Classic Album – Utopia – Utopia (CD review)

Utopia – Utopia (1982) – CD review

Utopia began life as a Todd Rundgren side project to indulge his progressive rock leanings.  But as his solo work became more esoteric, the music he made with Utopia began leaning more toward the pop side of rock.  Utopia is the band’s peak.  Originally released with a “bonus disc” containing five extra songs, all fifteen now fit nicely on a single CD.  While Something / Anything was Rundgren’s high point for pop songwriting, this record comes in a close second.

Any longtime follower of Rundgren’s career knows his catalog is littered with half-baked experiments, heavy on over-indulgent studio trickery and concepts.  That’s what makes Utopia such a joy: for once, Rundgren and company deliver an entire album of tight, catchy pop songs, sung with gleeful abandon, and with no subplot.  What’s more, the experimentation is almost completely absent; the entire disc sounds like it could’ve been recorded in a single session.

The disc opens with the pounding “Libertine,” sung by bassist Kasim Sulton with a feaux-guitar keyboard solo from Roger Powell.  All four members contribute lead vocals, with drummer Willie Wilcox turning in the surprise rocker “Princess of the Universe.”  Sulton and Rundgren duet for the Beatles-ish “Say Yeah,” and Rundgren turns in a great ballad “I’m Looking At Your But I’m Talking To Myself.”  Powell’s “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” actually reached the lower rungs of the charts.  Not as groundbreaking as earlier or later material, Utopia provides a more simple pleasure. –Tony Peters