‘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.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Todd Rundgren’s Utopia
SERIAL: BR 6954
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue list
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
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 Theme * 02 Freak Parade * 03 Freedom Fighters * 04 The Ikon
WEBLINKS: Site Link
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 LP was a 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 Air Raid 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!
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 until 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.