DAN REED NETWORK
FIGHT ANOTHER DAY
Released on June 3, 2016 (Frontiers Records)
Review by Fat Peter:
Back in the day, I remember when I was going through all the sunset strip bands and thinking that one day, given the fact that the sleaze rock genre was not as vibrant with new acts as it is today, I might run out of quality bands to listen to. My thinking was that the majority of the groups died out in the mid ’90s, and even if some survivors kept on recording, their releases were for the most part far away from the style and quality of their heyday.
For a few years now, thanks to some labels that are virtually digging the bands from out of the ground, I could hear some really good music thought to be long forgotten. If not for the work of these engaged people, I could have never stumbled on gems like Hit’n’Run or other forgotten treasures. One label who really stands out among others is Frontier Records. These guys not only dig up the bands from out of obscurity, but somehow manage to convince the forgotten musicians of yesterday (possibly through money involved) to reunite and record new music. Such was the case with brand new albums by Drive She Said, or Treat, not to mention the brilliant Stryper and House of Lords releases of the last few years. There are many more examples, some better known, some virtually unknown. To me, such an unknown band was Dan Reed Network, who’s comeback album Fight Another Day, was released on June 3, 2016.
The band had their fifteen minutes of fame back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and managed to issue some interesting albums, even supporting big names such as Bon Jovi and Rolling Stones, but after their 1991 release The Heat, the group disbanded and were swept by the changing musical tastes.
And this is in my opinion a misunderstanding, as Dan Reed Network were one of the most versatile and original (if not too original for their own sake) group that came out of at the time. On their records, they combined hard rock, funk, and even some electronics and some disco influence (but not in the way KISS tried to pull it off in the late ’70s). The band had all elements needed for success: splendid musicians, an outlandish singer, really good and albeit very multi-styled songs. Somehow however, something went wrong. Maybe in the spew of Poisons, Warrants and Motleys, the hard rock audiences were not ready for a funk/hard rock five-piece who’s only one member (a drummer of all the things) was a white dude. Everybody else was ethnically from all around the place, and that might not fit the audiences at the time. Such were the times, until Living Colour broke the impasse.
Anyway, now the band is back with an almost all original lineup and has released a comeback album through Frontiers. What about the album itself? It is good, really good. But it needs time. At first, I found it to be just “ok”, even average, nothing to be really excited about. However, after a few listens, this release grew on me, and that’s even though I am not really a fan of a hard rock with such a modern feel or so many out of the box influences. And of such this album is chock-full. Some songs are very out of the box. “Save The World” is straight on reggae-rock, which I have to say is way too much for me. “Ignition” is another strange ethno-rock instrumental tune. Thankfully, there are also some really good rock solid gems here, like “Give It Love” or “The Brave.” There is one ballad-like song, which stuck in my mind, the very solid “B There With U.” I am not very big on ballads, but this one is really well composed, and well sung.
And compositions I think are the strongest part of this record. There in my opinion lies the key to getting into this album. You have to acquaint yourself with the songwriting. Don’t expect blistering solos or hellish screams. The guitarist Brion James is a mirror opposite of players like Yngvie Malmsteen or even Steve Vai. He goes more into feeling, and tone. Dan Reed also does not hit glass shattering notes, deciding rather to focus on delivering a very strong soulful vocals. The rest of the band is also very tight, but they do not overdo it in any part. They are playing these very well crafted, complex songs very well. That is all there is to it here.
So to wrap it up, I have to return to the fact that initially when I wanted to write a review of this record, I was about to slam it a bit as over-extraneous and bland, not really catchy or memorable. But the more I listened to it, I see it kind of like the infamous Van Halen III record (without the insane Eddie Van Halen solos). Initially it sounds weak, but it grows with every listen, when you start to find new things about the songs you did not catch before. So again, I think this one will not be on any type of album of the year list, but it is still a very stellar, solid and mature rock record. If you like mixing your rock with funk and some ethno, than you’ll like it even more.
Who I think deserves a lot of credit (apart from the band of course) is the label, who relentlessly keeps on delivering very interesting releases, and digging up some long forgotten gems. Thanks to the people at Frontiers, I am trying to explore Dan Reed Network’s previous records, and some of the music I must say is outstanding. So wrapping up, I can only encourage you to check out Fight Another Day, and while you’re at it, explore the rich catalogue Frontiers has on its web page. There are some releases there, maybe more than just a few, which sleaze rock fans might find very satisfying.
Review by eibon2:
“I’m not black and I don’t pretend to be but I understand the fight for unconditional equality.”
