Utopia - Oops, Wrong Planet [1977] MFSL UDCD 637

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MOBILE FIDELITY SOUND LAB UDCD 637 | AUDIOPHILE CD


Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been the undisputed pioneer and leader in audiophile recordings since the company's inception in 1977. Established by dedicated audiophiles, Mobile Fidelity's first and foremost goal was to offer faithfully reproduced high fidelity recordings that would compliment the numerous advances occurring in audio delivery systems. Throughout its history, Mobile Fidelity has remained true to this goal, pioneering state-of-the-art technologies and setting audiophile standards that remain in place today.

In response to rapid advancements in both recording formats and audio delivery systems over the past several years, Mobile Fidelity has maintained its ongoing commitment to improving industry standards. This has resulted in the introduction of numerous innovations in the audiophile arena: half-speed mastered Original Master Recording™ LPs, Ultra High Quality Records™ (UHQRs), high fidelity cassettes, consumer alignment devices for phono cartridges and audio cassette decks, Original Master Recording™ compact discs, the 24-karat gold plated Ultradisc™ CD and the Ultradisc™ Ultra High Resolution™ (UHR). To this day the independently owned firm continues its commitment to exceeding industry standards.

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This recording is mastered from the Original Session Tapes and the disc is custom pressed using 24-Karat Gold (known for its superior qualities and resistance to oxidation). This Out of Print Gold bonafide collectible disc has all Liner Notes, Photos, and Artwork from the Original LP faithfully recreated.



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The artist

Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Stardom was handed to him with Something/Anything?, but Todd Rundgren rejected it. He wanted to explore new musical territory instead, and his adventures led him to form Utopia in 1974. Initially, Utopia was a prog-rock septet featuring three keyboardists, but as the '70s progressed, the group evolved into a shiny mainstream rock quartet. As the group evolved, Rundgren retreated into the background, as each of his bandmates contributed songs and lead vocals to the albums. By the early '80s, Utopia had developed into a hit-making entity in their own right, even if much – if not all – of their audience were simply dedicated Rundgren fans, which highlights the problem with Utopia: although they did develop their own signature sound, they were nevertheless always perceived as Rundgren's folly. And to a certain extent that was accurate, since the band's musical evolution often mirrored his own – plus, once he decided he had enough of the group in 1985, it ceased to exist. At that point, Utopia was over a decade old, which made it something more than a folly, but even hardcore Rundgren fans will admit that it's impossible to view Utopia's career as being completely independent from his own.

After all, the band was born out of his desire to experiment with synthesizers and delve into prog-rock. In its original incarnation, the group consisted of three keyboardists – Moogy Klingman, Ralph Shuckett, and Roger "M. Frog" Powell – a bassist (John Siegler), a percussionist (Kevin Elliman) and a drummer (John "Willie" Wilcox), along with Rundgren on lead guitar. The band's first album was released months after Rundgren's Todd hit the stores. Appearing in October 1974, Todd Rundgren's Utopia consisted of only four tracks, all of which were mainly instrumental, none of which were less than ten minutes apiece. Rundgren continued in that direction on his next solo album, Initiation, which was released in spring 1975. Mere months later, Utopia released Another Live, a wild live album devoted to long synth experiments. Utopia's live concerts were marked by these improvisatory excursions, yet they were also distinguished by their video backdrops and random, computer-generated music.

Another Live proved to be the culmination of the synth experiments and, in some ways, the long stretch of willfully difficult records Rundgren was making during the mid-'70s. After recording the solo pop album Faithful in 1976, he revamped Utopia, stripping away two of the keyboardists (Klingman and Shuckett), as Elliman and Siegler left. Kasim Sulton joined as the new bassist. By any measure, Ra, the first album released by the new lineup, was a prog-rock record, but it was heavier and less overtly experimental than before. Ra was released early in February 1977 and was followed seven months later by Oops, Wrong Planet, a record that found the quartet abandoning prog for streamlined pop-rock, with a hard rock bent.

Utopia played on the club tour that resulted in the 1978 solo Rundgren live album Back to the Bars, which appeared after his hit record The Hermit of Mink Hollow. Back to the Bars featured both solo and Utopia material. No Rundgren or Utopia records were released in 1979, but the following year found Utopia reaching new heights. Released in January 1980, Adventures in Utopia brought the band their largest audience to date. On the strength of the Top 30 single "Set Me Free," the album climbed to number 32, spending 21 weeks on the charts. Utopia quickly followed the record in October with Deface the Music, a devastating satire of the Beatles. It was a good, clever record, but it shedded the group's recently expanded audience.

