Lee Speaks About Music… #75

Sanctuary III – Robert Reed

RR - S3

Introduction…

Robert Reed’s latest and 3rd solo studio album release is upon us once again, and it’s title of Sanctuary III comes as no surprise I guess. I guess it was also not a surprise to see that it comes once again with 2 CD’s and a DVD with the 5.1 mix of the main album on it. I always get excited whenever Robert Reed announces a new release, especially when it comes from this solo project of his.

There is no doubt that Mike Oldfield’s music touched my heart back in the 70’s, it still does today in all respects, and the very fact that Reed’s solo project is based around resurrecting and breathing new life into some of Oldfield’s old melody lines by rearranging them is what I love about this project the most.

There is no doubt that Oldfield’s music touched Robert Reed’s heart and one could even say it even possessed and had an obsession over him, enough so to even go to the lengths of bringing in the very guy who produced Oldfield’s 1973 classic Tubular Bells to lend an hand, plus a couple of the great musicians who played for Oldfield back in the 70’s and early 80’s.

For Reed this must of been like having your greatest ever dream come true. I suppose the only way it could possibly be beaten was if Mike Oldfield himself got in touch with him to work on a collaboration or something like that. But for me personally I feel that Robert Reed is doing an amazing job of it all with his own ideas and how skilfully he can take a melody and turn it inside out, upside down and shape it anyway he likes. This is where the genius in him really shines.

Since Robert Reed started his solo career with this Sanctuary project of his. I can honestly say it’s brought nothing but a lot of joy and pleasure to my ears. Even to the point of his albums bringing tears of joy streaming down my face. There is a ton of emotional beauty that comes from this guys music, and some might even argue that it’s not his music at all.

Well there is no doubt that the music is inspired by Mike Oldfield. It will even sound like Mike Oldfield. But you will not find one single melody line that belongs to Mike Oldfield I am afraid. So just what do they really know?.

Well the one thing I certainly know!. Is that back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Mike Oldfield’s music brought me the exactly the same joy and emotion I am now getting from what Robert Reed is doing with this Sanctuary project of his. And I am certainly not gonna kick the guy in the teeth for doing that :)))))).

So before we look at the joys and beauty Sanctuary III has to offer. Let’s take a look at the packaging and see what you get for the price of £15.99 which includes the UK postage and packing.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well it really is another splendid package we have here. I like how the 3 tier gatefold Digipak comes in a nice glossy coated finish on its surface. The very fact it is gloss coated also adds protection to the discs when removing them from the cardboard pockets they so nicely slot into. It does not come with a booklet, but all the linear and production notes are printed out on the 3 tier gatefold Digipak. It also comes with a warning which states “This album requires more than one play. A single nonchalant play will result in insufficient emotional stimulus”.

The Artwork.

The front cover picture is the work of Markus Reugels. He specialises in high speed photography and the use of water and colour to create what is known as Liquid Art. The black & white photographs on the inside were taken by Chris Walkden.

The Album In Review…

Robert Reed’s Sanctuary III was released on the 20th April 2018. Although the album was only released in the formats of both a Digital Download and a 2 CD/DVD Edition which I have here. There is also a Limited Vinyl release scheduled to be released on the 18th May of 300 copies only. So all you vinyl lovers had best get your pre-orders in early if you want to grab a copy.

As with all of Robert Reed’s solo albums and the Magenta albums. I always pre-order them from his website rather than Amazon. I do so basically because it’s generally cheaper to do so. Though the chances of you getting your hands on it on the day of its release can be slimmer. I am pretty sure I got Sanctuary II back in 2016 a day earlier, but my copy of Sanctuary III did not arrive till Monday 23rd April 3 days after its release.

Another thing I have noticed is that this 2 CD/DVD package is also a Limited Edition. Though I would expect it to have  a lot more copies of it pressed than the vinyl release is going to get. But also be aware because I did notice that when the 3 disc versions of Sanctuary II ran out. The next run of the album only contained the 2 CD’s. So if you are like me and a surround freak. You best get in there quick. So now let’s take a look at the contents on the CD’s and the DVD…

CD 1.
The first disc contains the main album which is spread over 2 tracks Sanctuary III (Part 1) & Sanctuary III (Part 2). The disc comes with a total playing time of 1 second over 41 minutes. I quite like this time slot and prefer it to those who cram their albums up to the hilt, by trying to get as much out of the disc space as they can. It’s the old 70’s time slot  just like we got with both Sanctuary I & II and very much my preferred choice.

