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Album review

Todd Rundgrens's Utopia 

Live at Hammersmith Odeon '75

added: 24 Jun 2012 // release date: 27 May 2012 // label: Retroworld
reviewer: Andy Snipper

Todd Rundgrens's Utopia - Live at Hammersmith Odeon '75 - Printable version
In 1975 Todd Rungren was one of the legends of American rock that were rarely seen in the UK.but he brought his new band over – the band that would later be named Utopia rather than just Todd Rundgren. They were a fine band including John Siegler on bass and Luther Vandross on backing vocals but the crowd were there to see, and hear, Mr Rundgren.

This set has been about as a bootleg for many years but this is the first ‘official’ release and the sound is considerably cleaner than the bootlegs I‘ve heard with the guitar sound especially good and the huge, vaulting, sound Hammersmith can produce coming over really well That having been said, the packaging is little better than a bootleg and I would have hoped for some pictures from the gig at least..

The songs are all crowd favourites from ‘Freedom Fighters’ to ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and a wonderful version of Jeff Lynne’s ‘Do Ya’ and the band was cooking like one of Heston Blumenthal’s ovens – which is where I have a slight problem.
This was recorded in 1975 – the year before punk broke out in the UK. For all its undoubted qualities, this was part of the reason that punk was so popular – the music is complex, clever and full of ‘twiddly bits’, all the things that alienated the ‘yoof’ of 1975/76. While the playing is brilliant it is often about technique and flash for its own sake.

Putting that aside though, the version of ‘Open My Eyes’ is breathless and brilliant while ‘Mister Triscuits’ stretches out and develops into a brilliant piece of American Power Prog.

For anyone who is a fan of Utopia, this is essential and it is a great listen. We have moved along a long way from the hair-shirt purity of punk and this kind of technical and bright music is equally at home today as metal or New Prog and streets ahead of most of the pap that passes for pop.


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3 stars

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