Archive for Utopia

Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1988: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- Up Your Alley

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2022 by 80smetalman

After listening to the 1988 “Up Your Alley” album from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, I have come to the conclusion that Joan is the second best American artist not to have cracked the UK. British readers are free to debate me on this point. The facts are that the album charted in the US, Finland, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand but didn’t seem to make a dent in the UK charts. Furthermore, I didn’t know of the album in 1988, nor did anyone I know mention it. Therefore, Joan now is set firmly in my mind as the second greatest American artist not to have cracked the UK, Billy Squier is number one. Shame, because “Up Your Alley” is a damn fine album.

The funny thing is that there is an air of familiarity with the first two songs. A little research revealed that the opener, “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” has appeared elsewhere, including the movie, “Birds of Prey.” I think I know the second track, “Ridin’ With James Dean” by name but both songs come out and grab you by the throat. After your eardrums have been blown apart by the first two songs, things slow down with the power ballad, “Little Liar.” Joan makes the transition without breaking sweat and shows she can sing ballads as well as rockers. Furthermore, this is the first song where I fully appreciate the guitar work of Ricky Byrd but he does lay down some great solos all over this album.

Two covers come next, first up is “Tulane,” a Chuck Berry original which is pretty good although I wouldn’t debate any claims that it’s filler. The second is a cover of The Stooges classic, “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Of the two, I prefer this cover. This track showcases another aspect of the entire album, the bassline and the pleasant surprise which came my way when I learned that Kasmir Sulton of Utopia fame provided those cool basslines.

Side two goes back to originals, although Desmond Child gets song writing credits on the opener, the ballad and “You Want In, I Want Out.” Anyway, before “You Want In, I Want Out,” which is a decent song, which again highlights Kasmir’s bass skills, is a band written ditty called, “I Still Dream About You.” They forego the Child inspired commercial melodies and just go totally rock out here. I class this one as the hidden gem for its sheer power. Guitars rule on “Just Like in the Movies” and I regret not including Joan in my ancient post of great rhythm guitarists. Ricky lays down an interesting guitar solo to say the least. The horn section gives this song a cool added dimension.

More guitar riffs adorn “Desire.” This is a slower song with doo-wop backing vocals. Not the greatest song on the album but not filler either. Thommy Price is let off the leash on “Back It Up” as he pounds the skins at the beginning of the track. This is raucous but catchy rocker and another hidden gem. “Play That Song Again” is the perfect closer for the album. It has a catchy melody behind the power chords which makes me want to say, “play this album again.”

Track Listing:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You
  2. Ridin’ With James Dean
  3. Little Liar
  4. Tulane
  5. I Wanna Be Your Dog
  6. I Still Dream About You
  7. You Want In, I Want Out
  8. Just Like in the Movies
  9. Desire
  10. Back It Up
  11. Play That Song Again
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Joan Jett- lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Ricky Byrd- lead guitar, backing vocals

Kasmir Sulton- bass, backing vocals

Thommy Price- drums

Additional Musicians:

The Uptown Horns

Robert Lawson- keyboards

Frank Carillo- guitar, backing vocals

Kenny Laguna- various instruments, backing vocals

Desmond Child, Chuck Kentiss, Louie Merlino, Paul Carrizzo- backing vocals

My weird mind again, I stated that back in 1982, after a bloody battle, Joan Jett usurped Pat Benatar’s throne as Queen of Rock. Six years later, I can’t say if Pat got her throne back or is Joan still the ultimate queen. If I were to judge but this album and Pat’s 1988 album, “Wide Awake in Dreamland,” I would say Joan keeps the crown as “Up Your Alley” totally rocks!

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Utopia

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2015 by 80smetalman


First, happy Thanksgiving to all! I know it’s a North American holiday but I still celebrate it every year despite living in the UK for nearly 30 years. British friends who have celebrated it with me, quickly see why I do. That’s why I wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving. My children love it so I have had three Thanksgiving dinners over the past week and a half and partly why I haven’t posted in over a week.

Now onto the self titled album from Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. I have only recently listened to this album. Back in early 1983, I read a negative review of it where it said that the other members of Utopia pull Todd down. I’ve never agreed with that and after listening to “Utopia,” I still don’t agree with it. Now, for the bad news, even though it doesn’t support the idea of Todd’s talents being wasted by joining up with the other members of the band, the album is still a few noticeable levels below their 1980 epic, “Adventures in Utopia.” The good news, though, is that it is better than their previous “Swing to the Right” album. Another point of history is that long time bassist, Kasmir Soulton, left during the composing of the album to pursue a solo career. I may visit this album.