CD 2.
The bonus disc contains 7 tracks and comes with a longer overall playing time of 76 minutes, 13 seconds. The bonus material is not really new, and is basically different mixes of the material that’s on the first disc. For example you do get an alternative mix of the 1st side of the album which is titled the “Moon Singer Suite“. You get to hear more vocals in this mix, and it is quite different to the original track even with some of the instrumentation, to what’s on the main album.

You also get the whole of the album again on 2 of the tracks, which have been mixed by the man who did the mix for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells namely Tom Newman. The 1st disc contains Robert Reed’s own mix. I quite like Newman’s mix simply because it’s like listening to the whole album again and there is a difference with the placement of instrumentation in the mix. Though my personal favourite and my preferred choice of them all, will always be the 5.1 mix of the album on the DVD.

The 4 other short tracks you get are titled “Troy’s Lament“. “Perpetual Motion“. “El Passo” and “Moon Singer Rising“. I quite like all these and once again they have been mixed a bit differently. They work well as short little ditties like this too.

Overall the bonus material is very good even if it is perhaps like having the same thing all over again in some respects. I can see myself playing the bonus disc quite a lot from time to time, just like I do with the one that came with Sanctuary II to which he’s basically done the same thing with the bonus material upon that.

The DVD.
SS 1

The DVD loads up and presents you with the main menu (shown above). The main menu gives the choice of 4 options to choose from. The “5.1 Surround Mixes” is the main feature of the DVD. The remaining 3 other choices of “Track By Track”. “Demonstration” and “Promo Videos” are all the bonus features. By clicking on the main feature the “5.1 Surround Mixes” it presents you with the following menu screen.

SS 2

From this screen you can make your preferred audio choice by clicking on either DTS or Dolby Digital. The DVD comes with 2 audio soundtracks only. Both of which are in 5.1 surround sound. It does not contain a stereo track and both the DTS & Dolby Digital audio formats are in 24/48.

To be honest I find it strange how only the first Sanctuary album came with an audio format of 24/96. Although it even stated on the sleeve that Sanctuary II was in 24/96. But it was only in 24/48.

The DVD Bonus Material.

The bonus material on the DVD is very good and by clicking on “Track By Track” it starts to play a 62 minute documentary with Robert Reed explaining all the segments and sections that make up the whole of the Sanctuary III album.

This is really interesting because he not only goes through the musical theory of how the music is structured with all its melodies, counter melodies, rhythms and voices. But he uses the piano to demonstrate and plays all the other instrument and vocal parts to show you.

He actually plays you the whole of the album on the piano over the 11 parts that make it all up. He also tells you his many influences that inspired him whilst composing it all. It really is a great feature and pleasure to watch. Here is a short extract Rob Reed posted on his Youtube channel of him playing one of the sections on the piano only.

By clicking on the next option “Demonstration” on the main menu. It starts to play you a 12 and half minute documentary of Robert Reed recording a short 3 to 4 minute section from the album. This is another really interesting feature where you get to see him make up the track from scratch and play all the instruments that was in the original piece, and how many tracks he used for each individual instrument.

The final option to choose from on the main menu is the “Promo Videos”. This section contains 4 promo videos that he made during the making of the album. Basically they are videos of the drummer Simon Phillips playing all his drum parts for the album in his home studio in America. And also the 3 female vocalists known as Synergy recording some of the vocal chants for the album, and a vocoder section.

My favourite of them is the video he posted about a week or so ago on his Youtube channel with Rob Reed & Les Penning playing this beautiful section from the album on the acoustic guitar and flute. You can see it here for yourself.

Overall the bonus material on the DVD is purely wonderful to have and there is quite an abundance of it and is very interesting to watch.

The 5.1 Mix.

Another one of the people who worked with Mike Oldfield over the years, was brought in to do the 5.1 mix and mastering. He is none other than Simon Heyworth. There is only one way I can describe this 5.1 mix and that is that it’s purely AWESOME.

Despite there being no 24/96 and only an audio format of 24/48 it is true to say that a good 5.1 sound engineer can produce the same great results just as one can achieve with an higher format of 24/96. Heyworth is a man who obviously knows what he is doing in the field of doing 5.1 mixes. The results are purely stunning in every detail on this mix.

This mix is purely gorgeous, and you can forget stereo and headphones, because they simply could never produce this quality and detail. Though of coarse it’s also superb hearing it in stereo too on the cans.

