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Cherry Pop

Title - 'Live At The Electric Ballroom, 1978'
Artist - Todd Rundgren & Utopia

For those needing a quick musical history lesson, Utopia was an American rock band who in its initial incarnation (1973-75) was a progressive rock band with a fluid membership known as Todd Rundgren's Utopia.

By 1976, the group was known simply as Utopia and was a stable quartet of Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and John "Willie" Wilcox. This incarnation of the group gradually abandoned prog-rock for straight rock, new wave and power pop, and scored the top 40 hit 'Set Me Free' in 1980.

Though often thought of as a Rundgren-oriented project, all four members of Utopia wrote, sang, produced and performed on their albums; 'Set Me Free,' for example, was actually sung by Sulton.

Utopia broke up in 1986, but reunited briefly in 1992. More recently, beginning in 2011 the earlier prog-rock incarnation known as Todd Rundgren's Utopia was revived for a series of live shows. Hence the reason we are here today re: The Electric Ballroom Milwaukee, 23rd October 1978.

In truth, Todd Rundgren's best-known songs the Carole King pastiche 'I Saw the Light,' the ballads 'Hello, It's Me' and 'Can We Still Be Friends,' and the goofy novelty 'Bang on the Drum All Day' suggest that he is a talented pop craftsman, but nothing more than that.

On one level, that perception is true since he is undoubtedly a gifted pop songwriter, but at his core, Rundgren is a rock and roll maverick. And this never before released 17-track, 2-CD live collaborative performance, recorded in Milwaukee in October 1978 goes a long way to prove everything above; and then a long way further to enhance his musical reputation thereafter.

The musicianship on this incredible-to-hear-today live classic is fabulous and this concert is the best example of the guitar and synthesizer being equal lead instruments. This double album brings us the opener 'Real Man,' 'Love Of The Common Man,' 'Abandon City,' and to my mind the most amazing track in the set, 'The Seven Rays.' This version here is amazing; simply amazing and has been played back on repeat more than any other track thus far.

On the second disc we get to hear such classics as 'Gangrene,' 'Black Maria,' 'Couldn't I Just Tell You,' and both 'Hello, It's Me' and 'Just One Victory.' In general, live Utopia music is super rare these days, so to have this brand new release - direct from the Todd Rundgren Archive Series - is a terrific bonus to my day, my week and my musical library.

My only wish is that they would have left Rundgren's in-between song chat on the two CDs. Those who taped this concert off WZUU's radio broadcast back in the day got a real treat from Todd that night. That said, this is still the definitive Todd/Utopia concert from this period and a must have for Todd freaks.