The Debate Rages: Blues for the Red Sun vs. Welcome to Sky Valley

Last time, we took a look at some classic heavy ’70s artwork from Atomic Rooster and Buffalo, and that was fun, but let’s face it, there’s bigger fish to fry. For example, now that Californian desert legends Kyuss have been (mostly) resurrected in the form of the appropriately-exclamatory Kyuss Lives!, it becomes more necessary than ever to examine the legacy they left behind them in their first run. Kyuss: The gods of the ’90s desert!

The question in part comes down to lineup. For 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun, Kyuss consisted of drummer Brant Bjork, guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri and vocalist John Garcia. Of those four, it was Bjork and Oliveri principally responsible for the songwriting. That remained true for 1994’s Kyuss, which would later adopt the unofficial title Welcome to Sky Valley (often shortened as just Sky Valley), but the swapping out of bassist Scott Reeder in place of Oliveri — a process which, it could be argued, is under way again now in Kyuss Lives! — had a huge impact on the band’s sound, accordingly with an increase in confidence, establishment of aesthetic, etc.

What’s not up for debate, however, is that these are two of the most classic and pivotal desert rock albums of all time. With landmark songs like “Thumb,” “Green Machine” and the truly post-punk “Allen’s Wrench,” Blues for the Red Sun helped set in motion the genre that would be centered around Palm Desert and the surrounding area, but the vision wasn’t completely realized until two years later, when Sky Valley was released. Broken into three larger movements, tracks like “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop,” “100 Degrees,” the softer “Space Cadet” and the instrumental “Asteroid” solidified the sound that the prior album had proposed, arguing not just for its artistic relevance, but for the imperative blend of atmosphere and classic influence that has come to typify true desert rock.

But as much as that’s true, you couldn’t have had the one without the other. I know where my heart and listening habits place me, but what about you? Desert island scenario (or maybe just desert, if that’s more appropriate), you can only have one or the other. Which is more pivotal in terms of its influence, and which would you rather just hear for the rest of your life to the exclusion of the other? These seem like big questions — because both records are so great — but that’s why The Debate Rages.

Please cast your votes in the comments.

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27 Responses to “The Debate Rages: Blues for the Red Sun vs. Welcome to Sky Valley

  1. Zack Kurland says:

    Sky Valley

  2. saturnine says:

    I chose Wretch. ;)

    By default of overall listening habits, Welcome to Sky Valley wins out. It’s also where I started with the band.

  3. Scott says:

    Sky Valley. It was the first record that made me search out what environment meant to the making of music besides city life. I learned a geography and lifestyle lesson in the process of the creation of the music in the region, and its relationship to the high and low desert, Joshua Tree, and how special the region is to being human, and the special qualities that make us all appreciate this great band.

  4. Ben says:

    I thought it was between Sky Valley and Circus. But definitely Sky Valley.

  5. matt says:

    sky Valley

  6. Russell says:

    I’m going with Blues for a Red Sun and be in the minority.

  7. Aris says:

    Blues for the red sun is the Stoner rock most insane and allucinogenic bass sound ever heard, even if Reeder is a better bassist.
    Sky valley is a true masterpiece, but in Blues…there is the savage power of Oliveri at his best.

  8. Perrin says:

    Sky Valley.

    The album is a prime example of a “all killer no filler” album to me, and while I like Blues for the Red Sun a great deal as well, it just can’t top Sky Valley.

  9. Jess H says:

    Sky Valley, but it’s tough. (I wonder why the promo stuff says “Sky Valley” if that wasn’t the official name. And the cassette says “Sky Valley” at the top of the actual tape. hmmm)

    (and pretty sure Oliveri only wrote 1 song)

  10. StevhanTI says:

    I think on the old board that shall not be named Blues won the debate. I listen to that one more often but can’t decide which one is better. When Kyuss Lives! performs tracks of both they’re equally scorching.

  11. Gaia says:

    Sky Valley does it for me.

  12. Obnox says:

    Oliveri principally responsible for the songwriting? He only pend the last song I think. Mondo Generator. Regardless of that, Sky Valey is the natural growth and maturity in their sound, more deep and at times even better as a whole album from its predecessor. However where Blues for… was an instant classic, Sky Valley is a slowburner and that difference is why I put my choice over Blues, cause it was a never turn back album for me.

  13. Baron says:

    Sky Valley


  14. C. says:

    Sky Valley.

    To misappropriate a quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

    “So now, (almost 20 years) later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

    Sky Valley is the high water mark for all of this. We’re all just chasing that wave backwards.

  15. Daniel says:

    Sky Valley for sure!. It was the first album I heard with Kyuss but I think it’s a much more flowing record that just grabs you and don’t let go.

  16. Brian H. says:

    I’m going to say Sky Valley for the consistency, what gets the most spins in my house, and has one of my all-time favorite songs on it from any genre (White Water). Its a top 5 all time great record IMO. I get this The Doors meets Black Sabbath vibe from that album. Blues is a fantastic record but a little uneven – it does however foreshadow where the band was going artistically. Thumb and Freedom Run hold up to anything they have ever done. Having seen Kyuss Lives! recently, Nick did a fantastic job playing the Reeder era stuff and I’d even argue that with his rawer approach, the often passed over “Circus” tracks sounded better live than the previous albums material. Which has led me back to listening to Circus and realizing the under-produced brilliance of it. I think that high water mark might be Circus, but it took Nick playing those songs for me to see that.

  17. Gavin says:

    When I die I have informed my wife to play Sky Valley in it’s entirety at my funeral.

  18. Jacob says:

    Sky Valley. No question.

  19. PengIn says:

    Blues, and not just because the “bonus track” on Sky Valley is a total vibe crusher.

  20. goAt says:

    “Sky Valley is the high water mark for all of this. We’re all just chasing that wave backwards.”-C

    That says it all right there…

  21. Sufferbus says:

    It changed everything for me. Sky may technically be “better” in some senses, but the the visceral thunder of Blues can’t be matched for me.

    Imagine my shock when I realized that Chris Goss was behind these guys since I was already a dedicated MoR fan.

  22. Justin says:

    Although I honesty couldn’t choose between the two, I’ll go with Blues for the Red Sun because it’s the album that got me into Kyuss.

  23. Shane says:

    Blues For The Red Sun. Hearing Green Machine and Thumb esp. for the first time – those unique vibrations – blood thinning stuff, opened my ears and mind to an emotion that has stayed with me ever since. Seeing Kyuss open for Metallica at this time just etched Blues into my soul for life, part of me.

  24. Rorty says:

    Welcome To Sky Valley – was first maybe that is why. A deserted island top 10 for my money.

  25. Graw says:

    You cant really quantify one or the other, to me they’re both a single entity. I will not listen to just one album. If I put on Sky Valley, Blues for the Red Sun is next, no questions, vice versa. If I was trapped in the desert and had to choose, well, I’d have both because I wouldnt have left without both in the first place lol

  26. Arjun says:

    Hard to choose, but for me it has to be Welcome to Sky Valley. Space Cadet is such an essential jam

  27. Danny says:

    Blues for the Red Sun, esp for that flange that leads into the final jam on 50 Million Year Trip. Tough call though.

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