“Utopia” opens with the best track on the album, “Libertine.” With the possible exception of “Hammer in My Heart,” it is probably the hardest rock song on it. When I first heard the opener, I thought that maybe the band was back to the glory days of “Adventures in Utopia.” Unfortunately, the album does tend to go more keyboard oriented and while this doesn’t destroy the album, it doesn’t make it great. I was not impressed by “Bad Little Actress” but “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” was rather amusing. Unfortunately, the next few songs sound pretty much the same. At least until you get to the more harder, “Hammer in My Heart.” That song takes things back up a little and “Burn Three Times” was even more amusing than “Feet.” On the first few notes of the closer, “There Goes My Inspiration,” I thought the album was going to go out on a total high. However, it soon drags a little making it and adequate closer and that’s is basically my verdict on “Utopia-” adequate.

Track Listing:

  1. Libertine
  2. Bad Little Actress
  3. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
  4. Neck On Up
  5. Say Yeah
  6. Call It What You Will
  7. I’m Looking at You But I’m Talking to Myself
  8. Hammer in My Heart
  9. Burn Three Times
  10. There Goes My Inspiration



Todd Rundgren- guitar, vocals

Roger Hammond- keyboards, synthesizers, vocals

Doug Howard- bass

John Willie Wilcox- drums

Like I said, “Utopia” is an adequate album from Utopia. There are some good points on it that outweigh the blandness. As for the question of Todd Rundgren wasting his talents with the band, I can add further light to this when I visit Todd’s 1983 solo album later on down the line.

Next post: Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band- The Distance

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Great Rock Albums of 1982: Utopia- Swing To The Right

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by 80smetalman


Back in 1982 or there about, I remember reading a review on a Utopia album, not sure if it was this one or their next one, where the reviewer stated that Todd Rundgren was being pulled down by the rest of the band. I never agreed with that statement because I have always thought that Powell, Sulton and Wilcox were all talented musicians and song writers in their own right. For me, this was purely the case with their 1980 album “Adventures in Utopia,” although that is their best album.

Let me say straightaway that “Swing to the Right” is not quite as good as the 1980 classic but it’s not that bad. They do venture away from the more hard/progressive rock sound of the classic and adopt a more new wave approach. For the most part it works and even before U2 made it popular in 1983, the album is full of political lyrics aimed at corporations, religion and war mongers. My impression was that it’s a dig at the Regan administration which embraced all of the things that Utopia were having a go at. It is also the reason why Bearsville Records were reluctant to release the album at first.

The opening title track is the most progressive rock like song on the album and it boasts an excellent guitar solo from Rundgren. “Lysistrata” is also a good track and the swing to the more new wave sound definitely begins here. “Junk Rock” goes even more new wave and is a dig at synth pop which was rapidly gaining a foothold in the early 80s. “Shinola” does go back to a more progressive sound and Rundgren’s vocals remind me of some of his 1970s solo albums. The next few tracks are all what I have already spoken about, lyrics about political issues played to a new wave sound. For the most part, I like it and the standout track from these is “Last Dollar On Earth.” The closer, “One World” goes a little ways back to the more known Utopia sound and that ends the album rather nicely.

Track Listing:

1. Swing to the Right

2. Lysistrata

3. The Up

4. Junk Rock

5. Shinola

6. For the Love of Money

7. Last Dollar On Earth

8. Farenheit 451

9. Only Human

10. One World



Todd Rundgren- guitar, vocals

Roger Powell- keyboards, synthesizer, vocals

Kasmir Sulton- bass, vocals, keyboards

John ‘Willie’ Wilcox- drums

Todd Rundgren deserves to be in the Rock Hall of Fame both as an artist and a producer. It’s an act a sacrilege that he isn’t. The argument that his playing with Utopia demeans his talents is totally rejected by me and many others. It could be said that he should be there a third time with Utopia because they have made some good albums over the years. “Swing to the Right” is one of them.

Next post: Survivor- Eye of the Tiger

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Great Rock Albums of 1981: Jim Steinman- Bad For Good

Posted in films, Music, Rock, soundtracks, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2014 by 80smetalman


They say that you should never judge a book by a cover and I think that also applies to record albums too; fortunately, not to this one by Jim Steinman. For those who aren’t so familiar with the name, Jim Steinman has worked as a record producer for many years and is responsible for producing some of the greats, including Meatloaf as well as the soundtrack to “Shrek 2.” In 1981, he tried his hand at cutting his own album, “Bad For Good” and it was pretty much a success for him. At first, I was attracted to the album by this rather cool looking at the time album cover. However, the music inside isn’t too bad except for one rather important detail: When I first listened to the album and even now, my first impression in my mind is, “This could have been Meatloaf.”

