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Touchstone - Mad Hatters CD (album) cover



Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Keyboardist/singer Rob Cottingham created this UK band in 2001 with a much different line-up than on their official releases.It featured Michael Daly on guitar, Mike Forrester on bass, Miriam Pugh on saxophone and Andrew Harman on drums.However it was in 2003 when things really turned the corner for Touchstone, when Rob met guitarist Adam Hodgson through an ad to find that they shared the same tastes around music.Writing material became a much easier experience since then and in 2006 the band self-released a 20-min. 4-track EP with a refreshed formation, featuring also bassist Paul Moorghen, female singer Liz Clayden and drummer Simon Cook.

As the band's influences indicate, Touchstone tried to mix the prog aesthetics of bands like YES or PINK FLOYD with the catchy approach of ASIA and VAN HALEN.The result is pretty much along the influences' paths, memorable, quite melodic but also Hard Rockin' Progressive/Art-Rock with emphasis on easy-listening tunes, good vocals and balanced instrumentation.The first couple of tracks are good examples of the sound: Groovy and rich musicianship with flashy keyboard work, nice guitar solos and modern yet expressive vocals blended with a sense of melody between the heavier parts.''Hear Me'' follows more of a PINK FLOYD-ian mood.Low tempo composition with supporting background keys and nice GLIMOUR-ish guitars along with the best vocal work of this short album.The 8-min. ''The Mad Hatters' Song'' is another nice arrangement.Alternating male and female vocals with fantastic emotion throughout, smooth piano passages, heavy but pretty nice guitar work and a groovy catchy finale showcase a band with talent and capable of creating something great.

A good introduction to the band's sound.Heavy Progressive/Art-Rock, memorable, well-crafted and intricate at moments, somewhat along the lines of SKY ARCHITECT and SUBSIGNAL.Warmly recommended.

Report this review (#622444)
Posted Sunday, January 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The first steps!

In 2006 touchstone released an EP featuring 20 minutes divided in four tracks, in which the band included their first compositions, their first steps in the progressive rock world. Since then, they have developed an own style which though in my opinion has to be more exploded, one can now easily recognize their music. Since these first songs we can notice they had been influenced by AOR or hard rock bands, which is why their music has almost always both, a catchy tune and a kind of heavy prog style.

The first track here is "Misguided Fool" which is a great track, with a wonderful keyboard sound that puts the symphonic element which is blended by the heavy guitars and drums. The male voice is pretty nice, a very good complement, and all together produce later a kind of symph- crossover-AOR sound, that will be used in the whole EP. "One Shot" keeps the same form and continues with the same path, actually, the track is pretty alike as the opener, only here they don't give a main role to the keyboards.

"Hear me" starts with a more delicate sound, with an atmospheric synth accompanied by delicate guitar notes and even a distant piano. Here for the first time we can listen to female vocals as backing ones, adding a special touch to this cool and emotive track. "The Madhatter's song" is the longest composition here with eight minutes length. The first seconds are like a lullaby but later it explodes and becomes heavier and dynamic, with a great use of keyboards and guitar. In the song we can find several mini passages, some of them are rockier some softer, but all of them contain emotional vocals that produce a patron that will be followed during the whole track. In the last part we can also listen to some Yes reminiscences.

This is a very good EP, with four nice songs that show the dawn of a pretty good band. My grade, 3 stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#780483)
Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This is the new EP from this Hertfordshire quintet, who comprise Rob Cottingham (vocals, keys), Liz Clayden (vocals), Adam Hodgson (guitars), Paul Moorghen (bass, backing vocals) and Simon Cook (drums). This is all about classic rock, prog rock, call it what you will, well performed and executed. Five songs, all showing different sides to the band but the most important part about this is that the music is so damn accessible and (whisper it) catchy. I mean, prog is supposed to be deadly serious and not for having a good time, Right? Wrong! This is boisterous bouncy music that can be serious and calm when it wants to be, but generally just doesn't. This is all about going back to a time when prog was all about having fun, which is something that these days not too many bands remember.

The use of twin vocals works particularly well, with the two voices complimenting each other ? also something that is unusual within the prog context. I can remember Mr So & So doing something like this towards the end of their career, but not many since with the male being dominant but the female being equally as important. Given that this is a self release, one has to admire the work that has gone into it. They recorded at John Mitchell's studio and used Rob Aubrey to mix it while the artwork of guitarist Adam Hodgson is superb. It all adds to a great package and is most definitely worth investigation

Report this review (#906925)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2013 | Review Permalink

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