This is one that slipped through our net recently – Lets Hear It For The King came out in June. Nonetheless, it’s too good to keep quiet about, so Let’s Hear It for the Dan Reed Network! This is a band that doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed, they like to challenge beliefs, smash down existing protocols, and build something new out of the shrapnel. Their distinctive brand of rock, funk, and soul is an exhilarating blend of infectious melodies, driving rhythms, provocative lyrics and honours their shredding funk rock roots – in short, a whole lotta fun. I should also point out at this stage that Lets Hear It for the King is not to be confused with Avenged Sevenfold’s equally good Hail to the King!
The Dan Reed Network have been around for a while, their self-titled debut dating from 1988, followed by Slam (1989), The Heat (1991), then a pretty significant pause before Fight Another Day in 2016, Origins in 2018 and now Lets Hear It For The King. As previously reported in Velvet Thunder, the band is actually on tour across Europe promoting the album as we speak – it includes a nine-date co-headline UK run with Reckless Love and special guests Collateral in August and September, plus headline shows in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Germany. “The new album snarls and bites,” says an enthusiastic Dan Reed. “We wanted to cut our teeth alongside some young, high-energy bands, so who better than Reckless Love and Collateral. Those boys can rock. Anyone who’s seen DRN live knows that’s where we come to life. We’re ready to deliver a lot of energy and give the audience a direct shot of funk n’ roll!”
Details for the upcoming Dan Reed Network concerts are available at www.danreed-network.com/tour.
Back to the album: Let me say at the outset that for any old rocker who gets nervous at the mention of the word “funk” (like me!), you needn’t worry! This is a seriously bouncy, bubbly good-time collection of rock that I defy anyone not to enjoy! It kicks off with Pretty Karma, and this sets out DRN’s credentials: an almost Offspring-like pacey beat and vibe; rich honeyed vocals from Dan the Man; bubbling keys and chordwork, a hint of 80’s melodic rock, and a massive anthemic chorus – what’s not to like? The lyrics aim to shine light on how political and social tribalism, especially in the US, is in danger of creating a divide between humanity that will be hard to heal if it continues unchecked. The Left and Right share far more commonalities than differences. Unfortunately, there’s far too much money to be made on making sure people never see eye to eye and the karma, or energy, that is fostered in this environment will one day come back to haunt everyone. All this is mirrored in the agression of Dan’s arrangement, balanced by the ‘healing’ of the chorus.
The Ghost Inside is next, this started off as a demo shared by Dan’s good friend and musical accomplice Brion James. It’s got a stonking riff and really meaty rhythm, I particularly love the chugging bass line. To me, Dan sounds very like Phil Collins on this and a number of tracks, and by that I’m underlining the classy, smooth 80’s vibe to much of this record. The song itself reflects on our internal battles of regrets, uncertainties, weaknesses, how we have to face up to ourselves – the ‘ghost inside’.
Starlight is a simply huge stadium rock number, destined for live greatness. It’s a homage to AC/DC and their no-nonsense infectious rock, inspired by Dan seeing his friends the band perform in Berlin. And it certainly lives up to that sort of billing, the riff absolutely nails it, the pulsating beat is timeless and the chorus is huge – I bet this will be a live staple for years, and I can imagine AC/DC playing it in tribute!
Supernova is co-written by Dan and bassist Melvin Brannon II. It harks back to DRN’s roots in the funk rock club days, and includes a chunk from one of the band’s first songs from the 80’s, ‘Mind and Body’. The theme of this is the awful growth of celebrity culture (shudder!). Let’s Hear It For The King continues that dark theme of the hypocrisy of the rich and famous. Most of the lyrics date back to 1999 when Reed was a club owner in Portland, Oregon, and Brion James has re-ignited it by beefing up the rock vibe with a touch of Dub Step….these two make a powerful combination!
I See Angels is another Brion James number, demonstrating the breadth of this band’s song-writing prowess. It’s gentle and almost pastoral, less cynical in comparison to much of what has gone before, this band are versatile! Gorgeous little guitar lick in the middle, this is the “cigarette-lighter track” for live shows. Homegrown also retains that more positive vibe, it started as chilled out funky number until Dan got his teeth into the groove! A big, big chorus celebrates the love and friendship over depression and uncertainty, Dan is convinced that that positive vibe is core to life, regardless of what gets thrown at you.
Stumble is another classic partnership of “funky groove + rock guitar = equals great music”! Both playful and powerful, this song exhorts differing religions to realise they all use and need the same “mountain top”, we are indeed all one. Just Might Get It ploughs a similar furrow, trumpeting positivity rather than apathy or self-pity. Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it! Another anthemic track with big chorus, big guitar work, it’s really, really enjoyable! Where’s the Revolution really could be Phil Collins, down to the “momma” line in the chorus! – massive percussion and Genesis style arrangements abound, great melodies and rich, so rich, vocals!
Are You Ready? is a hard driving rocker that just builds and builds in the classic rock mould. Huge strapline, chugging riffs, bubbling keys and beat, its all here – another really strong track that will be enormous live – a fantastic song! And then the album’s closer, Unfuck My World is another hard driving song that makes me think of Phil Collins fronting someone like Collateral, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, The Dam Truth, The Tea Party….or DRN! It’s great good-time rock, a steam-roller of a beat with some tasty guitar work. Messages aside, it’s just good fun to be had by all!
The CD also has a bonus track, Last Day On Saturn, not available on the vinyl edition. It’s a slightly more restrained, reflective piece of rock but beautifully measured and produced, another stonking chorus, these guys can seemingly write radio-friendly rock anthems in their sleep, matched with superbly pointed lyrics that merit further pondering….So – I’d not listened to much DRN before this but, wow, what a great mix of up-tempo rock tracks. I’m going to have to see these guys live ASAP!