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Of all of Michael’s fine releases this one, Torched , reaches me in the deepest recesses of my being. I must confess I have sang along, tears in my eyes, sensing the deep loss of Michael now being gone, tragically killed in late 1997 in a car accident. What waste, what loss, and so final. But Hedges’ voice and soul lives on in this last release, nearly ready to be finally “polished” yet too late it is released anyway, with raw edges, with Hedges as is a superb diamond in the rough.
Title cut, “Torched”, opens with acoustic guitar super-structure and Hedges welding a torch of electric guitar lead and soulful embellishings. This is an excellent effect like that of his Watching My Life Go By release. Melody vocals and dubbed in harmony voice also by Hedges is very strong. This is introspective folk rock at its best. Hedges even uses a lowered octave vox, (by synth?) to get a wonderfully deep, basso profundo, on the word “torched”. This deep bass vox reappears on “Promised Land”. Very effective technique! Love it. Hedges weaves in poignant electric guitar leads on super sustain. Sweet. This song’s lyrics just begin to illuminate a certain mood, sensitive to spirit, pervasive in many songs on Torched. With allusions rampant to rebirth, deliverance, release, and going on beyond the here and now. It is eerie to see how Hedges was delving into a mood of deeper awareness, searching, seeking and then swiftly comes his end. It was if the “other side” was inspiring him, preparing him for a journey in these songs.
Whether it is David Crosby and Graham Nash coming in after Hedges’ death to record tracks on “Spring Buds” or the incredibly intense and powerful song about the Exodus of the Hebrews on “Promised Land” you are immersed in a deeply moving musical experience. Never mind all the great singing and guitar playing, this is release is flooded with soul and intensity. It’s music that goes beyond the speakers, it’s music that lifts the listener above the clouds. Listen to the lyrics of “Phoenix Fire” and on “Gospel of Mary/The Holy Flame” and you will sense a call to “rise above” to “break free” and be transformed. “Gospel of Mary . . .” sees a return to electric solos and melodic fills.
Several instrumental-only tracks are featured with signature Hedges acoustic expertise. “Fusion of the Five Elements” even has an America feel to it. Michael does it all, playing all tracks. Steve Tibbetts fans will enjoy these moments of guitar. “Dream Beach”, “Arrowhead”, (sounding Jethro Tullish), and “Ursa Major”, (very dreamy, ethereal piece), and “Java Man” are all fine instrumentals. “Java Man” essentially wraps the studio things up as Hedges might have planned in this release but an extra live track is added in as a Coda in memory of one fine musician.
Hedges fans, you need this one. Those of you unfamiliar with the magic of Michael Hedges can very comfortably start with this release. Highest recommendations.