Tuesday 25 May 2021

Touch - Tomorrow Never Comes (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 30 Apr 2021
Sites: Facebook | Wikipedia

Touch's claim to fame is that they were the first band to ever play the Monsters of Rock festival, given that they opened the very first one in 1980, but they were certainly the most melodic rock band on its bill. They recorded two albums, imaginatively titled Touch and Touch II in the early eighties, though it took until 1998 for the second to see release, on The Complete Works I & II. They split up at some point, probably way back in the early eighties, but got back together last year, with the original line-up. The result is this album and it makes me want to go back to refresh myself on its predecessors.

Given that I don't remember them right now, I'll point out that, here at least, they play very much in a melodic rock vein, crafting catchy songs like Fire and Ice and Run for Your Life with decent riffs, plenty of keyboards and strong vocal hooks. Songs like Let It Come reminded me of mid-seventies Jefferson Airplane, especially when whoever's singing really gets going late in the song, aiming at what Mickey Thomas did on Freedom at Point Zero. Nobody's actually credited for vocals, presumably because all four members sing and presumably swap lead duties. I couldn't tell.

They soften up too at points, unsurprisingly given the later work of songwriter Mark Mangold writing for artists like Michael Bolton and Laura Branigan. He even had a top ten hit for Cher, though he wrote it for Bolton and Branigan recorded it first. Trippin' Over Shadows is unmistakably soft rock and it fits well on this album, because that's hardly a rare approach. Wanna Hear You Say starts out heavier but becomes very soft indeed during the midsection, especially given where the keyboards go. This is pop music at points, even if it's built like a rock song.

More importantly, Touch also veer into other genres and they're certainly at their most interesting to me when they drift into progressive rock, as they do on Swan Song. This is easily my favourite song on the album and it's also the longest at almost eight minutes, reminding at points of Boston with hard rock guitars but prominent keyboards. They approach a sort of Steely Dan-esque jazz rock at points as well, such as on Scream at the Sky, and that can be really effective. It all helps give the album quite a variety. There's even a nod to funk rock at the end of the exquisitely catchy Try to Let Go.

Mangold is definitely very obvious on the keyboards and, I'm guessing, the most frequent lead vocals. Behind him, Craig Brooks definitely makes his presence known on guitar. Even at its softest, this gives him constant opportunities and he takes advantage of them. I particularly enjoyed his soloing, which is very old school in the sense that he doesn't feel the need to particularly show off but knows exactly how to add another level to a song in his solo anyway. Doug Howard and Glen Kithcart are reliable on bass and drums respectively. Again, they both avoid doing anything flash in favour of doing what the songs need them to do and they do that well.

It's great to see an old band back with their original line-up and I hope it felt good for them. It doesn't look like they left the music business when Touch split. Certain Mangold was busy as a songwriter and performer; Howard was perhaps even more busy recording with names of the calibre of Edgar Winter, Todd Rundgren and Roy Buchanan (or so says Wikipedia; I'm not seeing that on Discogs, though he has a lot of songwriting credits with Utopia); and Brooks played with Michael Bolton and sang on a Roger Glover solo album. Only Kithcart seems to have vanished until this reunion.

And, however much or however little they've done musically since Touch split up, this feels vibrant and fresh. It certainly doesn't feel like a first album in forty years, which is exactly what it is. I guess, the album title notwithstanding, tomorrow does eventually come. And, while I don't remember those early albums, welcome back, folks!

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