||From the Vault...
"Adventures In Utopia/Deface The Music/Swing To The Right"
© Edsel/Bearsville Records
Year of Release: 2012
Adventures In Utopia:
The Road To Utopia
You Make Me Crazy
Set Me Free
Last Of The
New Wave Riders
Shot In The Dark
The Very Last Time
Just One Victory
Deface The Music:
I Just Want To Touch You
Where Does The World
Go To Hide
That's Not Right
Take It Home
Life Goes On
Feel Too Good
Swing To The Right:
Swing To The Right
For The Love Of Money
Last Dollar On Earth
Utopia related sites:
"Adventures In Utopia/Deface The Music/Swing To The Right"
Todd Rundgren's Utopia marks their debut this week, with a 3-album package. These albums were released in the 1980s. Adventures In
Utopia (late 1979), Deface The Music (1980), and Swing To The Right (1982). These albums also would be the band's fifth,
sixth and seventh albums as Utopia. There's quite a mixture of styles from all three albums. There's Rock, Pop, Disco and New Wave.
We start with the late 1979 release, Adventures In Utopia. The best words to describe this album throughout is "Rundgren Pop."
Having more of the Pop style, there are some songs here that could have easily been played regularly on AM Radio. Better yet, maybe there could
have been popular hits, maybe even Top 10. Maybe...
Starting off are two great Pop numbers, "The Road To Utopia," and "You Make Me Crazy." Another Pop-sounding hit of Rundgren's
was "Why Can't We Be Friends." This song gets a somewhat familiarity to "Second Nature." Then it continues with another great Pop
styled song, and easily fitting AM Radio at the time, "Set Me Free." (Which was conincidentally, a hit, from this album. Yet I don't really
remember any Utopia (or hardly alot of solo Rundgren songs, other than "Hello It's Me," and "Bang The Drum All Day."
A harder-edge Rock sound, and even compared to Jeff Lynne's ELO gets "Caravan." On the same route as hard rock, and even Progressive,
"Last Of The New Wave Riders" gets the harder rock style going. Then there's what is considered "Ultimate Rundgren," (simply meaning once
you first hear it, you know it's that of Todd Rundgren) on "Shot In The Dark." More of "AM Radio Rock" gets "The Very Last Time."
Then there's "Love Alone" -- a somewhat nostalgic approach, again, a comparison to ELO, and in some spots, the popular song "Many Rivers
To Cross" drifts into the Utopia stratosphere.
As the late 1979s developed a popular sound, called Disco, many Rock artists and bands jumped on its bandwagon. Utopia's "Rock Love" mixes
Rock with the common popular sound at the time, Disco.
The only bonus track section of this 3-album set appears at the end of Adventures In Utopia. The non-album track, "Umbrella Man"
gets some good nods, as it relates to the early years of Prince. Closing out the bonus track section are 3 live tracks, from a concert held in
Syracuse, on November 16, 1979. All of these live tracks are quite exceptional. The Beatles meet Hard Rock on the first live track, "Anyway
Anyhow Anywhere." The remake of Question Mark & The Mysterians' "96 Tears" gets an updated hard rock approach. And another great Pop
ditto, "Just One Victory." It seems this concert was quite enjoyable, based on the three live tracks contained here.
Adventures In Uptopia had inspired Rundgren and his bandmembers to purse a television program, based on this album. Unfortunately, plans for
the tv show never followed through.
The second album here is Deface The Music. And for you Beatles fans, this is quite an earlful. Rundgren had submitted a track for the movie
soundtrack of Roadie. The powers-that-be turned down the song. Rundgren approached the style of the song, sounding as the early Beatles. Since
the song was turned down, Rundgren then turned his Beatle-sounding track, into developing an all tribute album of the Beatles. The twist was each song
would relate to a Beatle song, and not necessarily actual Beatle cover tunes, which makes it a defined-Beatle tribute album for many who have pursued
Deface The Music look at the Beatles is more of a parody, as the Rutles did back, when they (an imaginary Beatles-type band) recorded their
"orignal" songs sounding as if the Beatles would. Rundgren's idea was a good one, and there are some quite impressive tunes here. Yet, towards the
end, it seemed that these songs make you think, there was only ONE band that was the Beatles, and trying to copycat their sound, just wouldn't be any
better than the Fab Four -- Only if they themselves would have written these songs and recorded them.
Probably the best Beatlesque song here is the opening track, "I Just Want To Touch You." Definitely an early Beatles sound. THe Rutles
come to mind, and possibly compared to what started it all for the Fab Four, the song "I Want To Hold Your Hand.
More on the Rutles than the Beatles, are two songs: "Crystal Ball," and "Where Does The World Go To Hide." "Silly Boy" is as
silly as it gets, as it sounds like a Countryish Carl Perkins song that Ringo Starr would have done. "Alone" gets a great compare to that of
Paul McCartney. Rutle'ish returns with "That's Not Right."
