Monday, January 18, 2021

The Arbiters of Prog

Reporting on rock history often emphasizes the obvious. For AM, progressive rock comes to the forefront with the debut from Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, each hitting the AOR airwaves in early 1971. These were the catalysts for progressive rock viability. They were NOT the first progressive rock LPs. In our previous posts, we emphasized the obvious once again by listing those LPs that serve as the "obvious" catalysts for the catalysts: Freak Out! from The Mothers, Sgt. Pepper, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Days of Future Passed, and (the most obvious) In the Court of the Crimson King. 

My pet peeve for rock radio is its greatest hits approach. (Did Yes even have another song than "Roundabout?" You’d wonder.) With that, AM strives NOT to do the same. It's interesting that rock music arguably begins with Robert Johnson in the 1930s and that Keith Richards or Lennon or Page look back at Elvis and Chuck Berry or Howlin' Wolf as their inspiration, yet most of us dismiss such introspection. 

All of us know the classic AM staple "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen, which featured Don Gallucci on vocals and keys. Gallucci would go on to form Touch with a lineup including Jeff Hawks (vocals), Bruce Hauser (vocals, bass), Joey Newman (vocals, guitars), and John Bordonaro (vocals, percussion). The band rented a Hollywood castle to rehearse and host lavish shindigs with record executives and producers at which they’d perform, Gallucci was no intern. Coliseum/London Records won the contract bid with an unheard of $25,000 advance and the band began recording (let's call it partying) at Sunset Sound. Nonetheless, word got out of what the band put to tape and soon the castle was a hangout for artists like Grace Slick, Mick Jagger, and even Hendrix.  The debut LP, Touch, exemplifies the spirit of the 60s, a record overflowing with experimentation and musicianship. "Seventy-Five" is one of the great early progressive rockers with a gem of a guitar solo and a heavy [metal], atmospheric vocal performance from Jeff Hawks. "Down At Circe's Place" is a psychedelic classic with otherworldly vocals, spaced-out guitar and keyboard noodling, powerful drum work and trippy sound effects –  everything you didn't know you wanted at the time. Gallucci would go on to produce the Stooges' Funhouse, impressive in itself, but Touch remains his finest hour in rock, progressive rock at that.

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