Dan Reed Network
What happens when a band from your student past re-forms and starts releasing new material? Well, for me it is a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Will the magic still be there or has it faded. With this offering from the Dan Reed Network, I’m hedging my bets as ‘Origins’ combines new studio material and four classic DRN tracks are re-imagined.
Dan Reed comes from Portland, Oregon, and formed The Dan Reed Network in 1984. The band combined their diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds into a Heavy Metal-ish Rock sharpened by Junk Funk and some American Rock and Roll energy. Reed is of German, Hawaiian and Native American origin, Dan Pred on drums - Jewish ancestry, Brion James on guitar - Jamaican, Melvin Brannon on bass - African-American, and are now joined by Rob Daiker on keyboards. Quite a mix, which gave the band a unique Funky-Rock sound, and their three studio albums from 1987 to 1993, surprisingly did better in Europe and the UK than their native US homeland (mainly due to poor marketing in the States).
The band finally faded from the scene in the late 1990’s to pursue other projects, but reformed in 2013 with a crowd funded compilation album and tour. The engagement of their fan base led to a new studio album ‘Fight Another Day’ in 2016 with a further world tour and this engagement has given birth to something quite unique on ‘Origins’ - the band opened the doors of the recording sessions to their fans! The fans became part of the project witnessing the production of the music and even getting to contribute to the final recordings.
The first two tracks on the album were recorded at Blueprint’s Studios in Manchester. The opening track, ‘Fade To Light’ is the first single and the accompanying video reveals the process the band and fans went through to record the track. It is a cross between a studio session, live gig and a family get to together! This approach certainly brings performer and fan much closer together, in fact the line between the two becomes even more blurred as the fans form the backing chorus!
And the song itself is probably smoother than some of their earlier material. The Metal-ish edge has been polished out a little, but pulls together into a Classic Rock track. The song is about recognising the people and places where we find solace, where things can not only fade to darkness, but also fade to the light.
The second track is the first of four classic Dan Reed Network tracks re-imagined in front of their fans. ‘Ritual’ is one of my all-time favourite tracks and features on many compilation tapes, when making such tapes was a key tactic in my courtship ‘rituals’! So I was highly nervous when putting this track on for the first time. I wouldn’t say this is better than the original version, I would say - it is a different version. The original chant (captured during the 1987 recording sessions from an African percussionist called Dido) is performed on this version by the studio fan audience but there are enough original elements of the song to keep me happy.
Track three is ‘Right In Front Of Me’ is upbeat positive track and a reminder to always take stock of what you have - right in front of you! It has a catchy tune and is nicely polished and Reed’s vocals shine out (with the backing vocals from the fans!).
The second re-imagined track is ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ recorded at the Power Station NYC. A nice rocky riff has made this a DRN classic and fan favourite at live shows. The bass Funk slaps away to remind us this is DRN at their best.
‘Shameless’ is a song about love and friendships that endure forever, regardless of what others perceive or judge. I often judge a track by the effect it has on my emotions rather than just on the musically content and this is a track that evokes more meaning than just the solid melodies. If I still had a tape player, maybe this one would be on my next mix tape!
‘Let It Go’ is another DRN track re-recorded, this time in their home town of Portland. The track has been retuned as a bit more of an uplifting Soul track rather than the more sombre original version with some nice acoustic guitar supporting Dan’s unique voice.
The last two tracks were performed and recorded at Studio 4 in Stockholm. ‘One Last Time’ is about the difficulties a demanding job can have on friends and relationships and ‘Rainbow Child’ was one of DRN’s major hits in the UK and Sweden. This recording is 30 years after the original was conceived. Again the studio ‘audience’ participate on backing vocals.
The band return to the UK for a headlining tour to support the launch of the ‘Origins’ album in November 2018. I was lucky enough to catch them at the Islington O2 Academy last time round and their live show is much more than merely reciting their classic tracks. Not surprisingly, there is much audience engagement and quite often on-stage experiments with their music, guest musicians to jam with and general top notch entertainment. So, on the back of this new album offering, will I be going along to London’s 229 Venue in Great Portland Street on Friday 23rd November for more? Well, yes of course! How could I miss it?