For King And Country – Cyan
Robert Reed is no stranger when it comes to working on other projects he has in fact been involved in many over the years and with this new release, it appears that he’s rejuvenating his very first project from many moons ago. Cyan was his very first project and For King And Country he wrote whilst still in his teens at school and if you think along the lines of printer ink cartridges you can see how his second project Magenta came out of it. To be honest that is only my own observation as to why he decided to choose colours and I have no idea why he chose those names. But somehow I cannot see Magenta changing to Yellow at some point simply because the name has already been taken.
I am sure those who have followed Reed’s career over the years will be aware of this early project of his and I first stumbled upon it afterwards when I got into Magenta. I also have 4 albums of Cyan though only in the form of mp3 digital downloads because the CD’s are extremely hard to obtain at a reasonable price and like many albums that go out of print you can wind up paying silly money for them.
The original version of For King And Country was very much a one-man project album to which Reed made entirely on his own with the use of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards & synths and a drum machine. He also sang on the original album although he was never happy with his own voice which is why later on he brought in other vocalists to do that side of things for him.
Now he’s decided to record the album all over again only this time with a band behind him and brought in some excellent musicians to which he has worked with before over the years. I am sure for those who never heard the original album this will be a real treat. But for those like myself who have had the album for quite a while, it may very well be harder to accept and not everything is going to be a bed of roses so to speak.
One thing that has most certainly improved is the albums cover but is the album an overall improvement? Before I go any further and answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
Packaging & Artwork…
Unlike the original album that came in a standard plastic Jewel Case, it now comes very nicely presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve with die-cut pockets to hold the discs and the booklet. The 12-page booklet does not come with any detailed informative information but does come with the lyrics and pictures and the sleeve contains all the linear production notes and credits as you can see in the picture below.
Overall it’s a very neatly presented package and I pre-ordered my copy from Tigermoth Records for £12 plus £1.90 p+p making a grand total of £13.90 which is quite a bargain for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix.
The original artwork was done by Willebrord Elsing with Reed himself and although I think it’s quite eye-catching and a very cool cover presentation, there has been some vast improvements on this new version of it. As you can see by the two album covers below it’s a bit like playing spot the difference only the differences stand out a mile so it does not present you with much of a challenge on that score.
The original cover is more like a cartoon whereas the newer version has a couple of additions plus some changes to the rendering coming off the brickwork and it looks more like how modern games have improved over the years with the graphics and presents you with more of a virtual lifelike presentation.
The new artwork and makeover was done byand I have to say he deserves a good pat on the back and personally I have always thought this was the best album cover of not only Cyan releases but also Magenta and his solo albums and now it looks even more spectacular.
The Album In Review…
The new 2021 release of For King And Country by Cyan was officially released on the 24th of September though my copy surprisingly turned up 15 days beforehand on the 9th of September. The album contains the same 8 tracks as the original though due to being remade completely from scratch it is some 14 minutes, 40 seconds longer and comes with a total playing time of 67 minutes, 9 seconds. Although some of the songs on the album and the project go back to the early 80’s, the original album was not released until 1993 and it’s quite fascinating how Cyan originally evolved.
Cyan was originally a band that Reed put together with his brother Steven and a few close friends whilst he was still at school. His brother was in fact the lead singer of the band and although they only played a few gigs before knocking it all on the head, out of it came a demo of four of the songs we have here that were recorded on a cassette to which was passed onto various other people at the time.
Reed was quite a fan of the neo-prog band Pendragon and used to watch them play live a few times which is perhaps how one of the demo tapes got passed onto the founder of that band Nick Barrett. A good few years later in 1991, Reed received a letter from a record company in the Netherlands (who had received the demo from Barrett) offering him a contract and wanting him to write a few more songs and make an album.. Without a band, he decides to re-record the songs from the original demo tape and write a few more songs all of which he did by himself playing all the instruments.
In 1993 For King And Country got released on Silly Insect Records who were a division of the Dutch prog rock record label SI Music which was very active in the 90s. This short interview of Reed was most likely done around the same time and the rest is history.
To be honest he did not look much older than that when I met him at the Robin 2 a few years ago 😊😊😊. Though I am sure he had makeup on and he was also playing with Luke Machin that night in a new project band they had put together that went by the name of KIAMA.
Machin’s guitar skills were more than enough to convince Reed that he would be the right man to have on board in putting back Cyan as a band. He did not have to look far for the other musicians either and Dan Nelson’s capability on the bass was convincing enough for him to choose to play in Magenta. Another talented musician he has signed up to one of his other record labels White Knight Records which is a division of Tigermoth Records is Pete Jones. Jones has quite an incredible vocal range which is why he also plays in many other projects.