Musicians & Credits…

Recorded between January 2017 – March 2018 at BIG Studio in South Wales. Piano & Percussion recorded at Fieldgate Studio Penarth Wales. Synergy Vocals recorded at Umbrella Sound London. Drums recorded at Phantom Recording Studio USA. Produced, Engineered & Mixed by Robert Reed. Executive Producer Tom Newman. 5.1 Mix Mastered by Simon Heyworth. Cover Photograph by Markus Reugels. B&W Photography by Chris Walkden.

Musicians:

Robert Reed: Grand Piano/Electric Guitars/Acoustic Guitar/Nylon Guitar/12 String Guitar/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Glockenspiel/Vibraphone/Marimba/Timpani/Banjo/Gong/African Drums/Snare Drum/Sleigh bells/Melodica/Recorders/Farfisa Organ/Solina String Ensemble/Roland SH-2000/Table/Bodhran/Tubular Bells.

Simon Phillips: Drums.
Les Penning: Recorders/Narration.
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes/Whistle.
Gethin Liddington: Trumpet.
Tom Newman: Bodhran.
Angharad Brinn: Lead Vocals.
Micaela Haslam. Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Heather Cairncross – Synergy Vocal Chants.
Shan Cothi: Opera Vocal.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Having watched the promos that Rob Reed posted on his Youtube channel prior to the release of Sanctuary III I got to see him discuss how once again this is different from the first 2 albums in this solo series of his. I also got hear how satisfied he was with it, how he thought that this was the best one so far. How it was more of himself this time around and how he also never held back by putting any restrictions of what to incorporate into the music. It was perhaps a bit like what I heard prior to the release of the new Magenta album We Are Legend that was released last year.

I think with all artists they are bound to give some sort of praise to their latest creations, and personally I have nothing against that, and every new album they make is perhaps always aimed at trying to achieve something better all the time, and that in reality is what spurs any artist to continue what they are doing and trying to achieve it, even if they never quite manage to achieve it or make that perfect album.

For most artists its always about the new and not the past, even if they were far more successful in their past. But for any listener it’s perhaps a different ball game to accept what the artist considers to be his personal best, and how it comes across to them.

For example although Rob Reed mentioned all the good points he seen in his music about Magenta’s album We Are Legend and how he was happy with it, how he felt it was their best album since their 2nd album Seven. I myself personally thought it was not as good as the previous album The Twenty Seven Club never mind Seven.

There was something I picked up on about the album We Are Legend straight away, and to be honest it was perhaps the first time I had ever heard Rob Reed do this, and it ties in with his solo project of Sanctuary too.

There is no doubt that every Magenta album contains influences from the many great prog rock bands from the 70’s. There is also no doubt that his solo album project is heavily influenced by Mike Oldfield. But the one thing I had never heard Rob Reed do before in both of those projects is copy a melody line. Until I heard the album We Are Legend.

The very thing I have always admired about Rob Reed apart from his musician skills, is how he goes about creating his music by using existing melody lines, and reshaping them so that they may sound like they came from somebody else’s album, but they are nothing of the sort.

He has this genius way of sculpting something out of someone’s else’s music and making it his own out of it. There is no doubt many people will accuse him of plagiarism when they hear any of the first 2 Sanctuary albums, I dare say they even would with this new album too. But not one of his melody lines sounds exactly like you will find on a Mike Oldfield album even if it sounds like one.

I like the album We Are Legend and I think it’s a good album. But I also think he overstepped the mark a bit with some of the melody lines that are on it. All this observation is my own personal view and how his music speaks to me as an individual. And every listener is an individual, will have their own observations and personal opinions about it all. And of course Rob Reed is also entitled to his own personal opinion of how his own music speaks to him.

So now let’s get down to my review of Sanctuary III and for this part of the review I am only going to be taking on the 2 individual tracks that are on the main album, and not the bonus tracks to which I have already touched upon earlier.

Track 1. Sanctuary III. Part 1.

The opening introduction of Sanctuary III will have you pining for Scotland with the wonderful sound of the Uilleann Pipes played by Troy Donockley. These pipes I have always loved and personally I think they produce much more of a sweeter sound and element of beauty in relation to the Scottish bagpipes.

You will often find the Uilleann Pipes used in a variety of Celtic music and here they very much portray that Celtic feel along with the use of the deep drone sound from the keyboards. To be perfectly honest I am not a fond lover of Celtic music, and my personal taste of most folk music is more of your English traditional folk, or English folk rock.

