4 out of 5 Stars!
After leaving his long-time band Pallas in 2010, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Alan Reed (also formerly of Abel Ganz and Strangers on a Train) released his first solo album shortly thereafter, a collection of melodic and accessible tracks in the Symphonic Prog/Neo-Prog variety.
Aiding Reed on this release is an all-star cast of gifted musicians, including guitarists Jeff Green (Jeff Green Project) and Kelle Wallner (RPWL), keyboardist Mike Stobbie (Pallas), percussionist Scott Higham (Pendragon), and the always wonderful Christina Booth (Magenta) on background vocals, so that fact alone says a ton regarding not only the high quality level of this release, but also the style of material included here.
Pallas fans (and lovers of similar groups such as IQ and early Marillion) will certainly enjoy First in a Field of One as much as I do. Tunes such as “Kingdom of the Blind,” “The Usual Suspects,” “The Real Me,” “Teardrops in the Rain,” “Begin Again,” and the highly dramatic, Pallas-like track “Darkness Has Spoken” are simply awash in delightful and often-dreamy melodies, not to mention dazzling musicianship (as one might expect, considering the panoply of talent). The wide range of instrumentation on display, with a seemingly flawless balance of both electric and acoustic guitars, plus an endless array of keyboard sounds to provide lush and symphonic textures, adds even more to the diversity of the eight tracks. And of course, Reed’s recognizable voice shines throughout, his delivery spot-on and loaded with emotion.
Although perhaps unfair to state, yet in many ways, this solo debut by Reed, a former singer of a successful Neo-Prog band, reminds me of the solo debut by Fish, another former singer from a successful Neo-Prog group. Coincidence, no doubt. But still, I couldn’t help notice how the well-produced material on offer here, being similar to Reed’s former group yet not a direct copy, as well as the atmosphere and generally passionate performances, provided me with the same feelings as I had when listening to Fish’s solo debut, which shared those same traits. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, listening to Reed’s debut (and Fish’s) left me hungering for more.
So thankfully, as the album title implies, First in a Field of One wasn’t simply a one-off project, as Reed subsequently delivered a second solo collection (Honey On The Razor’s Edge) featuring most of the same guest-star musicians, plus the legendary Steve Hackett, and is also supposedly working on material for yet a third release. Therefore, it seems as if First in a Field of One was indeed the first in a field of numerous albums to follow, and happily so.