Todd Rundgren & Utopia: Live At The Old Waldorf

Fourth in the in-concert Todd Rundgren Archive Series.

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The latest in this live series, this is the official release of the bootleg recording from a San Francisco nightclub in August 1978.

It captures Rundgren at that moment – circa Utopia’s Ra and Oops! Wrong Planet, and his own Hermit Of Mink Hollow – when he was poised to become the international star of rock critics’ dreams. Basically, if you enjoyed his Back To The Bars double album and Utopia’s Another Live, you need this Old Waldorf salad of prog’n’pop from rock’s premier schizoid, even multiphrenic, eclectic wizard. A virtual greatest hits, this double CD features material from Something/Anything?, AWATS, Todd, Faithful and Hermit, as well as plenty from Oops! Wrong Planet. Utopia being a democracy at this time, that means vocal and songwriting showcases not just for Rundgren but also bassist Kasim Sulton (Trapped, Back On The Street), keyboard maestro Roger Powell (Abandoned City) and drummer Willie Wilcox (Gangrene). If you find that period of Utopia somewhat guilty of sub-metal bluster, there are blistering renditions of power pop classic Couldn’t I Just Tell You, The Last Ride and Black And White. There’s plenty of Todd’s wry, self-debunking humour too. (“This is a song from Faithful.” Cue silence. “It’s okay,” he deadpans, “I don’t expect any cries of recognition.” Cue cries of recognition…) Love Of The Common Man inevitably loses some of the recorded version’s lightness and The Last Ride is a tad supper-club‑ified, although the guitar solo is intact. During the prog‑tastic The Seven Rays, you have to pinch yourself that it’s only three years after I Saw The Light. You Cried Wolf sees the band swapping instruments, while A Dream Goes On Forever is three minutes of bliss. The Eastern Intrigue/Initiation medley proves that Todd’s melodic chops never deserted him, even at the height of his dalliances with all things synthesized and metaphysical. Finally, there’s Hello It’s Me and Just One Victory. Horizons east and skylines west, who is the best? Gimme a T…

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.