Then the later years of the Beatles starts kicking in. "Take It Home" resembles "Day Tripper," and possibly could have fit some
songs from Revolver. Another Beatle album, Magical Mystery Tour gets the compare on "Hoi Polloi." Definitely "Eleanor Rigby"
on "Life Goes On." Moving on to the Sgt. Pepper album, "Feel Too Good" gets compared to "Getting Better," and "Always Late"
sounds more of a novelty song, yet it does resemble tracks heard on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Two McCartney/Beatle songs come to mind on "All Smiles" -- The style from Magical Mystery Tour, most particularly, "Your Mother
Should Know," and a song from before MMT, "Michelle." "Everybody Else Is Wrong" gets a little weird, just as the Beatle tunes
"I Am The Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were.
No bonus tracks from this session, but a particular website best describes
Deface The Album:
Another of Rundgren's bizarre experiments, this time an album rehashing the Beatles' stylistic progression from about 1963 to mid-1967. It's a frustrating
failure, so precise in its imitation that it's more parody than homage. Everything's super-specific: "I Just Want To Touch You" gives "Please Please Me"
a title based on "I Want To Hold Your Hand"; "Crystal Ball" is like any of their early rock 'n' roll screamers; Sulton does a Paul-ish Mediterranean
acoustic ballad c. 1964 ("Alone"); Wilcox apes Ringo covering Carl Perkins ("Silly Boy"); "That's Not Right" sounds like an A Hard Day's Night outtake;
"Hoi Poloi" rips off "Penny Lane" almost note for note, faked trumpet and all. There's an over-emphasis on primitive Merseybeat pop-rock ("Where Does The
World Go To Hide"), and the psychedelic numbers are better but still disappointingly dull - the "Eleanor Rigby" knockoff "Life Goes On" is even more painful
than "She's Leaving Home"; the music hall joke tune "Always Late" is amusing but slight; and the "Strawberry Fields Forever/I Am The Walrus" tribute
"Everybody Else Is Wrong" is catastrophically heavy handed, from Rundgren's nasal lead vocal to the tinny synth-orchestra backing. There is some good stuff,
albeit nothing as good as the real thing: "Take It Home" is fun, but it pales besides real Revolver-period rockers like "Rain" or "Dr. Robert"; ditto the
classy "It's Getting Better" facsimile "Feel Too Good," with its ultra-authentic chiming rhythm guitar and acid-drenched harmonies; and the "McCartney"
piano ballad "All Smiles" is genuinely beautiful but wretchedly unoriginal. Much, much weaker than XTC's later, similarly motivated "Dukes of Stratosphear"
albums, and a weird footnote in a great band's career. (JA)
* Interesting note about this website, every Rundgren album recorded is reviewed.
Deface The Music is a good album, but not great. The idea of Beatlesque songs is always a good idea. Good idea yes, but most of the songs by Utopia
here are either hits or misses. Overall, it's a good album, using Beatle songs as its main concept.
Swing To The Right tends to lean towards New Wave. Yet there are a few Pop sounding tracks, these Pop numbers tend to be the best ones.
These are heard on the first three tracks: The title track, (sounding Pop, and also compared to the Alan Parsons Project). "Lysistrata"
is another Pop gem. "The Up" is another one of those "Rundgren`Pop" tracks, where you know right away, it's Rundgren.
Then, the album tends to move towards New Wave. "Junk Rock (Million Monkeys)" is not as enjoyable, as this was probably a different direction
for Rundgren than what we normally know. Same goes for the next track, "Shinola." An interesting remake is The O'Jays' "For The Love Of Money"
with a more Rock touch. "Last Dollar On Earth" falls with "Junk Rock" and "Shinola." New Wave and Disco gets "Fahrenheit 451."
The last two tracks have hope: "Only Human" has a more Soul approach, and "One World' tends to be more of a common Rock track.
Swing To The Right tends to be a fitting album title. Rundgren swings to another style of music, being New Wave. Does it work? For credit,
yes, for trying a different approach in musical styles. But overall, it may just not be as great as other Utopia and/or Rundgren albums.
Reviews of each album:
|Adventures In Utopia :
|Deface The Music :
|Swing To The Right :
For Rundgren fans, these three albums will be quite enjoyable. Like for many artists' albums, there are some that are better than others. In this
case, Adventures In Utopia gets that nod. The others are good, (of the two, the nod goes to the Beatlesque Deface The Music). Todd Rundgren
is a great artist, and listening to his music with Utopia is a great Rock experience. Either Rundgren solo, or with Utopia, you really can't go wrong,
in looking for Rock music listening pleasure.
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