This week, Todd Rundgren has released his most recent studio album, State. Edsel Records has recently given longtime Rundgren fans the chance to revisit the first solo LP from one of Todd’s longest-serving sidemen, Kasim Sulton. Edsel’s reissue of 1982’s EMI America album Kasim is available now.
Sulton, a bassist and singer, joined Todd Rundgren’s Utopia for its fifth, longest-lasting incarnation. This four-piece Utopia line-up of Rundgren, Sulton, keyboardist Roger Powell and drummer John “Willie” Wilcox, formed in 1976 and released five albums between 1977 and 1982. While in Utopia, Sulton played and sang on Meat Loaf’s 1977 Bat Out of Hell for producer Rundgren, and formed an association with Meat Loaf that lasted well into the 21st century. It was Sulton who wrote Utopia’s only Top 40 single with 1980’s “Set Me Free,” and that song’s success led the session pro and band stalwart to take its title to heart. Feeling constrained by the limitations of the band, he departed in search of solo stardom. The result was Kasim.
There's more after the jump, including the full track listing with discography, and order links!
Following abortive work with producer Roy Thomas Baker, Sulton enlisted Bruce Fairbairn to helm his solo debut. Recording at Los Angeles’ Ocean Way Studios, Sulton and Fairbairn assembled a 10-song collection that doesn’t sonically stray too far from the kind of upbeat pop Sulton was creating as a member of Rundgren’s Utopia collective. Sulton had a hand in writing every track on the album, both solo and with co-writers including Deborah Bucks, William Mernitt, and the album’s percussionist/co-producer Mark Onofrio. Following in the footsteps of his old employer Rundgren, Sulton played most instruments himself, aided by Onofrio’s percussion, Roger Powell’s synthesizers, Blue Oyster Curt member Buck Dharma’s guitar, and even the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section.
The enjoyable, up-tempo music of Kasim has aged as well as Utopia’s releases of the era. The catchy “Someone to Love” is redolent of “Set Me Free,” and “This Must Be Love” is pure power pop. Horns punctuate “Don’t Break My Heart” and “Drivin’ Me Mad.” “Roll the Dice” affirms the need to take a chance, which Sulton certainly did with his solo album, and “Just a Little Bit” is in the mold of big ‘80s power ballads.
Its Edsel reissue, overseen by Val Jennings, includes a full-color 16-page booklet and new liner notes from Paul Myers. Myers, author of Rundgren biography A Wizard, A True Star, also wrote essays for Edsel’s Rundgren/Bearsville series and the label’s reissue of albums from Roger Powell and M Frog, another Utopia alumnus. Sulton himself contributed to Myers’ essay and also provides insightful track-by-track liner notes in which he’s reflective about the album and the tumultuous period surrounding his departure from, and return to, Utopia. Phil Kinrade has remastered Kasim.
While recording Kasim, Sulton was replaced by Doug Howard for 1982’s Utopia album. When it became clear upon its release that Kasim wasn’t taking off, he returned to Utopia. Howard stepped aside, and Sulton's work appeared on Utopia. He’s very circumspect and frank in the liner notes: “You would think that Todd might have said ‘I told you so’ or give me a hard time, but, to his credit, he didn’t do any of that…I’ve been playing on and off with Todd ever since. Sure, I was young and foolish in my 20s, but even in my 50s, I can see that I was just going for it, rolling the dice.” The Rundgren/Sulton/Powell/Wilcox group remained active for a further two albums before disbanding in 1986. (The foursome reunited once more in 1992. Sulton joined Rundgren and a different Utopia group in 2011.) In the 2000s, Kasim has played with Meat Loaf, Rundgren, The New Cars, Blue Oyster Cult, and numerous others.
Kasim, Sulton’s roll of the dice, is back in a sparkling new edition from Edsel. You can order at the link below!
Kasim Sulton, Kasim (EMI America LP ST-17063, 1982 – reissued Edsel EDSA 5016, 2013) (Amazon U.K.)
- Someone to Love
- White and Red
- This Must Be Love
- Don’t Break My Heart
- Drivin’ Me Mad
- Roll the Dice
- Just a Little Bit
- Sweet Little Accident
- Rock and Roll
Kevin Langin says
This is a great review, and it's good to see the album highlighted, but Kasim is present throughtout the 1982 'Utopia' album, so I question the "replaced by Doug Howard" statement.
Joe Marchese says
Thanks, Kevin! Indeed...I've clarified the original post to make it clearer that while Doug initially did step in, Kasim appears on UTOPIA.
Kevin Langin says
Thank you, Joe. Love your site!
utopia girl says
Great review! It's refreshing to see an appreciation of what Kasim did in and out of Utopia. Reviewers of Utopia's releases back in the 70s and 80s tended to be pretty brutal, and totally dismissed the contributions of Kasim, Roger, and Willie. It's too bad EMI didn't promote this record. Who knows what kind of success it could have seen if they had been behind it more.