CD Reviews

Touchstone - 'Live In The USA' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 08, 2010    
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One thing is for certain, Touchstone deliver.

Back in issue #39* my interview with Touchstone revealed that they would be releasing a live album comprising the recordings made at the RosFest and CalProg festivals in 2009, they apparently being the first band to appear at both in the same year.

The final outcome is an album that does justice to them in the live environment, which can’t always be said of live albums as some bands feel the pressure of the ‘one off’ recording process. I like the honesty of these recordings because they clearly haven’t been ‘fixed’ in the studio giving them even greater credibility.

Not surprisingly they use the Jeremy Irons spoken intro from their ‘Wintercoast’ album to open proceedings before the track of the same name gets the music underway. The lovely gritty riff from guitarist Adam Hodgson and the majestic keyboards of Rob Cottingham set the bar of expectation very high, which the band maintains throughout. Kim Seviour’s vocals are spot on and Cottingham’s backing vocals compliment both the song and Seviour’s tones. The aspect I particularly like about this band is the way they’ve managed to bring together the fairly traditional Prog sound with the harder edged elements of the genre that Hodgson’s guitar brings to the party.

Wonderful symphonic keyboards introduce ‘Shadow’, a song that has a very pleasing tempo and the dual vocals are again absolutely delightful and are a hallmark of this band and what sets them apart. The chorus is as infectious as flu and the instrumental section delivers power and all the Prog credentials you could wish for. ‘The Mad Hatter’s Song’ has elements of early Marillion about it (notably the keyboard sound on the intro) and Camel comes to mind when Cottingham comes in with the lead vocal. Again, the bridge and chorus get stuck in your head and in true Prog fashion the song is split into various different styles and themes. The opening instrumental passage of ‘Joker In The Pack’ shows the prowess of the playing as Paul Moorghen (bass) and drummer Al Melville lay down a fine rhythm for Hodgson to play a shredding solo over.

Once again the vocals on ‘Original Sin’ are splendid as are the melody, the chorus and Hodgson’s guitar accentuations. This power ballad is one of the band’s best songs and really comes across as something a bit special in the live environment. ‘Black Tide’ is another great song that has a hint of Mostly Autumn about it thanks to the dual vocals. The power is built nicely from ballad to all out rock on the back of a very strong melody, and Prog fans will delight at the keyboard and guitar interplay the closes the song.

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Disc one is rounded out by ‘Line In The Sand’ which features another strong theme and a lovely delivery from Seviour and Cottingham that makes the chorus so memorable. Cottingham gets to show his capabilities as keyboard player with a fine piano section followed by a scintillating synth solo.

The second disc opens with ‘Dignity’ and again Marillion comes to mind after the beautifully dual vocal section that starts the song suddenly bursts into life with a keyboard refrain followed by a fine solo from Hodgson, which receives a spontaneous round of applause from an appreciative crowd. ‘Zinomorph’ is a real rocker and rattles along on a solid beat with the bass and drums being prominent. The switch of pace that’s injected is well executed and fits the song nicely. ‘Voices’ carries on the good work with its multiple themes and tempos whilst the pairing of ‘Discordant Dreams’ and ‘The Beggar’s Song’ is a veritable Progfest but coupled with a huge slice of Melodic Rock. As with earlier songs Seviour’s undoubted ability is to the fore with the sustained notes being perfectly executed. Having met her it’s truly amazing that someone that small can deliver in this manner.

‘Solace’ is a ballad, and one which didn’t convince me because of the lyrical content when I first heard it, but I’ve been won over by the beauty of the song’s construction and feel. Seviour is a little shaky on this one, but at least it proves the album’s authenticity. ‘Strange Days’ picks the tempo up again and Hodgson’s riffing is splendid, making for a fine rounding out of the set as the band attack the song with gusto. The swapping of lead and backing vocals by female and male vocalists makes for a particularly impressive arrangement.

An encore is called for and this sees a good friend of the band, John Mitchell (Arena, Kino, It Bites…..) join them on stage for a cover of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ which rocks when compared to the original.

One thing is for certain, Touchstone deliver. If you’ve not caught up with them yet then this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Gary Marshall

(* ... of Fireworks Magazine)

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