The following is a review I posted on the Sputnik Music website earlier this morning:
When last we left Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (collectively known as Eurythmics), they had survived a stint in the failed British band The Tourists and a mostly-ignored debut album (In the Garden) (1981) to release Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (1983), the LP that put them over the top. Touch, released late in 1983, was the album that would make sure they'd stay there for the next decade and beyond. It was a #1 album in the U.K. and a #10 album in the U.S., and was eventually certified as Platinum in both countries, also going Double-Platinum in Canada and Gold in Germany. Additionally, it was named as one of Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, and again in 2012 when they revised their list. Touch made Eurythmics international superstars.
The sound here is a continuation of the direction they moved in on Sweet Dreams, mixing Lennox's dominating R&B voice and her various yips, grunts and vocal sound effects with Stewart's textured synthesizers, programmed drums and understated guitars. When I reviewed Sweet Dreams, one Sputnik reader commented that that album was "bereft of soul, devoid of depth", and while I wouldn't state it that harshly, he has a point. Eurythmics as a band was a triumph of form over feeling. Stewart wanted to take advantage of the new technologies of the time to reimagine and remake pop rock music, while Lennox was in many ways as much an actress as a singer, trying on personas and characters the way a young girl might try on the clothes in her mother's (and father's) closet. When the band toured in support of Touch, Lennox had herself carried onto the stage on a litter by several burly men like a modern Cleopatra, and during the course of the show, she engaged in various wig and costume changes, her singing all the while supported by a pair of impressive female backup singers. The music on Touch is fun and interesting. What it isn't is packed with emotions, or with big thoughts, unless we're talking about thoughts regarding instrumental structure and expression.
There are only nine songs on Touch, but three of them were hit singles, all of which are still pretty well known today almost thirty-five years later. "Here Comes the Rain Again", the first track on the LP, is one of my favorite Eurythmics songs. It opens with swirling synthesizers that somehow evoke the feeling of rain, and contains one of Lennox's best, if most understated, vocals, as she continuously pleads with her lover to "Talk to me/Like lovers do". Of the three singles, "Here Comes the Rain Again" was the most successful in the U.S. However, the highest charting single in the band's native Britain was the one exception to that "form over feeling" thing I talked about, "Who's That Girl?". While the video for the song was playful, featuring Lennox portraying both male and female characters while Stewart cavorts around with a gaggle of beautiful women on his arm, the lyrics tell the story of a woman deeply hurt by her lover's insincerity and infidelity: "Dumb hearts get broken/Just like china cups/The language of love/Has left me broken on the rocks". (I don't know if the lyrics were written from personal experience or not, but it's worth noting here that Lennox and Stewart were once a couple, although by this time, they had been broken up for several years.) The third single was the most whimsical of the three, "Right By Your Side". This one features a calypso music background, complete with synthesized steel drum and marimba sounds, as Lennox whistles, tweets, barks and plays the jungle girl who needs to "swing from limb to limb" as she explains to her lover how much she needs "to be right by your side".
Most of the other tracks are pretty solid as well. "No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)" is one of Eurythmics' most underrated songs. It's a slow, ominous number that really lets Lennox cut loose with those powerful tonsils of hers. "Paint a Rumour" and "Cool Blue" are also particularly strong tracks. The first features some of Stewart's most interesting synthetic percussion, as Lennox plays call and response with herself: "I have heard a whisper/(What did it say?)/I have heard a whisper/(Make it go away)". "Cool Blue", on the other hand, boasts a higher-pitched synth pattern layered over some nice bass, and even gives Stewart a chance to showcase some popping guitar and bass during the break.
Touch was one of the more preeminent albums of the 1980s. It was also the culmination of Eurythmics' synthesizer period. Although they would continue this experiment for one more album, 1984's 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) soundtrack album, that LP was less successful and less consistent than either Sweet Dreams or Touch. Having established themselves as one of the most successful bands in the world by then, their sound evolved to more of a straight R&B sound on 1985's Be Yourself Tonight. But that's a tale for another day. In any event, if you are someone who likes their music steeped in emotional depth, chances are that Touch will leave you cold. But if you can live without that, there are a lot of treats to be had in this album, ranging from Lennox's compelling vocals and theatrical presentation to Stewart's various experiments in musical architecture. Touch continues to be Eurythmics' highest-rated album on this website, and for good reason.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars