Unfortunately the cooperation between singer Alan Reed and the Scottish band Pallas ended much too soon. Together they released amazing studio albums like Knightmoves (1985), The Wedge (1986), Beat The Drum (1999), The Cross And The Crucible (2001) and The Dreams Of Men (2005). It's not for me to judge why they split up; there has already been said enough in the social media about this issue. In the meantime both the singer and the band moved on in their career. Pallas replaced Alan Reed by Paul Mackie. In the beginning of 2011 they released the album XXV, another masterpiece (see review). Alan Reed didn't sit still either. He did some live contributions for the rock opera She by Clive Nolan and he started to work on his first solo album First In A Field Of One. As a stepping stone to this album Reed recorded the EP Dancing With Ghosts.
This EP was recorded to end his previous activities. The songs he had chosen for this release have been stripped bare to the bone: just a voice, an acoustic guitar, a smattering of keyboards and an occasional acoustic bass. After the 'sturm und drang' era of his previous band this seemed to be a refreshing way of making a new start. Recently Reed also performed live in such a small setting. However, the almost half an hour of music on this EP is very worthwhile listening to if only for the return of his wonderful voice which makes the music so recognizable.
Dancing With Ghosts starts with an adapted version of Sanctuary , the first song he co-wrote with Pallas. Alan told me that this piece has always had a 'ghostly quality', and that's what he tried to concentrate upon on this version. Indeed, this rendition sounds very strong but due to Alan's voice and the use of a sample of this tune, the original piece is still recognizable. However, the tempo is much slower and the drums and the awesome guitar solo aren't included, but I didn't really miss them. The fine keyboard textures throughout this track make it a true prog rock tune. Next is Who's To Blame?, another Pallas song. This one comes much closer to the original version on The Cross And The Crucible. It's performed on the acoustic guitar only, but it sounds beautifully and above all very relaxing. The solo on the sitar sounds very innovatively.
Kean On The Job has been taken form Gratuitous Flash (1984), an album recorded by Reed's former band Abel Ganz. He loved this song since the moment he heard it back in 1983. It was written by keyboardist Hew Montgomery and meant to be a tribute to one of his acquaintances, a heroic social worker. When I heard the original version for the first time it sounded pretty similar to a song from the Genesis album Duke (1980) to me. However, the new version has nothing to do with Genesis whatsoever. This time it's well-performed on the piano and the acoustic guitar. On Teardrops In The Rain Mr. Reed plays the acoustic guitar. This short and simple track deals with a troubled relationship. Begin Again is a mid-tempo melody played on the acoustic guitar backed up by some percussion instruments like the bodhran. The song's theme is the often contradictory nature of the Scottish identity. It contains strong influences of Celtic folk music. Reed felt tempted to add a bagpipe and a penny-whistle to this song, but I guess that would have been a bit overdone.
Alan Reed may be proud of the music he recorded for this fine EP. Sure, he didn't perform it completely on his own. He got some help from Scott Higham (Pendragon) on percussion, Mark Spencer (Twelfth Night) on keyboards and sitar and Jennifer Clark on the upright and acoustic bass. Reed had the guts to try something new after spending many years in Abel Ganz and Pallas. I'm already looking forward to First In A Field Of One produced by Mike Stobbie, the former keyboard player of Pallas. Furthermore the new album will feature guest appearances from Scott Higham and guitarists Kalle Wallner (RPWL) and Jeff Green (Illegal Eagles). It's due to be completed late 2011. For more information about Alan's first solo release, please check out his website. Welcome back, Alan!
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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