Ayn Rand: The Musical
I don't like Rush. The easy route would be to just leave it at that, but unfortunately the situation is more complicated than that simple dismissal would suggest. The thing is, I really like a lot of Rush songs, and I'm generally favorable towards many of their albums. Plus, I like all of the individual band members as instrumentalists, and I even don't have anything against Geddy Lee's voice (usually the main sticking point for people who hate the band). And yet, whenever somebody asks me if I like Rush, my immediate answer is always "no," and my disposition when I'm asked why is always negative.
Despite some who might think that my love of Yes and relative disdain for Rush comes from becoming acquainted with the former before the latter, this is actually far from the truth. I became pretty well acquainted with the band early on in my rock education, as my brother went through a major Rush phase when I was 16 and 17, and I heard their songs on a regular basis. Plus, I listened to classic rock radio pretty frequently at that time, and Rush got quite a lot of airplay, so I got to listen to them a lot. I was certainly impressed by their instrumental skills, but I didn't have much particular affection for them, and never actively sought out their albums like I was doing for The Moody Blues or Pink Floyd. As an aside, between my brother's general love for them through Moving Pictures but hesitation thereafter, as well as the fact that the Rush songs I heard on the radio never seemed to go past 1982 (except for play from Counterparts and Test for Echo), I began to get the impression that the general feeling towards Rush was that they were a nice 70's and early 80's band, but got too synth-heavy and 80's-ish, before having a bit of a mid-90's comeback. Of course, I later learned that that wasn't the overall fan consensus at all (there are certainly many Rush fans who feel that way, but there are a LOT, as I've found, who consider the 80's stuff their peak), but that impression stuck with me for a long time.
When I got into college, and started reading the Mark Prindle site more regularly, I found that somebody had posted a link to a site where all of their albums through Hold Your Fire could be obtained as 64K mono (less than tape quality) mp3's. Well, I decided this was as good of an opportunity to get seriously acquainted with the band as any, so I downloaded all of them (I also owned a copy of Exit...Stage Left, which I liked quite a bit). Eventually, I upgraded all of those albums to CD, but even as I became extremely familiar with the entire Rush discography, my opinion of them just refused to improve significantly. Sure, almost every one of their albums had a small number of songs that I liked a lot, but I almost never felt the mood to listen to any of their albums straight through. Eventually, when I started my own websites, I had no real desire to ever review Rush, but after a little over a year, I found myself in a bind; I had almost run out of bands whose complete discographies I posessed and whom I knew well. To stall for time and to give myself some breathing room to start grabbing every Stones and Dylan and King Crimson album I could find, I spent a couple of months churning out Rush reviews, and in so doing produced the greatest flamebait on my entire website. Hell hath no fury like a Rush fan who feels his favorite band has been slighted, and since I'm one of the few people on the internet who would bother to make a Rush page that wasn't extremely positive towards the band, I've felt the brunt of it. Some commentators have been extremely polite and have produced a good dialogue of sorts, but some ... I digress, anyway.
Any discussion of Rush's merits and flaws must inevitably come around to the point that is most obviously in Rush's favor; all three members (Alex Lifeson on guitar, Geddy Lee on bass, Neil Peart on drums) were/are exceptionally proficient at their respective instruments. All three are often regarded as among the greatest rock musicians ever at their instruments, and while I think it's a stretch to proclaim any of them THE absolute best at what they do (I still far prefer Keith Moon and Bill Bruford to Neil Peart, for instance), all three are definitely near the top of their professions. I actually like Lifeson the most of the three, mainly because of his versatility; the man could shred with any hair-metal guitarist (the solo in "The Analog Kid" has got to be one of the most breathtaking guitar passages I've ever heard), but he also had a strong gift for providing ambient texture. While I really like Lifeson, though, that shouldn't be taken to shortchange the others too much. Essentially, Rush took the Power Trio concept to its ultimate height in terms of raw talent, and that says something.
One thing about Rush and its collective instrumental abilities that I think largely explains the devotion the band receives from some is that the band, with only a few notable exceptions, rarely shows much in the way of restraint. This isn't to say that every song from them is a shred-fest or anything like that, but rather that, with few exceptions, the band members go out of their way to demonstrate, in some form or another, a significant percentage of the full extent of their chops in most of their songs. Rush arrangements are almost always very intricate and very "busy," and I don't think it would be unfair to say that the band routinely used its technical proficiency and its ability to create technically interesting arrangements as a bit of a crutch in its general songwriting approach. Even if they didn't have a great idea for a song on its own, they seemed to assume that they would be able to make the song based on that idea worthwhile as long as they made the arrangement interesting, whether in terms of band interplay or even just sticking an intricate bassline into the background just to have it there. And it's not as if I can really blame them for that; I can't hold it against a band for creating around its strengths.
The reason I bring this up is that I think that one's attitude towards that approach will largely determine one's attitude towards Rush. A fundamental question, as I see it, is this: is a great arrangement enough on its own to at least make a song good, if not great? If your answer to that question is that it almost certainly will, then Rush fandom may just be for you. My opinion on this question is as follows: a great arrangement can easily make a bad song mediocre, and can easily make a good song great, but it is hard for a great arrangement to make a mediocre song good. If you're a Rush fan, you'll probably disagree with this, but for me, a disturbingly large chunk of the Rush catalogue consists of well-arranged mediocrity. Sure, there are a lot of great songs to be found, but I'd have a tough time counting all of the many instances where I hear the band energetically doing its thing while my mind can't help but drift away. And you know, that's a problem given that I'm in the upper 5% of the music listening population in terms of favorability towards prog rock and complicated, busy arrangements on the whole. Rush ends up reminding me a lot of Dream Theater in its overall approach, and that is NOT a compliment given that DT may bore me more than any other band I've ever heard (DT came around much later than Rush did, but they accentuated a lot of what I perceive as Rush's flaws and help make it easier for me to pick them out). I like Rush a lot more than DT, of course, but the pattern is similar, and that's a problem. When Rush writes what my brain considers a good melody or a good riff, I like their stuff just fine; unfortunately, that probably happens less than half of the time.
Switching gears for a bit, I want to say something about Rush's general evolutionary path. While Rush never significantly deviated from its core power trio sound (though the synths started to really drown out the sound for a bit there in the 80's), they did manage to cover an interesting amount of territory in their career. They started out as a fairly straight-forward hard rock band (with some fantasy elements here and there), before switching, uh, mid-album into a full-fledged prog rock band for a few years. Then they became an arena rock band, with an ever-increasing concentration of synthesizers, before synths first became an equal player in the band's sound and then kinda dominated things (giving somewhat of an artsy feel to the sound) despite the ostensible hard rock base of the band's sound. Then the band kinda went back to a poppier (and less impacting) version of its classic arena rock days, eventually remembering to make the guitars as powerful as they probably should be.
So anyway, Rush certainly should be given some credit for taking on many approaches in their career, and for the fact that they never really stopped evolving over time. But how much should that really work in their favor? In their initial hard rock days, they did have some great songs, but overall the band didn't really go beyond the level of decent Led Zeppelin/Deep Purple/Black Sabbath imitators. When they became a prog band, they were helped by the fact that most of the "classic" prog bands were past their best days, and while some of the band's prog numbers are very impressive in their own right, a lot of it just doesn't really compare to the best work of those bands (though it seems okay in comparison to the contemporary lesser works of those bands). The point is, despite some good songs, it's hard for me not to see the overall body of Rush's 70's work as pretty second rate, and that hurts.
