Freedom Ring

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There was a time in the mid-'90s when Touch was one of the best bands to go see play live in the Lubbock, TX, music scene, and while it doesn't necessarily do the immense power and energy of the band justice, Freedom Ring, Touch's second independently released album, does act as a sort of document for those times and helps to explain just how truly exciting and original they were in their prime before it all fell apart. The great thing about Freedom Ring is how incredibly and effortlessly melodic and memorable most of the songs are; it stands entirely on its own as a first-class recording in the songwriting department. Since their first release came out before they had really developed their signature sound, much of the band's live show was culled from this album, so many of the crowd-pleasing favorites -- like "Fly to the Sun," "Down," and "Indian Style" -- are here in surprisingly satisfying and true-to-life form. The only real disappointment is "Evil So Evil," the band's crowning compositional achievement, which, in a live setting, allowed the high-octane rhythm section of Avant and Anderson to tear the house down with the song's hypnotic and pulsating, head-bobbing backbeat; yet, here in its recorded version, it manages to sound a little stilted and simply cannot be compared to the excitement of hearing it performed on-stage by a band as frenetic and cathartic as Touch often was. Another astonishing aspect to Freedom Ring is just how tight and free of meandering tangents the performances are, especially considering the fact that Touch excelled primarily as a somewhat jazzy, psychedelically tinged, but also thunderously Zeppelin-esque jam band who could improvise better than almost anyone in and around the Lubbock music scene; that's precisely what made them stand out and why they were such a premier live draw in the first place. The band has a tendency to overdo it on the sound effects and ambient noises in several songs, but overall, Freedom Ring is essential to anybody interested in the accurate history of the growing Lubbock, TX, music scene, and more importantly, it's a thrilling album from an exceptionally thrilling band who got lost in the shuffle and disappeared from the light much too soon.