Many people only really know of Dan Reed from his days with funk rock superstars The Dan Reed Network and may have fixed him in that particular niche of musical history. However in recent years his re-emergence as a solo artist has seen the hugely welcome return of a man who crafts some of the most beautiful melodies ever committed to disc.
Playing regularly to large and small crowds across Europe and America, both with his backing band or at his spellbinding solo acoustic shows, he has pleased fans by playing a selection of the old hits whilst filling his sets with new material that is equally strong if not better than the Network favourites. Seeing him performing tracks from his magnificent last album “Coming Up For Air” at Union Chapel, Download Festival and a tiny club in Nottingham in recent times have confirmed to me that he is still the consummate performer. His tales of how he went from stardom to addiction to redemption – and back to music – pepper his live sets and give fascinating background to his journey as an artist and a human being. They also provide insight into what sparked the writing of many of the songs that grace his last and this new solo work. Dan really knows how to connect with an audience in the live arena but can he do the same in the studio?
Absolutely. Sitting here looking out at the snow it warms the cockles of the heart to be graced with his new album “Signal Fire”. Launching straight in with his familiar tones and exuberant melodies, the title track is an instant classic – as uplifting and enriching as anything he has ever recorded. “All I Need Is You” shimmers elegantly and the sombre, reflective chords of “Only Love” collide with the positivity of the lyrics to create a truly emotional blend. It’s a track that has evolved from an acoustic demo into a gently layered piece of saccharine-free balladry with a hook that’s unstoppable. It seems so effortless but there is of course a huge amount of effort and indeed love that goes into the crafting, composition and recording of all his work.
“End Of The World” is another sonnet for the 21st century, opening gently and then lulling you into its splendidly big fat chorus, which you’ll be singing heartily before the track is done. The hurried fast-talking delivery of “Avalanche” suits the uneasiness reflected in the lyrics, conjuring up an image of despair at a life that’s moving too fast to keep up with, whereas “Slow Down” is a flashy, jolly James-meets-the-Monkees singalong belter.
Other highlights include the tender “Beloved” and the rather haunting “Indestructible” where Dan sounds pointedly fragile and it’s hard not to be sucked in to this tale of aspiration and reflection. Like so much of the album this is music with flair, soul and a sense of hope. It is uncynical, joyous and reassuring – reassuring that someone can still produce music so memorable after only one listen and so unabashedly philosophical.
Due to hit the UK in March, this is a performer who, unlike many folk who’ve made comebacks in recent years, is far from trading on past glories but rather he is continuing to grow as an artist. Still producing music that is timeless, inventive and engaging, Dan Reed‘s fire is certainly burning brightly.