour, give it a spin, you'll enjoy what you find!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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!

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by stefro
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

Latest members reviews

4 stars Todd Rundgren's Utopia is the debut album released by the American Progressive Rock band Utopia. Masterminded by former pop artist Todd Rundgren, this album is one of the classic prog albums of all time. Todd put together a 6-piece band in 1974 (the greatest prog rock year in my opinion), featuring ... (read more)

Report this review (#2898010) | Posted by AJ Junior | Friday, March 10, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Where to begin with this album... It's been stated again, and again, but I'll say it once more: Todd was just a pop/three-chord kind of guy, and suddenly he took a cocktail of psychedelics and began his progressive experiments. Todd created Utopia like the Beatles created Sgt. Pepper: he used th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2878561) | Posted by Progmin23 | Friday, January 27, 2023 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#2442134) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Friday, August 28, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 fa ... (read more)

Report this review (#1940131) | Posted by WFV | Wednesday, June 20, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Totally Essential. The Best Utopia/Rundgren Album! Unlike the Utopia albums that would follow, it is clear that a ton of love, time, and devotion went into writing this music and making this album. The compositions are so intricate and well worked-out, and the playing is so tight. It is only on ... (read more)

Report this review (#1698205) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#807040) | Posted by AEProgman | Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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, wor ... (read more)

Report this review (#578594) | Posted by 7headedchicken | Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album was a great discovery for me. I have heard and enjoyed much of Utopia for years, listening to such pop-rock classics as Adventures In Utopia, Deface the Music, etc.. not dreaming of their link to this prog album. This, the original lineup of Utopia, puts out long proggy-jazzy songs ... (read more)

Report this review (#279856) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album just kicks right from the start and doesn't let up until the end of the album. There are a ton of good musical ideas flowing. Todd is flexing his prog muscles for the first time here and he seems to be a master of his craft. The "Utopia Theme" kicks it off with a fusion flavor and ... (read more)

Report this review (#278747) | Posted by Keetian | Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Is it Prog? Rock? Funk? Electronica? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. And it is over the top in almost every way. I am not a Todd Rundgren guy and this is the only album I have of any of his many projects. And I am not a guy who buys much 70's stuff anymore. But I heard a cut off this wild album an ... (read more)

Report this review (#231604) | Posted by johnobvious | Friday, August 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Wow, Todd Rundgren does drugs and his music actually gets even worse. But we can't hold it against him for trying. With "Toddd Rundgren's Utopia," Rundgren lends a close ear to the hip music of progressive rock and attempts to make such an album for himself. The result is a less-than-well-execut ... (read more)

Report this review (#125353) | Posted by Arsillus | Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Back in late 2001,I bought this album from a used record bin for $1.I wanted to hear this,and I cannot say I was dissapointed!The real highlight of the album is side 1,with the song's ''Utopia'',and ''Freak Parade'',which are keyboard/synthesizer-rock song's,with great guitar work and musician ... (read more)

Report this review (#113520) | Posted by jasonpw. | Sunday, February 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars First and formost, I must admit to being very fond of Todd's music across the board. Starting from his days with late 60's beat/psych/garage rock combo, THE NAZZ, then going to the more commercial, singer songwriter side. Many fans of prog and indeed this site, may not find too much to satisfy ... (read more)

Report this review (#109517) | Posted by kingdhansak | Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Todd always seemed to be one of those "I can do that!" composers. Never much for originality, but always a meister of good production values. Here he obviously raised his eyebrows at the likes of Yes, KC and Genesis and said "I can do that!" So what did he do? He did it! Bringing in a crack ... (read more)

Report this review (#91159) | Posted by marktheshark | Saturday, September 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Twenty Years ago (give or take a few), I was Five or Six years old, digging through my Father's record shelf. I found this one album with a colorful, cool looking cover and since I wasn't allowed to touch the stereo, I asked my Mom to play it for me. That's when I remembered that I heard it a few ye ... (read more)

Report this review (#84792) | Posted by Jay440 | Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The first album of Todd Rundgren's band, Utopia. This album is great from beginning to end to the half-hour "The Ikon" which is probably top5 most satisfying piece of music ever. But we don't need to forget the 3 first songs which all almost reaches the level of The Ikon except Freedom Fighters ... (read more)

Report this review (#56520) | Posted by | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars ...If there was ever any question that Todd could do anything other than churn out hits, this album answered that question. 1974 was really a watershed year for the maestro, as this LP clearly shows. Not only could he write and arrange with the best of the "heavies", but he was and is a wonder ... (read more)

Report this review (#26476) | Posted by | Saturday, December 18, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Warning: Utopia were not a very prog band for almost all of their career, except for this first astonishing album. Todd, having recluted three keyboard wizards, left his usual pop disturbances in 1974 and performed (on stage and later in studio) a 'power prog' formula that gave us not less tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#26472) | Posted by | Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Totally awesome! Itīs truly outstanding how Rundgren could collect almost unknown musicians to perform this tremendous piece of prog rock music. His work is most well known as a fine AOR oriented composer... But this album really surprises any kind of prog rock fan that is not aware of Prog rock inc ... (read more)

Report this review (#26469) | Posted by fredfontes | Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Master musician,producer,composer,multi talented Todd Rundgren created UTOPIA sometime in the 70īties...and this, their first outing:"TODD RUNDGRENīs UTOPIA" are a strong contender to the world of progressive music!! Intro:"UTOPIA" recorded live at the FOX theatre(Atlanta,Georgia)...are a strong ... (read more)

Report this review (#26475) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Monday, January 12, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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