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Touchstone - The City Sleeps CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.84 | 97 ratings

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4 stars Touchstone elicited my interest only because among my many favorite prog styles, I have always enjoyed female-fronted prog-rock bands, not afraid of a little sexy rock music, especially if its vehiculated by a strong voice and some inspired playing (like Karnataka, Breathing Space, The Reasoning, Panic Room, Mostly Autumn etc?). I was worried that Touchstone may be a little too metalloid for me but its just the right amount of power and bombast, as the keys play a massive part, Rob Cottingham likes to weave some slithery synths into the melee and does so often. Plus he is unafraid to introduce the piano with regularity which is always a good sign of musicianship and creative vision. That being said, guitarist Adam Hodgson likes to rasp the fretboard with unfettered zeal, his rhythmic work really putting some steel into the arrangements. His leads are definitely in the John Mitchell/Nick Barrett line of sizzling playing, always astute and arousing. Henry Rogers drums like a rock drummer should, solid and intrepid. But the combined vocals of stunning babe Kim Seviour and Cottingham are really what make this such a consistent joyride. Finally bassman Andre P Moorghen plays with bruising bravado on all tracks, mixed nicely so we can all hear him rumble with authority. He is good, very good indeed. As far as the material on this album goes, the release has three basic variables: The great prog, the good prog and then the no-prog .

1-We have a thrilling opener (I have never heard them before, so it was crucial initial anesthesia) in "Corridors", a perfect bustling intro into their musical vision. It's followed by a massive gem in "When Shadows Fall", an epic 10 minute explosion of style that caught me completely off guard. The keys are magnificent, superb piano and whopping synths by Cottingham, who otherwise excels on sharing the mike with Kim. "Sleeping Giants" is a drop-dead beautiful ballad that has a superb symphonic edge (colossal waves of luscious keys) with excellent vocals, male and female, detailed orchestrations (plucking strings) and memorable verses and chorus. Wow! Highlight reel, please. There is another scintillating ballad here in the shape of "Half Moon Meadow", where Kim just soars with utter delight, Cottingham joining in what is perhaps best described as a prog duet , not always a successful etude. But here it's just beyond words, the playing equally superlative, as per the rousing lead guitar solo that devastates with rage and passion. I could listen to this all day. Plus a synth solo just in case you is hungry. Wham Bam Baby! The epic title track is fully deserving of its marquee status, an explosive symphonic ride that is simply beyond the norm, reptilian bass furrowing through the urban decay, whizzing along with the drums flailing away, the keys and guitars ablaze. This is why I enjoy prog, there is such a thin line between sweat and courage, so when you combine the two, you get a just listening reward. "Corridors Epiphany" is perhaps the proverbial cherry on top, a superb little ditty that is heartstoppingly astounding and finishes off the disc.

2- Decent tunes like "Throw Them to The Sky" provide a little breathing room, a pleasant track that delivers a good vibe. The ribald and lusty "Good Boy Psycho" is brash and bruising yet has a mischievous spark that grabs one's attention immediately, contrasting heavy riffs with bombastic vocals, sort of a nasty yet seductive selection. The sweet and gentle mid-section is a complete surprise with some fab effects, could wind up in the 1 category, just on the knife's edge. "Horizons" also likes to teeter-totter between the rough and the serene, pastoral one moment and bellicose the next, I guess this is what makes Touchstone tick. The rough bass line is to expire over, gritty and fuzzed out just like I like it! Suave axe solo to boot. Yeah, this is also near 1 territory.

3- Less interesting is the brief "These Walls" a more straight ahead rocker, that punishes but shows little afterglow. In the end, it does not affect the outcome at all.

This is a cool, refreshing album that will please many in the sympho crowd, the fans of female fronted bands and the metal boys/girls out there who like to flaunt their leather. I am enthralled by this introduction to my collection and I look forward to their next killer album. I also intend to give this many future spins, as there is really too much to like here.

4.5 rocky fingers

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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