Posts Tagged ‘Utopia’

Todd Rundgren's Utopia - Benefit For Moogy Klingman (2DVD + 4CD)

Mark “Moogy” Klingman might have been best known as an early member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, or as the co-writer of Bette Midler’s joyful hit “Friends” which took on new poignancy in the era of AIDS. But Moogy also recorded as a solo artist and as part of the band Glitterhouse, played onstage with such luminaries as Lou Reed, and served as Midler’s producer and musical director. In January 2011, the Utopia line-up of Todd Rundgren, Kevin Ellman, John Siegler, Ralph Schuckett, and Klingman reunited onstage at New York’s Highline Ballroom for benefit shows to help defer expenses of Klingman’s cancer treatment. (Guitarist Jesse Gress and later Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton rounded out the band that night.) Sadly, Moogy died later that year on November 15th at the age of 61.

On May 15th, Cleopatra Records’ Purple Pyramid imprint will remember the late keyboardist with Utopia’s release of Benefit for Moogy Klingman. This 4-CD/2-DVD set includes the Highline Ballroom set of January 29th, 2011, a Utopia performance from November 18th (three days after Moogy’s passing) in Peekskill, New York in his honor, and DVDs of both evenings.

The Highland Ballroom reunion show with Moogy showcased early, progressive Utopia favorites (“Freak Parade,” “The Ikon,” “Utopia Theme,” “Another Life,” “The Wheel”), covers from Utopia and Rundgren’s repertoire (The Move/Electric Light Orchestra’s “Do Ya,” Peter Pan‘s “Never Never Land”) and Rundgren classics like “Just One Victory,” “Heavy Metal Kids,” “The Last Ride,” and “Sons of 1984.” There were surprises like “Crying in the Sunshine” from Klingman’s 1972 solo debut “Moogy”, and even an encore, appropriately enough, of “(You Got to Have) Friends.”

The shorter setlist from Utopia’s performance shortly after Moogy’s death at Peekskill, New York’s Performing Arts Center likewise concentrated on the band’s earliest years. Its unique tracks include renditions of “The Seven Rays,” “Freedom Fighters,” and the Bernstein/Sondheim West Side Story classic “Something’s Coming.”

This expansive set also includes a 12-page booklet with photos and liner notes. Digital download/streaming services will have the audio content available, as well.  Look for Todd Rundgren’s Utopia’s Benefit for Moogy Klingman on May 15th from Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid at the links below!

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, “Benefit for Moogy Klingman”.  (Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid, 2020) .

The band Utopia are releasing a 7-CD box set from Todd Rundgren’s progressive band.  The April 20th release of The Road to Utopia: The Complete Recordings 1974-1982 will coincide with the long-awaited reunion tour of Rundgren, Kasim Sulton (who toured with his own iteration of Utopia earlier this year), Willie Wilcox, and Ralph Schuckett which kicks off this April and runs through June.

The new box set will trace Utopia’s evolution from its 1974 debut album – featuring the Mark II line-up (Mk. I was a short-lived touring unit) of Kevin Ellman (drums), Moogy Klingman (keyboards), Jean-Yves “M. Frog” Labat (synthesizers), Ralph Schuckett (keyboards) and John Siegler (bass/cello) – through 1982’s Swing to the Right, the fifth and final album from the “classic” line-up of Rundgren, Roger Powell, Wilcox, and Sulton.  Across seven albums, all of which have been expanded with bonus tracks, the band synthesized influences as disparate as prog rock, jazz fusion, pop, new wave, and even The British Invasion.  From the 30-minute opus “The Ikon” to the pop classic “Love is the Answer” and the spot-on, slightly naughty Beatles pastiche “I Just Want to Touch You,” Rundgren’s Utopia refused to be musically pigeonholed.

