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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Todd Rundgren

and Utopia - Live at the Old Waldorf San Francisco - August 1978 (Deluxe Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

I never had the chance to see this band live. I’ve heard a few live recordings over the years, though. I’d have to say that this might my favorite of the bunch so far. The set-list was exceptional, so that works in the favor of this double disc set. Add in the fact that the performances were great, and the sound quality is good, and this is well worth having.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One

                      
It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference

This piece has a real jazzy vibe to it in a lot of ways. It’s really a Rundgren classic. This is a great rendition of the tune, too.

Love of the Common Man
More of a proggy tune, this is also a classic. I love the falsetto vocals, but also the guitar work.
Trapped
A screaming hot rocker, this has a classic Utopia sound. It’s a proggy one with some cool shifts and changes. Yes, the chorus runs close to metal, but this is prog goodness. Check out the killer instrumental section. This is one of the highlights of the set.
Abandoned City
Another that’s quite prog oriented, there is some funk built into this thing. It makes me think of Frank Zappa a little. I dig the vocal harmonies on this quite a bit. The extended instrumental jam on this is a real powerhouse. It has quite a bit of fusion in the mix.
The Last Ride
A Rundgren classic tune, this is a cool mellow groove. This live recording is a solid one for sure. There is definitely a lot of jazz and soul built into this. This has some smoking hot guitar soloing, too.
The Seven Rays
This extensive number is a killer prog rock tune. It has a number of shifts and changes. It’s hard rocking, but on the more melodic side of that equation. There is a cool mid-track drop back that’s a lot mellower, but the guitar soloing over the top brings crunch. The movement that joins after that is one of the strongest of the whole set. The vocal arrangement, music and all just work so well together. I dig the keyboard solo based jam that ensues afterward, too. The musical evolution continues from there.
Can We Still Be Friends
While I particularly love the vocal arrangement on this, the whole thing works well. It’s a classic tune, and this live recording does a good job of presenting it.
Back on the Street
This harder rocking tune is another proggy Utopia classic. The live rendition does a good job of capturing the magic.
Disc Two
                           
You Cried Wolf

This hard rocker has some great vocal hooks. The guitar soling stands out, too.

Gangrene
A harder rocker, this one is a bit raw. It’s part punk rock, part metal and part Frank Zappa. It’s not my favorite thing here. That’s for sure.
A Dream Goes on Forever
The piano that starts this is classic. The vocals come in with just that accompaniment and it’s a trademark Rundgren sound. That’s the arrangement for the whole piece, and it works quite well.
Black and White
This is a harder rocking number. It’s a classic Utopia tune with a classic Utopia sound. This is a great tune and a great live performance.
Eastern Intrigue/Initiation
An extended two-fer, this number is a pure prog thing. It’s a bit Zappa-like in its experimental nature. I like the multiple layers of vocals. This is one of the most dynamic and diverse cuts here. It changes a lot, really. This does have some powerhouse instrumental passages. The second half is a bit more mainstream in terms of its energized prog rock sound. Around the nine minute mark the piece works through a cool (and a bit strange) turn and then keyboards dominate for a while. A guitar solo takes over after that.
Couldn't I Just Tell You
This is more of a hard rocking number. It’s perhaps closer to metal than it is to prog, but there are enough proggy things here to keep it real. It also has some trademark Rundgrenisms.
Hello It's Me
I’ve always loved this song. I know, it’s an obvious choice, but still. The harmony vocals and overall groove here really makes this shine. In fact, this is one of my favorite performances of the song ever. They bring it to a bit of a jazzy proggy jam later in the number.
Just One Victory
This is a cool rocker. It has a great multilayer vocal arrangement. It’s energetic and still manages to contain some prog jamming.

 

 
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