Todd Rundgren's Utopia — Live at the Chicago Theatre
(Purple Pyramid CLO1194BR, 2019, 2CD+DVD+BR)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-08-27
Taken in relation to the scope of Todd Rundgren’s career, Utopia might be seen as a digression, given that he’s released 30-some studio albums as a solo artist, while Utopia barely gets into double digits. And while Utopia really was more than just a band Rundgren had for a while (the other members also contributed compositions), it is forever associated with the man whose name was attached to it on the first few albums. Given how the band moved relatively quickly out of the progressive style where they started, it’s easy to forget how good a prog rock band they were before they streamlined their sound for 80s audiences. The material for this impressive live set is drawn from nine different albums, running from the 1974 debut through POV (1985), with Another Live getting five tracks, including two covers (“Do Ya” and “Something’s Coming”). The band’s progressive side is well represented, with the first album’s “Utopia Theme,” “Freedom Fighters,” and an abbreviated version of “The Ikon.” Ra is given somewhat short shrift, with “Overture” and “Communion with the Sun” condensed into seven and a half minutes, but Oops! Wrong Planet and Adventures in Utopia are well represented. A handful of tracks from the 80s provide evidence that even when they swung to more accessible music, Utopia was capable of coming up with songs that can stand the test of time. Having such a span of style present in one set also shows the essential unity of the band’s catalog, whether they were spinning elaborate extended progressive epics or concise rock songs. Throughout the two hours of music presented here, the musicians are in fine form, though some of the lead vocals are a bit strained. I would be hard-pressed to pick favorites here, and the excellent quality of the recording makes this live album more than just a supplement to the band’s body of work — and it functions admirably as a career overview. I got the audio-only version, but given its quality I’m sure the DVD is a great item for fans and newbies alike.
New Aristocrats Live Album on the Way – No foolin'! These supreme musicians toured Europe early in 2020, just before touring ceased to be a thing musicians could do, and there were some hot performances captured. On May 7, some of these will be releases as Freeze! Live in Europe 2020. » Read more
Jewlia Eisenberg RIP – The sad news has come out that Jewlia Eisenberg has died. As a founding member of Charming Hostess, Eisenberg changed the face of music, bringing together Balkan klezmer, American folk, and experimental rock in a distinctive blend that garnered much praise. » Read more
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more