When the band hit the 80's and firmly entered the world of arena rock, it finally found an approach that would allow it to stand out from the crowd; other arena rock bands sure as hell couldn't play like this, and few (if any) others showed the interest Rush did in incorporating synthesizers in new and creative ways. By Signals, which I consider the band's studio peak, the band had gotten its sound as good as it was gonna get, at least in terms of balancing their "traditional" instrumentation vs. all the 80's synthesizers and production. Unfortunately, and I know many will disagree with me on this, I can't help but think that the band totally messed up the balance over the next three albums (the band does deserve some credit, though, for trying out an approach that pretty much nobody else was attempting). I've actually come to like the sound of Power Windows quite a bit over the years (even if I don't like all of its songs), but the sound and production of the albums that bookend it has never sat well with me at all (even if the two albums irritate me for different reasons). If 80's keyboards and production values don't bother you at all, then you might be ok; for me, those albums didn't age well at all. But back on topic: the band went back to a more conventional rock approach after Hold Your Fire, stripping away most of the artsy trappings, but by this time it was basically a shell of its former self, even if it eventually put out a couple of albums that I like quite a bit. So really, the amount of time that I consider the band to have approached "great" on an overall level is pretty small, and when their albums even during this time weren't consistent enough for me to consider them truly great, that's a big problem.
Finally, there's one other big, BIG problem I have with Rush, and that is Neil Peart's lyrics. Ok, yes, the man has penned some great lyrics in his life (starting in the 80's, when he started focusing on more "humane" matters, he moved up from "horrendous" to "head-smashingly spotty" in his output), I'll give that. Unfortunately, I just don't like the man's general approach to lyric writing, even after he matured out of his love of Rand and other similar things. To use an example of a lyricist I like but whom most people hate, I actually like the lyrics Jon Anderson penned for Yes; he mostly worked in surrealism, and the main purpose of his lyrics was to create a kind of whispy mysticism that worked as effective counterpoint to the guitars and keyboards. Sure, he allowed his own personal philosophies to enter his texts, but he almost always obscured and obfuscated his meanings drastically, and he drew upon sources that relatively few in the Western world knew about.
Neil Peart, on the other hand, never seemed to really buy into the notions of obscurity and obfuscation. A lot of rock lyricists choose to write about "shallow" things in a dumb way; a lot of great lyricists write about "shallow" things in an intelligent way; a select few have the ability to write about "deep" things in an intelligent way. Simply put, Neil Peart routinely committed the cardinal sin of writing about "deep" things in some of the dumbest ways imaginable. Now, to be fair, part of this is because I have a deep-seated dislike of the concept of Objectivism, which I once heard brilliantly described as a "philosophy for 14-year olds," so all the Ayn Rand/free will etc stuff just doesn't resonate positively with me at all (and yes, I know that this stuff only made up a small portion of the band's career, but I insist that the same stink of general banality stayed with Neil throughout). But between the bad Tolkien tributes, and the bad Greek mythological fan fictions, and a myriad of individual stanzas (from all eras of the band) that make me cradle my face in my hands, I just have to go out of my way to ignore Peart's lyrics a great deal of the time. I can see where his philosophical and literary bluntness might be appealing - a lot of his lyrics read as Western Philosophy and the Human Condition for Dummies - but it is not for me at all. Too often, even in a lot of songs where I like his lyrics, I feel like I'm listening to the poetry of a high school Freshman who just bought The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and a thesaurus, and that makes me very uncomfortable. If the rest of the song is great enough, I can enjoy the song just fine overall despite disliking the lyrics (see: "Free Will," or the first side of Hemispheres), but it's the moments when there's not enough to distract me from the lyrics that have largely driven my feelings of ill will towards the band.
In the end, though, despite a lot of negative feelings towards the band overall, I end up giving them a solid ** out of ***** (note that I will only review bands that I consider good enough to at least muster a * rating). I mean, they do have quite a few albums that I consider very good (or better), and there are lots of Rush songs that I'm perfectly happy to hear at any time, so this rating doesn't seem that out of line, regardless of my complaints. I can't imagine that that brings much solace to fans of the band, but whatever.
Oh boy, I had a feeling we were gonna disagree big time on these guys, seeing your comments on them from other pages, including my own. Your opinion of Rush is interesting, though, most people either love or hate the band, whereas you fall somewhere in the middle - seemingly respecting them and very much enjoying some of their stuff, but never really being blown away by their catalog. Anyway, I can certainly understand your rating of 2 for them - their albums did have a little problem with inconsistency, with some exceptions. Nevertheless, all three are phenomenal musicians. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, while not my favorite bassists and drummers ever, are some of the most distinctive players at their instruments (even if predecessors like Chris Squire and Keith Moon are superior), and the thing that strikes me most about Alex Lifeson is that the emphasis was (and still continues to be) hardly ever on soloing like practically all prog rock guitarists, but on great riffing in the early days and one of the coolest ambient guitar tones ever captured on record in the 80s period.
As for my ultimate rating for the band, they reach a 4 on my scale without much problem at all - yup, as high as Yes, and maybe even higher (I'll leave that up to when I acquire that band's post 77 stuff). Unlike you, the best Rush material has absolutely HOOKED me like few bands ever have, and a lot of it has earned a place amongst my favorite songs of all time (2112, Marathon, The Necromancer, Distant Early Warning, Limelight and Natural Science I consider their biggest accomplishments). The sheer hard rocking power of their early days (reaching the pinnacle on their "2112" tour de force) and the 80-85 period where the lyrics and the music in my opinion flowed in absolutely perfect unison together, creating moods that got me severely addicted for a long long time. IMO they haven't created a great album since then, and have had a couple stinkers in my mind with Roll The Bones and Counterparts, but oh well. Still doesn't diminish what they've done before.
On the subject of lyrics, I do agree with you that in the 70's Neil Peart did have a problem with (often childish) pretentiousness - for instance, I'm still debating whether the lyrics in "2112" are laughable nonsense or an incredibly powerful statement - maybe both, I don't know - I wouldn't say that mattered all that much, as the music around them was powerful enough to sometimes overlook that. Not always, though, as he did hit some low points such as the awful awful awful "Cygnus X-1" and more silly numbers like "By-Tor & The Snow Dog".
However, several of the lyrics he contributed throughout the 80's just floor me in the approach to the subject matter (which was always done in a down to earth, accessible fashion), and combined with the instrumental talents of him and the other members in setting them to music, some of my most unforgettable listening experiences came out of it. Yeah, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows may be too cold and synth-dominated (though I think Alex still makes his presence felt on the latter, though I will admit he doesn't on the other 82-87 albums), but damn it, they work in conveying what the lyrics deal with. Sure, Peart had a couple missteps during this time ("Second Nature", "Red Lenses") but I'll be damned if I'm not seriously affected by his thoughts on the power of music, social separation, concentration camps, nuclear war, growing older, the creation of man, the pros and cons of the stage, and suchlike in this context. I also find his pieces like "Vital Signs" and "The Body Electric" to be nice evidence that he also had a sense of humor, even if an odd one.
