Street Suite

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Coming directly from playing live with some of the finest hard rock bands of the era, Touch entered the studio to record their only album in 1968, released the following year in a limited pressing of 100 LPs. This Gear Fab reissue collects that entire album with the original lineup's two non-LP 45s, three songs recorded by the altered post-LP lineup, and a couple cuts by the Essence, the latter day band of Touch leader Ray Schulte. As such, it is the complete collection of the band's intense, sometimes left-leaning psychedelia grounded in blues. The early singles, which show the band as still slightly tentative, include a slowed-down version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" bolstered by some nice fuzz guitar and a smoking take on the traditional "Stormy Monday Blues," as well as two solid band compositions. At this stage in the band's existence, Paulette Butts still mainly sang harmony to Schulte's appealingly gruff lead, but she began to surface out front more on the LP, adding another tensive dimension to the music. This is also where the band's political consciousness began to assert itself. The "suite" in the album's title is not figurative; Street Suite opens with a song sequence comprised of the introductory "Happy Face" and "Beginnings," which leads directly into the incendiary "Get a Gun," subtitled "A Song About Self Defense." Indeed, the song burns with the intensity that it implies, and Butts' vocals add a subversive edge to the performance. "Catfish" pulls off some progressive blues that cut a bit deeper than much of the era's blue-eyed blues, and Touch showed that they were equally capable of slowing things down on "Got to Keep Travelin' On," a cut that is both country-ish and reminiscent of the Lovin' Spoonful. The second side of the LP displayed its political threads even more so than the first, with titles such as "Let's Keep the Children on the Streets" and "Motor City's Burning," and the music is as thrilling and immediate as the titles bear, even when, like many of their peers, the lyrics are somewhat more sophomoric than the sentiments. The few cuts that the band recorded following their lineup changes show the band to be a more introspective psychedelic ensemble, though the music still maintains its merits. The songs by Schulte's the Essence, despite the presence of sitar on one of the cuts, are night-and-day away from his former band's music, but they are still pretty songs that show the influence of psychedelia, although they are much closer to an '80s synth-pop sound. Touch's album should have been more commercially successful than it was, as it is easily one of the stronger second-level psych-blues albums of the decade.

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