[Review] Todd Rundgren’s Utopia: Another Live (1975)

The second Utopia album features new songs, covers and a couple of solo Todd tunes in a live setting.

Kronomyth 2.0: Six guys named Ray.

The second album from Todd Rundgren’s Utopia was, oddly enough, a live record. They didn’t repeat anything from their first record (thank goodness for small favors), instead focusing on a wonderful new trio of songs on the first side, rounding out the second side with a few covers and hits from Todd’s catalog. The two sides are apparently from different venues; the first is remarkably clear (it almost sounds like the studio), the second is sonically challenged.

While it’s an uneven record—and when isn’t a Todd Rundgren affair?—the new music is definitely the high point of Utopia’s first incarnation. It took a few tries, but Rundgren finally seems a match for Frank Zappa’s deft arrangements on the opening “Another Life.” “The Wheel” is mellow by comparison, but fans of his solo work to date will agree that this is a winner. I can’t explain it, but “The Seven Rays” (written by Rundgren and bassist John Siegler) is my favorite Utopia track of all time; it just gets under my skin, musically and lyrically.

The second side is something of a ripoff, since it’s really a Todd Rundgren record. Versions of “Heavy Metal Kids” and “Just One Victory” are in danger of being fuzzy concert curios—you wish they’d cleaned these recordings up a bit. As for the covers of “Something’s Coming” and “Do Ya,” you can hear why they didn’t go to any extraordinary lengths to preserve them—Utopia’s versions are okay, but Yes and ELO (respectively) did these better. Roger Powell’s fans will enjoy his five-minute “Intro/Mister Triscuits,” featuring some nice synthesizer soloing; elsewhere, the multitalented Mr. Powell even plays the trumpet.

Another Live is best viewed as half Utopia and half live Todd, and is indicative of the incestuous nature of the two (see Back to the Bars for more on this). Still, even judged on half an album, Utopia has grown by leaps and bounds from their debut.

Original LP Version

A1. Another Life (Todd Rundgren/Ralph Shuckett) (7:07)
A2. The Wheel (Todd Rundgren) (6:59)
A3. The Seven Rays (Todd Rundgren/John Siegler) (8:46)
B1. (Intro) Mister Triscuits (Roger Powell) (5:24)
B2. Something’s Coming (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim) (2:49)
B3. Heavy Metal Kids (Todd Rundgren) (4:14)
B4. Do Ya (Jeff Lynne) (4:09)
B5. Just One Victory (Todd Rundgren) (5:17)

The Players

Moogy Klingman (keyboards & vocals, harmonica, glockenspiel), Roger Powell (Moog synthesizer, trumpet & vocals), Todd Rundgren (guitar & vocals), Ralph Shuckett (keyboards & vocals, accordion), John Siegler (bass & vocals), John Wilcox (drums) with Phillip Ballou (background vocals), David Lasley (background vocals), Arnold McCuller (background vocals). Produced by Todd Rundgren; recording engineered by Aaron Baron and Larry Dahlstrom.

The Pictures

Cover illustration & concept by Jane Millett. Photography by Joel Shapiro.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in October 1975 in the US (Bearsville, BR 6961) and the UK (Bearsville, K 55508) with lyrics insert. Reached #66 on the US charts. US and UK versions feature unique covers.

  1. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in the US (Rhino/Bearsville, 70867).
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in Japan (Bearsville, VICP-60272).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in Europe (Essential, ESMCD-756).
  4. Re-packaged with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia on 2-for-1 2CD in 2012 in Europe (Edsel).

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