Escape Music [Release Date 26.03.21]
Here’s a reunion few ever expected to see. Touch are most famous to the wider world as the band that opened the first ever Monsters of Rock at Download in 1980. Many years later I discovered their debut album, which with its layered vocal arrangements and over the top pomp rock swiftly became one of my all time favourites.
Very little has been seen or heard of them in the intervening 40 years. A second album was recorded but only eventually saw the light of day as a second disc on a reissue in the late nineties which was one of Frontiers Records earliest releases.
Then in 2014 a Touch line-up played the farewell Firefest as a one-off show, though the effect was lessened by the fact there was just one original member in keyboard wizard Mark Mangold- the only one to have much of a profile in the intervening years, initially as a songwriter of Michael Bolton’s great AOR work, then with his own projects, notably Flesh and Blood, The Sign and most notably Drive, She Said.
So it was with a sense of disbelief that I heard the news a year or two back that all four of the original band’s members- including guitarist Craig Brooks, bassist Doug Howard and drummer Glenn Kithcart- had reunited, which sounded too good to be true until this album dropped.
Unsurprisingly a keyboard intro heralds the opening title track which is quite piano-driven with flashes of lead guitar work. Up tempo and melodic, its nevertheless a fairly low key opener but those three way vocals that defined the Touch sound intertwine beautifully. ‘Let It Come’ is also vintage Touch, overly so as it rather cheekily reprises the intro to their best-known song ‘Don’t You Know What Love Is’. The vocals of Craig Brooks, the highest pitched of the trio, sound remarkably good supported by backing vocals, with fine keyboard and guitar solos.
But then comes an indication that this comeback is very much not playing it safe. ‘Swan Song’ is nearly eight minutes and far proggier in nature – there is not much of a hook or chorus and large parts are instrumental with the band, Mark in particular going off on some freeform jamming that will appeal to fans of ELP or early period Styx and Kansas.
‘Try To Let Go’ is modern and experimental in feel with a tribal chanting effect on the choruses – I couldn’t get into it when it was a Drive She Said song and try as I might, it still jars with the rest of the album. ‘Fire and Ice’ is reassuringly more Touch with Craig’s soaring vocals and classic synth and organ work in the middle.
They then change tack slightly again with a pair of mellow, classy songs with the emphasis on vocals and instrumental excess reined in, in ‘Trippin Over Shadows’ which I am pretty sure has Doug singing, and ‘Frozen Ground’, led off by Mark. The arrangements are brilliant and on the latter the harmony vocals go into Crosby Stills and Nash territory at one point, though there is still room for some vintage parping synths.
As a complete contrast ‘Lil Bit of Rock n Roil’ rocks out with a shuffle rhythm that sits somewhere between ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Race With The Devil’, complete with Sweet–type helium-filled backing vocals on the chorus and a guitar and synth battle that outdoes vintage Deep Purple. Best of all, the sense of fun they must have had making it really shines through.
Vocals are also shared on ‘Glass’ which is a grower and one of the more experimental on the album, as is ‘Scream at the Sky’, a long moody piece with an almost jazzy swing but some nice guitar work from Craig.
The penultimate number ‘’Wanna Hear You Say’ may be my favourite on the whole album, pompy AOR bliss with vocals soaring over a bank of harmonies Boston-style, and more classic keyboard work, the brittle synths reminiscent of late seventies bands like Roadmaster and Zon. ‘Run for Your Life’, though not quite in the same league with a somewhat repetitive ‘its all too much chorus’ ends the album with more trademark synth solos.
This is an intriguing release, with enough of the classic Touch sound yet in places harking even further back to the seventies. Yet it is boldly diverse, rarely formularised and even experimental in places. While nothing will ever compare to the majesty of the debut this is a better comeback than even their most fanatical fans could have realistically imagined. **** 1/4
Review by Andy Nathan
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 March 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.
Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.
Featured Albums w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 GARY HUGHES Decades (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 METALITE A Virtual World (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 KAT DANSER One Eye Open (indie)
Power Plays w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
ALTZI Point Of No Return (RA Music)
DIRTY LACES Breathe (Golden Robot Records)
ASHEN MOON Ashen Moon (Golden Robot Records)
ANDREWW Shadow Love (indie)
JORDAN RED Freak Show (indie)
HAYES & Y Empty Orchestra (indie)
KELSEY BOVEY Another World (indie)
NEPTUNE RAIN We Breathe The Same (indie)
Tweets by Get Ready to ROCK!