Todd Rundgren’s “Utopia!”
This is a great photo by Chris “Razz” of a great progressive rock band from the 70’s…Todd Rundgren’s Utopia!
I was a young kid in Seattle when my girlfriend wanted to see the guy who sang “Hello It’s Me”, so I went along. For more than a half hour, Todd played by himself onstage – and it was an amazing collection of pop/rock songs that focused on his hit album:
I’ve posted a separate story about the brilliance of “Something/Anything?”, which you can see here:
Of course, his next album was his psychodelic masterpiece “A Wizard A True Star”, which gave fans a clue of what was next, as his lyrics at the end of side one point out:
“Wait another year, Utopia is here…”
In fact, they were!
Introducing Utopia – Todd Goes “Prog”!
After Todd played his pop hits, there was a short intermission – then came Utopia, and for more than two hours, the band played incredible progressive rock – and I’m been hooked on “all things Todd” ever since.
Progressive rock by bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis were hugely popular in the 70’s: with intricate, complex songs that would last ten minutes or more, musical suites like “And You And I”, “Roundabout” and “Close To The Edge” by arguably the greatest prog rock band, YES – with their distinct logo:
Now that Todd is sharing some dates with YES on their “Yestival 2017” tour, I wanted to take a look at Utopia – their debut album and progressive rock masterpiece:
The album kicks off with a 13-minute opus that introduces the band…
“City in my head, Utopia
Heaven in my body, Utopia
It’s time for me, for me to go
City in my head, Utopia
Heaven in my body, Utopia
Into the sky, it rises now”
That’s it for the lyrics to the song, but the progressive rock that is on display is mesmerizing…
Here is a live version of the song, recorded much much later at the Highline Ballroom on January 29th, 2011.
Thanks to “Utopianmindset” from YouTube for sharing this
“Freak Parade” is next, another 10+ minute song that continues the band’s progressive streak…
Here is a live version from the 2011 reunion:
Thanks to “EllensEyes05” for posting this on YouTube
The so-called “single””Freedom Fighters” is the third song on the album and by far she shortest at just over four minutes…here is a terrific live version from 1975:
Thanks to “Rundgrenfan” for posting this on YouTube. As you can see, they were making great 70’s progressive rock!
Now, onto side two – yep, “The Ikon” gives you a 30:26 suite of progressive rock – just like Yes could fill an album side with one song, so could Utopia, and the band rocks out…here is a live version from that 2011 reunion:
Thanks to “wvbaker’s channel” for posting this on YouTube.
What an album of great progressive music!
Because Todd was also a huge success as a solo Artist – a “pop star” to a degree, critical reaction was mixed, with some critics labeling the album as pretentious fluff!
Still, it sold extremely well, peaking at #34 on the Billboard charts, the highest ranking for a Utopia album until “Adventures In Utopia” at the end of the decade…
Now, Todd will be playing the “Yestival” – will he play songs from his new album? Will he be fully progressive? Well, you know Todd, so who knows!!!!
Here is more information on the “Yestival”:
Of course, there were many more Utopia albums, including one also titled “Utopia”. This one however came as power pop met the heavily synthicized world of the early 80’s…
Listen to some of the great music from that 80’s power pop classic here:
If you want to hear Utopia live from the 70’s, here is the place for it:
The BBC released Todd and Utopia’s live performances on the network in the 70’s – a seminal record of a fantastic musical era for the band…see more here:
And if you aren’t that familiar with YES, here is a clip from their movie “Yessongs”, which shows them at their progressive rock best – “Close To The Edge”:
Let me know if you are going to the “Yestival” to see Todd!