by Bob Keeley
Many prog fans know Rob Reed through his band Magenta, a band that has built quite a following in the prog community over the years. But before Magenta, there was Cyan, Rob Reed’s early band, formed in 1983. That band did not survive and Reed went on to form Magenta. However, in 2021, Reed gathered a new set of musicians and resurrected Cyan by taking material that was written and recorded in the early days of the original band (and released in the 90s, after the band had broken up) but now rewritten, re-arranged, and re-recorded by a new band. It worked remarkably well.
Reed surrounded himself with excellent players: guitarist Luke Machin (The Tangent), and bassist Dan Nelson (Magenta.) But what really sets this band apart from Reed’s other work is the addition of Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) on vocals. Jones’ rich baritone is the first thing that really grabbed our attention on For King and Country and does the same on the excellent new album, Pictures from the Other Side.
For this new album, Reed went back to the Cyan’s second album, for which he had written six new songs. Clocking it at just under an hour, Pictures from the Other Side is superior to For King and Country in both composition and in how they are performed by the new band. While this does not appear to be a concept album in the traditional sense, each song is part of a series of stories and reminiscences which allow Jones to do what he does so well on his Tiger Moth Tales music, tug at our emotions with his expressive voice.
Jones is joined on nearly every song by soprano Angharad Brinn. While not a member of the band (yet???), her voice is one of the highlights of the album. Her voice blends beautifully with Jones’ and on the opener “A Broken Man” as well as “Tomorrow’s Here Today,” Brinn is not just a harmony or background singer, she is a full-fledged duet partner. “Tomorrow’s Here Today” in particular is a gentle and emotional song in which the two voices entwine and complement each other, reminiscent of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush on “Don’t Give Up,” one of the highlights on Gabriel’s So album from 1986. While it is difficult to pick a favorite song on Pictures from the Other Side, “Tomorrow’s Here Today” with its emotional first part and its up-tempo is a real contender.
The first song on the album, “A Broken Man,” is another example of Brinn and Jones joining forces, singing counterpoint, and elevating the song to another level. Opening with the sound of pipes (unclear if it is bagpipes or uillean pipes … or maybe it is generated from Reed’s keyboard) in the distance, the band kicks in with a pipe-like mid-tempo guitar figure that leads to Jones delivery of the strong melody. On this eleven-minute track the band has plenty of room to stretch out and develop motifs or melodic ideas and, in true Prog fashion, to recapitulate them later. Reed’s keys are almost always present but the rest of the band both supports and takes their turn in the spotlight.
Each track has its own character and brings its own noteworthy moments. The stacked harmony vocals on the title track bring a sound that is unique to the album. Jones’ saxophone is prominent in that song and makes for a delightful new color for the band. The album slows down in tempo a bit for a trio of songs in the middle: “Solitary Angel,” “Follow the Flow,” (a slow and gorgeous song which is just piano and voice for most of it) and the aforementioned “Tomorrow’s Here Today.”
If the album stopped at the end of those songs (the 3rd through 5th tracks,) It would be a completely satisfying album. But it doesn’t end there. The album closes with “Nosferatu,” a name that evokes vampires, particularly Dracula. This 18-minute track closes with album with all the things people who love early prog are looking for; memorable melodies, excellent vocals and moments where the instrumentalists shine, particularly Reed’s Hammond organ solo and Machin’s guitar solo.
Rob Reed is a prolific artist, putting out a lot of material in his multitude of outlets (Magenta, as well as solos work.) Pictures from the Other Side is among his best work. Each track is a winner, the performances are excellent throughout and Reed’s arrangements are outstanding. This is an album that will stay in high rotation for me for a while and will almost certainly get on my best of the year list.
Released on Nov 17th, 2023.
Order Pictures From The Other Side here:
1- Broken Man
2- Pictures From The Other Side
3- Solitary Angel
4- Follow The Flow
5- Tomorrow’s Here Today
DVD consists of:
Full album in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround
The Quiet Room session (live acoustic performance)
1- I Defy The Sun
2- Don’t Turn Away
3- Call Me
4- Man Amongst Men/The Sorceror
6- For King And Country
(Magenta / Kompendium / Sanctuary / Chimpan A)
(Tiger Moth Tales / Camel / Francis Dunnery’s It Bites)
(Godsticks / Magenta)
(Maschine / The Tangent / Karnataka / Francis Dunnery’s It Bites)