It's been 18 long years since Britrock survivors Reef committed their sounds to wax. The band Glastonbury-based band never really went away, per se – they gathered every now and again to play shows and released a comprehensive 'best of', replete with five new tracks, in 2003. But now, the band find themselves right back at their best with the release of Revelation, an album that proudly showcases their skills for turning out both AC/DC-fuelled hard-rocking romps and soulful ballads – and then, of course, there's the duet with Sheryl Crow.
Here, the band join us to take us through the album's 12 songs one at a time.
Gary Stringer (vocals): "This song kickstarted the idea of making a new Reef album and is my new favourite Reef song. We were all in the same room when we wrote it and it took less than 10 minutes. All action!"
2. My Sweet Love
Dominic Greensmith (drums): "This song came together really quickly in our studio in Bruton. Jesse was fiddling with his guitar and amp getting a sound and he just started playing this lovely riff. So often songs – or an embryo of a song – will come to you when you are not thinking too hard. We all started playing along. I think what makes this song so great, though, is Gary’s vocal. The melody is instantly memorable and infectious – it all fell out of us pretty easily.
"When it came to recording, George had the great idea (that a great producer will do) to turn it into a duet. Gary’s lyrics really lent them self to it. And then George backed up his idea to find the ideal singer choice to do this, Sheryl Crow. It works perfectly and just enhances the innocent, summer vibe.
"This song always worked with the audience at gigs even when they were hearing it for the first time, which is the sign of a good song and single contender."
Dominic: "This was born in my studio, at home in Somerset. Funnily enough, it started with a drum loop that I got from a studio assistant at Ocean Way studios in LA when we were making Glow with George over 20 years ago. I played some chords over this that I’d been messing around with on my piano and just kept adding stuff until I got to that point where you go ‘there’s something in this!’
"Gary came over to mine, listened to it, liked it and literally sang it twice. He pretty much had the finished vocal between the two takes. He has such a great ear for a melody and is a great lyricist and comes up with stuff so quickly. Then we started playing it as a band and Jack and Jesse added their lovely parts, which took it to another level again, and it became a Reef song.
"I did a lot of the initial writing of this song with our new born baby Sonny asleep on my lap. He inspired me to write a song that might help to raise this latest addition to our family, so when Gary sang the lyric ‘I will provide’ it created a lovely synergy."
4. How I Got Over
Gary: "In my opinion, the single biggest reason that this album sounds so good is down to working with George Drakoulias. He suggested recording this song and played us both Aretha Franklin’s version from her Amazing Grace album and the original Clara Ward take. This was the first song to be recorded for the album. The drums, guitar and bass were done in London, the vocal, piano and all the vocals were recorded in LA."
5. Don't Go Changing Your Mind
Gary: "The melody for this song came first and wouldn’t go away, so I put chords behind it and fleshed out a lyric. Distance and longing. Keeping someone in your heart and not giving up on your dreams. I love what the band have done with this, the song really lifts in the second verse and George helped with the riff. Sola Akingbola added some wicked percussion and the backing vocals are ace. It was recorded at the fantastic Distillery studio in Wiltshire."
6. Precious Metal
Jesse Wood (lead guitar): "I was fiddling around with my Vox amp sound in rehearsals one day a year-and-a-half or so ago, and I was playing the verse riff over and over again. When I turned round all the lads were looking at me and I think it was Dom who said ‘What was thaaaaat you’re playing? I like it!’ Gary then immediately started the verse melody and the Precious Metal seed started to grow. We left it for a while after that, then right before we started to routine our album songs, George Drakoulias our producer said to me ‘Can you write some chords for the intro and the chorus?’ That night I did, and I took them to rehearsals the next day and – boom! – the band smashed through them, Gary sang the chorus melody straight off the bat, and Precious Metal was born."
7. Just Feel Love
Jesse: "I remember when Jack first played this song's riff to me in his barn in Cheddar, very soon after I’d joined the band properly, and I immediately got infected by its foot stompingly bluesy feel. It stayed with me, buzzing round my head for ages, and still does – it’s that good! It’s lived and breathed for a while in our live sets since I joined, and grown into a proper gutsy Reef song.
"George Drakoulias’s production has further enhanced its soul with his classic epic production style. It took me a while to find a story to tell when I played the solo because its such an open song and you can go to so many places, but I got there, it seems. I love this song."
8. Ball And Chain
Jack Bessant (bass guitar): "Another song on the album born from a jam with all the band playing together – quick-fire beats and riffs breaking out in this badass heavy rock song. The urge to nod your your head whilst listening is really strong, and it's a monster track to play live."
9. First Mistake
Jack: "This song came about from a jam with Dom, Gary and myself in a barn where I live. Jesse's lovely guitar licks and playing developed a few months later when he joined the band. We played it a few times to George when he came over for the How I Got Over session, but it fully showed itself during our final recording session in Ireland. George suggested we add some acoustic guitar and some harmonica, which I love playing. I took a rough mix of what we had outside and played it over and over again until I found a part that felt good. It was a lovely moment sat on the porch, looking at the Irish countryside and absorbing the atmosphere whilst playing along. This song just turned out really well and I love all the vocals on there, along with all the instrumentation and performances. Gary's vocal take is beautiful to listen to."
10. Darling Be Home Soon
Jack: "This is a cover of a song written by John Benson Sebastian. George suggested we record this song, and again it wasn't until we were at the session in Ireland that we were able to make it sound great. Gary had already sung a strong vocal, but we had changed the track speed slightly and the bass needed redoing. We couldn't have been anymore relaxed and focused than we were during this time in Ireland, so when it came to reworking the part it all came together. I love the horn part played by David Ralicke and the backing vocals by Taura Stinson and Candice Coles. Zak Rae plays brilliant keyboard parts, and George's ability to find great musicians with amazing feel and authenticity really shows on this track, which is something to say about how George has produced this whole record… LOVE IT."
11. Lone Rider
Gary: "This song was written, music and words, in an hour in the barn at the top of my garden in Somerset. George added the great boogie in the chorus and I love the barri saxes. Putting the song to a drum machine and adding live drums after really helped amplify the atmosphere of the song for me. A lone rider in a huge open landscape on the trail for freedom and truth."
12. Like A Ship (Without A Sail)
Jack: "The Ship is a cover of a song by Pastor T L Barrett. This has such a great tripped out, hypnotic rhythm, a bass line that is super addictive to play and sits well alongside Dom's brilliant drums, and the earthy percussion provided by Sola Akingbola. Jess has the ability to play different styles with a great feel and his wah playing on here is so funky. The children's choir is refreshing to listen to and sits so well with Gary's soulful voice. A real laid back song that has bags of soul, and the lyrics have a Hope Out Of Sorrow feel to them. Uplifting, and a great end to the Revelation album."
Reef's new album, Revelation, is out now via EarMUSIC. Buy it from Amazon.