Finally! Finally what, you might ask. Well, the follow-up to Dan Reed Network’s great come back album Fight Another Day from 2016, of course. I have always been a huge fan of Dan Reed Network, ever since their 1988 debut album and since their break-up in 1993, I have crossed my fingers for a reunion, something that for some 20 years seemed unlikely to ever happen. I mean, even Dan Reed himself was off the radar for many years so when the reunion finally happened in 2013, I was happy like a kid on Christmas – and even more so when they announced that they would release a brand new record a couple of years later. I know that Fight Another Day got some mixed reviews from both fans and critics but I love that record. That’s why I went from happy and enthusiastic to somewhat disappointed when I saw the track-list for their new record. Eight songs – four new ones and four re-recordings of old classics. Not what I had hoped for. That said, I’m still very curios on the new stuff – and how the old stuff would sound in their new suits.
Opening track and leading single “Fade To Light” is a softer, mid-paced pop-rock tune, a bit laid-back but still with a groove. The DRN funk isn’t really present here and it sounds more like a Dan Reed solo song with the Network backing him up but since I find the song great, I will let that slip. Still, when I listen to DRN, I want it sound like DRN. Also, it feels a bit strange to use a laid-back tune as an album opener. “Ritual”, originally on the debut album, is the first re-recoding up and what we’re getting here is a smoother and again laid-back version and it leans more towards a Pop song than a Rock dito. I always though that Bruce Fairbairn’s production on the debut was too slick and even a bit plastic so the song gets the right production treatment here. But why take a good rocker and give it a more easy-going arrangement? It’s a good version by I’d take the original version 24/7.
New song “Right In Front Of Me” is more of an uptempo rocker that holds a big, catchy Pop vibe and a meaty groove and I’m sure this will work like a charm live But just like on the opener, this sounds more like a Dan Reed solo thing and even though I think this tune is awesome – it brings on some mighty hit-potential, I tell ya – I miss the big funk-rock that’s DRN’s trademark. “Hey, Brion, let’s drop the politics and rock this place up…”, says Reed before they get into the re-making of the debut’s “Forgot To Make Her Mine”. The original is a fat, funked-up Hard Rock tune and this version is even more so. This version is fatter with more punch, live-feel (to be honest, this is both a live and studio recording but we’ll get to that later) and the groove is intense and effective and drips of energy and perspiration. Re-makes do not very often better songs but this one really works. Solid and stellar!
“Shameless”, the next newie, is a bit darker, melancholic and again laid-back – which doesn’t mean it’s a softie. It holds a big sound where Pop and Rock blends really well and the whole piece – both verses and chorus – is very memorable and leaves a lasting impression. It’s a great song but just like on the other two new tracks, I miss the distinct and personal DRN sound – the Dan Reed solo vibes shines through on this one as well. “Let It Go” is an unexpected choice for a re-recording – and I really embrace that. The song was originally recorded on the 1991 album The Heat – my favorite DRN album. It’s an awesome ballad originally and it’s still a really good song here but even though it’s more upbeat on this album the new version feels a bit pointless and the new arrangement really don’t bring anything exciting to the table. That said, I dunno what they could have done to improve it.
The groovy and funky sound of DRN’s old days shows up in second single “One Last Time”, a very direct and effective funk-rock swinger that holds a distinct and immediate refrain that catches on right on the spot. The way I see it, this should have been the leading single. Not that “Fade To Light” is bad – it’s not – but because “One Last Time” is the most representative to the DRN sound. That and it holds shitloads of hit-potential. DRN close the album with the most obvious choice of the re-recordings – “Rainbow Child”. While I say hello to this big ballad, I state that the song isn’t much tampered with and it stays true to the original version mostly. It’s a gem, a killer ballad that is very hard to better so it’s better to not mess with it at all. While the original will always be better, the production on its original home Slam (1989) left a lot to be desired, it’s nice to state that the production here is superior. Way to go.
Firstly, I’m still disappointed that we only got four new songs – which is, in all honesty, a bit cheap when we’re supposed to pay full-price for a new album. Secondly, I’m also a bit disappointed in the fact that the three of the new songs lacks the DRN sound. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig Reed’s solo stuff and all of the four songs here are all great, but I want DRN to sound like DRN. The re-recordings then. The songs were recorded in front of a crowd in a studio which means they’re both live and studio recordings at the same time. They we’re also recorded in different cities and even countries – New York, Portland-Oregon, Manchester-England and Stockholm-Sweden – a pretty cool thing to do. So while I like the album and I will continue to listen to it, I just don’t get why they just didn’t record a full album of new songs. Well, enough of the whining about that, if you’re a DRN-fan then this album’s a no-brainer!
More Dan Reed Network reviews:
1. Fade To Light
3. Right In Front Of Me
4. Forgot To Make Her Mine
6. Let It Go
7. One Last Time
8. Rainbow Child