Friday, 30 December 2016

My Album Of 2016: Robert Reed - Sanctuary 2 - (also my Prog Album Of 2016)

One of the fabulous surprises for me in my musical journey was the appearance of Sanctuary by Robert Reed in 2014.

Robert Reed – The Multi Instrumentalist, composer , producer and guiding light of the Welsh band Magenta and through various solo projects (under various names other than his own – Kompendium, ChimpanA, Kiama) – produced Sanctuary 1 as an exercise in long form instrumental music. He used his love of Mike Oldfield as his template. Many saw it as a tribute to Oldfield – but it wasn’t intended to be a tribute or homage. It was a ‘doff of the hat’ to one of his biggest influences and musical heroes. And he pulled it off with a sense of elan that I didn’t think was possible in these musical times. It was a fantastic piece of work 
that was just begging to be followed up with another record in the same format.

opening of Sanctuary 2

So, using the same template as Sanctuary 1, Rob Reed has produced the follow up, Sanctuary 2. This time he has added another of his heroes into the mix – David Bedford. David worked with Oldfield since his early days in Kevin Ayers band and through his various solo work such as Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, The Odyssey, Instructions For Angels and Star’s End.
Indeed, the opening lines of Sanctuary 2 have David Bedford written all over them. And what a great opening it is. Stringed Keys with a tremendous deep sonic boom which certainly gives your bass speakers a workout.

Sanctuary 2 - Side 1

Rob Reed has looked to Sanctuary 1 as a starting point and built upon the sound. Adding more textures and colours whilst keeping to the spirit of the original. I was lucky enough to have heard some of the early mixes where I described the sound as being Sanctuary 1 but wearing velvet and brocade and he’s stuck with this in the final mix. It really is a beautiful piece of music.

Rob has once again taken on the role of multi instrumentalist as he once plays the vast majority of the instruments himself but has, this time, taken the opportunity to broaden the soundscape with the help of former Oldfield drummer Simon Phillips. The drums within the record lift it up to musical heights that the first Sanctuary just hinted at.

The danger of the follow up mirrors the work of Oldfield when he followed up Tubular Bells with the more pastoral and delicate, Hergest Ridge. But Rob Reed has come up with a beautiful collection of melodies contained within the two sides for Sanctuary 2.
With legendary producer Tom Newman again working on the project, Rob has the opposite problem to Oldfield. With his pop sensibility for melody, he has had to cut down on the number of melodic passages contained within the work and to develop a melodic and cohesive whole, rather than adding another melody.

It’s hard to describe a long form piece of instrumental music. Suffice to say, it ebbs and flows, takes you to highs and lows, is contemplative in passages and euphoric in others. The whole range of emotions. But it is very much a ‘human’ record. The recorders of Les Penning and the vocals of Synergy and solo vocals of Angharad Brinn further define these human moments in the layers of sound that swirl around you.

The album is certainly several steps forward from the original Sanctuary but keeps the same uplifting spirit as the first. Epitomised at the end of side 1 where Rob’s soaring guitar dances around the solid beat of Phillips’ driving beats while vocals, keyboards and Tubular Bells join in the euphoric melody as the musical reaches its climax.

The Sanctuary albums show another side of Rob Reed. The delicate, folky side of his nature. Sanctuary 2 has more of this flavouring than the first album and side opens with a lovely acoustic guitar melody which develops using vocals and glockenspiel and finally electric guitar and bass. Which then breaks into a lovely flamenco styled acoustic section. The whole album contains many musical twists and turns like this as it weaves it’s way through the various themes.

Rob has certainly used the skills of Les Penning to it’s maximum effect and you can tell both musicians are enjoying themselves as they’re playing. It’s one of those instrumental albums where you’re only a few bars away from a memorable phrase or theme that sticks in your head after only a couple of listens.

If you look back over the years, a lot of instrumental based albums normally save all their best ideas for side one and often side two pales in comparison. Not Sanctuary 2. The themes and performances in side 2 are of equal quality to side 1.

And I must say the quality of the playing by Rob himself is exceptional. Known as a keyboard player, his work on bass and particularly guitar, is getting better with each album. I think the original Sanctuary album meant more to Rob in terms of proving to himself what he capable of than all of his earlier work. I may be wrong and I’m sure he’ll tell me if I am. But I can see the growth in confidence both in his playing and approach on Sanctuary 2.
I was lucky enough to have been at the very first performance of Sanctuary live at Real World in the summer. To hear it live it a totally different experience. But how I chose to listen at home is through my 5.1 Surround Sound system. Music like this is made for Surround Sound and sounds absolutely breathtaking as the instruments swirl around you. If you have this facility at home, make sure you get a 5.1 copy of the album.

So, Rob Reed has shown that Sanctuary 1 was no fluke. He’s bettered it with Sanctuary 2. Is there going to be a Sanctuary 3? Who knows. Rob is obviously comfortable within the long form musical format but whether he feels he has explored those ideas enough, only he knows. Personally, I’d like to see him produce a third. Possibly with a more orchestral leaning maybe. Only time will tell. But if Rob Reed chooses to leave it at two – I’ll be happy as Larry with what he’s achieved and relish the prospect of his next musical move.

Twitter - @robreedmagenta

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