Freak Parade

Take Your Place In The Freak Parade

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Freak Parade is the name of a band formed by founding members of Utopia: composer/keyboardist Mark "Moogy" Klingman and drummer Kevin Ellman. It is really the reincarnation of the first version of Utopia, mixing visionary music with strange progressive rock -- that is, progressive rock with quirky twists and pop sensibilities, not the Emerson, Lake & Palmer style with which the format is typically associated. Freak Parade works better than most Utopia recordings because the skills of Klingman are allowed to flourish here. After all, when Utopia was formed in 1973, Todd Rundgren joined most of the members of Moogy and the Rhythm Kings, and it started off as their band. The Dave Mason/Todd Rundgren composition "Utopia Theme" concludes the disc, and is as long and winding as the John Siegler/Todd Rundgren/Mark Klingman creation "Freak Parade," both reworkings of the songs from the original Utopia album on Bearsville. In the year 2000, Moogy and the Mojos was Klingman's band. With the return of Ellman, Freak Parade formed with members of the Mojos in a déjà vu fashion -- the way that Utopia had originally developed. The record is amazing. Don Celenza's guitar redirects "Utopia Theme," a quagmire of vocals and sound effects. There are only about six lines in the entire song, but it's fantastic. The album begins with "Crazy World," a composition by Klingman and Anthony Michael Hall; the semi-Bo Diddley beat is offset by the pop structure, which could easily slide onto Lou Reed's Rock & Roll Heart album. The high points of this excellent disc are the Buzzy Linhart/Klingman collaboration "Fountain of Youth" and Klingman's "Coney Island." "Fountain of Youth" has Klingman dueting with Katia Floreska, the very pretty female vocalist who adds a staggering voice to this dense music. The 1994 tune is everything Utopia was about; Freak Parade take that vision and do more with it. The bizarre cover art of Erik Drooker has blue, black, and white figures down long corridors of life, like some circus sideshow. The songs reflect the various rides one can find at an amusement park, especially the exquisite "Coney Island." Where Lou Reed's "Coney Island Baby" is a melancholy epic, and Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" fulfilled hope, Klingman answers them both with a tour de force about having a good time with the one you love. This is the ultimate cult recording, and that it is basically found only on various Internet record sellers -- as well as -- it makes it a special find for fans of all the groups Klingman has worked with. Hearing titles like "Undercover Man" (a great spy tune from 1995) or a reworking of "Kindness" from Klingman's album The First Recordings, 1970-1972, one gets the idea that had Rundgren and Reed kept Klingman onboard and utilized more of his ed artists owe it to themselves to seek this band out.

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