Following Rundgren's solo 1981 venture, Healing, the group returned in 1982 with Swing to the Right. The record stiffed, failing to crack the Top 100. Its failure was one of many problems Rundgren had with his longtime label, Bearsville. He was able to wrangle Utopia free from the label after Swing to the Right, moving the quartet over to the fledging Network label. Several months later, the group released Utopia. Thanks to the minor hit "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," which received moderate airplay on MTV, the record performed better than its predecessor, peaking at 84 and spending 19 weeks on the charts. Unfortunately, the label folded the following year, which meant Utopia had to find yet another new home. They settled with another new label, Passport. Their first album for the label was titled Oblivion and released in January 1984. Oblivion performed respectably in the charts, peaking at #74, but the following year its follow-up, POV, tanked, reaching only #161. Part of the problem was that Utopia's sound had progressed, but its glossy arena-rock was no longer contemporary. Following POV, Rundgren effectively pulled the plug on the group, choosing to concentrate on his solo career, as well as computer programming.

Like Rundgren, Powell concentrated on writing computer software; he also designed a keyboard called the Powell Probe. Sulton continued to play music, recording a handful of solo albums and acting as a sideman for Cheap Trick, Hall & Oates and Joan Jett, among others. Wilcox moved behind the scenes as a producer and songwriter. Utopia reunited in 1992 for a tour of Japan, which was captured on Rhino's live album Redux '92: Live in Japan.


The album

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Abandoning overt prog – thereby leaving behind the operas and extended instrumental sections, but not the organ solos – Utopia became a mainstream rock band with their fourth album, Oops! Wrong Planet. Since the group's first two albums were marginally listenable and RA flirted with outright parody, it comes as a shock to hear Utopia be outright accessible and listenable, two qualities virtually foreign to their previous work. The quartet has been revamped, redesigned as a mainstream arena rock band. And that means that the chores are spread a little more evenly – meaning, not only does everyone get to write, everyone gets to sing, occasionally on songs Todd wrote. Despite his efforts to democratize the group, Utopia still feels very much like Rundgren's baby, mainly because the only songs that really work are ones that he writes and sings. And since Utopia is now merely a hard rock band, Rundgren reserves his more ambitious ideas and complex songs for his solo records. The end result of all this is that Oops! Wrong Planet is more consistent than earlier Utopia records, but is not as sporadically brilliant or rewarding as Todd's solo albums. Even the bad moments, such as the very silly "Gangrene," aren't particularly unlistenable, yet there are simply too many average, undistinguished songs for the record to actually soar. Nevertheless, Rundgren turns in some fine moments – "Love in Action" is a terrific hard rocker, as is "Trapped," and "Love is the Answer" is an ideal stadium anthem – that make the record worthwhile for the cult, even if it will sound like little more than a period piece to most listeners.


Review by Steven E. Wonchoba (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews

This is Utopia`s single greatest master work, and IMHO, one of the best albums of all time.

The album begins with the powerful, extremely catchy "Trapped", which leaves no doubt that the band has expanded its horizons from their previous, very ethereal RA album. "Trapped" is perhaps the best track on the album – which is high praise, because this album is packed full of outstanding songs. The band does not totally remove itself from the RA sound, though, as Roger Powell`s wonderful "Windows" makes use of the soft vocal harmonies that were a big part of RA. Roger is not known for an outstanding vocal range, and "Windows" is absolutely perfectly suited for his deep, somewhat limited vocal range – it comes off brilliantly.

The album contains two songs which became staples of their live shows – the rocking, largely overrrated, (but still very good) "Love In Action", and the soft classic, "Love Is The Answer". Other highlights include the pounding "Back On The Street", "My Angel", in which Kasim and Todd pull off some outstanding vocal performances (and which also includes a brief sax solo by Todd!), Willie`s raunchy "Gangrene", and Todd`s furiously paced "Rape Of The Young". Willie pulls off an uncharacteristicly smooth vocal performance in the very lovely "Crazy Lady Blue" – I wish we had gotten to hear that vocal style a little more.

If the album has a weak point (a BIG if), it would be the mildly lackluster "The Martyr". But one is forgiving of a single less than spectacular song on an album that has so many strengths. This album is a must have, not only for Utopia and Todd Rundgren fans, but also for anyone wholikes great music. It`s one of my all time favorites.


Release Date: Sep 1977
Label: Bearsville/Rhino
Time: 45:22
Genre: Rock


Credits:
Steve Hammonds Reissue Project Coordination Assistant
Kenny Kneitel Graphic Design
Paul Lester Liner Notes, Reissue Liner Notes
Roger Powell Trumpet, Keyboards, Vocals
Todd Rundgren Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals, Producer, Engineer, Group Member
Sarah Southin Design
Kasim Sulton Bass, Guitar (Bass), Vocals, Group Member
Utopia Graphic Conception
Fred Weiss Artwork, Graphic Design, Photography
John "Willie" Wilcox Drums, Vocals, Group Member
Jon Wilcox Drums, Vocals
Mike Young Engineer


Track List:

1. Trapped
2. Windows
3. Love In Action
4. Crazy Lady Blue
5. Back On The Street
6. The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
7. The Martyr
8. Abandon City
9. Gangrene
10. My Angel
11. Rape Of The Young
12. Love Is The Answer

Listening! You can hear a difference! Enjoy it!


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