Utopia PhotoIf you aren't familiar with Utopia, the 80's pop/rock/techno group, or don't know much about them, then you are about to learn about one of the world's greatest, but unappreciated bands.

Utopia's albums have always been very creative and innovative. They were always at the cutting edge of the music industry, and always had the latest and newest technology. But for some reason they were ignored by the music business. They only had one single in the Billboard Top 40, which was Set Me Free. But despite that, they made 12 excellent albums, and astonished the people who have heard their music. Here is a brief history of Utopia. Utopia started out as a side-project for Todd Rundgren in 1974. The band was then called Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and the lineup was Todd on guitar; Moogy Klingman, and Ralph Shuckett on keyboards; M. Frog Labat on synthesizer; John Siegler on bass and cello; and Kevin Ellman playing percussion. Their first album Todd Rundgren's Utopia consisted of 4 very long songs, one of which, The Ikon was 30 minutes long. Soon after that, in 1975, the band released a live album called Another Live. On this album, Roger Powell had taken the place of M. Frog Labat on synthesizer, and John "Willie" Wilcox was the new drummer, taking the place of Kevin Ellman. After this album, Moogy Klingman and Ralph Schuckett left the band, and Kasim Sulton took the place of bassist John Seigler. The band was no longer a six-piece band, now with just Todd, Roger, Willie, and Kasim left. And it was no longer just a side-project. It was now a real band.. called Utopia.

Utopia's next album RA, released in 1977, had kind of the same sound as their earlier songs, which was loud, synthesizer drenched, rock. It featured 7 songs, the last song being the epic, 18 minute long "electrified fairytale" called "Singring and the Glass Guitar". The following album Oops! Wrong Planet, also released in '77, was more of a pop/rock album, with no songs more than 5 minutes long. It features two of Utopia's classic songs, "Love In Action", and "Love Is The Answer".

They came out with another album in 1980, Adventures in Utopia. This album had a spacey feel to it, with lots of synthesizers and keyboards. It also featured their only top 40 hit, "Set Me Free". They rolled out another album in 1980, their Beatles parody/tribute album, Deface The Music. This album was very Beatles influenced, and was full of 2 minute long pop songs. In 1982, they released the self-titled, Utopia, which was another pop album, with beautiful melodic ballads like "Bad Little Actress", and "There Goes My Inspiration". It also featured more basic rock songs like "Princess of the Universe" and "Hammer In My Heart". They released another album in '82 called Swing To The Right. This album seemed to be focused on money issues, with songs like "Last Dollar On Earth" and "For The Love Of Money". This album had the typical 80's music style, with some rock songs like "One World" and "Lysistrata". It also had some techno moments, with songs like "Junk Rock(Million Monkeys)" and "Last Dollar On Earth".

Their next album, Oblivion, released in 1983, was their first album which featured more drum machine than actual drumming. The songs on this album were all pop/techno songs, and featured two or Utopia's classics, "I Will Wait", and "Maybe I Could Change". In 1985, they released what would be their last album, and in my opinion their best album, POV. The melodies and lyrics on this album were great. It featured the beautiful love anthem, "Mated", and the techno extravaganza, "Zen Machine". The album comes to a memorable close, with "More Light". The hard-to-find CD version of POV included a bonus track, "Man Of Action". In 1986, they released a compilation album Trivia, which featured songs from Utopia, Oblivion, and POV, and featured two unreleased tracks "Fix Your Gaze", and "Monument". The last song on the album, "Monument", was read as the band's farewell by many people, when Utopia broke up soon after in 1986.

Even though Utopia broke up in 1986, they weren't finished yet. In 1992, they played a reunion concert in Tokyo, Japan, which was captured on Rhino's live album Redux '92: Live in Japan, and played all of the old Utopia favorites. They recorded this concert and released it as an album called "Redux '92: Live in Japan". They also taped this concert and released on video and laser disc. Since then, Utopia has went their separate ways, with Todd releasing more solo albums and venturing into the world of enhanced CD's under the name TR-I; Kasim working on a second solo album; Roger doing audio programming and playing guitar at clubs; and Willie starting his own recording studio and composing music for commercials. They recently released Oblivion, POV, and Trivia, which is a double album featuring all the songs from Oblvion and POV, as well as the tracks "Man Of Action", "Fix Your Gaze", and "Monument". Hopefully in the future, Utopia will get back together for some more reunion concerts, so that more people can experience the music of the greatest and most innovative band in music history. ~ Phillip Ewing, 80s Retro Music