Imagine if you will, a time when there was no glossy Prog magazine, no internet, no email, and the only way to find out about the latest progressive bands was by subscribing to fanzines, word of mouth, joining mailing lists (which were photocopied missives) and attending gigs. It feels like a different world now, but when Cyan released ‘For King and Country’ nearly 30 years ago that was the position we were all in. 1993 saw multi-instrumentalist Robert Reed re-record some tracks from the Eighties, along with some new ones, and it was released on CD by SI Music from Holland. I was on the SI promo list, so was sent this along with some others and reviewed it in Feedback #18 and put the artwork on the cover. Not long afterwards I remember meeting Rob at Whitchurch where he was then working with Ezra, neither of us imagining that all these years later he is not only known as the man behind Magenta and countless other albums, but he would be revisiting that debut anew.
For those who have never seen or heard the original, which is most of you to be fair, the cover of the new version is what the original would have looked like if a professional artist with high digital skills had been employed the first time around, and in many ways we can say the same about the music as back then it was one man at home whereas now we have a full band and loads of experience. Rob may have sung on the original, but here he allows himself background vocals only, (as well as keyboards and guitar) and is joined by Peter Jones (lead vocals, sax, whistles), Luke Machin (guitar) and Dan Nelson (bass) along with guests Tim Robinson (drums), Angharad Brinn (backing vocals) and Tesni Jones (backing vocals).
This is not a faithful reproduction of the original album, but rather is a re-imagining as the songs have been re-written, extended and changed, and then the band have put their own stamp on proceedings. Many will recognise at least one of these, “Call Me”, as it is one which has been performed by Magenta for years and can be found on their 2010 live album ‘The Gathering’, but here it sounds quite different with male vocals, but it is opening track “The Sorcerer” which will probably be gaining most attention as it is simply epic, both in style and length. Classic prog with neo leanings. Remember, this was originally recorded back in 93 when that style of music was at its height, yet here it has been taken into new progressive areas while never losing that naivety and joy. One does not need to have heard the original to enjoy this for what it is, a wonderful progressive album with Peter relishing the opportunity to put his stamp on these songs while Robert takes all his years of working with Magenta to transform the originals into something special while the rest of the guys push all the time.
This is a wonderful album which prog fans need to get hold of and take it from me it will be much easier than trying to track down the original. My review of that album back in 1993 (which can be read in TPU Vol 1) said the weakest part was the vocals, yet even then the album was well worth discovering. Nearly 30 years now, I can address that by saying this version is essential.