I was never fond of Mike Oldfield’s 1996 album Voyager either, and much preferred his earlier output back in the 70’s. I found a lot of Oldfield’s earlier music offered much more of a wider variety of music to them. Just like you get with Reed’s Sanctuary albums. But I have always loved the sound of the Uilleann Pipes.

The short intro is brought to an end with one heavy thud most likely on the timpani and at 1:08 the voice of Les Penning narrates the first couple of lines of a wonderful poem he wrote. The poem is also very apt and Celtic like in the way he’s wrote it and here is the poem he wrote.

Moon singer, your waiting is done.
Ye bring with the stars the flint fire of dawn.
We long for the stone whose voice is the wind.
Holding my hands while the embers alight.
Feeling the dance warming the night.

And the holy burns last, with a song of its own.
While piper and bellman call long for the sun.
We echo, still echo in times yet unborn.
The stone gift glowing in circles of straw.
The dancers are going, need never dance more.

Then in comes the first lot of vocal chants by the 3 lovely vocalist’s known as Synergy around the 1:22 mark. Unaccompanied at first, then the pipe organ comes in quietly at first and builds itself up louder to almost boiling point, then the guitars explode into action at 1:46 with some lovely lead lines backed up superbly with some fine instruments and percussion.

Sound wise it’s very Oldfield like with all the instrumentation, but these are Reed’s melody lines and not Oldfield’s. The power then simmers down and in comes a nice bit of work by Reed on the vocoder and at 2:23 Angharad Brinn makes her first appearance to sing the the poem that Penning wrote.

The interplay sections between the verses of the song are superb and at 4:02 Synergy come back for a few more chants and music builds up with more power and runs through some superb transitional changes, working both electric and acoustic guitars sections around the other array of truly great instrumentation.

Around the 6:15 mark it all simmers down nicely again and then at 7:30 in comes the section that’s in the video that features Rob Reed & Les Penning. This is what I call the Hergest Ridge section, simply because it very much reminds me of that album of Mike Oldfield’s. No doubt he as reworked some Oldfield’s melody lines in this section, but he has reworked and rearranged them, and not stolen them.

I have always loved Oldfield’s 2nd album Hergest Ridge he done back in 1974. To me it’s an album that contains some most beautiful melody lines and strong themes. This small section of Sanctuary III very much captures that beauty, even down to the use of the trumpet played in this section by Gethin Liddington.

There is no doubt you will hear many other snippets of reworked melody lines from other Oldfield albums. Right up to where I am up to now on this first track. I have heard bits of Incantations. Five Miles Out. AmaRok and I dare say there are many others too, even Light & Shade. But this Hergest Ridge section, is without doubt the strongest resemblance of them all.

The next section that follows is a vocoder section that’s perhaps a bit like the “Cookie Jar” vibe that was on Sanctuary II. This section once again builds up very well and at the 11:15 mark Simon Phillips drums come more into the action and it builds itself up into more of a crescendo and comes back down around the 12:23 mark.

Then we get another acoustic section that utilises the acoustic & electric guitars very well and it runs into a nice piano section and the angelic girls voices come back into play and it runs into a fine flute section and the choral voices come back to back it up along with some tasty lead work on the electric guitar. This then drops down into a lovely bit of nylon guitar and leads us into the next section.

This next section that comes into play around the 15;50 mark build it’s way into what Reed calls the Spaghetti Western section. It features some twangy electric guitar, banjo along with all the rest and even features the fine operatic voice of Shan Cothi that fits in perfectly to it all.

There is no doubt that Reed is doing things differently here, and doing a lot of things in his own way. The piano introduces the final section of part one and this section runs from 17:33 – 21:13. There is an array of goodies in the instrumentation department going on throughout it all, and it builds back up back into a crescendo and sizzles its way out more quietly at the end as it drops back down.

Even the way I have described the whole of part 1 here, there is just so many great things going on throughout it all, it’s impossible to take in everything that’s going on throughout this first part. But for me everything about it is so stunningly good. Each section is so well structured and the arrangements of the instrumentation and vocals is purely awesome.

Track 2. Sanctuary III. Part 2.

Part 2 opens up with the acoustic guitar and is perhaps a bit like how Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge opened up as well, only this is a completely different melody. But I do feel that a lot of Reed’s inspiration for this particular album did come from Oldfield’s 2nd album.