I've never actually come across anyone who had much of a problem with the lyrics and didn't mind Geddy Lee's voice at all either. As you probably are aware, it was the vocals that originally turned me off to the band in the first place - luckily I have seen the error of my ways since then, but there are still moments on A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres that annoy the crap out of me. I'll acknowledge he has been very pleasant to listen to since '82 though (I've even mentioned that on Hold Your Fire I consider his vocals to be great). And unlike Tony Banks, Geddy also knew when to stop with his keyboards (which I've never personally been bored or offended by - on HYF it's not necessarily his overuse of them that's the problem, it's the melodies that they're playing and production) - note that after that one, they released the very raw and straightforward effort in Presto, and have come closer to their roots since then.
Since Rush is one of those few bands that have a very decent sized output which I have enough of a great knowledge of (all that I'm only not that interested in yet are their other three live albums, though I will get to them eventually - it's just that I'm generally disinterested in live work from practically all bands except for The Who, maybe) I'll do my picks based on your over/under/best/worst thing:
Best - Moving Pictures : 14
(in my opinion, this is an extremely consistent and mindblowing album best showing their style - even the lesser tracks on here rule)
Worst - Counterparts : 7
(this one is REALLY where I can see the 'Peart is an absolutely terrible' lyricist idea, plus it's forced grunge)
Overrated - A Farewell To Kings : 9
(maybe it's the most technical album they ever did, but I still think a good amount of it is way too unfocused and lame)
Underrated - Caress Of Steel : 12
(laugh all you want, but for me along with P/G (author's note: P/G is shorthand for Grace Under Pressure) this showcases the darker side of Rush best, and a good heavy/light balance)
OK, I know from this comment it may seem like I'm a Rush fanatic, but I'm not. I will say they've had their share of crap (when a song from them is bad, it's cringe-worthy beyond words) and they aren't even in my top 5 bands (though not too far off). It's just that I always feel the need to share my thoughts on/defend them for some reason. Maybe Geddy Lee is controlling my brain, which is a good thing - maybe I'll learn to play bass, keys and sing at the same time like he can. ;)
Wowee only one reply to that gentle Rush bashing. Net-connected Rush fanatics are out there. Just have to wait a bit until the flames start. I used to be a Rush fanatic and if you post my crappy opinions, there'll be two people talking about Rush on your site!
My take on Rush is this. Take a modestly heavy guitar riff that has some sort of weird guitar effect that is still very hard to pinpoint, mirror that with a very thick heavy bass, and then place analog synths in the background of all that. The reason I bought Rush albums was because I was looking for a "sci-fi" band and they were the best I found. And the combo of those three instrumental sounds best fit a "sci-fi" sound. YYZ is probably the closest to this "sci-fi" ideal. Keeping this in mind, I ignore Rush between 1974 till 1977. 2112 is still a grey area. Rush between 1977 and around 1987 is the chewy golden center. Rush after 1987 is like eating a candy wrapper. Despite the common opinion that Moving Pictures is their best, I would say Hold Your Fire is better. When you analyze the guitar parts and the lyrics and singing and rhythms, this album is crap. Alex Lifeson does nothing on this album and Geddy's haircut and low-cut tight shirt are eyesores. But just listen to that reverb! What the hell did they do to the synths and the guitars and the vocals? It's like echo from heaven! Can I say that Hold Your Fire is Rush's best album solely based on its overproduction and over-effecticized-ness?
(author's note): Sure, if that's what floats your boat. Hell yes. Give the album a second listen and while you do, think of old 80's CGI video of computerized futuristic utopias with humanoid robots making skyscrapers and flying cars docking into really tall parking garages.
P.S. I just have to say your site is pretty cool but unfortunately it is a piece of shit. So is my "review" of Rush and so is that George Starostin guy's site (either you copied him or he copied you).
(author's note): I DIDN'T COPY HIM OR PRINDLE, WE JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE EERILY SIMILAR MUSICAL TASTES. IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME COMPARE MY YES SITE WITH GEORGE'S AND MY WHO SITE WITH PRINDLE'S.
I say this just because of what Frank Zappa said once... "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture".
(author's note): Actually, I've heard it's a Goëthe quote. And I still think it's bull.
And he's right. Then all music critics are absolutely useless people!
(author's note): Then what does that say about the music critic critic?
If we were on a lifeboat and needed to jettison somebody, music critics would go first. Especially rock critics!
(author's note): Must ... control ... fist ... of death ....
In any case, this gentle soul has misunderstood the purpose of the site.
I'm not trying to give my take on things as the ultimate truth - that's
pointless. What I AM trying to do is tell how various musical pieces fit
within MY "this rules" paradigm. From there, people can compare their
paradigms to mine (and don't tell me that people don't have them) and make
adjustments accordingly to decide how good they think a piece of
In any case, this gentle soul has misunderstood the purpose of the site. I'm not trying to give my take on things as the ultimate truth - that's pointless. What I AM trying to do is tell how various musical pieces fit within MY "this rules" paradigm. From there, people can compare their paradigms to mine (and don't tell me that people don't have them) and make adjustments accordingly to decide how good they think a piece of music is.
Hey, I resent those comments against music critics, especially since I review albums myself. Sure, some of them may be all high and mighty and act like their opinion is the absolute truth (Rolling Stone and Wilson And Alroy on occasion), but I was taught as a journalism major that once someone gets thrust into the spotlight and gains celebrity status, anyone is free to publicly criticize their work (not just in music - also in movies) in any way they like. There are limits of course, like overly slanderous personal attacks and the usual journalist etiquette, but by and large critics take advantage of the oppportunities given to them to voice their opinions. And in my view, most of the personal record review sites (like this one for instance) voice their opinions in an intelligent enough manner that they can sound totally believable, but they also leave the door open for other counterarguments on the album - that's the great thing about interactivity. I can find a lot to criticize about Rush music as much as I love a great deal of it, but I'd never attack them as people. Geddy and Alex, judging from interviews I've read and accounts from other people that have met them, seem like some of the most down to earth and genuinely nice and humorous musicians around. I don't know as much about Neil, since he doesn't seem to talk to the media much (especially nowadays), but even he seems like a cool person from reading his 'journals' online that chronicle the band's recording and tour experiences for certain albums. But that's getting off the subject.
And my take on the 'similarity' thing: there will be albums that A LOT of us in the reviewing community agree on, and I think a lot of the sites around subconciously influence one another. This site is a fabulous example of combining the Starostin and Prindle way of rating while still incorporating distinct personality and without sounding sickeningly derivative. And yeah, both of those Yes sites are worth a read for two quite interesting perspectives. "Jon Anderson is a graphomaniac!" "He did put thought in the Tales lyrics! Really! He did!" ;)
George Starostin (gstarst.yahoo.com)
Okay, this is not a comment on Rush (because frankly speaking, I haven't heard that much of Rush yet to have much to comment on), but rather a response to that ambivalent Babylonian gentleman, especially since he was so kind to positively mention my name.
Actually, I like the idea of dancing about architecture. Why not? If we can impersonate literary works in the form of a ballet, why can't we express our feelings about the glorious works of architecture in the form of a dance? This is perfectly possible. Okay, and if the idea still sounds rather schizophrenic to you, what about 'painting about architecture'? Expressing one's feelings about one form of art through another form of art is perfectly normal and accessible in any kind of way. Whoever WAS the original author of that idea certainly didn't take too much time to think on it.