One of the strangest things I did find looking at the new line-up of Cyan is that they do not appear to have a drummer and only Reed, Machin, Jones and Nelson’s names appear on the front cover. It appears that Tim Robinson who plays drums on this album is only a session player, yet he played the drums for both Cyan and Magenta.
However, I did find an explainable reason for this in an interview with Reed and Jones and the idea of reinventing Cyan goes back 10 or 12 years whilst Robinson was still in Magenta and it was back then that Reed was tinkering about with the old Cyan material and got him to throw some drums on it.
Reed will often work on several projects at a time and it’s obvious that remaking Cyan’s debut album had been in the pipeline for some time and it was around 2018 that he was looking for a vocalist when sound engineer Chris Jones suggested Pete Jones even though he was extremely busy at the time working with Camel and other projects. However, Jones obliged and when Reed got the tapes back with his voice on he was well impressed and knew he had found the right vocalist for the rebirth of the project.
It was around the same time that Reed was working with KIAMA he got Machin to throw some lead guitar on the album and it was perhaps not long after Nelson joined Magenta a few years later he knew he never had to look far for a bass player. The album was completed in 2018 though Reed wanted to make a video to promote the album and had to wait for the right time to get everybody together which is why it took until now to release the album.
To be honest I found the interview with Reed and Jones more resourceful than the interview on the DVD. Speaking of the DVD let’s now take a quick look at it.
The DVD’s main menu is the only menu and it’s boxed standard and as basic as you could get. Nevertheless, everything is in one place making it easy to get at everything. Though I have to say when you have such a GREAT! album cover like this it would have been nice to have it on the main menu so we can see it in even more detail on our big screen TV’s.
Personally, you cannot beat an album cover being displayed in 1080p HD or 4K and it looks even better than a vinyl album cover, especially on my 50″ TV. You might be thinking that this is a DVD and not a Blu Ray but you would be surprised how sharp and pristine pictures can look on a DVD when played in a Blu Ray Player with good upscaling. I have several that you would not even notice the difference between the picture quality of a DVD and Blu Ray.
The main feature is the 5.1 mix of the album and as you can see you have the choice of two surround audio formats of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both come with sample rates of 24/48 and my personal choice is the DTS mix which comes at a higher quality rate of 1.5 Mbps instead of the lower rate of 428Kbps that Dolby Digital gives you.
The video content is the bonus material and I do believe that Rob has put all of this content on his Tube channel. Though it’s good to have it all in one place here and the video of “The Sorceror” is GREAT! to have.
The 5.1 Mix.
I’ve always been quite impressed by Rob Reed’s ability to do a good 5.1 mix and this one is no exception and is a very satisfying surround mix. I think some engineers can be a bit too subtle and be a bit too scared to be adventurous at times. Personally, I feel this one is more of a pleasant mix that is not over the top and will give you a good immersive experience.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced & Mixed by Robert Reed. Music by Rob Reed (except tracks 1, 2, 5, 8) Done with Carl Smith. Lyrics by Robert Reed (except track 3) Lyrics by Steven Reed. Artwork by. 5.1 Mix by Robert Reed.
Robert Reed: Keyboards – Guitars – Backing Vocals.
Luke Machin: Lead Guitars.
Peter Jones: Lead Vocals – Saxophone – Whistles.
Dan Nelson: Bass.
Tim Robinson: Drums.
Angharad Brinn: Backing Vocals.
Tesni Jones: Backing Vocals. (Track 6)
The Album Tracks In Review…
I very much find covering any song is one of the hardest things to do and there have only been a minute number of covers that have been better than the original. Judging by some of the other artists who have tried to remake their earlier albums from scratch in the past I find it hard to compete with the original especially after hearing it for all those years. In general, it’s usually in the live performance where you get to hear some of your favourite songs sound a bit different and that is the best place for them rather than try and re-create an album all over again in the studio.
I can perhaps understand why some artists would want to do so with how technology has moved on and them wanting a better overall sound and production. But even by doing that, it does not necessarily mean you as the listener are going to enjoy the new version better at all.
A couple of prime examples who have done such a thing are Camel who remade their iconic 1975 album The Snow Goose back in 2013 and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash who back in 2005 re-recorded the bands 1972 iconic album Argus. In my own personal opinion, both of those remakes were a waste of money and I still play the original albums and not those things.
