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Image © 2001 Blueprint Records 

(13 April 2001) Since seeing Claire Hammill open for Renaissance on 09 March 2001 at the London Astoria and meeting her in the dressing room afterwards, we're pleased to review the reissue of her 1984 album Touchpaper (Blueprint Records (UK) BP306CD, 2000) as the conclusion to this Digest. Claire Hammill was recently featured in the CRS magazine Wondrous Stories and she has also recently performed at HLC Rotherham. Opening for Renaissance she was accompanied by another guitarist; she played for a half hour.

One of the definitive female vocalists of song-based progressive rock, her album Touchpaper illustrates her expansive vocal range and sonic power. "The Moon Is A Powerful Lover" blends soaring vocalise with evocatively sung powerful lyrics reminding us of Sally French (who u nfortunately disappeared after one album on SI Music). The album's title is derived from the lyric of "Denmark" which is sung in a very experimental Kate Bush or Michelle Young (review) style. The track "2 Fools In A Storm" is much more jazz-oriented with instrumentals dominated by saxophone.

Again we were reminded of Sally French's work in the upbeat track "First Night In New York." Symphonic instrumentals provide a lovely texture under the lead and backing vocal layers. Crisp percussion and upbeat rock arrangements compliment Claire's vocal lead in the very 1980s-sounding "Come Along Brave Lads." "Jump" and "Gonna Be The One" are pop-oriented tunes with lush keyboard arrangements rhythmic bass and Renaissance Time-Line style vocal lines. The variety of vocal textures works quite nicely. "In The Palm Of My Hand" is significantly more dance club oriented than the other tracks on the album. Claire's voice soars easily and evocatively above the instrumental arrangements.

"Ultra Violet Light" is substantially more dark and moody with guitars dominating the arrangements behind Claire's punky style vocal part. "Once Is Not Enough" is an upbeat, dance club oriented track, dominated by a funky keyboard part that concludes the album. Certainly very different from the albums reviewed above, this Claire Hammill album is an equally compelling female vocals album.

An extensive portion of Claire Hammill's back catalog is now available on Voiceprint/Blueprint and, with the extensive range of styles she has recorded, should be sought out by female vocalist enthusiasts. We have plans to do an interview and retrospective review of her work at Musical Discoveries in the future. This album certainly serves as a lovely introduction to the artist's work and is a very nice listen!

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