Utopia hits collection is good-but not comprehensive enough
Rick Chiricosta(rickchiricosta@cent | Avon Lake, Ohio | 12/03/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those fans who think Todd Rundgren's musical output is limited to the Something/Anything album and We Gotta Get You A Woman single, this disc may come as a shock. Although Rundgren's solo albums and concerts had a tendency to be inconsistent over the years, Utopia's albums were typically filled with power pop and Beatlesque songs that more popular bands would have killed for. To Rundgren's credit, Utopia was truly billed as a group effort, with the only special mention given to Rundgren usually being that Utopia albums were produced by Todd Rundgren and Utopia. Rundgren even shared lead vocal duties with fellow band members Kasim Sulton(bass), Roger Powell(keyboards) and John "Willie" Wilcox(drums). Of the 16 songs on Anthology, 10 are credited as being written by the entire band. The focus on the group shows in the songs-styles are varied and the playing is tight.Anthology attempts to highlight the best material from the band's collection of fine albums. In this respect, I'm not sure the single disc does the band proper justice. Several of the best cuts are included, most notably Trapped, Love In Action and Love Is The Answer from Oops! Wrong Planet,and You Make Me Crazy, Set Me Free and The Very Last Time from the equally fine Adventures In Utopia. But only one song from the Deface The Music album made the cut. This was Utopia's brilliant Beatles knock off and the exclusion of tunes like Where Does The World Go To Hide, Alone, Always Late, All Smiles and Silly Boy make this collection too incomplete to carry the title of Anthology in my opinion. The other Utopia album which is represented by only one song is 1982's self-titled Utopia album. The 3-sided album was considered to be one of the group's best, yet for some inexplicable reason only Feet Don't Fail Me Now is included here. There's nothing wrong with that selection-it's one of their best ever. But Kasim Sulton's vocal on Libertine and Rundgren and Sulton's harmonies on Bad Little Actress make those two cuts essential for Utopia fans. Another high point from that album which did not find its way onto Anthology was Hammer In My Heart, a longtime Rundgren concert favorite. The selection from Ra of Overture/Mountaintop And Sunrise/Communion With The Sun is a rather strange one as well. Where are Jealousy and Hiroshima?Overall this collection is worth owning if you're only a marginal fan. But I'm betting that this disc will leave you wanting more. A better bet would have been to make this a double disc as Rundgren's solo anthology was. Had this been done, the songs mentioned above as well as Swing To The Right,Gangrene,Caravan,Rock Love,There Goes My Inspiration, and others could have been included. Utopia was always completely underrated as a group. Through no fault of Todd Rundgren, it seemed they could never establish their own identity separate from him. A thorough and more comprehensive anthology collection might have gone a long way to change that. It's a shame that such a fine band doesn't get a little better overview of their work here, especially from a label like Rhino, which normally does an outstanding job of putting together collections like this. You won't be disappointed by this album, but you might wish you had saved the money and instead purchased several of the band's individual albums, all of which are available on cd."
Best Of Utopia?
Rick Chiricosta(rickchiricosta@cent | 12/14/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The emphasis on this album was a career overview. With the Utopia catalog being uneven this collection is also inconsistent. Songs from the groups experimental and eastern phases are included and really bring down the quality of the collecton. The inclusion of the early tracks denies the set of more worthy entries. In my opinion the 1982 self-titled release is the groups best and only one of it's tracks is included. Kasim Sulton sang lead on about half of the groups songs and only one of his solos is featured. It's nice to have "Set Me Free", "Love is the Answer", "Crybaby" and "Mated" on the same disc but there are many superior choices that should've been included to make this a truly "Best Of" collection."
Utopia, it could have been a contender
William A. Hensler | Holt, Michigan United States | 11/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen Todd Rundren in concert. It's a good show and well worth the price to see.
Todd scored his big commercial success with Something/Anything. Then he got started with Utopia.
Utopia made an excellent progressive rock album, "RA". That was a minor hit record for the group and was just in time to take advantage of the mini-hobbit craze of the late 1970s. In the terms of the time it was called "head" music and lived 100% up to the title. I had a lot of good times jamming to RA.
This CD, Anthology, has music from all of Utopia's albums. Some of it is very good, such as the tune "Set me free" from Adventures in Utopia. The only great song is "Mountaintop and Sunrise/Communion with the Sun", off the album RA. Here is where your heart sort of breaks. When Utopia decided to be musical and great it was on the cutting edge of rock. Todd and his group was setting the standard. But on other parts of the album Utopia sounds like a garage band version of the Beetles. I never quite liked the band from Britian much in the first place and it's not fun to listen to Utopia simulate the sound of the fab four.
Looking back on it I would have enjoyed just spending the money on RA and Adventures in Utopia, both are what I consider to be Utopia's best albums.
So, is this CD worth it? Yes, if you get it on discount it's not bad. Is this CD worth it at full price? No. Sorry, it's not that good when you add in Utopia's simulations of the Beetles.
If Utopia had been managed a little better they could have put out some really cutting edge progressive rock and fun pop. Yes, pop music isn't progressive, but it's fun. And when you're working it's nice just to have something fun to listen to.
This is a three star CD, a grade C. Pay a discount price and you'll be happy. For the full price of the CD you can buy both "RA" and "Adventures in Utopia", the two best albums by Utopia.
Want to know how good Utopia and Todd were? Hall & Oats would have been nothing with out Todd's producing of their albums. England Dan and John Ford Colley (sp?) owe their best hit "Love is the answer" to Utopia. Todd and Utopia were great.
Utopia could have been a contender.
And that is why I gave this album three stars, a C grade."
Good compilation for its era, but get Todd's, too,
Bill Janowski | Elmhurst, IL USA | 09/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the second best place to start for Todd Rundgren/Utopia collectors, the first being Todd's own 2-CD Anthology.
It has Utopia's essential hits and some of the better album tracks to satisfy most casual listeners.
But for those who'd want to dig deeper(or already have, like me), it's still enough to whet your appetite.
Even though Utopia ended up being more or less a part- time band compared to Todd's work, there's still a lot of good material here.
The tracks I like best are 'Crybaby,' 'Love In Action,' 'Set Me Free,' 'Love Is The Answer,' the 2-part 'Overture', and 'Freedom Fighters.' "