The sequel…. sort of?
Released through Tigermoth Records on 10 June 2016 and reviewed by Paul Quinton
In the interests of full disclosure, I must state at the outset that I am usually a big fan of Rob Reed’s work. I love Magenta, and the debut album by Kiama, his most recent group project, is already on my shortlist for one of the albums of the year. His first Sanctuary album, released in 2014 (and reviewed here), was a fascinating technical exercise in composing, recording and producing an album in tribute to Mike Oldfield, and using exactly the same production and recording techniques as Oldfield did in 1973, playing all the instruments himself, with some minor exceptions, and using Oldfield’s original engineers and producers. In some cases, even if Reed couldn’t play a particular instrument, he actually learned to do so just for the album.
And now we have a follow up, cunningly titled Sanctuary II, and, to be frank, my first reaction was ‘why?’ If the original album was created in tribute to one of Reed’s musical heroes, then surely once the album was released, he would move onto other projects, and so it was a real surprise to hear that there would be a follow-up album, created in exactly the same manner as the first, although as well as the considerable number and variety of instruments that Reed plays himself, on this album he’s joined by legendary drummer, Simon Phillips, as well as producer Tom Newman on Bodhran, Les Penning on recorders and Angharad Rees on vocals.
I confess it took me several plays to ‘get’ the first album. It’s easy to appreciate the concept and admire the technical skill and fine musicianship, but seeing it as anything other than a tribute album or as an exercise in ‘seeing if it could be done’ was a different matter. After a few plays, though, and becoming more familiar with the various themes, it made more sense in its own right, and to a great extent it’s the same with the follow up, although because this album is so similar to the previous one, it’s correspondingly more difficult to see it as a separate project.
Like Sanctuary, the music is comprised of two suites, each around 18-20 minutes long, and to be brutally honest, if you’re familiar with the first album, you’ll know exactly what to expect from the second. The opening has a distinct Celtic feel, not unlike Oldfield’s own second album Hergest Ridge (deliberately?) and from there the album moves through its various moods, with several themes and parts to each piece, some that recur, some that are barely touched on before the album moves on. I did like the guitar part 3 minutes in, that shows that Reed is no mean guitar player in his own right, but some of the choral parts are a bit too twee for my tastes, although Angharad Brinn’s solo vocals are often quite beautiful. There’s even a pastiche of the ‘Hornpipe’ section from Tubular Bells, and as with a lot of the album, it’s far too close to Oldfield’s early work, and to the first Sanctuary album for it to have enough of its own identity. Similarly, ‘Marimba’, which is one of the promos featured on the DVD, is a great song, and would stand out on its own, but it does get a little buried in the whole 40 minutes of the album as a whole.
As a single musical piece, it’s very listenable, taking you through the various moods, obviously it’s superbly played, and I have to say the 5.1 version is a delight. But I can’t help but think that it would have been much more interesting and welcome to hear some of this music played in different styles, in a different running order, for want of a better phrase, and moving away from the Oldfield style, so that it became a genuinely separate release, and if Rob Reed is to forge a solo recording career, I hope he’ll be able to do it with his own sound, rather than in tribute to someone else’s.
7 out of 10
The initial pressings of the album came in a three disc version, with the original album on CD1, single edits, remixes of certain section and a complete remix of the album on CD2, while the third disc is a DVD, with a 5.1 remix of the first disc, as well as interviews and promo films.
CD1 Track list:
- Sanctuary II Part 1
- Sanctuary II Part 2
CD2 Track list:
- Pen y Fan
- Les Penning Section (Single Edit)
- Marimba (Single Edit)
- Side Two Opening (Alternative Version)
- Side Two End (Alternative Version)
- Marimba (Chimpan A remix)
- Sanctuary II Part 1 (Tom Newman Mix)
- Sanctuary II Part 2 (Tom Newman Mix)
DVD Track list:
- Opening (promo)
- Marimba (promo)
- Les Penning (promo)
- Drums session with Simon Phillips
- Interview 1 – working with Simon Philips
- Interview 2 – Working with Tom Newman
- Interview 3 – working with Les Penning