DECEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Dan Reed Network’s new album is the perfect album of the month to close 2018. It’s been an uncertain year, too many people selling fear, divisions more pronounced – and somehow a time when it seems to be becoming acceptable to say unacceptable things. With ‘Origins’ we are reminded of the asserting, healing power of rock & rock to unite people, to uplift and to empower. This album has energy, hope and positivity running through it from start to finish. Going into a December – a time of year when everyone’s supposed to take some time out to reflect on what’s really important in life – the world might be a better place in 2019 if some of our leaders got this album in their Christmas stocking.
Over the course of picking our one ‘album of the month’ each month through 2018, we’ve veered left and right. We’ve enjoyed new bands, revisited older ones – we’ve got heavy, we’ve had the blues infusion and a splash of punk. The Dan Reed Network album motors towards you down rock n roll’s middle lane – but with such conviction and purpose you just can’t ignore it. You’re into the album within the first two chords; it’s easy to like, but incredibly hard to resist playing again after that first spin. From the opening track ‘Fade To Light’ it’s clear this album isn’t about the face value of the songs, it’s about the beating heart you can feel within them: Each song a musical firework packed with life, joy and heart. Like a warming drink on a cold winter’s night, these tunes will warm your soul, make you feel better about life – and put a smile on your face.
This isn’t just another rock & roll album. When ‘Ritual’ kicks in with urgency, one is swept away by the impact of the band’s immersive recording project involving fans, which framed this album. As Dan explained to me when we spoke back in the summer: [for each session] “we invite around 100 people to the studio to be part of the session. They get to be part of the recording; they get to sing, they get to play percussion, whatever they’re comfortable doing. We do it in the round and then we make a video of the day as well, which is a kind of document of the day.” The band ran these studio sessions across continents, involving fans in Manchester, Portland, New York, Stockholm and Berlin. On ‘Ritual’ one can not only hear the input of the fans, but one can also feel the two-way chemistry. This wasn’t just a treat for fans, it created a two-way dynamic that rubbed off on the band, their playing, their sense of purpose and re-imagination of material. In an age where so many bands rely on fans to pledge, Dan Reed Network has taken things to a whole new level, uniting the band and the fans in a spontaneous musical process. It’s far more authentic and – based on the evidence of ‘Origins’ – it results in better music too. The fans aren’t part of the commercial process here, they are part of the art itself.
The album features a body of new and known work re-imagined through the innovative recording process involving fans around the world. All the songs have a new spirit, so here we treat them as new songs – as they are all new creative entities. And for some people, ‘Origins’ may be their first experience of Dan Reed Network. It’s not a bad place to start.
‘Right In Front Of Me’ takes me off dreaming to Tom Petty world and small town America – but again the fans then come back into the song and suddenly the whole thing is alive, uplifting and in the moment – not another of those over-produced, formula rock tunes for radio. A song that’s hard not to react to.
‘Forget To Make Her Mine’ – rocks up, the keys action prominent on this one, almost dueling with the heavier riff-laden guitar action: A change of mood and pace to keep the overall sequence of the album varied and fresh.
‘Shameless’ works so well. I can already see all those arms in the air and lighters (sorry, iPhone torches nowadays!). Firm intent in the backline that rises up into inspiring, anthem-like chorus lines. A chance for the band to take its ‘all as one’ immersive experience to a new level come festival season. There’s also a big outro to this song that is emphatic – building gracefully and rich with drama and atmosphere.
‘Let It Go’ – A simple song with a simple – but universal – message. Warming, uniting with a richly expressive guitar solo and an outro that has almost healing qualities, the immersive fan sessions again give the music an added dimension. A simple song with real allure. Nothing wrong with that, given The Beatles taught the world a thing or two about the art of brilliance through simplicity.
The album closes with ‘One Last Time’ and fan favourite ‘Rainbow Child’ – and the latter is a fitting conclusion to this album. A hit in Sweden, this new version was recorded during the band’s final immersive session at Stockholm: Natural symmetry, perfect karma – something that’s evident in spades throughout this album.
Beyond my audio and production work, music has always been part of my life. Across many genres, my appreciation of music is always as a spectator looking in – my musical talents not extending much further than playing the cake tins badly with wooden spoons when I’m a bit drunk at Christmas! In the social media age, crowdfunding and pledging can make fans feel more involved – as can the various fan communities online or the meet and greets that are common before or after shows. These are all great initiatives but there is still the line of separation. What the Dan Reed Network has achieved in the making of this album is to be applauded. There is no line of separation. Beyond being worthy, it results in an album that has a life and a beating heart that gives this body of work a character you can’t invent. This album is better for the process that created it – and there’s no reason why it can’t be the future of rock n roll.
Origins is released on 23 November 2018
To discover more about the band and the new album visit http://danreed-network.com