Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Dan Reed Network “Slam” (1989)

As the late 80s came to a close, the mire of hair metal and over-processed pop had pretty much taken over the musical world. Not that there wasn’t a lot of goodness in the mainstream, but it really is easy to look back now and wonder what the hell we were thinking allowing a band like BulletBoys to go gold, when superior acts like King’s X, Enuff Z’nuff or Lillian Axe struggled to find their place.

The Dan Reed Network is another one of those superior bands. I think their sound confused people and hence they were not easy to peg into one particular genre. They had a style that combined Prince-like funk, early Van Halen bravado and attitude and Bon Jovi’s gift for commercial bombast and wrapped it around a hair metal look that might have done more harm than good.

Co-producer Nile Rogers, once of hit makers Chic and the Power Station, helped to tweak these 13 songs to perfection, and in what is becoming a weekly cliché, should have been mined for hit after multi-platinum hit.

Though singles “Make It Easy,” “Tiger In A Dress” and “Come Back Baby” did moderately well across Europe, it was the amazing ballads “Rainbow Child” and “Lover” that elevated their status and allowed them to open stadium tours for Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones in the UK. Yet here in the US, they never became anything more than a club level act. Criminal.

For me, those tunes were just scratching the surface as I thought the mid-tempo ballads “I’m Lonely, Please Stay” and “All My Lovin’” were about as sure fire #1 hits as I’ve ever heard. Same goes for mega-power ballad “Stronger Than Steel,” which coincidentally became mine and my wife’s wedding song. This album’s infectious melodies were only made stronger by the lyrical angle, which was so far above anything else out at the time. In all honesty, it’s an album like this that makes some of us the passionate and obsessive fans about music we become.

Since this release, the band went on to release another fantastic album in “The Heat” before breaking up. After a long spiritual journey, Dan finally released the solo “Coming Up For Air” last year and is well worth your time as well. Other members of the band would go on to play with Stevie Salas, Edgar Winter and En Vouge.

Over the years, I’ve casually gotten to know Dan as well as drummer Dan Pred and keyboardist Blake Sakamoto and am proud to call them friends. Even more so that they’ve recorded one of my favorite albums of all time in what should have made them a worldwide household name.

I asked Dan Reed to give me a few thoughts on the album:

“Most of Slam was written and demoed in the back of a bus as we toured the US and Europe in 1988. We are on the road with UB40 throughout the US, and on our first European tours. It was an exciting time for, seeing the world, and taking in all the different cultures, really witnessing we are world citizens and not just 'Americans'.

The recording process was even more interesting for we lived in New York City while recording for three months and working with Nile Rogers, famed for producing Duran Duran, Madonna and David Bowie, let alone his guitar work and writing for the band Chic, a group I grew up listening to as a kid in South Dakota.

It was the best of times for a young band just catching a glimpse of the music business.”