UTOPIA -- Oblivion, POV & Some Trivia (Rhino)

Originally formed in 1973 as Todd Rundgren's backup band, Utopia was considered by many to be one of the best bands in rock. When Passport Records closed up shop in the mid-80's, it forced some great albums out of print - including the final three Utopia releases. The albums (and expecially the CDs) became highly sought after by collectors. Well, thanks to the folks at Rhino, this material is now available once again. Oblivion, POV & Some Trivia compiles all the tracks from Oblivion and POV (including the excellent CD/cassette bonus track "Man of Action") - plus the two additional tracks recorded for the 1986 compilation, Trivia.

The Oblivion tracks are a bit more experimental than the material found on POV. While some of the songs sound a bit dated now, others have clearly withstood the test of time. One of the highlights on Oblivion, "If I Didn't Try" was performed live on Rundgren's 1994 No World Order tour. "Itch in my Brain" and "Fix Your Gaze" were played on the 1992 reunion tour, and both sounded great. Oblivion only yielded one single, "Crybaby", but the album also included other great tracks like "Too Much Water" and "Maybe I Could Change".

Despite the more commercial sound of POV, it wasn't exactly a big seller for Utopia. However, several of the songs carried over into Rundgren's subsequent solo tours - such as "Play This Game" (a staple of the acoustic shows), "Secret Society" (which he still plays live), "Mated" and "Mystified" (one of the highlights on the last tour). The only thing bad about this compilation is the placement of the lame track, "Monument", at the end of the second disc. Chronologically, this is where it should be. However, "More Light" makes a much better swan song for the band. It keeps with the "Utopian" theme of much of the band's repertoire, and contains one of Todd's most climactic guitar solos ever.

Oblivion, POV & Some Trivia contains informative new liner notes written by Brett Milano, as well as outtakes from the original photo shoots, and complete lyrics to all the songs. Best of all, the CDs sound better than ever. Aside from the placement of "Monument", kudos go out to Rhino for the reissue of these two albums. It's great having them back in print again.

© 1996 Steve Marshall