Uplifting, infectious, powerful?
Released through Frontiers Records on 3 June 3 2016 and heard with both anticipation and trepidation by Paul Quinton
When a band who recorded one of your all-time favourite albums and played an equally much-loved gig back in the day, along with blowing Bon Jovi clear off the stage at the NEC, reforms after a 20 year hiatus, and not only plays some storming gigs, but also announces that they’re recording their first new album for 25 years, you know it’s going to take an iron will to remain objective. You desperately want to love it, but deep down, there’s always a nagging voice asking, ‘but what if it’s not very good?’
So with an appropriate mix of anticipation and apprehension, we have the Dan Reed Network’s first album since 1991’s The Heat. It’s not quite the original line-up, keyboard wizard Blake Sakamoto has opted out of the reunion for personal reasons, to be replaced by Dan Reed’s long time musical and production collaborator Rob Daiker, who, on stage at least, has fitted in as if he’s been there forever, Frontiers Records, the pre-eminent melodic rock label of the moment, home to Whitesnake, Journey. Yes and a bunch of other top ranking bands, are releasing the album, everything is in place for this to be something special.
Opening track ‘Divided’ aims to set the tone. It’s the only new track the band elected to play on the recent UK tour, and it’s more of a straightforward rock track than I was expecting, although it has a fine chorus, but it doesn’t really have that funky swagger of the original line-up, which is typical of the whole record. Some good songs, and the band still know how to create a memorable hook, but somehow it all doesn’t really catch fire. Second up is ‘The Brave’, with a keyboard part straight from Slam, and coming complete with a chant that echoes one of the band’s very best songs, ‘Ritual’. Next is one of the best cuts on the album, ‘Infected’, with the first real injection of funk, it shows off Dan Reed’s Prince influence, but then the chorus, instead of lifting the song to a new peak, seems to put the brakes on, although Brion James’ fluid guitar solo is a real delight.
‘Champion’ is a good slower song, then after ‘Ignition’, a short instrumental, we have possibly the best track on the album, ‘Give It Love’, with a great guitar riff, but, again, the song always seems to be holding itself back, when you really want them to find a groove and really let fly. It’s the same with a later track, ‘Eye of The Storm’ and also the album closer, ‘Stand Tall’, a potentially great song that jogs along when it really needs to sprint for the finishing line.
In between, the band try some experimentation, which doesn’t always work. ‘Save The World’ has a reggae beat, and try as I might, I can’t find out who dopes the lead vocal on the verse, although I’m fairly sure it’s Brion James, the aptly titled ‘Reunite’ is almost a techno/dance track that is a bit too mechanical to suit the band, and ‘Sharp Turn’ has more dance textures that only serve make the track quite downbeat, although it does come to life in the chorus, without ever being lively enough.
The one thing I really feel about this album is that it feels very restrained and it never really feels as if the band are kicking over the barriers and letting go, and that it’s a lot more reflective of Reed’s solo work than the band who released Slam, which is also true of the album’s lyrics, which are often thoughtful, serious, and without that swagger of the band’s earlier work. It’s not a question of living in the past, the band’s recent live shows proved they can still be a really potent force, and in those shows this Spring, the band’s playing and on stage joy and enthusiasm was so infectious, it swept the audiences up, creating a feeling of exhilaration I’ve rarely experienced at a gig. Dan Reed’s quote on the press release that accompanies the album says that this release needed to be ‘uplifting, infectious, and most of all powerful when performed live’, but while this is a very listenable melodic rock album, I really don’t think the record has caught the essence of what makes this band so great.
7 out of 10
- The Brave
- Give It Love
- B There With U
- Save The World
- Eye Of The Storm
- Sharp Turn
- Stand Tall