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Warhorse - Red Sea CD (album) cover

RED SEA

Warhorse

 

Heavy Prog

2.94 | 41 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Red Sea' - Warhorse (61/100)

It was released over four decades from the time I've first listened to it, and still I find myself disappointed by Warhorse's second, final album. Following his last shows with Deep Purple, bassist Nick Simper went on to create a band and record of same name that possibly rocked even harder than anything Purple conjured in their early days. Warhorse stands as one of the strongest hard rock records I've heard from that genre, to the point where I might have said they deserved equally favourable mention alongside Captain Beyond, the better-known (and loved) by-product of Ritchie Blackmore's late 60s staff adjustments. Hell; I usually find myself bored stiff by the sort of fuzzy organ rock they were playing, but I was impressed by every song on that self-titled.

Red Sea, by contrast, is almost universally thought of as a lukewarm disappointment in hindsight, and for good reason. The album apparently came together in a hurry, adopting a more predictable take on hard rock that made them sound just like the bland legions their self-titled dared to set them apart from. With that said, I can't call Red Sea a bad album. It's average hard rock fare, perfectly average, in fact. I might even say, based on the album's more outlandish cuts like "Back in Time" and "Mouthpiece", that Warhorse were still distinguishing themselves here, albeit in milder ways. Nonetheless, I can't listen to Red Sea and feel the slightest bit reminded of how tight they were on the debut, and that's a damning consideration if ever there was one.

Warhorse pulled the reins back on their proto-metal here; the result of which is a record more closely tied to rhythm-and-blues tropes. "Red Sea" and "Confident but Wrong" are solid examples of the more conventional road the band were taking with this album. The guitar and organ alike have both recoiled a bit in the mix, giving extra room for Ashley Holt to strut his stuff. But I'm not hearing the sort of passion in his voice here I heard on "No Chance" or "Solitude"; his voice sounds wearier on Red Sea, though those looking for a confident vocal performance should be satisfied with the straightforwardly ballsy "Sybilla".

"I (Who Have Nothing)" is a great slower song to round off the record, and among the few that would have fit on the debut without a hitch. The lame balladry found in "Feeling Better" is enough to sour some of the album's positives, but Warhorse's two longer pieces may have actually hinted at a potential for better things. "Back in Time" is characterized by Ged Peck's fuzzy noodling, in the vague ballpark of what Page did in the mid-section of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker". Best of all, without a doubt, is "Mouthpiece", a blues rock instrumental that aspires to greatness. This is the same Warhorse that impressed me so much with the debut, but a generally unmemorable set of songwriting keeps it from sounding anywhere near as enduring.

Red Sea isn't such a bad album overall, but the fact that it followed up such a tight record weighs heavily against it. Is that unfair to the music? It's possible. However, I don't think the album would be half as remembered by people today, had it not been heir apparent to one of hard rock's most underrated classics. For a band that rocked as hard as anything 1970 had to offer, Warhorse ended their career sounding remarkably... average.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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