Another point that Mr 'Semiramis2' has obviously missed: while cruising on a lifeboat, neither me nor John nor, I guess, anybody in this free-flowing 'web reviewer community' wouldn't be jettisoned at all. And why? Because it's not our main occupation! I would be the first to agree that PAID, PROFESSIONAL musical critics are generally worthless, with a few notorious exceptions. But what the hell do you have against us mere guys who are doing this for nothing but fun and entertainment? (And I certainly don't count the CDNow links because CDNow doesn't actually control or determine our working process for us in any way). If you disagree, then say so. If you agree, then say so. If you hate us for some personal reason, get the hell out of here - the Web has millions of sites that would be more useful for you. But before making pompous and vague statements like 'all music critics are absolutely useless people', you'd better try and overcome your own limitations. If we're useless for YOU that doesn't mean we will be useless for everybody else.
What bugs me most about these kinds of Babylonian comments using absolutely pre-Babylonian logics is that people like these make all kinds of generalizations ('your sites suck', 'musical critics are worthless') simply because their OPINION on SOMETHING does not match the opinion of the person they're addressing. It's a rather simple logical process, see? "I like Rush ==> he doesn't like Rush ==> his Rush reviews suck ==> his musical reviews suck ==> all musical critics are worthless". I dare say that if the musical tastes of Mr Semiramis2 coincided with the tastes of Mr John McFerrin one hundred percent, he would never even begin thinking about all this theoretical stuff. It's a piss-poor case of psychological defense: "if I don't put this guy down NOW and ON THE SPOT, he will shatter my trust in myself! I like Rush and he doesn't - surely one of us is mentally defective! But it can't be me, so it has to be him, and I'll go out of myself to prove it".
Ugh. Things like that make me sick, and it only makes me more sick when I realize that the majority of people are actually structured in the way that this Hammurabi guy is. Guess humanity hasn't made much progress since Mesopotamian times.
Pat D. (pd6941.albany.edu)
Hey, i am a pretty big Rush fan, but at least you are in depth about your dislikes for the band rather than just saying "Rush sucks" and "Yes rules". Personally, i dont care for Yes, simply because i believe Jon Anderson to have one of the worst voices in recorded music. Geddy isnt too great either, but i'll take him anyday over Anderson. Thats just my personal preference; i realize there are a LOT of people who think exactly the opposite.
I will also admit that most of the time i dont really give a damn about lyrics unless they are really stupid, like say, the kind Mr. Fred Durst usually comes up with. But i will agree that when i went to look at the Rush lyrics page, some of Neil's lyrics seemed to have no point whatsoever and the ones that did were kind of silly.
As for your comments on Neil's playing ability, i'd like to differ. I hate Keith Moon. The guy had absolutely no restraint whatsoever in his playing, He also had the tendency to use the exact same tom roll over and over again which always seemed too slow for the song. Sometimes i'd be listening to a who song, enjoying it immensely, and then get really pissed off when Keith started playing off the beat, overplaying to the point to where the basic rhythm of the song was unfollowable. Which is a damn shame because Entwhistle was laying down many a fine bassline. And finally, i dont think Moon was anywheres near as technically gifted or as fast as Neil.
I think Bruford is/was a very fine drummer. And i'd put him light years ahead of Moon as well, though i'd still give the trophy to Neil in the end, but that may be just my Rush bias shining through.
Anyways, i enjoyed your comments on Rush, and i thought them to be well thought out and written. Keep up the good work!
Philip Maddox (slurmsmckenzie.hotmail.com)
OK, it's time for me to throw my two cents into this "music critic" debate. Yep, a lot of professional music critics are annoying because you just know that they aren't being honest - c'mon, do you really think that all of these critics are head over heels in love with Limp Bizkit (one guy even called Significant Other "a rap metal Blood On The Tracks" - so you're saying that Robert Zimmerman and Fred Durst belong in the same sentance?). Un-professional critics certainly don't require that much heat though - they're paying for all these records and just expressing their opinion because they feel like it. Reviews like this aren't written to offend anybody, make money, or bring down the evil Rush empire - they're written for fun and maybe to give guidance to new music fans, or maybe to provoke intelligent discussion. So these reviews aren't really useless - if they're being read and provoke some sort or reaction, they've achieved something (people don't post stuff for no one to look at, after all).
I completely disagree with Semiramis2's opinion on words being useless in describing rock music. If I just bought records based on the covers of the albums, I certainly wouldn't have ever purchased Live At Leeds, which is one of my favorite albums. I certainly wouldn't have purchased The Beatles, since that has no cover to speak of. Those are two of my all time favorite albums. I purchased the album Gub by Pigface based largely on its cool cover, and it's one of the worst things I've ever heard. Words help people find music they would have overlooked otherwise. And hey, if nobody told you about an album ("Hey man, so-and-so rules!"), you probably wouldn't have gotten it. Statements of opinion help people immeasurably.
Well, while I'm here, I'd better say SOMETHING about Rush... all I have is Moving Pictures, and aside from Tom Sawyer, Limelight, and bits of YYZ (which rule), it's all well played, but completely unmemorable, so I'd probably give it something like a 6(9).
Stephen B Marseille (sbm82.columbia.edu) (7/21/01)
Wow! You have articulated beautifully a general description of Rush which often struck me when listening to them but which I could never seem to put into words myself. Kudos! I;ve looked through many of your pages and have found that, in regards to most bands, I disagree with you as often as I agree with you... but when it comes to Rush, I cannot agree more. Geddy's voice isn't that bad; keyboards killed the band; Peart is a great drummer, but not THAT great; and the lyrics are so sophomoric that you want to smack them upside the head (particularly since they are so pretentious about them and try to pass them off as serious thought).
I've been enjoying your site, but your statement in the Rush section that Neil Peart is "an absolutely terrible lyricist" is way off base and demands a response. Your primary argument is that Neil's lyrics tend to be based on subject matter "that is extremely well known in our culture" such as D&D, Greek mythology or the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Your argument is flawed for two reasons. The first is that the influences you mention were only present for a fraction of the band's career. You will be hard pressed to find any hint of such subject matter after 1978. Rush's lyrics in the 80's and 90's tend to have a humanitarian tone (see songs such as The Pass, Nobody's Hero, Scars, Losing It, Territories, etc). Secondly, you fail to provide any explanation of why lyrics that deal with "well known" subjects such as Greek mythology or Ayn Rand are necessarily terrible.
A favorite target of Rush bashers is 2112. It's a shame that Neil decided to mention Ayn Rand in the liner notes, because had that not been there it is doubtful that most listeners (and critics) would have any clue that the lyrics are connected to her philosophy. Far from being a soapbox from which to promote Rand's right wing political views, 2112, like many Rush songs, deals with individualism. Individualism is also a prominent theme in Rand's work, which Neil was influenced by. That is about the extent of the connection.
Let's take a look at the lyrics of 2112. At its core it is a simple story of a man who finds something (a guitar) and creates something (his music) that is precious to him. The authority figures in this man's life feel threatened by his creativity and destroy his guitar. They attempt to crush his spirit and his dreams, but ultimately fail to do so. It's a fairly universal story of individual struggle, which clearly stems from the band's own experience trying to resist the pressure from the record company who wanted them to abandon the more progressive path they had taken with their third album and return to the more successful yet conventional formula of the first two albums. The sci-fi backdrop and characters provide color and emotion and in my opinion succeeds in this regard. Is it great literature? No. Is it a unique, entertaining and possibly inspirational rock song? Yes.
