Kasim Sulton

Kasim

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Todd Rundgren's right-hand man in Utopia, Kasim Sulton stepped outside the Rundgren universe in 1981 for a solo album called Kasim. Produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had just come off of Loverboy's first album and Get Lucky, but had yet to helm the Bon Jovi and Aerosmith records that made him one of the biggest names in '80s hard rock, Kasim does indeed have a heavier attack than most of Utopia's turn-of-the-'80s records -- specifically the single "Set Me Free," one of the group's bigger hits and one that not so coincidentally featured Sulton on lead vocals -- it's still undeniably of a piece with the spacy, propulsive, album rock of Oops! Wrong Planet and Adventures in Utopia. Often, there's a sense that Sulton wanted to definitively break from Utopia -- this comes to a head on "Evil," an ominous piece of hard rock -- but Kasim is at its best when it's at its poppiest. "Don't Break My Heart" and "Drivin' Me Mad" are power pop numbers through and through, but elsewhere Sulton and Fairbairn create state-of-the-art AOR circa 1981, all shiny sculpted hooks and steely rhythms that shine in the neon glow. Sometimes, Sulton sounds a little boyish for his gilded surroundings but that gives Kasim a nice bit of tension underneath its melodicism: it winds up being an earnest Utopia album, one without a concept or quirk but all the rock and pop.

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