The Dan Reed Network’s comeback album 2016’s Fight Another Day proved successful for them. Not having heard the band before I was indifferent at best. Catching them live was a whole other story. Phenomenal musicians with great interplay able to cross musical genres while not only keeping an audience’s attention but getting them to sing-along passionately.
Origins finds them reviewing their own back catalogue, giving the songs a new spin in a greatest hits like package with a difference, in that they invited fans in to watch the recordings and in some cases get actively involved on record. From Manchester, England to the Power Station, New York through to Stockholm in Sweden the vibe feels consistent throughout.
What you’ll hear are nine generally high energy numbers, upbeat in lyrical intent in most cases or at least believing good times may yet come in those that bear sadness. The sound veers towards a humongous whole and is best played loud, especially when sudden musical shifts give the songs an added thrill.
Broken chords chime out in menace over a head-bopping rhythm section beat for ‘Fade to Light’ in what initially gives the impression of being a cautionary tale but as we listen more carefully teaches us not to put up barriers and resist embracing life, but to reach out and trust in love and friendship. Being something of a rock lullaby, it brings us in gently, and the addition of fans’ voices being added tastefully it becomes a communal celebration. Later on ‘Let it Go’ will be another tune with that lullaby feel, albeit that the music drifts slowly and in support of the lyrics. In contrast ‘Right in Front of Me’ comes across as a cool breeze of US AOR right up to the moment Dan Pred’s drums kick in and the whole rhythm picks up with Rob Daiker’s synthesisers taking centre stage, constantly swirling around, sweet but not too sugary, becoming louder as the fans join in collectively on vocals.
‘Shameless’ has Dan Reed singing like Phil Collins on a Pete Gabriel synth, contemplating relationships in all forms, Synth driven initially there are gentle hooklines aplenty and while being less musically intense than the numbers that proceed it here on Origins, there’s a lovely driving bass line come solo near its conclusion courtesy of the awesome Melvin Brannon II. ‘One Last Time’ follows on naturally, as if after giving the matter much thought Reed comes down on the side of fighting for the good that love can offer. It’s an upbeat number but with a late night story feel about it.
Having reached #38 on the USA’s Billboard charts back in the day, ‘Ritual’ has obviously become a live favourite, and it must’ve been a real buzz for the Manchester studio attendees to hear this being rerecorded up close. The funk rock number is given a modern sheen with a disco electronica feel that might take its cues from the Giorgio Morodor produced Fabrique by Fashion, with some wonderful funky bass before rocking up in chorus. Play loud, play often.
Reed calls out to Brion James as his dirty guitar riff rides and grinds out, the rhythm section laying things down alongside some added programming giving the whole thing today’s pop babes a run for their money. ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ maybe the song title, but you won’t forget the tune. Feel your shoulder moving sideways, then your head start bopping back and forwards instinctively, this works. Those sections where female fans get to sing a line, and are sometimes slightly off key just adds to the overall effect, and the drama when Reed sings “Then the rains came down” before a manic display of keyboards leading into the guitar solo is rather neat, to say the least.
Saving the best until last is ‘Rainbow Child’. I’m informed the song was written in a parking lot at a Grateful Dead show back in the day where everyone was dancing about and if so Dan Reed Network have aptly given it a new age hippy rock feel on this version. Let us also note that while there’s an inkling of the 90s about it the overall effect is timeless. A big hit in Sweden, that’s where they rerecorded it, and on the 30th anniversary of it being written. Listen to it and you know the time was right.
Drums syncopate hypnotically, a nagging and pulling main guitar riff draws us in closer, and the driven underflow of guitar and bass keeps us there warmly as keyboards orchestrate and enhance. This Is offbeat, romantic, sexy and rocking away with James shredding away in fine form during the guitar solo, while Reed convinces in earnest characterisation, crooning and hitting high notes charismatically.
If you’ve not heard The Dan Reed Network fork out for a copy Origins – It’s spiritually sound rock that left me in a good mood after listening to it, so I put it on repeat for the rest of the day.
Review by Paul H Birch
- Released through Zero One Entertainment on 23 November 2018.
- Fade to Light
- Right in Front of Me
- Forgot to Make Her Mine
- Let it Go
- One Last Time
- Rainbow Child