Let's take Hemispheres next, the source for your Greek mythology cut. To be honest, Hemispheres is not one of my favorite examples of his writing, but to flatly dismiss it, as bad Greek mythology would be to miss the point. On the outside, it is simply a story of warring Greek gods. On the next level it is a description of the heart/mind dichotomy, which is a common them in literature. Finally, on the third level, it is a tale of the dangers of extremism and the necessity for balance. Certainly the need for balance, in any aspect of our lives, is a valuable insight. Once again I would not suggest this is great poetry or philosophy but I am very willing to claim that it possesses far more value than the vast majority of rock lyrics, which tend to either be shallow and banal or completely nonsensical and incoherent.
Let's look at Vital Signs next, which I believe you describe as an example of dorkiness. Certainly the lyrics, which mention circuits, polarities and memory chips, border on the abstract and the nerdy, but clearly the words are meant to compliment the staccato, precise sound of the music. The bridge verse brings the lyrics into focus:
"Leave out the friction
the fact is; this friction
Will only be worn by persistence.
Leave out conditions -
Will drag the dream into existence."
The song fades out repeating the lines
"Everybody got to deviate from the norm
Everybody got to elevate from the norm"
Clearly the theme of individualism is apparent here. I think it smacks of cynicism to dismiss these lyrics as laughable, as one of your commentators did. What would be your motivation to create this website and share your writing and views with a larger audience, if not partially some desire to "elevate from the norm"? Why slam on a song that might provide similar inspiration to others?
One valid criticism of these songs may be a didactic tone, however, there are many excellent Rush songs that have a mellower observational tone. I'm not saying that Neil is the greatest rock lyricist or that everyone should love his stuff, but to say he is absolutely terrible is simply not reasonable, especially considering the low quality of most rock lyrics. There certainly are some duds in their catalog but in general the lyrics are clever, well crafted and often thought provoking. I will throw out some snippets to illustrate this.
>From Entre Nous
"We are strangers to each other
Full of sliding panels,
An illusion show.
Acting well rehearsed routines
or playing from the heart?
Its hard to know."
>From Digital Man
"He picks up scraps of conversation
radio and radiation
>From the dancers and romancers
With the answers but no clue."
"Pleasure leaves a fingerprint
as surely as mortal pain
In memories they resonate
And echo back again"
>From Available Light
"Play of light, a photograph
The way I used to be
Some half-forgotten stranger
Doesn't mean that much to me"
"Angels and demons dancing in my head
Lunatics and monsters underneath my bead
Media messiahs preying on my fears
Pop culture prophets playing in my ears."
>From Distant Early Warning
"Left and rights of passage
Black and whites of youth
Who can face the knowledge
That the truth is not the truth?
Its hard to convey the full meaning of a song by displaying only a portion of the words, but I trust the quality and intelligence of these lyrics should be apparent.
Tom Johnson (signals2000.home.com) (9/03/01)
What exactly was your point in reviewing a band you don't seem to care for?
(author's note): I've answered this on previous pages, I'm not going to do it again.
This is why critics suck - you review albums by bands that you don't like. Obviously, if you don't like the band, the genre, whatever, to begin with, you are not going to enjoy the music no matter what. And just because you've downloaded a bunch of mp3s does not mean that you should be reviewing the music. You are not *into* the music in a way that gives you the perspective a fan would have. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that everything Rush has done is brilliant - it's not true, nor is it true for any musician or group. What I am going to tell you is that you reviewed Rush with a preconceived notion that you already disliked much of what you knew about them. Your review is tainted by your point of view.
(author's note): Yeah, points of view don't AT ALL belong in analysis of music!
You have the same problem most critics have - you have a deep desire to attract attention, and that overrides your ability to review music in a way that means something to others. You are simply looking to elicit a reaction from people. THIS is what makes people think critics are idiots.
And I REALLY don't understand how you can say Neil Peart is a "terrible" lyricist. His lyrics are almost consistently thoughtful, it's pretty rare that he really does write a truly BAD lyric. And you admitting that you think Jon Anderson writes good lyrics drops any respect I might have had for you. I've been a Yes fan for many years for about as many years as a Rush fan, but a lot of the reason why I no longer worship Yes like I used to is because Jon's lyrics are complete and utter BS. Anyone with a decent knowledge of the English language can throw something together that equals what Jon Anderson can - just look at the JA Song Generator on the internet for a great example. (Or check out Mike KeNeilly's endearing tribute, "Faithful Axe" on his album Boil That Dust Speck - it's hilarious and spot-on.) Yes, I admit, some of the early Rush lyrics are pretty lame - the whole 'objectivism' theme that ran through many of the early tracks (obviously NOT from the self-titled first album) seems very forced and grew tiresome to me, but the lyrical structure and usually the contents therein were very well done. Neil's not known for his deeply heart-felt, moving writing, but his somewhat second-hand point of view actually adds something to the lyrics. In general, I think his lyrics reflect the thinking of a wise elder - he's watching everything going on, doesn't really take part, but passes his judgement on to the younger followers in a way that isn't insulting or childish, as most bands do.
And I really have to slam you for your review of Presto - easily Rush's best album. This is an album that is understated, stately, and grand without having to do anything over-the-top to say so. From what I have seen on the Rush newsgroup, in mailing lists, and in general thoughts I've run across, Presto is considered to be a favorite among most Rush fans. You're entitled to your opinion, but I think again that your opinion is more based on wanting to make a statement than really from how you feel about the music.
(author's note):!!!!! Lemmee get this straight - because my opinon doesn't agree with yours, you're assuming that I don't actually hold that opinion, but rather am pretending to hold it to attract attention??!!!
I don't know exactly what you are trying to accomplish with these so-called reviews, but resorting to the same boring insults all critics use is just childish. Review what you know and love, and your review will be truthful. When you step outside of the musical universe that you know like the back of your hand, you reveal all your weaknesses. Stick to reviewing Yes - it's obvious you have a great love of their music. You seem to be easily able to review their music with the kind of distance that a GOOD critic should have, and that's because you ARE a fan. If I were new to Yes, I would trust what you have to say because I can tell by the way you write about their music in a loving, yet disaffected way. You know Yes inside-out and that gives you a perspective that a lesser fan would not have. And this is exactly why your reviews of Rush are so weak - it is plainly obvious that you don't seem to really care about the music or the people behind it. You are entitled to your opinion but when it's an *uninformed* opinion, no one can take it seriously. You are simply taking jabs at Rush - and all the same jabs that have been so done to death by countless other reviewers. That's the low, childish, and simple-minded route. Sad.
(author's note): Let's get this straight, people. Repeat after me if necessary. This. Is. Not. A. Fan. Site.
