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Articles Home » 1974 Articles » Utopia - 1974 Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Utopia - 1974 Todd Rundgren's Utopia

ARTIST: Utopia
ALBUM: Todd Rundgren's Utopia
LABEL: Bearsville
YEAR: 1974
CD REISSUE: Reissue list..


LINEUP: Todd Rundgren - vocals, guitar * Mark 'Moogy' Klingman - keyboards * Ralph Schuckett - keyboards * Jean Yves M Frog Labat - synthesizers * John Siegler - bass, cello * Kevin Ellman - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Utopia * 02 Freak Parade * 03 Freedom Fighters * 04 The Ikon


Todd Rundgren needs no introduction to GDM readers. He's been around for decades, in one guise or another. His band Utopia has featured more often than not, with numerous articles here at this site. Rundgren had up until 1973 released numerous solo albums, including 'A Wizard, A True Star', reviewed by Malcolm some months back. At the time, he was known principally as a pop musician. The formation of Utopia changed that perception, moving totally into the progressive rock realm, 'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' shook a few punters, and for an oddball release in 1974, it did remarkably well, getting to #34 in the Billboard charts.

The Songs
The LP was challenge on all fronts. Part live, the side one highlight being the 14 minute 'Utopia Theme' recorded at Fox Theatre in Atlanta Georgia during April 1974. It's a remarkable live track, featuring three keyboardists that totally sound off the planet. I remember buying this LP back around 1978 and being totally blown away by this one track. It segues directly into 'Freak Parade' (the first of three studio tracks to follow), which is kinda strange (an understatment when it comes to Rundgren), but becomes more likeable once you work your way through it. The playing time is around 10 minutes, while the plinky-plonk synth parts during the mid-section predate modern synthesizers by a good 10 years. And how about the vocal skit at the 5 minute mark? Rap in its earliest form perhaps? The shortest of the songs is 'Freedom Fighters' at a standard 4 minutes. I'm kinda thinking this might be close to Arthur Offen's material out of Airraid or even Flag? Maybe I'm hearing too much into this.. Moving onto side two, 'The Ikon' takes up all of that side, a total of 30 minutes! This makes Iron Butterfly's 'Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida' look like a 2 minute single! You'll be doing well to pick the eyes out of this one. Totally overblown with more twists and turns than the worst rolleroaster!

In Summary
As a debut, there's no doubting that this LP was challenging and confronting to the existing Rundgren fanbase. Todd even caused a few headaches at Bearsville Records, and at the Pressing Plant where this record would be manufactured. No one up till now had presented 60 minutes to be pressed onto a single-sided LP. There were compromises made to fit the entirety on vinyl (namely compressing the audio), but with the advent of CD in a decade or so, the CD reissue would feature improved audio quality. Certainly a unique album for its time, though probably not the best Utopia album in the back-catalogue. Still worthwhile giving this one a write-up regardless. [word count 439]

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#1 | gdazegod on January 22 2016 01:27:00
Utopia - 1974 Utopia Theme
YouTube Video:
#2 | Explorer on January 22 2016 07:42:06
Todd, as always doing the unexpected, quite stunning musicianship on display here. Although this was seen as more of a collective effort it's easy to spot who is the driving force. Utopia went on to have a fairly chequered career it's safe to say with some ideas not meeting with approval, I'm thinking 'Deface the music' here, but this Utopia debut is a brilliant album.
#3 | reyno-roxx on January 24 2016 13:59:36
The show that was the source of 'Utopia' was released on CD last year as 'Live at The Fox 1973'. Really good addition to the Rundgren collection.
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