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

TODD RUNDGREN'S UTOPIA

Utopia

 

Eclectic Prog

4.13 | 224 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Walkscore
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 this album that you have such top-notch musicianship. Unfortunately, Moogy Klingman - whose virtuoso keyboard work is one of this album's characteristics - would leave, as would Frog Labat on synthesizers. Listening to the Utopia catalogue, it seems that Rundgren's energy just got zapped with each new project. But it is here in full force. This album is not only Rundgren's best overall, but it contains his -and Utopia's- best-ever piece, "The Ikon". This is a 30-minute piece of music that never gets boring. Indeed, it is fast-paced, laced with excellent solos, and lots of dynamics. Unlike other long tunes, this one actually functions as one single piece of music (which is difficult to write) and not a collection of songs strung together. There are primary, secondary and tertiary themes, which come and go and vie with one another at different points in the composition, including the ending. It is so complex and difficult to play that Utopia (with different members once they began touring, after Klingman left) rarely ever played it (only on their 1974 tour). In addition to this, the album contains the band's theme song, recorded live in Atlanta: "Utopia". This is one of progressive rock's essential anthems. Finally, the album contains a really fantastic piece "Freak Parade", a quirky 10-minute piece that mixes jazz fusion, military marching music, electric funk, and lyrically a philosophical treatise on what it means to be a 'freak'. These three compositions are all 10/10, a feat that would never be repeated in Rundgren's career. The only lesser song on this collection is the very short "Freedom Fighters", which interestingly is one song on the album that the maintream rock critics (eg Rolling Stone, AllMusic) seem to really like, probably because it sounds like any other of Rundgren's solo songs. But it is just a normal rock song, nowhere in the same league as the rest of the album. This was recorded around the same time as Todd recorded his best solo album ('A Wizard, A True Star') but that album comes across as fragmented and more of a collage of (brilliant) snippets, while this album is a symphony. Make sure you listen to this album multiple times, as it is quite dense, and so will seem inaccessible at first. But on multiple listens the fullsome musiciality becomes clearer, and you will find the effort worth it. I give this 9.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale.

Walkscore | 5/5 |

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