Carl Houghton (auto2112.btinternet.com) (1/24/02)
Well it seems that a album reviewer can no longer hold his own opinion judging by what Mr. Johnson has to say on the matter. If Mr. John can't say what he feels about a band / album, then what's the point ina llowing him the freedom to voice his opinion? Just because he dislikes such a group with his own good reasons doesn't mean that because someone else loves them he is wrong. I have to disagree with McFerrin about his Rush album reviews, but only because I listen to them in their most basic context. The moment people start talking guitar riffs, drum la-dee-da, then that's it, i ain't got a clue how to respond. I absolutely love albums which McFerrin gave incredibly low ratings (IMO of course), but i don't slam him. Just take a look at his band ratings. He gave 'The Who' a 5 out of 5 who i have never been able to get into and gave my beloved Rush and Pink Floyd lower scores, who I think are much much more better than 'The Who'. But no-ones wrong. If I wanted to write a album by album review of 'The Who and slag them off in every instance without good reason then I could, but i'd get kicked off at for two reasons: 1. Everyone would nitpick at the fact i hadn't given good reasons
2. A lot of people through their sheer love for the group would immediately proceed to state I was wrong, whether i'd given good reasons or not.
If we lived in a society where every review was amazing just to please the fans of said review, it'd be a society of consumers totally gutted from buying a shit Slipknot album after hearing that it had lyrical 'genius'; pure lies course.
George Starostin (gstarst.rinet.ru) (5/19/02)
I don't want to be as verbose as Mr WKBEN, but I would want to just concentrate everybody's attention on this paragraph from his ode to Neil Peart's powers:
"Let's take Hemispheres next, the source for your Greek mythology cut. To be honest, Hemispheres is not one of my favorite examples of his writing, but to flatly dismiss it, as bad Greek mythology would be to miss the point. On the outside, it is simply a story of warring Greek gods. On the next level it is a description of the heart/mind dichotomy, which is a common them in literature. Finally, on the third level, it is a tale of the dangers of extremism and the necessity for balance. Certainly the need for balance, in any aspect of our lives, is a valuable insight. Once again I would not suggest this is great poetry or philosophy but I am very willing to claim that it possesses far more value than the vast majority of rock lyrics, which tend to either be shallow and banal or completely nonsensical and incoherent."
Now: I am in no way trying to deny that the heart/mind dichotomy is a common theme in literature - on the contrary, it is a WAY too common theme, that has doubtlessly been explored by at least several thousand writers, painters, musicians, and philosophers prior to Neil Peart's existence. Nor am I denying the "need for balance". The major gripe with Mr Peart doesn't happen to be with his exploring strange, or weird, or offensive, or just dumb topics. The major gripe is that Mr Peart has nothing to say that has not been said, in much better ways or at least JUST as well, before.
Now of course one could say that themes of heart and mind dichotomy, individualism, etc., etc. aren't that much less complex/thought provoking than lyrical subjects explored by better rock lyricists, such as - in the prog genre - Peter Gabriel and Peter Hammill, for instance. However, the thing with rock lyrics, or, in fact, with most of the lyrics/poetry of the second part of the XXth century, is that, since they just can't help but explore already explored topics, the important thing is not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. This is the problem that usually evades Peart and suchlike defenders - the FORM in these lyrics is just as important, and arguably more important, than their SUBSTANCE. And by FORM I mean trying to find new, previously unexploited, non-cliched, non-stagnant ways of expressing these subjects. Neil Peart isn't the worst lyricist to have ever existed, but he has nothing on, say, the subtle wit and word games of 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight'. Likewise, he hasn't got the grip and the all-out erudition of Peter Hammill, whose lyrics draw upon much more imagery and far more original, imaginative constructions, than Peart, whose lyrics often end up seeming like they come straight from an advanced course in psychology, or from one of Ayn Rand's novels for that matter.
Returning to 'Hemispheres' - like I said, I don't mind being told about the heart/soul dichotomy; I DO mind being told about it in a pretentious, bombastic manner by a guy who actually does nothing but chew the same cud that has already been chewn by many an illustrious writer/poet/philosopher before him. Essentially, it's just a "poor man's course in deep thinking" - it can certainly be of some use to your average illiterate Rush fan who's too lazy to read, I dunno, Aristoteles, for instance, but who will be willing to give Neil Peart a try just because, uh, Rush rock, man.
And finally, on the last phrase: "Once again I would not suggest this is great poetry or philosophy but I am very willing to claim that it possesses far more value than the vast majority of rock lyrics, which tend to either be shallow and banal or completely nonsensical and incoherent."
No, it doesn't. Had these ideas belonged to Neil Peart, had he found a better way of expressing them, maybe they COULD possess far more value. But taken in the overall cultural context of what was happening before Rush's existence, or at the same time, I will quite positively say that lyrics like the Ramones' "Now I wanna sniff some glue, now I wanna have something to do, all the kids wanna sniff some glue, all the kids want something to do" possess far more value than an absolute majority of what has been written by Mr Peart, just because the Ramones actually found a NEW - let's call it "ultra-minimalistic" way - of expressing angry teen sentiments that hasn't certainly been used before them (not even, say, early Beach Boys records dared to strip the lyrics in such a brutal way to their bare essence). It's similar to the way in which Malevich would be superior to people who would want to start imitating Raphael at the same time.
I am positively sure not everybody will want to agree with this point of view, but I hope that everybody will at least get a better understanding of the problems some people can, and do, have with the lyrics of Mr Peart and suchlike after reading this. If not - too bad.
JAVIER FERNANDEZ (kornlinkinbizkit6969.hotmail.com) (11/06/02)
I TINK U SUCK.
PS: FILE UNDER "RUSH"
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
I like Rush a lot, but not the same way certain 14-year-olds worship Led Zeppelin. Really, I don't hold any kind of hate against your opinions, since you managed to make them respectable. Now, what really leaves me a bit intrigued is that you, sometimes, seem to have 'something' against Rush that you can't describe here. I don't know, but it might be some kind of bias, or maybe it's just me.
Whatever, I still like these guys' stuff, even though I don't have their entire material (and don't intend much to have). You know, I met their music around 2 years ago, in a time when I was just getting started on rock. Queen was the band that first captured my attention and admiration, and I was getting attuned to U2. My cousin told me I should listen to Rush, and I decided to download Tom Sawyer that day. From then on, I got every Rush MP3 I could put my hands on by the time. So, they were the first prog band that I became a fan of, and it was thanks to them and Queen that I got introduced to Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Yes and other non-prog bands as well. But my admiration for their work hasn't diminished a bit. Their prime period (Hemispheres -- Signals) is still top notch for me.
What you say about Peart's lyrics is somehow, umm, strange. Indeed, his work prior to Permanent Waves is just flat. I don't consider it BAD, just annoying. See, Hemispheres doesn't have anything offensive, just annoying. It seems to me that, to enforce their prog interests, he thought it was mandatory he should stick to mythology and fantasy themes. Fortunately, he left this era, and has since then, presented us with rather impressive work. From PeW on, I think he became a superb lyricist. You mentioned Subdivisions, and it is, indeed, a highlight. But there's more, and he doesn't write as a phylosophy enthusiast. His themes are, most of the times, very, uh, 'human' and very palpable. See, The Weapon holds a subtle bitterness in it that has always intrigued me, Limelight has a very precise look at media exposure, yet doesn't feel dry. Some lyrics are simplistic but effective, like New World Man, and some are downright amusing, like Superconductor. His dorky attacks, like on Chemistry, don't seem serious at all, and might feel even self-parodic sometimes.
