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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren's Utopia

Review by Steve Alspach

Okay, so you're Todd Rundgren. You've just released the two-record "Something/Anything" album that included some classic pop songs like "Hello, It's Me" and "I Saw the Light." But you also don't cater too much to what the market demands. So after a "what-the-hell-is-this-guy-WEARING?!?" performance on The Midnight Special TV show that pretty much shot your career in the butt, there's only one thing to do - go prog! So Todd, or you, rounded up some musicians (including three keyboardists) and came up with an album that started Todd's "second career" as an experimental musician.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Utopia
A short, anthemic statement is sandwiched between a lengthy opening and closing movement that has a heavy rock edge to it, reminiscent of early Camel.
Freak Parade
Elements of Yes, Gentle Giant, and Zappa all appear in this piece. Again, the "verse-chorus" part of the song is plopped in the middle of a lengthy intro, and the final part, after a free-form section, goes into a jazzy section before the fadeout.
Freedom Fighters
Rundgren goes a little more conventional on this one, but not too much. The song maintains an edge, but Rundgren's trademark harmonies on the chorus are the hook.
The Ikon
Spreading over 30 minutes (and with 29 minutes on side 1 of the original LP, fans got their money's worth), "The Ikon" puts all the elements from the first three tunes into one sprawling whole. Yes, Caravan, Camel, Gentle Giant are all here, and in between the long instrumental passages (though there is no noodling solos, a relief for a piece this long) is Rundgren's crystalline vocals and lush melodic lines. Co-written with band members John Siegler, Moogy Klingman and Ralph Schuckett, this shows how Rundgren was willing to give up the spotlight and let the project work as a unit rather than a "star" and a backup band. And as such, "The Ikon" remains coherent throughout.
 
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