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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Utopia - 1980 Adventures In Utopia
Utopia - 1980 Adventures In Utopia

ARTIST: Utopia
ALBUM: Adventures In Utopia
LABEL: Bearsville
SERIAL: 6991
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1987, Rhino, RNCD 70872 * 1990, Rhino, 8122-70872-2


LINEUP: Todd Rundgren - lead vocals, guitars * Kasim Sulton - bass, vocals * Roger Powell - keyboards * Willie Wilcox - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Road To Utopia * 02 Set Me Free * 03 Second Nature * 04 Shot In The Dark * 05 Caravan * 06 Last Of The New Wave Riders * 07 You Make Me Crazy * 08 The Very Last Time * 09 Love Alone * 10 Rock Love

Utopia have been overdue some column inches here at Glory Daze for some time. Often overlooked in favour of the New Wave influenced triumvirate (The Cars, Cheap Trick, The Tubes), Utopia clearly fit the bill of a leading light in that particular sub-genre. The concept of Utopia was born in 1974 when Todd Rundgren amassed himself a keyboard heavy prog/pomp army to augment his appropriately titled 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' vinyl and tour. The experience was enjoyable enough that by 1977 the quartet we know Utopia to be was finalised and the debut of Utopia as a genuine band was released : 'Ra', which was mostly a pomp rock album of very high quality (the cut 'Communion With The Sun' is not to be missed). Later that same year 'Oops Wrong Planet' emerged and saw a shift from long meandering tracks to the classic 3/4 minute hook & chorus AOR approach, shot through with occasional new wave overtones. Due to Todd's solo career, gaps between Utopia albums would be inevitable. By early 1980 they were back with 'Adventures In Utopia', but had they managed to raise the bar yet again? Better believe it ?

The Songs
'The Road To Utopia' kicks the album off with a long intro featuring guitar and synth interplay - the pomp is seriously happening here, reminiscent of Angel/Roadmaster ! From there it develops into a new wave tinged AOR gem with bouncy verses, but at chorus time they really nail the melodic AOR aesthetic - powerful harmonies packaged in a wall of sound and relentless melody. 'You Make Me Crazy' follows a similar template minus the pomp intro - stop/start verses again result in that time honoured titanic AOR chorus, possibly a blueprint for new wave AOR? Look out for the Joe Jackson-esque vocal in the chorus line You're aware of that! 'Second Nature' sees a more toned down mid-tempo approach from Todd, showing vocal class over what the liner notes call a 'bossa nova' groove ... 'Set Me Free' was Utopia's biggest Billboard hit at #27, ironically a Kasim Sulton written pop tune bemoaning Bearsville's reluctance to let him record a solo album. It's a pleasant little confection but to tell the truth I much prefer Kasim's 'Stand For Something' from 1985's classic 'POV' vinyl. 'Caravan' is something really special, almost a progressive AOR excursion recalling Ambrosia - built around an incisive Rundgren hook, it goes loping around a melodic expanse littered with unforgettable time signatures and harmonies, flowing into the kind of blistering mid-song AOR bridge to rival the very best of 'Dream Police' era Cheap Trick. 'Last Of The New Wave Riders 'ironically brings on the heavy AOR in a big way. This time the chorus is simple and effective in terms of melody, but what a vocal attack! I don't know how many times Todd over-sampled the vocals but this could pretty much define the 'wall of sound' concept. It also doesn't hurt that the whole song rocks like an angry rhino ... and how could a lyric like the whole universe is a giant guitar go unpraised? 'Shot In The Dark' revisits the quirky AOR of Zon to satisfying effect, but 'The Very Last Time' is the album highlight for me - pure distilled AOR (read 'Up' era Le Roux) with all the right hooks, and they nail the chorus hard enough to break the hammer. Todd's sympathetic production tugs out all the focused magic Utopia has to offer, and his Scholtz-esque solo and wailing outro note are unmissable. 'Love Alone' is a reasonable acapella attempt, leading to the album closer 'Rock Love', a fairly lengthy disco AOR caper.

In Summary
'Adventures..' was Utopia's most successful album, 'Set Me Free' having been a bona fide hit. 'The Very Last Time' supplied a second top 100 single by reaching #76, and as a result the parent album broke into the Billboard top 40 at #32. What must have hurt is that all this was achieved with little support or interest from Bearsville ... they seemed intent on spending most of their tour support and promotional dollars on crusty blues rockers Foghat. The label disinterest may have had something to do with what Utopia did next : to commit career suicide by releasing a very ill advised (though skilfully done) Beatles parody album 'Deface The Music' later that same year. They would recover quickly on the musical front, but commercially the damage was done permanently.

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#1 | trillion1999 on October 14 2011 23:35:07
The version of The Road To Utopia on the Columbus Ohio-DVD is too die for IMHO.I love Love Alonein love
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