But enough of lyrics. It's these guys' music that interests me. There's no doubt that the three are superb instrumentists. Peart, as a drummer, had a very strong impact on me for the first time. You know, I don't consider him to be the BEST, but he's smart. You know, he just doesn't seem to calculate all his moves to make show-offs of extraordinary fills and stuff. Nah. Just the way he plays the rhythm tracks are already complicated, yet he manages it like a child's toy. And the ultra wide range of fills and embellishments are all perfectly on place, and never sound self-important or show-offy. Geddy and Alex are both wizards, especially the latter. His solos are all impressive, in some way, yet all his guitar work is interesting. Also, I'm surprised you don't have any gripes against Geddy's voice. I also have nothing against it. Even, I consider him an extremelly competent vocalist. Even if some think his voice sounds like crap, his singing is flawless, and he makes good use of different intonations.
So, whatever. See? No hate mail. :-D Keep up the site, it's worth it.
Jeff Hendershott (acdc.bright.net) (12/15/03)
Damn it all! I tried to find a site where the great, all-knowing musical philosopher George Starostin doesn't chime in with his condensending remarks. I guess no such site exists. Be that as it may, I like your site a hell of a lot more than most I've seen (congrads!). As for Rush, I tend to agree with you on Neil's lyrics. He's kind of a self-proclaimed "intellectual" and that tends to find its way into the songs. But he does have some good lyrics here and there. I disagree on your evaluation of him as a drummer. He's as good as it gets. The guy has all the licks and can just rock! Thanks and I hope your site thrives.
don key1972 (pmky27.yahoo.com) (1/19/04)
I just wanted to comment on something Semiramis2 said about HYF: "Give the album a second listen and while you do, think of old 80's CGI video of computerized futuristic utopias with humanoid robots making skyscrapers and flying cars docking into really tall parking garages."
I don't know what a CGI video is but this is EXACTLY the kind of thing the album made me think about back when I used to listen to it a lot. It really blew me away when I read that.
Vasse Anthony (Anthony.Vasse.services.fujitsu.com) (2/24/04)
I followed Rush for quite a few years. I loved some of the guitar solos. Especially on A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres. I agree now that the lyrics seemed to be objective always trying to make a point, always trying to round off the songs. They did go too far and became too poppy and bland ( songs like Time stand still were over done).
I think A Farewell to Kings is a classic album just for the ideas, the mixture of Classical and Electric guitars was so stark. Nobody had really pulled it off before.
(author's note): With all due respect, a person who says that hasn't listened to enough bands or albums.
The guitar riffs and rhythms were so powerful. The cover was great, the solos were innovative, compelling, wild and passionate.
I use to like Tom Sawyer for the solo. By then I expected Rush to be different but didn't realise how the objectivity in the lyrics would cloak all of there songs so to speak. By the time Tom Sawyer came out Rush had started to have a strong formula in there songs. It didn't please me, alot of the song sections were so clear cut, they needed more rhthmic ideas, better riffs. The riffs were too heavy, too pedantic.
One of my all time favourites must be Just between us ( I think that is what it's called "We are planets to each other .....etc) fantastic electric guitar riffs with synthesisor.
Rush were an inspiration for quite a while. I think they deserve more than a 2 out of 5. They were pioneers. They stuck at it and nobody is perfect. It's hard to come up with a wining formula near impossible. Just for the better songs I would give them 4 or even 5 out of 5. What's in a mark anyway.Who's keeping records here.
Stephen D'Amico (pestilence008.optonline.net) (2/24/04)
Steve D'Amico once again. After more carefully perusing through some of the general comments about Rush, I thought I'd chime in with my own dogmatic opinion and make a few rebuttals. First and foremost is your own feelings toward Neil Peart as a lyricist. Do not get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their own opinion(Especially if its given in a non-abrasive and reasonable manner as you have done), however I feel I need to strongly address this issue. Despite being an immense fan of Rush, I will not irritate everyone reading this post with streams of incessant praise for the perfection in Neil's writing. The fact of the matter is that Neil is not perfect, nor am I about to defend him as the best rock lyricist of all time. HOWEVER, that being said, flat out dismissing him as a "terrifible" lyricist seems abit absurd, unfair, and misrepresentive. I consider a great majority of Neil's lyrics to be very intelligent, especially everything following Hemispheres. And with that said, I don't necessarily understand why every review I've read of said album has to absolutely SLAM the lyrics of this song. Granted, it isn't literary genius boasting fancy vocubulary and obsure mystical allusions, but come on, it's got some cool ideas in there.
(author's note): The problem, as I see it, is that none of the cool ideas that may exist in the song came from the mind of Neil, but all of the "bad" parts, which is basically how the ideas are packaged, are his baby. To me, a cool lyrical idea is not using heart/mind dichotomy cliches (though I guess to an extent it comes down to whether something that is not "commonly" talked about can be cliched - I'd say definitely yes, perhaps others would not). To me, a cool lyrical idea is "It is chicken, it is eggs, it is in between your legs" or "What chance now of holding fast the line, defying death and time - Everything we had is gone? Everything we laboured for and favoured more than earthly things reveals the hollow ring of false hope and of false deliverance" or anything from Desolation Row. Your mileage may vary, however.
Neil Peart does have a tendency to make his lyrics read as if he's an arrogant pedagogue preaching from a his intellectual pulpit, but can you really dismiss them all on this account? Or what about his humanitarian songs(as others have pointed out) that you fail to even MENTION in some of your reviews? Those deserve some praise. Hehe, Alright, I think that's it for the lyrics. On to the second issue. (and a lot more brief, I promise).
(author's note): I guess the big thing for me in that regard is that, as soon as Neil "matured" as a lyricist, his lyrics lost the grotesqueries that made me pay any attention to them in the first place. Even so, I like quite a few of his lyrics, I should note - it's just that the instances that I don't like make me smash my head against the wall in disgust.
Neil Peart's playing ability. This is directed at those people who claim "Neil just isn't that great"(feigning giving a "realistic" analysis of his drumming). Umm. Yes he is that great. The man is a nearly FLAWLESS player, surmounting virtually all drummers in the rock arena. (Easily someone as untechnical - is that a word? as Keith Moon). You may PREFER other drummers over Neil or even appreciate someone elses style more than his, but his technique is almost untouchable. If you need any convincing, just watch the man play live. Now don't get me wrong, Neil may not be the fastest drummer ever(as he never seems to use his double bass) or the most influenial, nor is his playing necessarily the most complex. But his supreme technical proficiency can not be denied. Also, he's quite eclectic - Rock, jazz, swing, big band, tribal, and blues all find their way in his style.
Just a minor note: Neil Peart did NOT write the lyrics to 2112 with Ayn Rand's Anthem in mind. He noticed the similarities to the story after he completed it and decided he didn't want to earn the title of plagiarizer. In this regard, I feel its unfair to classify Neil Peart as someone who "Champions the writings of Ayn Rand."
Anyway, in the end I'd just like to say that I enjoy your site immensely and I find that I frequent it very often. I find your knowledge of music quite vast and your reviews extremely informative. Keep up the great work.
Niclas Powell (nickpowell.mac.com) (4/14/04)
rush r awsome i think there the best band ever
James Watson (mazesun.charter.net) (5/12/04)
Today is May 9=04. infact I found myself listening to my 24 year old Permanent Waves show concert bootleg tape. I flipped on mtv to see TRAIN, BLINK 182 and the like and I teared up with laugher trying to cover BY-TOR or Natural Science? okay, Sex Pistols & Kurt Cobain proved no experience necessary to rock but why do most new bands seem to be going backwards? atleast there's Dream Theater to save the day. RUSH quite simply can stand beside Zeppelin & Queen noone else can say that.
