In 2011 I wrote that Alan Reed should be proud of the music he recorded for his mini-CD Dancing With Ghosts (see review). He had the guts to try something new after being a band member for many years with Abel Ganz and Pallas. Thus I was looking forward to his first full length debut album. First In A Field Of One has been produced by Mike Stobbie, the former keyboardist of Pallas. Alongside Alan Reed, the album features some well-known guest musicians like singer Christina Booth (Magenta), drummer Scott Higham (Pendragon) and guitarists Kalle Wallner (RPWL) and Jeff Green (Illegal Eagles).
A couple of months later than expected I could finally put this brand-new disc in my CD-player. I must say the album really is a big surprise because Alan Reed and his fellow musicians succeeded in recording an outstanding album that I liked throughout. First In A Field Of One doesn't contain any weak tracks whatsoever and that's a great compliment to Alan Reed, who must have had a difficult time after his departure from Pallas. I guess he wanted to show the world that he's still a fantastic singer-musician, who's able to write excellent and substantial songs.
On his website you can read that the album contains 'a unique collection of songs providing the perfect setting for the unmistakeable timbre of Alan's voice'. Who am I to disagree because that's exactly the case on First In A Field Of One. But it's not only Alan's voice that shines. The way the keyboards and the electric guitars are played is just a delight for all progressive rock fans as well. Listen to the excellent guitar solos by Jeff Green on Kingdom Of The Blind and Darkness Has Spoken and the one on Never Too Late by Kalle Wallner. Pink Floyd is never far away on these very melodic solos. The keyboard parts by Mike Stobbie on all tracks sound amazing as well, providing the album from time to time a bombastic and a typical neo-progressive rock sound. Just like the albums Reed recorded with Pallas.
On Alan's website I could also read that the album embraces a number of musical flavours and this is true in more than one aspect. Alongside strong prog rock I discovered elements of Celtic folk, world music and even jazz music all pleasantly integrated in the songs. The funniest part on the album is the way Alan Reed included these jazzy elements in the track The Usual Suspects, which can be heard at the start of this piece. When I heard it for the first time I had to frown my eyebrows for a moment, but the great singing of Christina Booth works perfectly for this jazzy type of music. In a clever way this song changes into a true progressive rock tune due to the strong synthesizer and bass parts. Well done!
Alan Reed wanted his first solo album to sound organic, warm and personal using real instruments played by real people. Unfortunately that wasn't always possible due to time and budgetary restraints; therefore he 'cheated' a bit on parts that limited his options. He deliberately wanted this album to be a solo album in the true sense of the word. That's why he not only sang all the male vocal parts, but he also did the bass and much of the guitar work as well. He did it perfectly and many times I was speechless while listening to these parts. He said that he only sent for people to do the things he really couldn't do himself like the pieces performed by the above-mentioned guitar players.
Well, I guess he asked the right guitarists because they lifted the album to a level that will be enjoyed by most devotees of progressive rock. Especially fans of neo-prog and bands as Pallas and IQ should check out First In A Field Of One. There's also enough to enjoy on this album for the fans of Pink Floyd. This fine debut album by Alan Reed proves that he can have a career of his own being a solo artist!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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