RED SEA: Blood (2019)

Vinyl/CD Remaster (2019)

When Blood was released on Rugged Records (back in 1994) I think it would be fair to say that it was largely ignored. Not to say that those with a discerning ear didn’t take notice … but let’s face it, rock ‘n’ roll was under assault in the mid 90’s. Not surprisingly, this heavily 70’s hard rock influenced (Led Zep/Deep Purple) collection of songs flew under the radar. And even those who acknowledged the exceptional qualities of Red Sea  (the undeniably golden throat of Robyn Kyle Basauri) quickly moved on to the music that was riding the waves of the newer trends in rock at the time. But as all things great eventually find their way into the light of day, Roxx Records has seen fit to reissue this “all-star” effort on remastered CD and for the first-time on vinyl format (photo above of the actual vinyl jacket).

It has been interesting to see the resurgence of 70’s influenced rock in mainstream media with Greta Van Fleet (and a few others doing the same thing). As the youthful masses have grown tired of the endless outflow of digital music that basically sounds “mass-produced” and uninspired there has been an invigorating interest in the more organic/analog sounds of bands from the 70’s era. This has, of course, coincided with the increasing interest in revisiting vinyl as a viable – and maybe even more enjoyable – format for listening to music in general. In lieu of this rock ‘n’ roll and vinyl resurgence it seems entirely appropriate to revisit one of the most transparent and genuine Christian hard rock albums of all time with both a modern boost of power and an old-school vinyl treatment. And folks, this album was built for vinyl! The bluesy and soulful riff-driven melodies and grooves on Blood are timeless – this album sounds better now than it did in 1994 when the listening bias of the times blinded us all to the genius these 4 guys crafted in these 11 tunes. And I confess that I was one of those who found Red Sea incredibly refreshing at the time yet didn’t realize the full impact of this album until nearly 25 years later. Yes, it was praiseworthy then, but now – and especially on vinyl – its sounds amazing!

In listening to these songs 25 years later, these guys nailed it with Blood. They actually crafted 10 songs (plus the playful interlude “Down Home Static”) which perfectly captured the essence of everything great about 70’s rock while simultaneously delivering a sober message … and they pulled it all off with a genuine and spiritually transparent and inspiring approach hitched with very credible songwriting and stunning musical execution. Guitarist Chris Howell was coming off a killer, yet somewhat overly “commercial” debut record with Fear Not (1993), and producer P.K. Mitchell had delivered (the same year) the brilliant hard rocking praise album All Hail The Power. Robyn Kyle (Jaguar) had been the replacement singer for Die Happy on their second album (also 1993) – which was a much more classic rock styled album – and so the stage was set for a perfect storm of collaboration with Red Sea. Furthermore, add bassist Craig Chaisson (his bass huge here) and world-class drummer Jeff Martin (Racer X/Badlands/Michael Schenker Group) and you had a recipe for rock bliss.

For those not familiar with the release (original album cover above), the song mix is an equal offering of classic hard rock (with a Zep vibe) and soulful bluesy numbers in perfect balance. From the thundering opening track “Soulshaker” – which really sets the tone for the unabashed lyrical content – to the gospel/hymn-like “Tears of Joy,” there is not a bad song to be found. The title track has a great guitar hook, and Martin’s Bonham-esque drum rhythms and fills really stand out. In fact, one of the great aspects of this recording in general has always been the equal contributions of all four musicians. While the vocals and guitar grab the spotlight for obvious reasons, Chaisson’s bass is all over this record, especially on the 7 minute “Wolves At The Door,” and the reflective “Losin’ My Way.” Furthermore, Martin’s drumming throughout moves well beyond the typical “4 on the floor” approach with killer drum tones to boot. In fact, on this remaster I would say it’s the rhythm section that really benefits the most.

From a lyrical standpoint, “Dust To Dust” has always been my favorite as it perfectly captures the essence of a simple and humble faith. And while the music gives a slight nod to Bon Jovi, I love the way Robyn Kyle belts out these words…

“Born a child of mercy/Bred by the powers that moves the seas/When my day is done/And my time has finally come/From the ashes Your love will carry me.” – “Dust To Dust”

While all of these songs smoke, its worth mentioning “Walk On Fire” with the heavy groove and incredibly infectious chorus. It’s like Zep meets Deep Purple with Coverdale on vocals. And speaking of Deep Purple again, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear the Hammond organ on the speedy retro 70’s rocker “Shades of Purple.” Gotta love that “Hat out of Bell” lyrical twist! And speaking of twists and Hell, the songs “Hellbound Train” and “Walk On Fire” are flipped in the song order compared to the original issue, and so this means that “Hellbound Train” is the opening track on Side B of the vinyl which works really well with that “locomotive” intro build-up.

The CD

As has been the case with most of the Roxx reissues these days, the CD comes with a sharp looking new cover, new label design and 12-page booklet. While I do like the original cover, this new one is sharp with a better blend of color. The sound quality between the remaster and the original is not quite as dramatic on the CD as compared to some of the reissues from this era, but the difference really becomes apparent on the vinyl. Still, I would consider this new version of the CD well worth the money just for the packaging alone if that is something you value. One observation: while the song order is correct on the rear tray, the CD labeling in the media/CD player still retains the song order from the original release despite the fact that the track 6 plays “Hellbound Train” and track 8 plays “Walk On Fire.”

The Vinyl

This record was made for vinyl! That is to say, Blood is so deserving of vinyl treatment because this format perfectly suits the organic rock and recording styles incorporated into the production of this record. Where the CD remaster sounds “louder” than the original, the vinyl version feels more “expansive,” breathing even more life into these songs. The warm bass lines and drum tones fill the listening room, vibrating the walls in grand fashion. In contrast to many vinyl remasters where the bass sound is overwhelming with compromised mid-range, Blood maintains a nice balance of low, mid and highs which translates into a recording that sounds equally good at both low and high volumes with little to no listener fatigue. My copy has very little surface noise, is flat and looks great (pictured above). Issued in red/black marbled (limited) and black, the LP is housed in single jacket with one-page (2-sided) insert with lyrics, credits and pictures. Kudos to Roxx and Rob Colwell for delivering yet another excellent rendering on vinyl (that Holy Soldier debut so sweet!). Keep them coming!

Roxx Productions

Release Date: Out Now

CD Track Listing:

1. Soulshaker (4:50)

2. Blood (4:52)

3. Wolves At The Door (7:19)

4. Dust To Dust (5:33)

5. Last Days Of Winter (4:36)

6. Hellbound Train (5:29)

7. Shades Of Purple (5:18)

8. Walk On Fire (3:57)

9. Losin’ My Way (5:51)

10. Down Home Static (1:04)

11. Tears Of Joy (4:47)


Side A

1. Soulshaker (4:50)

2. Blood (4:52)

3. Wolves At The Door (7:19)

4. Dust To Dust (5:33)

5. Last Days Of Winter (4:36)

Side B

1. Hellbound Train (5:29)

2. Shades Of Purple (5:18)

3. Walk On Fire (3:57)

4. Losin’ My Way (5:51)

5. Down Home Static (1:04)

6. Tears Of Joy (4:47)

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