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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Dan Reed

Coming Up For Air

Review by Larry Toering

I have to admit I'm quite a fan of Dan Reed, but I haven't exactly been following his career as of late. I suppose that means this review is overdue. I had been waiting for the proper time to cover it, and now is that time for me. After recently attending the 25th anniversary reunion of his former band, I decided it was essential to revisit this, as I await their forthcoming release. First of all, not only is his voice astonishingly still intact to my ears, it must be pointed out that of course his music is of a whole different approach these days. Now the sound is of a much more stripped back nature, categorically close to a more New Age sound, and I can't wait to hear what the next disc contains. This takes on a more easy listening style with primarily a lot of acoustic guitar work. But make no mistake, it's everything one can expect from him, as he continues to mature not only as a musician, but as a person in general. I'm impressed with the whole thing and glad to be able to put an insightful ear to it and finally give an opinion. I also must give all due credit to guitarist Rob Daiker, as I'm just catching into his remarkable talent, and glad to be doing so. This guy is an incredible all around musician, not just a guitarist, but a songwriter and producer, as well. There is no limelight vibe about him.  His role is a rather quiet one from what I'm finding, and it seals my opinion of him all the more. These songs are very spiritually connecting for me, and a very relaxing delivery of excellence. Every tune is somehow perfectly structured, as if they took a lot of time to write and record it.  I've been outside the loop too long when it comes to Dan Reed, so, without bias I can describe it and not lose a thing there. This would glow to me whether I go back with his music or not. Some might see it as a campfire approach compared to back in the day for him, but in my world that can be a very good thing. So, it is welcomed. It's a fresh quality thing of beauty, and absolutely majestic!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Coming up for Air
This is not only a work of pop perfection, there is way too much going on to simply leave it there. The piano breathes a soothing effect all over it, but the melodies in general are so fantastic you can't listen to it just once. The lyrics are cosmically applied to round the whole tune out. It plays kind of like a session that way, so it's hard to believe they wound up shaping it into what it is. It must be mentioned that the music somehow keeps it grounded, as Reed’s vocals take it to unimaginable heights. What a track this is to set up this collection of tunes, as it's a lot to take in and still have the rest of the album to go. What a killer opener this is!
Losing My Fear
 Continuing to impress, this is on the exact same level as the previous track, but one easily gets the impression the vibes won't quit as the disc wears on. There is no contriving here. You feel the honesty oozing off it like honey from a honeysuckle vine. If this were actually a flavor, that would be the taste to describe it. Once the guitar solo enters the scene, it's over, done deal! Talk about “spiritual,” man alive, this is magnificent in every way. The lyrics really say it all here, and the musical textures complete it in every way. This is a track I could stand going on for at least ten minutes, as it has a hypnotically epic appeal indeed. This is very touching! I simply have to contain myself here, so I'll stop at that description and just encourage readers to pick up a copy.
Closer
 This is a little easier to take in every bit of, and gets the emotions in order after being absorbed by such an extraordinary song. It goes a long way in getting the listener back into gripping the reality of the situation. To think how these things are accomplished should just be left up to the magic of which music is capable. What a sweet contrast this provides. How lovely indeed it is!
On Your Side
A most brilliant acoustic guitar motif sets this up very well, with a very effective one string line. The vocal melodies help sweep it along, as he sings so beautifully that it's approvingly sappy. The spiritual factor once again picks up highly on this, as it sends quite a chill up the spine. It's just so hard not to go emotionally overboard in describing it, as once again I have to contain myself from doing so. This is where Rob Daiker's haunting electric guitar lines also start to shine ever so brightly over the acoustic parts.
Brave New World
This has a jangling bounciness not found previously on the disc, and once again it kicks things into a whole different groove. This is a love song of sorts, but then a lot of what's to be found on offer is exactly that, one way or another. This has such a huge love factor to it, so that must be mentioned. I'm not trying to say this release is some kind of musical lesson that way. It's just so liberating that it's hard to hold back from feeling that sort of intention as it clearly resonates. It just pushes the hope factor that things can only get better in life, as you realize it's all what we make of it.
Feels Like Home
This is another piece where the understated guitar hangs soothingly in the background with undeniable awesomeness. It's another of the tracks that just have that spiritual connection going for it. A piano solo is featured, and as it kicks in, it just completes it altogether. It seems to be about a temple.
Middle Of Nowhere
Things stay on the bouncy level here, as I get a peaking vibe from it, and find this to be one of the most touching tracks on offer. I can't set this one down. It's so amazing that it deserves massive rotation. It's definitely one of my picks of the disc, and that’s not easy to pick here. This cut is absolutely killer!
Sacred Ground
If that wasn't enough, here things go again with another lyrically brilliant track, with some seriously thought provoking content. It's another magical tune that doesn't over do it with said seriousness in the process. If you're not impressed by now I'll eat my hat, and leave it down to taste. But I'm levitated as I listen to this, and that seems to be the whole idea of it. It seems to be about getting above what you realize is worth reflecting about, no matter what you attach it to. A clear message is offered here in that aspect.
Reach for the Sun
This has a very social-political vibe, as you feel the relativity it inspires at every turn. It’s another simply uplifting track, and again Rob Daiker eases in another electric solo. There is so much going on here that it's one of the harder tracks to describe. One just really needs to experience it for him or her self.
Candlelight
Without getting too far into this, right away it's so easy to pick up on the awesomeness. I have to say that it's mostly about how the lyrics complement the arrangement. This just takes the proverbial cake. I find it to certainly be another stand out track on the disc.
Pray for Rain
This has one of the more Eastern approaches indeed, as things slow back down a bit. A very regal effect takes over, without getting too intense or preachy in the process. It somehow belongs here with the rest, another piece of absolute perfection is the result. Excellent background vocals help thicken the track with a spicy touch. What a beautiful arrangement this contains, with a percussive factor that has been creeping into the last couple of tracks.
The Dictator
In coming to the end of such a great collection of songs, this stands apart as possibly the most different approach to be found on offer. It has a speech going through it in parts that tells everything there is to tell about it. With singing around the speech parts, it goes the distance in being both a song and an important message to the world. What a brilliant encapsulation of insight this closer is.

 

 
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