It's not that easy to separate Todd Rundgren's solo work from Utopia since Utopia was the most signficant live presence for Rundgren over the years. But the Utopia project began in 1973 and stayed intact for through 1986. It has re-emerged in the past two or three years and continues at present. Rundgren has had a number of band mates in Utopia including multi-instrumentalist artists and friends like Dave Mason and his current bassist, Kasim Sulton.
Rundgren has performed with an encyclopedia of artists and has fronted a number of bands. He has cited a lot of British pop-rock from the Beatles through Pink Floyd as well as American rock bands like the Beach Boys. He also cites Broadway and the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as American soul and R&B music. It is safe to say that Rundgren is an extremely eclectic musician and there is no question that Utopia was shaped by a vast array of Rundgren's influences.
Main Creative Force
Todd Rundgren IS Utopia and unquestionably it's creative engine.
Most Likely To Be A Mainstream Rocker
As progressive and eclectic as Rundgren is, he could essentially walk into any band as a guitarist or keyboardist and fit.
First Hint of Prog Brilliance
Todd Rundgren's solo career began to move into progressive territory in the early 70s with 'A Wizard, A True Star'. This carried over into Utopia which was a progressive project from day one.
'Todd Rundgren's Utopia' was highly progressive and included a Utopia Theme which introduced the LP, a grand total of 4 songs totalling a full hour, and a second side consisting of one 30-minute piece called 'The Ikon'. The entire thing was designed as a live show as well as an album and there was a lot of theatricality to it. The album was actually too long for vinyl and forced Rundgren to compress the songs to fit them onto the LP, resulting in a poorer sound quality. Later digital formats would alleviate this problem. While many critics called it pretentious, the album sold well and Rundgren continued to push the limits of the definition of rock and roll for years to come.
Influenced By Them
Rundgren is an extremely influential musician and producer. He was one of the first artists to produce videos of his music utilizing digital effects and computer animation. Musically, there is no doubt he influenced artists in the 70s and 80s by combining orchestration, production techniques, and visual elements in rock and roll. Utopia's live shows probably influenced a decade of rock video makers in the 80s.
Rundgren lectured at DePauw University in Indiana with a presentation entitled, "Music, Technology, and Risk-Taking". The fact that he continues to push boundaries musically and then openly talk about the process and his motivations is a powerful legacy to leave the world of rock and roll. He still performs and these shows include live presentations of 'A Wizard, A True Star' as well as Utopia performing live, as well.
My Personal Take
Rundgren is capable of anything having to do with the music business. His record as a composer, performer, producer, video-maker, and theorist are unmatched. I don't really like everything of his that I've heard, but then Todd Rundgren is so eclectic, it is highly unlikely that anyone likes all of it. Anytime I have heard him speak, there is a wry cynicism coupled with true artistic sensibility that makes him very easy to admire. In many ways, he comes across as a genius in the music business who is really above public opinion. That certainly makes him unique.