CD Review – Rob Reed – The Ringmaster Part 1

Magenta, Cyan, Kompendium and Chimpan A keyboards man Rob Reed continues his heartfelt series of homages to prog icon Mike Oldfield with this, The Ringmaster Part 1. The Sanctuary series of albums, inspired by Mike Oldfield’s music, was pretty successful for Rob, but now, much as Mike Oldfield had before him, he feels the need to venture in to shorter, bite-sized pieces. There is a practicality to this, it is difficult for fans to give Rob feedback on the parts of his music they like when, recently, there have just been two tracks per album from Rob. The new format will allow the fans to say quite specifically which tracks they like as they will have a title. The release also finds Rob working with some familiar collaborators in one time Mike Oldfield producer Tom Newman, Les Penning, Simon Phillips, and Troy Donockley.   

This time around, Rob has made a somewhat small attempt to broaden his musical palette and has included a track inspired by one of his other, more bluesy, guitar favourites in Peter Green. The Defeated Army has a lot of similarities to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, particularly with the iconic but rather staid rhythm section. The guitar sound itself sounds somewhat less totally blues based than Peter Green’s interpretation, and carries a feel of Hank Marvin too. “They both have their very own distinctive sounds and they have influenced many guitarists through the years”, states Rob. The predominant style though is that of Mike Oldfield’s.

Rob’s choices for musicians on the album works incredibly well. He is an excellent multi-instrumentalist himself of course, Tom Newman adds folky touches with a bodhrán, Simon Phillips is a sublime drummer in any setting, whilst on this occasion Troy Donockley performs as a multi-instrumentalist, though not least on his exemplary Uilleann pipes, and Les Penning adds some very fitting recorder and provides narration. Les also came up with the concept and storyline for the album. The ringmaster is essentially a muse who has the ability to give or withhold to/from an artist seemingly on impulse.

A second album, The Ringmaster Part 2, will be released in January 2022. The Ringmaster 1 is available in a three-disc edition (2CD/DVD), and a seven-disc one, including a 5.1 surround mix, interview and promo videos and a second audio disc with bonus tracks and a complete mix of the album, more typically Rob has two tracks, by Tom Newman. It is brilliantly played and produced.

This album is likely to engender polemical reactions. Rob’s fans will perceive it as yet another excellent release by a highly talented and creative musician whilst there will be those who consider him to be following just too closely in the footsteps of another artist. The truth is somewhere in between. It is definitely a self-confident one, and a clear-cut album too. But you do wonder how much further Rob can take these Oldfield inspired releases without becoming repetitive or slipping into some form of parody or pastiche. For now, though, you can settle back and enjoy a warm study of the muse.

1. The Farewell

2. The First Guardians Of Everywhere

3. The Defeated Army

4. A Touch Of Song

5. Storytown

6. The Gate Keeper

7. The First Large Water

8. Mr Penning Standing Blue

9. A Sign Of Sendlinger

10. A Dream Of Home

11. Arcadia In Ruin

Bonus CD

1. Glamarocko

2. Glencoe

3. The Ringmaster Part One A (Tom Newman Mix)

4. The Ringmaster Part One B (Tom Newman Mix)

Rob Reed – assorted instruments

Simon Phillips – drums

Troy Donockley – assorted instruments

Les Penning – recorder

Tom Newman – bodhrán

Angharad Brinn – lead vocals

Release date: 22nd October, 2021

Record Label: Tiger Moth Records

Format: 2CD/DVD, 4CD/3DVD, digital (Bandcamp)

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