The only person I know of who has made their album sound better by doing such a thing is Mike Oldfield with his remake of Tubular Bells back in 2003. I play that version more than the original and it’s one of my personal favourite 5.1 mixes and sounds totally AMAZING! What Oldfield did is very hard to achieve though it’s really down to you as the listener and I dare say for many they might even prefer the original 1973 version of his iconic album.
At the end of the day, it would be nice if you could enjoy both versions and take something from them both as with Tubular Bells. You don’t want to wind up with an album you cannot play as I did with The Snow Goose and Argus and in all honesty, in Andy Latimer’s case, I thought it was a bit disrespectful to Peter Bardens who certainly contributed most of the writing to that iconic album. I don’t know what Latimer was trying to prove by doing such a thing and I would have loved to have seen a new Camel album rather than him waste his time like that. Especially after his long illness that put him out of action for a decade.
So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the new 2021 remake of For King And Country and see if it’s turned out for the better or worse. I am pretty sure it’s going to be a bit of a hit and miss but let’s see.
Track 1. The Sorceror.
If like myself you saw the video of this song prior to the release of the album there can be no doubt that it was the very thing that would have enticed you to purchase the album in the first place. Just looking at the skills it takes to play a song like this is very impressive and it is a very impressive video presentation that captures all the members playing their parts with precision. Though in reality, a presentation is precisely what you are seeing here and not a true live performance but something that has been made to appear that way using the studio recorded track, cameras and editing.
Even though they are miming they have done it very well and you could also say with precision and take it from me this bunch of musicians are more than capable of pulling off a live performance like this. What makes it more spectacular are the camera angles of how it’s been captured and edited.
You will also notice that Jon Griffiths is on the drums in the video and not Tim Robinson. Reed did originally ask Robinson if he fancied playing live again as he intends to do some live shows with the band but he was not up for it and spends his time teaching drums these days.
I’m gonna be perfectly honest and it’s plain to see that Reed’s voice is not his strongest point when listening to the original song which is why he brought in both Nigel Voyle and Christina Booth for the subsequent albums that followed. To be honest I was not sure that Pete Jones voice would fit a song like this. But he has the perfect voice for it in my opinion. It’s also been BEAUTIFULLY! accompanied by Angharad Brinn’s backing vocals and they fit in like a glove here too.
I would also say this new version has a bit more of a Celtic touch to it with the use of Brinn’s vocals although with the WIZARDRY! interplay between the keyboards, guitars, bass and drums, it still like the original, gives it that PROGMATIC! feel to it all.
I think another of Reed’s weakness’s back then was his guitar playing and it’s nowhere near the ability he has on the instrument these days. However, I should also point out that it is on this track only that I felt his guitar playing was weak and not the other tracks. The original version is much more keyboard orientated and you certainly will not even hear bass and guitar lines as we have on this newer version and I am pretty sure Reed even played the bass on a synth on the original. Both Dan Nelson and Luke Machin have really done the BIZZO! along with the rest on this new version.
What Reed has done here is completely rework the song and kept the main melody lines. It’s also near enough 4 minutes longer and personally, I think this is a lot better than than the original song. Though I have to confess that I still prefer the intro on the original in comparison to the orchestrated intro we have on the new version. Though I will say that the orchestration on the intro is well apt for the video and very much gives the picture that Cinematic look and feel you would get with a motion picture.
Track 2. Call Me.
This song has a slight extension to the original but perhaps the most notable thing is that it now has lyrics. To be honest I have no idea who wrote the lyrics either and there appears to be either one or two asterisk‘s missing on the booklet. Though I will stick my neck out and say they were written by Steven Reed being as the original was an instrumental piece. The music is also credited to Robert Reed and Carl Smith who was one of the original members of the band.
Personally, I think the instrumental version is a bit more PROGMATIC! and is a bit like what Tony Banks was doing on his second solo album The Fugitive back in the 80’s. Though it is perhaps an instrumental piece that is quite easy to see how the lyrics would have sat in with the original version and not much of the musical structure has been changed and it’s more of the arrangement and vocal side of things that makes the difference here.
With lyrics and Jones’s voice, it does tend to make it sound more like a pop ballad of a song and I think the lyrical side of things is also pertaining to the popular side of music too. The biggest difference between both versions is really the ending, and on this newer version, it is perhaps the only thing that leans towards the PROGMATIC! side of things and Reed even contributes some fine acoustic guitar to it as well.
