Dan Reed Network
As a student back in the day, my halls of residence had one communal bath room on each landing of four bedrooms. On Saturday afternoons when everyone was out, I used to leave my bedroom door open with my favourite tune blaring out from my ‘ghetto blaster’ whilst I relaxed in the tub! Why am I sharing this rather intimate fact with you? Well one of the few CD's I possessed back then was ‘Slam’ by Dan Reed Network so when I heard they had re-released their first two albums to mark the 30th anniversary of Slam, I just had check them out.
Remastered, the eponymous titled first album was originally released in 1988 and was produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who’d previously worked with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Slam came along in 1989 and was produced by Nile Rogers. These are still two of my all time favourite recordings, they contain a number of tracks that invariably ended up on my 80's mix tapes. I was intrigued and a tad excited to hear how the Abbey Road Studios remastered versions by Miles Showell would sound.
Dan Reed Network formed in Portland Oregon in 1984 and combine a mixture of funky bass lines and stadium Rock riffs. The band had a diverse feel with Dan Reed himself of German, Hawaiian and Native American heritage. The other band members included Dan Pred on drums who Dan met at High School, is Jewish, Brion James on guitar is Jamaican, Melvin Brannon on bass is African-American and Blake Sakamoto has Japanese origins. Not surprisingly the music also had a diverse sound mixing up a variety of musical influences to produce a unique Rock sound.
To be fair, the original recordings always sounded pretty good to me, echoing around my student halls, but that was 30 years ago - hence the prompt for a modern refresh by re-mastering the original recordings. This basically means ridding the old recordings of any minor flaws and updating the sound with modern sound tools such as compression or noise reduction to take out un-wanted hiss and clicks. This process should produce a cleaner, sharper and more refined listening experience reflecting the modern production techniques of today.
So did Miles Showell achieve any improvement with the tools of the iconic Abbey Road studios? Well it helps to have such rich material to work with in the first place and you already know that I am pretty much sold on these albums, but yes, to my great listening pleasure, the two new CD's in shiny boxes do sound brand new. Every note is crystal clear, there is no background hiss. On the track ‘I’m So Sorry’ from the first album, you can hear every note from the piano intro, you are almost in the room with them. The rasping of Brion’s guitar riffs on ‘Forgot To make Her Mine’ is like a saw cutting into wood, the sawdust is almost falling from the speakers! There are quite a few ‘atmospheric’ additions on the first album so re-capturing them and making them even more alive is quite an achievement. So 10 out of 10 for the first album, and so I slip ‘Slam’ out of its jewel case and into my CD player to try the second offering......
.....and I am transported back 30 years to my student digs as the guitar intro kicks in on the opening track ‘Make It Easy’. “Turn it up, turn it up!” I say to myself and sure enough the re-mastered version allows you to squeeze on the power up to number 11 on the volume switch without risking any distortion. Good job the house is empty, but I resist the temptation to run a bath to re-live the full student memory! One downside is that the intro to ‘Cruise Together’ features a police siren in the build up before the bass kicks in, which did cause me a slight heart palpitation whilst playing the CD in the car on the M25 the other week! Again, this re-mastering has captured the soul of the original recordings. Melvin’s bass lines are very much part of Dan Reed Network’s unique sound. This new version brings out the very subtly and detail of the artistry of that sound. The richness and variety of the bass is a real bonus and makes these CDs a worthwhile investment.
So, is this value for money? Should you spend your hard earned money on music created 30 years ago? Well, yes if you already have them on cassette or scratched dusty vinyl - the improvement in quality will be tangible. And yes again even if you have it on original CD, you will fall in love with DRN one more time as I did. If you have never heard them before, then definitely worth a spin. This music is of its time, of course, but still outshines much of modern day offerings and will still keep me company whilst relaxing in the bath!
Chris Bourlet (who went to University at the age of 6 and a half!!)