These words come from the Dan Reed Network, a band that had two white members, two black members and one Chinese player. This alone made them stand out to me. In a time when matters of race could possibly divide civilization in general, these five guys came together to make beautiful music. In the mid ’80s when the rock/metal scene splintered and every subgenre became a scene into itself, things got heavier, thrashier, eviler and twisted in all manner of forms, and for me one of the most surprising was the beginning of the likes of, dare I say it, funk metal/rock. There were many bands that made this their home and came to great acclaim. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Living Colour, and even the likes of Fishbone and Primus all played an instrumental part in the growth of this form of music.
For me, there was one band that did it slightly different and from the first listen, I have loved all I have heard. They were called the Dan Reed Network and their music was a huge kick for me. At times more subtle and lighter than the bands listed above, there was something about these guys that totally worked for me. Comprised of an ethnically diverse group of individuals, they were able to put together something that I have always called Prince with heavy guitar. The songs were catchy, funky, even danceable and really good! One thing that has stuck with me even after all this time is when Dan Reed was annoyed the band was getting press because of their looks and his hair in general so one day as a “fuck you” to record industry press and all the evils involved — way before it became fashionable — he shaved his head bald; possibly committing a bit of career suicide by choosing more to be a musician than to be a rock star.
After three albums that sold rather well and with hard work finding an audience as well as constant touring, Dan Reed Network got weary of the business of music and the changing tides of fashion and left us. When grunge became all the rage and some things like subtlety and a fine sense of melody and lead guitar was considered not cool anymore, Dan Reed Network chose to go in separate ways. Dan Reed, the main songwriter, after dabbling in the club business in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, USA followed a much different path. He moved to the Middle East and began listening, learning and helping people in the area. Living with monks and the like helped him gather a worldlier outlook and a deeper understanding of the world. The other guys went on to various other careers.
In the last few years, Dan Reed has made a bit of a comeback. With five releases with one digital and others sold directly online, the new music is stylistically much different than Dan Reed Network. The fun rocking dance beats and funky guitar riffs are what I think the Network band brings to his songs. The new solo material was based around a simple guitar line and really showcased his maturing voice and the songwriting ability the man has. With this new material, he has been doing a number of solo private intimate concerts and as is usually the case with live shows, the old material is what goes down best, so he worked a few Dan Reed Network songs into his set and his fans loved it.
This led to people asking him to get the band back together and in fact they did doing a number of reunion shows over the last few years. From the various reports from the live shows, it seemed the guy still had it and we were all waiting and hoping for some kind of new material. At this point, in steps the people at Frontiers Records. Frontiers has over recent years become a home for melodic rock artists old and new. They have released new material from many classic AOR bands from times past, with mixed results and reaction, but they got the stuff out and gave those guys a shot to prove they still had something to offer.
With a new set of tunes, they return this year. Comprising of very nearly the complete band, sadly missing is keyboardist Blake Sakamoto who after doing the reunion shows decided not to continue with the band. The new record — yes, I still call them records — is 13 mostly brand new songs with a few songs redone from the Dan Reed solo career, and one tune from guitarist Brion James that is a great example of his voice and something I’d like to hear more of. The highlight tunes after a number of listens are “Divided,” “Champion,” “Save The World” and “Infected.” All of which, if some executive somewhere would give them a chance, would fit well in today’s “pop” radio market. The more I listen to them, the songs “The Brave” and “Reunite” show they group’s strengths the more I get familiar with them. Much like the Trial By Fire record from Journey, the new songs were different than the sound they had earlier on. Still in the same ballpark with the arena rock feel but more mature. Maybe a bit steady with not as many diverse tempos and missing the quick punch that “Rainbow Child,” “Forgot To Make Her Mine” or “Seven Sisters Road” have.
If you are a fan of well-played commercial rock with a great sense of melody and songs that are funky at times and even danceable in spots, do yourself a favor and investigate the Dan Reed Network. These days, it’s easier than it’s ever been to find new music. The world is basically at our fingertips these days and anything can be found with a quick internet search. Dan Reed Network are definitely a band worth checking out and I am very glad they came back to us. Let’s hope they continue bringing us music for many years to come.
02. The Brave
06. Give It Love
07. B There With U
08. Save The World
09. Eye Of The Storm
12. Sharp Turn
13. Stand Tall
Dan Reed – lead vocals, guitars, piano
Brion James – guitars, keys, vocals
Melvin Brannon II – bass, vocals
Rob Daiker – keyboards, programming, vocals
Dan Pred – drums, percussion, videographer
Reviewed by Fat Peter and eibon2 for Sleaze Roxx, June 2016
Dan Reed Network‘s “Divided” video:
From the album FIGHT ANOTHER DAY.