One of the best-known quotes of the late 19th century comes from Spanish philosopher George Santayana who famously wrote: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the world of music, I would suggest that artists who do not remember the past are condemned if they don’t repeat it -at least to some degree. Thankfully, for fans of the Christian rock band Red, recent lessons learned have resulted in a brand new masterpiece.
From the opening opus of “Of Beauty and Rage” with its mood-intensified strings, it is more than obvious that Red is back; not repeating themselves yet offering the unique mix of rock, angst and orchestral maneuvers that harken back to their groundbreaking early work of “End of Silence,” “Innocence & Instinct,” and “Until We Have Faces,” the latter going back nearly a decade. And while ‘Beauty’ is far from formulaic, it does possess Red’s ‘secret sauce’ formula that makes for awe-inspiring music.
The band learned its lesson well with their last LP, 2013’s “Release the Panic.” Inexplicably gone were the accent strings and piano chords, replaced instead by a techno approach. Fans didn’t get it and didn’t buy it – literally. Red’s response? Apathy? Indifference? Hardly. Instead, they put out “Release the Panic: Re-Calibrated” with cuts remixed to give the people what they wanted – a move virtually unprecedented. This time around, “Of Beauty & Rage” offers a moody theme album to accompany a graphic novel.
Neil Young is well known for admitting he plays concerts for himself and not the fans. Eric Clapton also regularly performs shows without ‘playing the hits.’ Is it ego? Avoiding the ‘sell out’ tag? Or, is it merely a desire to do something different? All are legitimate in the short-term but, ultimately, shortsighted from the long-view (remember Young’s “Trans” album?). Growth and evolution are essential but, I would argue, so is embracing what made you popular in vinyl in the first place – in short, your unique brand and value proposition.