The Dan Reed Network is a funk rock band formed by Dan Reed in Portland, Oregon, United States, in 1984. Dan Reed lended his vocals to a 1990 rap rock collaboration with the Portland Trail Blazers, "Bust a Bucket".
Dan Reed (born February 17, 1963, Portland, Oregon) met Dan Pred in high school in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and after a time pursuing music studies at Northern State University, the pair returned to Portland and formed the Dan Reed Network in 1984. In 1986, they made their first recording, a six-track EP called Breathless which spawned a #1 single, "Steal Me," on Z-100 in Portland, Oregon.
The lineup at this point was Dan Reed on vocals and guitar, Brion James on guitar, Melvin Brannon II on bass guitar, Dan Pred on drums, and Rick DiGiarllonado (formerly of Portland platinum rockers Quarterflash) on keyboards. The band's diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds (Reed is of German, Hawaiian, and Native American ancestry, James is of Jamaican ancestry, Brannon is African-American, Pred is Jewish and DiGiarllonado is Italian-American) were reflected in the music, which, though discernibly hard rock, was blended with soul, funk, and jazz arrangements. DiGiarllonado, who was married with one child, was replaced by Portlander Blake Sakamoto on keyboards; Sakamoto, of Asian heritage, had returned from Los Angeles where he had been playing with future Atlantic Records artists Dear Mr. President (lead singer Julian Raymond moved on to be vice president of Capitol Records).
The Dan Reed Network made a name for itself with the live performances. The Washington Post described the band in one performance as "easily charming its … audience with an unlikely brand of heavy metal-ish rock sharpened by junk funk and plenty of rock 'n' roll theatrics," and that "the Network's strength lies in its infectious temperament."
A "polished" debut
The band signed to Mercury Records with the aid of Derek Shulman, (who was enjoying huge success with Bon Jovi and Cinderella), and were managed by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. In winter 1987, the group released an eponymous debut album which was produced by Bruce Fairbairn (who had worked with Bon Jovi) and was engineered and mixed by Mike Fraser at Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver. They released their first single "Ritual", which peaked to #38 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Dan Reed Network album received positive reviews, not the least of which being a four-star write-up from the notoriously hard-to-please Rolling Stone magazine. Most reviews lauded the band's ability to blend elements of heavy funk with a gritty rock edge peppered with pop hooks, pulled together in an '80s radio-friendly production. Rolling Stone wrote that "Producer Fairbairn deserves a nod for adding just the right amount of pop polish where it's needed," and giving even the weaker songs on a strong album an appeal. Still, while People magazine's review of the album as being "polished to a brassy sheen" saw the glass half-full, some music critics saw Fairbairn's pop-savvy commercial production as minimizing the band's funk grooves and heavy rock guitar. Newsday (New York) said "the songs don't stand up to repeated listenings due to Bruce Fairbairn's absurdly pristine production … Fairbairn, best known for recordings by Loverboy, Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi, is a master at neutering hard rock and rendering it antiseptic." Those bands, however, managed to notch several major hits with such production, and no better musicianship. The Washington Post approached the issue with a constructively balanced context, comparing the Dan Reed Network's debut album to its live performances, saying, "numbers such as 'Get to You,' irritatingly synth-heavy on the record, were played with enough soul and engagingly invidious guitar to redeem them."
The poor promotion of the Dan Reed Network's debut album impeded the band's traction in the United States market. Def Leppard's Hysteria was having disappointing sales at Mercury/Polygram and the label was pulling support from new artists to focus on saving the British rock band's return to the scene. Ironically, it would be Def Leppard's managers Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch who would offer the Dan Reed Network the final leg of the "Hysteria" tour in the US if they would switch to their management company, Q Prime. The band was initially reluctant to jettison Bill Graham, but by the beginning of 1989, they signed with Q Prime and the band enjoyed its greatest success.
Slam dunks the funk
While at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in January 1989, Dan Reed met up with Nile Rodgers. The second album, Slam, produced by Rodgers, better represented the Dan Reed Network's live sound and accelerated the band's growing status in Europe. However, the new collection did less well in North America, due to internal problems at Mercury/Polygram.
The band toured Europe and the UK in the winter of 1989/1990 to support Bon Jovi. The success of this tour led to the Rolling Stones selecting the band as their main support for their first tour in almost 10 years. The "Urban Jungle/Steel Wheels" tour of Europe and the UK, in the summer of 1990, had the band playing to tens of thousands nightly in stadiums, where their showmanship and musicianship fired up the crowd in anticipation of the Rolling Stones. The relationship later led to Sakamoto working as the Stones' road manager.
Feeling The Heat
The Dan Reed Network's third album, The Heat (1991), was their biggest success in the UK, but their American record label still hadn't figured out how to promote the band. The label was unhappy that Reed had shaved off of his long dark hair, which they had viewed as a prime marketing attraction. The band soldiered on without tour support from Mercury/Polygram, including a stint supporting the Baby Animals in Australia, and what would be their final tour through Europe and the UK in the summer of 1993. In October 1993, the band members were starting to take different paths in their lives, but agreed to go on a hiatus and not officially break up.
A live album called Live at Last was released in 1997. This album was compiled from hundreds of hours of tapes from keyboardist Blake Sakamoto. He and drummer Dan Pred auditioned several versions of each song to comprise a comprehensive 2-CD live set. A companion video, filmed live in Portland on New Year's Eve of 1991, also called Live at Last, was released as well.
Reed continued to work solo and in collaboration with other musicians, including Nuno Bettencourt, formerly of the band Extreme. Like Bettencourt, Reed capitalized on occasional opportunities to act in theater and film, but continued to explore his musical identity in directions that took some former fans by surprise.
Reed released an EP called Sharp Turn in 2004, available through iTunes and MSN Music. This four-track EP is in an electronica style, a sharp contrast from the music of the Dan Reed Network. After spending a year in India and another in Jerusalem, while working on more experimental material with some eastern influences, Reed is currently living and making music in New York City.
Reed actively toured Europe and the US during the second half of 2008 and continues to do so in 2009. Selections from these live, solo acoustic shows appear on An Evening With Dan Reed, available at shows and at his official website. The set lists at these shows vary from classic DRN material ("Ritual", "Stronger Than Steel", "I'm So Sorry", "Salt of Joy", "Long Way To Go", "Lover") to new material from the forthcoming album ("Coming Up For Air", "Losing My Fear").
Coming Up for Air, a new solo album by Reed, is scheduled for release in 2010. The first video mixes Charlie Chaplin footage from The Great Dictator (1940) with new footage of Dan Reed over a backdrop of social, natural and political imagery.
In May 2009, Reed played a number of UK shows, including a tiny house concert in York - live tracks and videos of that show are on House Concerts York.
In 2010, Reed (with a newly assembled band) performed a series of shows throughout Europe. The March 5 performance at Union Chapel in London was professionally filmed for release as an upcoming DVD. The show featured a mixture of new material from Coming Up For Air as well as some classic DRN hits.