One of the other notable things about both versions is that it does sound as if Reed has lifted part of John Barry’s theme to the “Midnight Cowboy“. However, It is perhaps more clearly noticeable on the original version though it’s still quite evident enough here too if you listen close enough. To be honest I still prefer the original but do I love how they ended off this newer version.
Track 3. I Defy The Sun.
It’s when listening to the original and the new version of this song that you get to realize just how bad Reed’s voice really was and Jones has really knocked this song out of the ballpark. The beautiful voice of Brinn also lends a hand here and this is another song that S. Reed penned the lyrics to and I think both versions lean more towards popular music than to PROG! despite the Genesis feel also given towards the very end which is more evident in the new version especially with the 12 string and HACKETT ESC! guitar phasing swells. The ending has also notably been extended.
There is also a slight touch of Mike Oldfield with the sweet lead guitar section that comes into play around the 3:12 mark after Brinn’s solo on the vocals. In the official video, you do see Machin play both the lead and counter melody to which I thought was both Machin and Reed playing. It still might be the case that Reed is playing the counter melody because it does have that Oldfield touch.
Overall I think there is no question as to which version is the better of the two and this latest version is a clear winner in my book and they all have done a very TASTEFUL! job on it.
Track 4. Don’t Turn Away.
There is quite a major difference been done to the new version of this song and strangely enough, the newer version is more keyboard orientated than the original to which Reed did do a lot better job on the lead guitar than on the opening track on the album back then. He also penned the lyrics to this one and both versions are quite PROGMATIC! The major difference is in the vocal section and that is perhaps where the newer version is a bit more keyboard orientated in relation to the original. Some of the flutey sounds even put me in mind of Tangerine Dream back in the 80’s with albums like Le Parc and Shy People.
It’s very much a song that has a long intro to get to the vocal section and one that goes through a good few transitions along its journey. The very opening intro has a medieval touch about it and sort of reminds me of the music they put to the game Tombraider which came out much later. Oddly enough on the original version when Reed comes in on the vocals it reminds me of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy.
There is no doubt the newer version has a better production but it’s one of those songs where I could take something from both versions and I could not pick a winner out of the two because they both have their merits and are enjoyable to listen to.
Track 5. Snowbound.
“Snowbound” is very PROGMATIC! and an instrumental piece that likes to fly. The original version is more along the lines of what Camel did on albums such as Mirage and Moonmadness and it’s very much keyboard-driven though Reed did also incorporate some fine lead guitar work into the piece as well. It’s quite Moog DELICIOUS! although I am pretty sure he never had a Moog back then and the keyboards used on the original album were the Ensoniq SQ1, Korg M1, Emu MPS and an Akai S100 sampler.
This newer version has kept the Moog sound for the main theme and it incorporates a lot more guitar into the piece and gives Machin the chance to fly. Even Jones gets to fly with the fine job he does on the whistles and it also sounds much better with real drums and Nelson’s bass work.
The middle section has been completely reworked and they have incorporated a bit of Genesis into it which sounds like the comedown section of Eleventh Earl of Mar from their Wind and Wuthering album. It even has me singing the words:
“Time to go to bed now
Never seems too keen
To be a guest now
In a house of dreams”
Personally I think both versions are excellent and will give you tremendous pleasure. Though you do get an extra 1 minute and 42 seconds with the newer version and I quite like the added Genesis touch they have given to it.
Track 6. Man Amongst Men.
The second-longest track on the album and they really have gone to town on this newer version and I have to say it sounds much better for it. The original version started with the piano whereas this version it’s been replaced with an acoustic guitar and has a longer intro before the vocals come into play. It features Tesni Jones on backing vocals and along with Jones’s voice the vocals are totally GOLDEN! on this song whereas Reed’s voice on the original is what really let it down but not only that so much has been done to this newer version to make it the clear winner of the two.
The interplay between the keyboards and guitar are quite outstanding and once again there is a touch of Genesis and on the original, around the 5:57 mark you will hear the same sound that Tony Banks used on the self-titled track “Abacab” played along to what sounds like the intro to “Watcher of the Skies“. That latter intro can also be heard around the 7:20 mark on the newer version to which is over 2 minutes longer than the original track, it’s also along this section that Reed plays some DELIGHTFUL! nylon guitar and they all do a TOP JOB! on the song.
Track 7. Nightflight.
Like “Snowbound” this is another very well crafted instrumental piece that goes through some very TASTY! transitions and is very much another excellent PROGMATIC! track with bags of progression along its path. It’s also quite a dramatic piece and reminds me a bit like Marillion’s “She Chameleon” with how it opens up on the pipe organ although it does fly in many other directions and once again there are some slight other influences from Camel, Tony Banks and a few others.