This particular section runs for about 5 and a quarter minutes, and builds its way along really well. You get more great instrumentation from Reed, chants from the girls and more great drums from Phillips. I also noticed the sound of a little laugh or it could be the sound of a dove cooing at the 3:08 mark. It’s a nice little touch and placed very well in the rear speakers on the 5.1 mix of the album.

The drums continue to play on in the next section and this is another really fine chanting section by Synergy that features some great lead guitar work along the way and it’s all uplifting and quite sprightly this section. It all comes down around the 7:22 mark with a nice few bars of piano before going into the next section.

This next section does have perhaps more of an Amarok feel about it, with the use of acoustic and electric guitars and it changes into more of a Tubular Bells II feel at around the 9:30 mark. It’s a bit like what Reed also touched on with Sanctuary II and the comical section of Tubular Bells II where the backing singers were having a bit of fun. Only here it’s a bit of a jolly instrumental section that utilises whistles and the banjo along with the other instruments and percussion. He also brings back the cookie jar bit of fun on the vocoder.

There is perhaps a fewer sections in the second part of Sanctuary III and around the 11:08 mark we get a reprise of the Scottish vibe section that opened up the album on part 1. This runs runs along and builds up into another fine crescendo up until around the 16 minute mark.

To be honest I would of thought that Reed would of used this section to end off the album as it started. But instead it comes back down with the piano and builds its way back up again for the grand finale, and comes down with subtlety once again on the piano to finish it all off beautifully.

Summary…

To sum up my review of Sanctuary III by Robert Reed. I think once again he has managed to carve out yet another masterpiece. I can certainly see why Reed thought this was the best one of them all so far and why he was happy with it. He was also right when he said it was more of his own input as well, even though it still sounds like an Oldfield album.

Certainly the biggest resemblance to Mike Oldfield on the whole of this album is the instrumentation he used and the way it all sounds. The electric guitars especially on that score. But he really as not nicked a thing regarding the rhythm and melodies. There is no doubt that this album has a lot more of Robert Reed about it too.

There is also no doubt that music done with a lot of instrumentation like this works purely fantastic for a 5.1 mix, and this one is real winner and is purely breathtaking to listen too. Mind you so are Sanctuary and Sanctuary II. Just as easy as I could say I love Sanctuary III to death. I could of course say the same about the other two.

Conclusion…

Sanctuary III is a totally stunningly superb album. We are only at the end of April and quite personally I do not think I will see another album get released this year that will touch it. In many ways I could quite easily give it the 2018 album of the year award now. It’s one of the most gorgeous albums on the planet right now.

The bonus material on both the 2nd disc and the DVD is excellent, and there is quite an abundance of it you are getting for it’s price point. Its excellent value for the buck and worthy of every penny.

Listening to this album in all honesty with how it displays pure beauty and so much of it. One wonders how there can be so many hateful people in this world. I think if more people paid more attention to music like this and listened to it, there would be far less hatred in this world and more people would stop to think more about what they are doing.

Besides all the beauty that can be found on Sanctuary III by Robert Reed. It’s also one very truly exciting album that will give you tremendous pleasure for the rest of your life. I simply cannot stop playing it right now, and along with Sanctuary and Sanctuary II. These albums are very much stayers and personally I could never tire of hearing them.

While Piper And Bellman Call Long For The Sun. We Echo, Still Echo In Times Yet Unborn.

The 2 CD/DVD Limited Edition of Sanctuary III is priced at £14.99. The best place to order it is from Tigermoth Productions. For UK orders it’s only £1 extra for the postage & Packaging. European and International orders are generally one or two pound more. I have provided the link here : http://www.magentashopfront.com/page5.htm

The both CD’s are also available as a digital download separately from Bandcamp. The main CD is priced at £7 and the bonus CD is priced at £4. You can also buy the 2 CD/DVD Limited Edition from there as well. But knowing how Bandcamp also charge you tax, you will most likely end up paying more for it.

The link to Robert Reed’s Bandcamp page is here: https://robertreed.bandcamp.com/

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Sanctuary III (Part 1). 21:13.
02. Sanctuary III (Part 2). 20:48.

CD 2.
01. Moon Singer Suite (Chimpan A Mix) Pt.1. 21:52.
02. Troy’s Lament. 3:14.
03. Perpetual Motion. 3:41.
04. El Passo. 3:03.
05. Moon Singer Rising. 2:17.
06. Sanctuary III Part 1 (Tom Newman Mix). 21:28.
07. Sanctuary III Part 2 (Tom Newman Mix). 20:38.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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