BR 6965 Ra
Produced by Todd Rundgren
Released on February 1977
US CHART POSITION #79 . . . UK CHART POSITION #27
Find it at GEMM
BR 6965 cover  

R undgren re-thought the whole Utopia thing, trimming it down to a quartet (adding bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton in the process) and divining from the band’s edited essence a mix of bombastic rock and Todd’s familiar songcraft. In doing so, Utopia stumbled upon a signature sound in Ra that would be fine-tuned over the years but never really abandoned. Some have suggested that Ra is a concept album, but it’s rather a recurring theme of the sun that gives the impression of a unifying concept; after all, what could a magic theatre, a nuclear bomb and a muse trapped in a glass guitar really have in common? The album starts off with an “Overture” borrowed from Bernard Herrmann (never heard of him, by the way), which is really just a way to get listeners’ ears wet before launching into “Communion With The Sun.” It’s here that we’re introduced to the new Utopian ideal: cosmic chaos compressed into more confining quarters that keeps things moving briskly. The same approach is adopted for “Jealousy” (with its classic claustrophobic sound), “Sunburst Finish” and the overwrought “Hiroshima.” On these tracks, Utopia’s aggressive arrangements and lyrical naivety invite comparison to Blue Oyster Cult (whose “Godzilla” is oddly complementary to “Hiroshima”). These songs tend to define the album, although “Magic Dragon Theatre” points to Todd’s longstanding affection for musicals and the ballad “Eternal Love” likewise looks to the leader’s oeuvre. The only apparent holdover from Utopia’s earlier excesses is the 18-minute “Singring and The Glass Guitar,” which might have been subtitled “The hare who lost his spectacles (and couldn’t see how silly he looked).” Although there are sections of “Singring” that work remarkably well, taken in toto it’s a toppled-over wedding cake. Even with a few flaws, Ra shines brightly in the Utopian landscape as an example of Todd bringing his genius to bear on more ambitious music. As a halfway point between the sometimes sprawling arrangements of earlier Utopia albums and the streamlined pomp of subsequent works, Utopia moves from failed ideal to a workable blueprint.

BR 6965 back cover BR 6965 lyric sleeve BR 6965 insert
BR 6965 back cover BR 6965 lyric sleeve BR 6965 insert

TRACK LISTING

  1. OVERTURE/(INSTRUMENTAL)    (Bernard Herrmann)    7:15 total time
    COMMUNION WITH THE SUN    (Todd Rundgren)
  2. MAGIC DRAGON THEATRE    (Todd Rundgren/Kasim Sulton)    3:28
  3. JEALOUSY    (Todd Rundgren/John Wilcox)    4:43
  4. ETERNAL LOVE    (Roger Powell/Kasim Sulton)    4:51
  5. SUNBURST FINISH    (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren)    7:38
  6. HIROSHIMA    (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren)    7:16
  7. SINGRING AND THE GLASS GUITAR    (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren/Kasim Sulton/John Wilcox)    18:24

    Musical arrangements by Utopia

CREDITS

ROGER POWELL -- keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
TODD RUNDGREN -- guitar and vocals
KASIM SULTON -- bass and vocals
JOHN "WILLIE" WILCOX -- drums, percussion, vocals
John Holbrook -- engineer
Eddie Offord -- engineer
Utopia -- album package concept
Gribbitt, Ltd. -- album package execution
Ron Slenzak -- front and back cover photography
Norman Seeff -- pyramid insert
Hal Fiedler -- calligrapher

return to UTOPIA discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US/CAN February 1977 Bearsville LP/CS BR 6965 lyric sleeve, insert
UK February 1977 Bearsville LP/CS K55514  
GER/NET 1977 Bearsville LP 200 755  
US   Bearsville/Rhino LP/CD/CS 70869  
EEC September 1999? Essential CD ESMCD-757 digitally remastered

 

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