Dan Reed Network

DAN REED NETWORK – Fight Another Day

drn-16I don’t know if I can put words to how much I have longed for this album. When Dan Reed Network – Dan Reed on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Brion James on lead guitar, Melvin Brannon on bass, Daniel Pred on drums and Blake Sakamoto on keyboards – released their Bruce Fairnbairn (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Kiss, Black ‘N Blue) produced debut album back in 1987, I was hooked instantly. Even though the production was a bit thin even by 1987 standards, DRN’s brand of hard rock, AOR and funk really hit me where it should. The album was full of great rockers with more hooks than a fishing boat, choruses to die for and awesome musicians. I was completely convinced that this band would be huge – as in HUGE! That didn’t happen with the first record, but the band sure did get lots of positive reviews and gained a reputation as a killer live act. We wrote 1989 when the brilliant follow-up Slam came out. They had hired Nile Rodgers of Chic (Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Diana Ross among many others) as the producer. In hindsight, that was a mistake – the production was too pop when it should have been more rock, but the songs were all awesome. DRN became stars with that one – well, at least in Sweden and England, the rest of the world was still cold to the band. The Heat (1991, again produced by Fairbairn) is my favourite DRN album, but unfortunately, the sales didn’t match either the band’s or the record company’s expectations and after a short tour, DRN went into hiatus – a hiatus that became a permanent (well…) split. Reed went on to form the alternative smelling – and ill-fated – Adrenaline Sky, but the band was short-lived and went into oblivion faster than you could say tiger in a dress. Then – silence. Lots of silence. Fact is, no one even knew whether Reed was alive or dead. Fortunately, Reed was very much alive and in the mid 2000’s, he was starting to get back on track musically. The Sharp Turn E.P. was released in 2004 and Dan started to book acoustic gigs – he has visited Sweden very frequently since then – and in 2008 we got the news that he was finally about to release a record. Coming Up For Air, his debut solo album arrived in 2009, a mellow and soft record, but the songs were all brilliant. That’s when I started hoping a DRN reunion would take place, but that was never on the table then. Since then Reed has released two more studio albums – Signal Fire (2012) and Transmission (2015) – and he’s been touring a lot, both on his own and his Dan Reed Band. But also with Dan Reed Network. When I got the news that DRN would reunite for one show on New Years Eve 2012 in Portland, I knew in my heart that it wouldn’t be just a one-off. And I was right, thank God. I have seen the band live a couple of times since then and they have been nothing short of amazing. At first, a new album wasn’t of interest for the guys but after a while, there’s only one logical step to take – a new album. And now it’s finally here. But I was nervous as well – what if the band wouldn’t deliver, what if the album would be a huge disappointment? If that would happen, I’d be heartbroken.

But before we get to the songs, a line-up change have to be addressed. It’s a well-known fact that Reed and keyboardsman Sakamoto doesn’t exactly celebrate Christmas together and on the last tour Sakamoto was missing, replaced by one Rob Daiker who have briefly been managing the keys in Reed’s solo band. Turns out that Reed and Sakamoto just can’t get along – a pity, but we welcome Daiker with open arms. So let’s see if DRN will blow me away or break my heart, then. Opener “Divided”, also the first single, is less funkier than I expected, but it really doesn’t matter as the tune is terrific. Partly, it goes back to the days of Slam, but with a more straight forward hard rock sound. “The Brave” is a funk rocker with a slight twist of AOR that flirts some with “Ritual” from the debut, although the keyboard sound is updated compared to how it sounded back then. It’s a brilliant tune, very catchy and it sticks right away. Must be a future single. “Infected” sounds like classic DRN. It is a bit on the mellow side and goes in a mid-tempo pace. But it still very groovy and it comes with a great melody and a striking chorus. The other tune that was released online pre the album release is “Champion”, a pretty dark and heavy ballad, but still quite soft with an almost intoxicating sound. Killer! The instrumental “Ignition” feels more like an intro of some kind, maybe intermission is a better word. It falls on the way side – for me it’s a have or lose tune. “Give It Love” is a straight forward melodic rocker and the funk is nowhere to be heard despite Brannon’s groovy bass lines. It’s still a killer song and the heavy, almost metal-like riffing and the very catchy hooks makes it a winner. “B There With U” is a mellow, slow and dark ballad that have more in common with Reed’s solo stuff than DRN. That said, it’s a really good song. “Save The World” is a really political song with both a big funk and reggae influence, but Brannon’s bass and James’ guitar makes it DRN all the way. It’s also cool that Brion James got to show his lead vocal skills on record for the first time, the guy do have a good voice. “Eye Of The Storm” is a bit of a bagatelle, a good pop song, but a filler. “Reunite” also goes more in the Reed-solo vein, mellow, funk-less, but still a great pop-rocker – very memorable. The ballad “Heaven” might not be as amazingly awesome as “Rainbow Child” or “Stronger Than Steel” (both from Slam), but it is a damn good song. Again, I get the feel of a Dan Reed solo song here, but that that really doesn’t matter. “Sharp Turn” might be a bit on the soft side but the groovy rhythm makes it a swinging DRN song anyway – brilliant. The band closes the album with “Stand Tall”, a slower but funk-heavy rock song that mixes the sounds of SlamThe Heat and Dan’s second album Signal Fire – a great song and a great way to end the album.

Yes, ladies and gents, Dan Reed Network is back and they have released a killer album. Melvin Brannon’s bass, Brion James’ killer guitar licks and Reed’s very personal melodies makes this album – for the bigger part – a real DRN album. But, yes, there might be a bit too many slow and mellow tunes, the big-time funk and the groove of old days is missing on a few occasions and at times I wish there would be more fat rockers, but one must remember that it was 25 years since DRN’s last album and things change – and people change musically as well. But what we do get here is quality – lots and lots of it. Dan Reed’s last solo album may have been a slight disappointment but even though I felt a bit nervous that the album wouldn’t match their earlier work, I knew in my heart that this band wouldn’t release a half-arsed record as a comeback – and they sure didn’t. I had looked forward so much to this record and DRN didn’t disappoint me one bit. Awesome band – awesome record! A must buy!

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Divided
2. The Brave
3. Infected
4. Champion
5. Ignition
6. Give It Love
7. B There With U
8. Save The World
9. Eye Of The Storm
10. Reunite
11. Heaven
12. Sharp Turn
13. Stand Tall