I once read that bands like Yes, Uriah Heep and Kansas were influenced by a band called Touch. You would expect that this band would have become famous too, but that's not the case. Kerry Livgren from Kansas once said about Touch: 'I first heard their music while driving back from a gig in western Kansas sometime in 1969 or 1970. It was about 2AM and I was listening to a powerful AM-station out of Arkansas. I got about halfway through the song Seventy Five before I had to pull off the road and listen. The next day I bought two copies of their album, one to absorb and one for prosperity. Their songwriting, musicianship and arrangements were quite an inspiration to me. They were way ahead of their time and one of the best American progressive bands.' Touch consisted of John Bordonaro (drums), Don Gallucci (keyboards), Bruce Hauser (bass), Jeff Hawks (vocals) and Joey Newman (guitars). The album Livgren bought was their eponymous debut released in early1969.
This album can be considered to be one of the first progressive rock albums from the USA or even in the history of prog rock. Touch were led by Don Gallucci, a keyboardist who played with The Kingsmen when he was only 15 years old. They had a hit single with Louie, Louie in 1963. Unfortunately he couldn't tour with the band because of his school age. By 1966 he formed a band called Don & The Goodtimes that scored a top twenty hit. It was while recording a follow-up that Don decided to do something completely different. In 1993 he stated: 'The album was first and foremost a spiritual quest put to music, a search for the holy grail of its generation by way of sound. It was designed to go where no-one had musically gone before in order to break down barriers and walls in the mind to cause the listener to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Not through meditation or drugs, but through music.'
At the time Touch established a record deal by signing a contract for 25,000 dollar in advance, after much competitive biddings from other labels. They used the money to record the album at the Sunset Sound studios. Famous people like Mick Jagger, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Jimi Hendrix were spotted when they recorded the album, which sold very well when it came out. However, when the record label wanted them to tour, the band refused. They thought it to be impossible to recreate the studio album on stage. The label no longer wanted to support them and Touch disbanded within months. Gallucci became a record producer and worked with musicians like The Stooges and Tom Waits. Newman, Hauser and Hawks formed the hard rock outfit Stepson.
I actually never heard the album myself and I wasn't even aware of the fact that it existed until I received a reissue released by Esoteric Recordings. This release filled with bonus tracks and additional information, gave me the chance to listen to this lost treasure. I think you may call it a treasure considering the era it was recorded. It was written and recorded in 1968 and released in early 1969, just before the release of King Crimson' s In The Court Of The Crimson King and the eponymous debut album of Yes. The psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd is clearly present on the album, but also a band like Vanilla Fudge came to my mind, especially because of the sound of the organ. The keyboards played by Don Gallucci are certainly on a par with the music Keith Emerson made with The Nice during that same era. You'll hear the same kind of strong organ and piano playing throughout the album. Also frequently noticeable is the sound related to bands as Yes and Genesis of which Friendly Birds and Seventy Five are good examples. At other times I heard influences of the albums recorded by Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention. However, I believe they must have listened several times to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from The Beatles as well. So the music of Touch is very structured using rock and psychedelic influences, but classical and jazz influences as well. Sometimes all these influences are well integrated into one piece of music.
Apart from the seven original tracks this remastered edition contains five bonus tracks. The first one is the previously unreleased single We Finally Met Today. When the band refused to give live performances the record company refused to release this single in return. It's a rather happy tune played on the piano and the electric guitars. Alesha And Others is a live studio demo of the eponymous album track. Blue Feeling is a twelve-minute piece of music that didn't make it to album because of time restraints. It's kind of psychedelic extravaganza. Another live studio demo is The Spiritual Death Of Howard Greer. The last one, The Second Coming Of Suzanne, was originally recorded to be used as film music in 1973, but it has never been used. This track shows that Gallucci should have written more progressive rock tunes. With the Mellotron, organ, harpsichord and tone generator he created beautiful sounds.
What could have been possible if Gallucci had continued making this kind of music? This will always remain an unanswered question. According to various internet sources, Gallucci and Hawks are no longer active in the music scene, but in real estate and hairdressing business respectively. Newman still works as a musician, Bordonaro is a successful businessman and an equestrian in Southern California and Hauser lives a simple life in Central Florida.
You could say that 43 years after its first release, the music on this album by Touch sounds sometimes backward. However, they made an incredible album with only strong compositions. I'm certain that I would have bought this album if I had discovered it at the time. Therefore, I believe Touch is essential to all devotees of progressive rock music.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013