Johnny Rivers

A Touch of Gold

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There were a few years in Johnny Rivers' career when he was generating so much high-quality work, that fine albums could just sneak right past the public and what reviewers there were (hey, this was 1969, and rock criticism was still new), even in relatively inactive periods. Such was the case with A Touch of Gold, which is not officially a compilation but assembles a few relatively recent hits interspersed with left-over tracks from various sessions over the previous two years, plus a handful of new sides recorded specifically for it, into as solid a listening experience as anything one might likely pick up on 12" vinyl in 1969. The sounds range from straight-ahead rock & pop and AM pop/rock through soul and blues, with a couple of important places where they get merged. And the highlights include a Motown-style rendition of Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On," a killer rendition of "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" pre-dates Glen Campbell's -- paired off with another Jimmy Webb-authored classic, "Do What You Gotta Do," and a devastatingly powerful rendition of James Hendricks' "Look to Your Soul." And that's before you get to the beautifully stretched-out "Ode to John Lee," a guitar-driven workout -- and one of the four new tracks recorded for this album -- that could have run three times as long as its official seven minutes for the money, paying tribute to the renowned blues idol in a style at which Rivers was equally adept. And that's not counting the handful of chart hits ("Summer Rain," etc.) that are here. Rivers is very good at all of it, with a chameleon-like presence in the various musical settings. By 1969, he was no longer exactly a leading artist, and there was too much competition from other styles, and a busier marketplace for him to dominate music the way he had four years before, but this album showed him still capable of delivering fine songs a dozen at a time.