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Album Review

NORRISH REACTION
Is This Their Dream?

I have no idea but I know it's my dream. I have heard this album a good twenty times, probably more, and I am no more ready to write about them than I was the first time through. I mean, I try to listen with a critical ear. I would love to be able to separate myself from the music and tell you why you need to listen but I can't. When the music starts playing, the critic in me disappears co-opted by the music freak who just wants to lay his head back, close his eyes and loop this sucker until I've had enough. It hasn't happened yet--- having enough, that is. Which tells me one of two things. Either I am really on to something here or I'm on one of my journeys so far beyond the pale that my calls to arms will fall upon deaf ears.

I'm pretty sure I am onto something here. No, I'm sure. Every time I play it, I listen front to back without a break. That says a lot. It says that the music is not all there is. It says that if I had heard this in 1969 or 1973, I would be at least as enamored as now, for I remember being perturbed when I would have to get off the couch to turn a record over when I played certain albums because it just plain broke the flow. I don't have to worry about that now that CDs and players on the Net have made front-to-back listenings a matter of course. It saves me the trouble of recording both sides on half of a 90-minute cassette. Yep, I still have a cassette player and would not think twice about putting Side One and Side Two on one of those puppies. If this Norrish Reaction album even has a Side One or Side Two.

Truth is, if I was hearing this in '69 or '73, these guys would have been getting massive airplay and chances are would have been getting the same from my friends. We used to have listening parties where each of us would meet at someone's house with a six-pack or short case of beer or maybe a few doobies and a few album under our arms and would trade music. Not the albums themselves but the experience of the music. First time through this album, I flashed back to those get-togethers. Those were good times, for the most part because of the shared musical experience.

Would Norrish Reaction have been received well by my friends? No doubt in my mind. This is a magnificent piece of music and I say “piece” because, like I said earlier, I have yet to listen to the tracks separately. I don't want to. I want to hear the various levels of pop/psych in one listen. I want to be set up by the slightly Brit Pop intro of Thousand Roads, the upbeat harmonies on the chorus carried on the backs of crunching Power Pop, guitars jangling and the bass driving and the vocals having just a hint of October Country or any of the excellent bands of the day. The bridge on that song? I turn it up every time, the guitar driving nails into the music side of my brain and pumping adrenalin into the system. The end of the song is perfect segue to track two, Is This Your Dream, more pop than psych but both elements present. The first guitar riff of Storm On the Sun is straight off Cream's I Feel Free but that ends after the first two measures and the songs turns into a stunning semi-psych opus which would have had any one of my old listening buddies grabbing for the headphones. We didn't use them at any of our parties. Couldn't communicate in real time, the guy with headphones always popping them off to yell, “What?!”. It's ballad time on Walked Away and after the first verse I had this urge to reach into my pocket for a lighter. Who the hell started that lighter thing at concerts, anyway? Never understood it and never did it, but this song paints that picture. Good stuff. Especially the guitar break. The song ends rather abruptly and what could be a second part begins in a more upbeat vein, Breathe In Slow feeding off of the melody and feel of the ballad but itself a rocker of the first order. Another abrupt end, then they crank for a few measures before spacing it out for a few bars and, man, you have to give it to these guys. They know their stuff, mixing up rhythm changes and crunchy rhythm guitar and stellar leads over the top but what it all comes down to in the end are the outstanding vocals and harmonies. Let It Go freaks me out for its structure as much as anything. I mean, this isn't three chords and a break. This is music! Again, first-rate lead guitar, too! A step into America/Neil Young territory next, though it is the vocal style rather than the music itself. Ten Random Prayers is what I always hoped to hear from America, but they never gave it to me. I had to wait forty years to hear it from Norrish Reaction. Kicks Sister Golden Hair to the curb right nicely. You might almost think that The Dave Clark Five was in the house judging by the staccato rhythm chords which start Nothing More To Say, but it quickly gives way to vocals of a Five Americans or even Peanut Butter Conspiracy bent. Freakin' '60s Pop ready made for AM radio. A beauty of a track. You want some crankin' funk? Turn It Up mixes Pop with the ol' Funk and comes up with a hybrid of worth. Makes me want to head back to the early seventies. A slight Grateful Dead style opens Rosalee but again the Norrish boys take it into another dimension of Pop and Sound, the Pop vocals leading things away from the loose Dead-like riffs. And wait till you hear the second half of the song! Another movement in itself! You'll probably want to crank March On Egypt way up, the band stepping into semi-hard rock (let us call it heavy rock) territory and hitting us between the ears with duel lead guitar and a few twists and turns you might not expect. And, yes, there is a very slight Far Eastern tinge to the music, just enough so that it makes an impact. Which sets up Thousand Roads (Acoustic) as the closer. I would have titled it Thousand Roads (Reprise) because it and Thousand Roads are perfect bookends, the one a perfect opener for the album and the other an acoustic look backwards.

Whew! I feel almost out of breath. Wrote that while listening, once again in one sitting and the tracks front-to-back. Which is what you should do. Click on this link--- https://soundcloud.com/arsdivina/norrish-reaction --- and hear for yourself. You know, Steve Turnidge, who mastered the album, told me to listen a few months ago but I didn't. In a way I wish I had but in another way I'm glad I didn't. Music like this has to really be listened to in order to be appreciated and I was so harried back then that I might not have given it the attention it deserves.

It is a killer of an album if you like Pop/Psych or if you just like melody and harmony. And guitar (the guitar is amazing). And bass. And drums. And vocals. Turnidge did a hell of a job mastering. Geoff Ott did a topnotch job producing, too.

Indeed, this album is going to make me cheat. While it is technically a 2012 release, I am going to slip it in with my picks for 2013. It's early in the year, but this has a good chance to end up my pick for Album of the Year. If I pick one. If I don't, it will be amongst my top picks. It's just that freakin' good.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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