Regarding both versions, it is mostly the instrumental and musical arrangement that makes the difference rather than any real structured changes to the piece. You could say that the original version was both keyboard and guitar-driven and it does lean more decisively towards the PROGMATIC! side of things. Whereas this newer version gives it a newer and perhaps more of a lighthearted approach by incorporating a Latin or Mexican vibe with the nylon guitar, a touch of jazz with the use of the saxophone and even a touch of folk with the use of the whistles.
Although I personally think the original version is the most PROGMATIC! and has the edge of the two. I do think you can take something from them both and get pleasure out of them both.
Track 8. For King And Country.
The albums self-titled track has been given a revamp and personally, I think it needed one because the original version had me thinking of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy once again and the chorus had me thinking of some other pop song that I cannot quite get off the tip of my tongue. I think the only thing that impressed me with the original version was Reed’s guitar work and considering it was chosen as the albums self-titled track I thought it was amongst the weaker songs on the album.
To be perfectly honest I don’t think the newer version is the best thing since sliced bread so to speak however I do feel it has been improved in particular with how the vocal line has been newly constructed to allow Jones to give it a different impression and expression. The way things have been revamped even has me thinking of John Miles “Music” in parts and I can certainly enjoy this song now whereas before I couldn’t. I even think that it now puts the album to bed very well and overall I am quite impressed at what has been done to the album.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up the 2021 remake of Cyan’s debut album For King And Country. In many respects, the original album reminds me of what the keyboard player Clive Nolan was doing back in the 80’s and although they may have been quite impressive albums back in their day they do tend to wear off over the years, so I can perhaps see why Reed chose to try and do something new with it in the way of giving the album a new breath of life sort of thing.
There is no doubt that the album sounds better with what has been done here too although I think there is always going to be a bit of hit and miss if like myself you had the original album beforehand. But for those who never I can see this version appealing to them more. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “The Sorceror“. “Snowbound” and “Man Amongst Men“.
To be honest, looking back at the 3 albums Cyan did back in the 90’s there is quite a bit of good material that Reed wrote back then that is worth doing something with and this may very well be the best way to revive the project with what they are doing here. As to if this project continues we will have to wait and see but another bonus here is that at least you can now buy a physical copy of the album easily enough and it even comes with a very good 5.1 mix which is perhaps something that could not have been done with the original album due to contractual reasons.
To conclude my review I am going to start by answering a couple of questions and in answer to my original question in the introduction of is this newer release in relation to the original release an overall improvement?. I personally don’t think it’s a complete overall improvement in the sense of the word and in musical terms regarding the structure of the music. Though no doubt some tracks do sound much better having other GREAT! musicians onboard and for being reworked.
The biggest improvement is in the vocal department and I would say by changing the vocalist to do a remake of an album is the hardest thing for many to accept. For example, could you imagine Marillion remaking their debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear with Steve Hogarth instead of Fish? The thought alone makes me CRINGE! and I am not knocking Hogarth’s voice because he is a very good singer although his voice is very different and perhaps too different for it to work.
There is no doubt that Reed’s voice is not the best however if like myself you’ve had the original album for some time one can still get accustomed to it regardless of how much better the other vocalist you have brought in to replace the original singer. Although in this case I do find that the voice of Peter Jones does raise the game and his voice fits in like a glove. It’s as if the material was written for his voice and hearing him sing these songs does kinda show how bad Reed’s voice was in the first place. The backing vocals and harmonies of Angharad Brinn & Tesni Jones fit in perfectly with Pete’s voice too.
The new production standards are much higher on this newer version which is also to be expected and although I do not quite think that he quite achieved the level of standards that Mike Oldfield achieved by remaking Tubular Bells back in 2003, I do however feel you can take something from both versions and my money has not been wasted like it was with the remakes of The Snow Goose and Argus.
Overall For King And Country 2021 is not quite a solid album but quite an enjoyable new version and at its price point of £13.90 for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix you are onto a winner and I highly recommend it.
A Wizardry Production…
The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
01. The Sorceror. 15:10.
02. Call Me. 5:27.
03. I Defy The Sun. 5:28.
04. Don’t Turn Away. 7:44.
05. Snowbound. 6:22.
06. Man Amongst Men. 11:47.
07. Nightflight. 7:45.
08. For King And Country. 7:26.