The box set has all six of the band’s studio and sole live albums as originally released between 1974 and 1982 newly remastered by the label’s Joe Reagoso from the Warner/Bearsville tapes.  Each album will be housed in an individual gatefold digipak with original art elements from each LP including inner sleeves and inserts.  Rundgren, Sulton, Wilcox, and Powell have all made written contributions to this set, as well.  Fifteen bonus tracks are spread across the seven albums, including live performances, promotional single versions, and more.

Following the period chronicled in the new box, the band recorded three more albums for the Network and Passport labels between 1982 and 1985.  Numerous compilations and archival releases have celebrated Utopia in recent years (including a “lost” album, 1976’s Disco Jets) but The Road to Utopia has all of the band’s music as originally released during the period covered.

The 2018 reunion tour will likely touch on various eras of the group’s long history; Schuckett was part of the first 1974-1975 line-up, while Sulton has recurred in the band over the years: 1974-1982, 1982-1986, and 1992.  Wilcox was a member between 1975 and 1986, and joined again for the 1992 reunion.  The tour will kick off in Pennsylvania on April 18th and will wrap up on June 5th in California.

The Road to Utopia: The Complete Recordings 1974-1982 is due on April 20th.

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“I just fell in love with a song,” Björk whisper-sings about two people building a long-distance romantic relationship by sending each other mp3s. “Blissing Me”’s music mirrors that story, combining the organic swirl of attraction (a harp and multi-layered vocals) with cold technology as a foundation (seizures of synths and beats contributed by collaborator Arca). In the end, Björk isn’t sure if she loves the person, the music or the thrill of discovery: “Did I just fall in love with love?”

“Blissing Me” follows the release of Utopia’s first single, “The Gate.”

Directed by Tim Walker and Emma Dalzell and shot in one single take in Iceland, Björk is seen alone against a white backdrop, which highlights her gorgeous floral-themed hair ornaments framing her face and her light blue, gauzy dress. The setting mirrors the romanticism of the song as she emphasizes the emotions through her delicate movements.

The lush “Blissing Me” is punctuated by cascading, plucked harp melodies that buoy Björk’s story of paramours falling in love through music. She sings of “two music nerds, obsessing” and “Sending each other MP3s/ Falling in love to our song.”

“I fall in love with his songs,” she lilts before multilayered vocals build and weave dramatic tension into the song as she ponders whether the love will endure.

Utopia is the follow-up to Björk’s 2015 album, Vulnicura. Where the latter album traced the disintegration of her 13-year relationship, she’s described the new album as her “Tinder album.” “It’s about that search (for utopia) – and about being in love,” Björk said. “Spending time with a person you enjoy is when the dream becomes real.”

At The BBC is a 3 cd/1 dvd box set featuring all of Todd Rundgren’s BBC radio and television appearances between 1972 and 1982.

Remastered from the BBC master tapes, the set includes 30 unreleased performances, including two songs from the 1982 Old Grey Whistle Test performance that weren’t broadcast.

The years covered on this three-CD/one-DVD set are the peak years of Todd Rundgren’s stardom, when he was not only touring on his own but with his often bizarre arena-prog outfit Utopia.  “Todd Rundgren at the BBC” tips heavily in favor of the Utopia period, with two of its CDs devoted to a BBC Radio One In Concert sessions from 1975 and 1977, while the DVD contains two Old Grey Whistle Test appearances with the band. There is some solo Todd, though, including a lengthy Old Grey Whistle Test from 1982 (several songs here were originally not broadcast) but the most interesting thing here is the earliest material, a BBC Radio One In Concert from 1972 that captures Todd alone at the piano. He’s joshing with the audience, particularly on “Piss Aaron,” where he spends time discussing the verses at length, and he takes the piss out of “Be Nice to Me,” claiming it’s a silly song. Silliness can be heard elsewhere, including a broadly campy version of “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story, and that helps lighten a load that winds up getting slightly leaden due to the long stretches of Utopia at their densest. This era of Todd remains divisive — some love it, while others will never warm to it — and that keeps this set from being a must for fanatics, yet there’s no denying that there’s plenty of endearing, enduring eccentricity from one of pop’s great madmen to be heard.