RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Billy James – A Dream Goes On Forever: The Continuing Story Of Todd Rungren, Vol. 2 – The Utopia Years (book)

Rating: B+

Multi-media underground music legend Billy James wears many hats, but perhaps his biggest project in terms of sweat equity is his monstrous and academic two tome examination of Todd Rundgren in all his guises, with the second book being sorta 85% Utopia (the genesis of the story is in the first book, issued in 2002). Together it’s 850 pages of astoundingly detailed scholarship, with the subject at hand, the sort of ’77-forward book, contributing 390 of those stuffed pages.

The odd layout, using many different typestyles to put some order to all the asides, is maintained from the first work, but the treatment of these complex pages is treated more artfully, making for a professional presentation. Included are regular and instructive black and white photos plus a tipped-in color section, eye candy as we trawl through every nuance and nook and cranny of the Utopia experience, song by song, as well as side trips to Hermit Of Mink Hollow, Healing, and even Metal Loaf. In other words, the operative in the book’s unwieldy title is “years,” meaning you’re gonna get a blow by blow account of everything these guys are generating during Utopia’s reign as a frustrating, quirky, eccentric band doomed to not click with enough people. Tours solo and as group, TV appearances, Todd’s production jobs, artwork... James and his researcher Tony Rogers leave no stone unturned, even providing both live and record reviews from press and fans, closing off with a detailed discography and tour archive.

Obviously, this is a great companion reference guide to those who want to geek out and explore a considerable catalogue that, record by record, fell off the mainstream as soon as it could be corporately launched to no response. But there’s another current to be enjoyed, and that’s the buoyancy of the human spirit embodied in the team of James and Rogers as they toil away for the love of the academia of it all, the gathering and imparting of knowledge, even though they would have had to be sure that financial rewards would be slight.

And then lastly, this book, through the authors’ resolute and studied enthusiasm and the mountain of trivia given over... at the end of it, if you weren’t on board before, you’re relationship with the Utopia records will be vastly more rich. C’mon, that’s gotta feel nice, because, admit it, you sure didn’t pay top dollar for all them used and punched and promo Utopia records parked in your U’s, previously only driven on Sunday afternoons round the block to keep the engine lubricated.

By Martin Popoff