by Geoff Bailie
Many history books tell of the death of prog at the hands of the emerging punk / new wave movement in the late 1970s … but of course, we know that music never dies. Cut to 1983 when teenage Rob Reed and his school friends are scrambling the money to record a selection of Reed’s songs, under the band name Cyan. The short version is that Reed/ Cyan morphed into Magenta, and the original band was revered as a mover in the story of British prog, even with most of their music being out of print.
Almost 30 years later, Reed has returned to those tracks, like a long-lost demo, and put together a new lineup of Cyan to bring the songs to a wider audience. With many years of experience, Rob carefully considered who the new band should be. The lineup now includes Peter Jones, Luke Machin, and Dan Nelson, names familiar to many by way of their involvement in many British prog bands and projects such as Magenta, Camel, and others. Together they amended, adjusted, and polished the raw materials into a brand new version of the For King and Country album.
The mission now, as it was then, is to bring melodic, adventurous tracks, in a vintage prog vein, with the best of today’s players and production, and … it’s an incredible success.
Opening track “The Sorceror” sets the tone and is a (relatively) quick way of deciding whether this album is for you! It is more than 15 minutes long, shifts through many sections and styles and… it’s about a wizard! Joking aside, from the first taste of Reed’s keys, Machin’s distinctive guitar style, and the phenomenal voice of Peter Jones’ voice, I knew this was music that suited my pallet! It pulses with energy, thanks to the fantastic rhythm section who make it a driving and powerful epic. The song shifts through sections, themes, and solos with Peter Jones hitting the emotive heights of his vocal range.
The album however isn’t all 15-minute epics and the next two tracks shift into a more progressive pop phase. It doesn’t take anything away from this music to say that a strong Genesis inspiration is present on “Call Me,” as Reed’s melodic gift combines with simpler playing from the band as a whole, letting Dan Nelson’s bass take a path that strays from just hitting the root notes! The closing guitar solo from Luke Machin almost sounds like a keyboard such are the bends and flow of his playing style. Throughout the album, you can hear how he blends Hackett/ Howe with Holdsworth / Alan Murphy into something that’s truly his own. “I Defy The Sun,” a song of returning and homecoming is another simpler track, but consolidates the band-feel of this entire project – the spotlight never shines too brightly on any individual and each musician’s contribution is essential in the balance.
“Don’t Turn Away” kicks off with an epic orchestral / cinematic opening, that moves through a stripped-back acoustic interlude, shifting through different phases including an uplifting bridge section before the orchestral opening returns to close out the song in suitable style. This isn’t prog by numbers – it’s cleverly crafted music drawing on elements across the whole range of influences. Snowbound is a full instrumental where Luke Machin’s playing takes center stage, joined at various points by Reed’s keys and, for that true retro touch, Peter Jones’s flute!
With a pastoral acoustic intro, the epic “Man Amongst Men” has Jones joined by Angharad Brinn, who provides female vocals which beautifully compliment his. This multi-part track is almost 12 minutes long and is a tale of regret of man who lives alone, haunted by the memory of an incident in his past – the lyric is open to a certain amount of interpretation, but the music shifts and sections really convey the overall story.
Another instrumental, “Nightflight,” has a huge variety of instrumentation, with horns, Spanish guitar, ethereal keyboards, and the closing duel between keyboard and guitar being absolutely superb! The thing that I love about this is that it isn’t just a shred-fest – the melodic side of Machin and Reed’s soloing is so strong that with repeated listenings those melodies are as memorable as the vocal lines. Closing the album is the title track, “For King and Country” which, interestingly for an album written by a young man, is another song that has an older man reflecting on his past life, and how he feels the lengths he and his friends went to protect their country are all but forgotten.
If someone had handed me this CD and said “check this out… it’s a long-established prog band who you’ve somehow managed to miss”, my reaction would have been: who is this… I want to hear more! The fact that this is, to all intents and purposes, a brand new band, makes me even more excited that this is hopefully the start of something new for Cyan. So don’t read the “blurb” and write it off as a rehash of old material – it’s a band line up that absolutely gels and shows each player in the best possible light. Plus… if you are a fan of 5.1 surround mixes, once again Rob Reed shows he’s one of the finest creators of these, presenting a fully immersive version of the album to indulge in.
To paraphrase the old British rhyme, it’s time you checked this music out… Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something… Cyan!
Released on Sept. 24th, 2021
Key Tracks: The Sorceror, I Defy The Sun, Don’t Turn Away
3.I Defy The Sun
4.Don’t Turn Away
6.Man Amongst Men
8.For King and Country
Rob Reed – Keys
Peter Jones- Vocals
Dan Nelson – Bass
Luke Machin – Guitars
Jimmy Griffiths – Drums