There is a definite resemblance to “Bat Out of Hell” throughout this album. Each and every song has that feel to it, especially the duet with Karla DeVito on “Dance In My Pants.” The style of the song bears strong connections to the famous “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” However, what this song has that the Meatloaf classic doesn’t is a killer guitar solo. That’s part of what makes the album as good as it is in the first place. Steinman’s vocal range is limited but he does have some powerful musicians behind him playing on the songs. Most notably, there is Todd Rundgren along with his band mates from Utopia who pop in and out on several songs. What results is a good rock sound that somehow straddles the line between FM commercialability and hard rock. Therefore, all can listen to it and not worry about going across the imaginary line. Still, only three tracks really stand out for me, the first of which I’ve already mentioned. The second is the single, “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through,” which I have on a compilation CD. The third is “Life and Death of an American Guitar,” which gets covered by the already mentioned Meatloaf on his “Bat Out of Hell 2” album. Speaking of that song, I don’t hear any difference between the two versions.

Track Listing:

1. Bad For Good

2. Lost Boys and Golden Girls

3.  The Life and Death of An American Guitar

4. Stark Raving Love

5. Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Fire)

6. Surf’s Up

7. Dance in My Pants

8. Left in the Dark

Extra EP

1. The Storm

2. Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through

Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman- lead vocals, keyboards, spoken word

Rory Dodd- lead vocals on “Surf’s Up,” “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through” and “Lost Boys and Golden Girls”

Karla DeVito- lead vocals on “Dance In My Pants”

Todd Rundgren- guitars

Davey Johnstone- guitars

Kasim Sultan- bass

Steve Buslowe- bass

Neal Jason- bass

Roy Bittan- piano

Steven Margoshes- piano

Roger Powell- synthesiser

Larry ‘Synergy’ Fast- synthesiser

Max Weinberg- drums

Alan Schwartzberg- drums

Joe Stefko- drums

Jimmy Maelen- percussion

Alan Rubin- trumpet

Tom Malone- horn arrangements and trombone

Lou Marini- tenor sax

Lew Del Gatto- baritone sax

Ellen Foley- backing vocals

Eric Troyer- backing vocals

What surprised me after doing a bit of homework on “Bad For Good” was how well it actually did commercially. In spite of many criticisms from the rock magazines at the time, it went to 62 in the US, 14 in Sweden and even broke into the top ten in the UK. With that success and an album that I actually liked, I remain surprised as to why Mr Steinman never has cut another album.

Next post: Grace Slick- Welcome to the Wrecking Ball

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Great Rock Albums of 1980: Utopia- Adventures in Utopia

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by 80smetalman


Staying on the subject of rock/metal acts who were considered great in their own country but never made headway into others, Todd Rundgren’s band Utopia comes to mind. I can’t think of anyone I know in Great Britain who has heard of them, however, when I have played this album to some of my British friends, they liked it. It is funny how at times music, no matter how good it is, never makes it across the Atlantic.

I read a review of a Utopia album sometime in the future. The critic stated that the rest of the band aren’t up to the talents of Todd Rundgren and as a result pull him down. My only speculation here is that the critic never heard this album. True, Todd Rundgren is nothing short of a musical genius and it is frustratingly shameful that he hasn’t been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, but the other members of Utopia are all good song writers, musicians and especially in the case of bassist Kasmir Sulton, good vocalist.

First, the album begins with the very strong track “Road to Utopia” where the space age intro grabs your attention straight away. Straight away, the talents of all four members are highlighted and it in no way downgrades over the rest of the album. I also love the element of humour in songs like “You Make Me Crazy” and Sulton’s vocals show their full potential on the track, “Set Me Free.” After the lengthy but not boring “Caravan” is a total bang your head rock out, “Last of the New Wave Riders.” Then there’s the “The Very Last Time,” which has some personal meaning for me and the slow love song “Love and Love Alone” that again showcases Kasmir’s vocals. Finally, the song goes out not just on a high, I’m talking cloud ten with “Rock Love.” A great closer to an album and an excellent song in it’s own right.

Track Listing:

1. Road to Utopia

2. You Make Me Crazy

3. Second Nature

4. Set Me Free

5. Caravan

6. Last of the New Wave Riders

7. Shot in The Dark

8. The Very Last Time

9. Love and Love Alone

10. Rock Love



Todd Rundgren- vocals, guitars

Kasmir Sulton- bass, vocals

Roger Powell- keyboards, synthesisers, backing vocals

John “Willie” Wilcox- drums, backing vocals

Anyone who agrees with the critic who said that Utopia diminish the talents of Todd Rundgren, should definitely go and listen to this album. In no way does “Adventures in Utopia” do that, in fact, it serves to showcase the talents of the other members. This is in my opinion, their best album.

Next post: Pat Benatar- Crimes of Passion

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