Right up-front let me address the thought behind putting up two records for consideration. Simply stated, I think they both deserve recognition. In fact, I felt so strongly about the band’s self titled debut, that when the parent distribution company was launching the group’s sophomore record, I convinced them to let me bundle the two projects, and give their first release away with the purchase of Red Revolution.
The core of Shaded Red consisted of two brothers, Jamie (vocals, guitar), and Jon (guitars, bass, trumpet, piano) Roberts. According to an online bio, the brothers studied music in college, and it was then that they discovered their intense musical chemistry.
Although I can’t confirm this, there is a rumor that the Roberts family had been involved in promoting Christian concerts, and when their Father had learned of his sons desire to start the band, he lead them before a wall of photos featuring CCM artists. As the story goes, their father pointed out how most of the artists on the wall no longer had careers in Christian music. His point being that any success they might achieve would most likely be fleeting.
True, or not, I always found that tale to be extremely ironic, considering the short, and seemingly ill-fated time Shaded Red had together as a band. Their father’s words were eerily prophetic.
The band’s debut release in 1997 garnered positive reviews from critics,and immediate tour opportunities with bands like Petra, and Guardian. The raw, emotive nature of the lyrics, and surprising sonic power that the trio managed to generate is what drew me in. I found the musical arrangements simple yet refreshingly creative. Subtle use of horns, and piano round out this record’s “live” vibe.
“Caught”- Hooky, and singable. I instantly loved this song, because Jamie was able to work “Cold Fusion” in to the lyric, and make it sound cool…no pun intended.
“Let It Out”- A crunchy rock anthem that depicts the Good News of Christ death, and resurrection as so energizing the individual is unable to contain it. He must “let it out” for others to hear.
“Use Me” – Simple, heartfelt, beautiful. This piano based track I’m sure, made for a moving concert finale.
As the band began to gain momentum, tragedy struck. On January 11, 1998, the band was in a serious accident while on their tour bus. The bus hit a patch of black ice. Chris Yeomen, the drummer at the time, died, and Jon Roberts was left with a shattered Pelvis. The two brothers seriously considered ending the band all together. Understandably, the passion was gone.
However, after time of physical and spiritual healing, Jon regained the use of his leg,s and God restored Jamie’s love for music. The song “When God Ran”, originally written by Benny Hester, was the medium that brought Jamie through.
In ’99, after months of recuperation, Shaded Red returned with Red Revolution. Many critics felt that the new record was a major step above their debut. General market publications such as Billboard Magazine took notice of the project because of its unique stylings. The fusion of spanish trumpets, and orchestral arrangements with rock elements made for an eclectic sound that really worked well.
“Revolution” – The first track on the record, it set the tone, and exemplified the “mariachi rock” that runs throughout the disc.
“When God Ran” – A huge hit by Benny Hester way back in the early days of CCM. It could have been really cheezy, but the impact it had on Jamie, and the way the band pulled off making it relevant, warrants recognition.
“One Year” – IMHO opinion the deepest song on the record, and the one that totally kicks my butt with rock awesomeness. Clearly a testimony to the pain, and struggle that Jamie & Jon were processing in the aftermath of their tragic accident.
If any band should be granted license to ask the question “What if”, it would be Shaded Red.
What if there was never an accident?
What if we had never lost our friend?
What if Jon had never walked again?
What if Jamie had never returned to music?
To me there is great mystery, and tension in all of life’s “what ifs.” And although there is some wisdom to be gained by examining these questions, dwelling too long on them could drive one over the edge, or worse, leave them hopelessly stuck in neutral.
I humbly submit that the Roberts brothers found peace in the God who control’s the “what ifs”, trusting that whatever the outcome, it was always going to be for their good, and for His glory. We all stand to benefit from the tragedy, and victory that marked Shaded Red’s brief story. For that reason I suggest that their two records belong in your music collection.
Question: What if Shaded Red never existed as a band?