IF you don't like them, don't listen to them . EH ! So you are a loser, to bad . RUSH RULES Ive seen all good people that don't compare with any Rush I'm on my way. They don't compare F off.
Brendan Kolk (bluerush.gmail.com) (1/17/05)
As apparent in my email name, I'm a big Rush fan, and definatly have to say they are a big influence in my life (all be it I'm 15, and have a drum set, so we can see that one coming along). However, I'm not gonna flame you, because, meh, I don't really want to. And I can't, and shoudln't. You gave your opinion of the band, no matter how much some people don't apreciate that, I do. I mean, I quite franakly disagree, but that's not the point here.
I wouldn't have emailed you at all...but I just couldn't get over the fact that you called Neil a bad lyricist. Sure, some of his stuff was a "comical" effort, to say the least *Rivendell, I THink I'm Going Bald, Dog Years, Red Lenses, etc.* but some of his writing is very deep and meaningful. Freewill and Roll the Bones stand out as two great songs to me. I mean, I can never get over this :
"Faith is cold as ice
why are little ones born only to suffer
for the want of immunity
or a bowl of rice
who would hold a price
on the heads of the innocent children
if theres some immortal power to control the dice"
I know those are, without a doubt, very controversial lyrics, but he gets his point across right there. And even though they went and killed the song with a Rap section, you have to remember they are, above all, artists, who wil try different things. And while I'm talking about the Roll the Bones album, the ending to the song Bravado really has some awesome playing in it, this is not just a "pop" album. Neil has a really complicated part, and from what I've heard, nailed it in one take of the song.
But another example of good lyrics is the entire Hold Your Fire album. I mean, sure it was a crappy album, I hardly lever listen to it, but the lyrics on there are definatly great. time Stand Still moves me in so many ways.
It's obvious however, that your very partial to guitar in the music, which isn't so much what I listen for, so this could explain the difference in some opinons. *shrugs* or maybe I'm jsut a jerk, lol.
Anyway, at least your better than RollingStone, who give Rush no credit, and you aren't biased, like any other Rush reviewer, you just state your opinion.
I hereby dub Rush a great band with way too many mediocre/bad songs. I am not a major Rush fan, my tastes lean towards Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and Yes... meaning I'm one of those dudes who couldn't give a shit what the vocalist is singing about most of the time, as long as the music represents itself. The problem with Rush is that their ideology sometimes overwhelms their ability to construct meangful music. (I know it's an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.) I can't really get into Neil Peart's lyrics. I understand them, no problem, but I'm just not interested. I'm happy Geddy is such a fine vocalist. As far as screaming elves spouting exitenstialist philosophies go, Jon Anderson is Oberon... but Gedy Lee woud make a passable Puck, I think. Oh, and I still have yet to understand why Alex Lifeson is in the band... but I'm glad he is.
(Oh, and about the screaming elf joke... I'm a big Yes/Anderson fan, so don't interpret that as an insult. *likes screaming elves spouting existentialist philosophies... but only if they're good at it*)
Leo cyfer (leocyfer.hotmail.com) (06/25/05)
(author's note): I probably should get out of the habit of doing this, but since this just bugged me so much, I'm including my emailed reply
First off, talk about flip flopping back and forth. Do you like the band, or not. two out of five?
Two out of five is not a low grade; any band that makes the site is at least somewhat "worthy" in my eyes. And it's certainly possible to hate a band in principle and still enjoy much of a band's output. I can never understand how people can fail to understand that.
Pretty low grade coming from someone who obviously doesn't have a musical clue as to the intricacies of playing a single instrument, let alone three.
Utterly irrelevant. If your argument were to hold true, everybody who had strong instrumental ability would love Rush. Well, guess what? My brother is an ass-kicking bassist, who also has dabbled in other instruments. His respect for Rush *lessened* after he started playing bass, because he realized that all of the band's instrumental pyrotechnics were *worthless* as entities unto themselves, and that it is the application of the talents of a band that is what matters.
Neil Peart is a horrible lyricist?
Much of the time, yes. At least I think so.
I admit that not all his lyrics have been of the Shakespearian caliber you seem to require in your rock music, but read the lyrics to a Who song,
There is more emotional power to be found in the line "Apologies mean
nothing when the damage is done, but you can't switch off my loving like you
can't switch off the sun" than in the entire Rush catalogue, as far as I'm
Or in "You were under the impression that when you were walking forward that
you'd end up further onwards, but things ain't quite that simple. You got
altered information, you were told to not take chances, you missed out on
new dances, and now you're losing all your dimples."
Or in "You hold the gun, and I hold the wound, and we stand looking in each
other's eyes. We both think we know what's right; we both know we know
what's wrong; we tell ourselves so many many many lies. We're not pawns in
any game, not tools of bigger men; there's only one who can really move us
all. It all looks fine to the naked eye, but it don't really happen that way
Or in "You were under the impression that when you were walking forward that you'd end up further onwards, but things ain't quite that simple. You got altered information, you were told to not take chances, you missed out on new dances, and now you're losing all your dimples."
Or in "You hold the gun, and I hold the wound, and we stand looking in each other's eyes. We both think we know what's right; we both know we know what's wrong; we tell ourselves so many many many lies. We're not pawns in any game, not tools of bigger men; there's only one who can really move us all. It all looks fine to the naked eye, but it don't really happen that way at all."
or Led Zeppelin, Yes
Yes is a special case because their lyrics aren't *intended* to be read as literal texts; Yes vocals and lyrics have as their primary purpose to act as counterpoint to the other instruments. Besides, above all, the style of Yes lyrics is unique, with nobody even coming close to replicating it.
or my fav, Bruce Springsteen. The man made an anthem out of basically singing "Born in the USA" over and over and over again, with pretty much the same cord progressions, or lack there of. Americans, not the brightest bulbs in world musical culture, immediately adopted this song as the defacto patriotic anthem of the twentieth century. And called him the "Boss" to boot. Crap!
I dislike Springsteen as much as you do, dude. It's worthless to spend so much energy elaborating on a point if it turns out that the person to whom you're arguing already agrees with you.
I just purchased the Rush in Rio DVD, and have enjoyed all 3 plus hours of it. While you attempt to be terribly clinical in your review of the band, what qualifies you to be such a critique? If one doesn't play an instrument, or write anything other then harsh criticism, how can one judge so harshly the performances of others. Personal taste? A doctorate in English? I doubt you have either.
Uh, I'm qualified for the same reason you are; I've heard Rush and I've heard other music. Period. If one has formed an opinion of how one band is *in comparison to others*, that is sufficient to give critique. If you actually bothered to look at the entire site, you would see that Rush is only one of many bands I've already reviewed and plan to further review. If I like other bands more than Rush *and* have reasons for it, there's no reason to pretend otherwise.
I fully admit, I have only a handful of Rush albums and CD's but as I've tried to teach my daughter, things you don't like aren't "crap" they just don't suit you personally.
You haven't read the site introduction. I am *not* trying to present an "objective opinion" with my site, because I believe that such a thing does not exist; I am only *elaborating* on a subjective opinion that happens to be fairly nuanced. If you can't make the distinction between the two you probably shouldn't read sites like mine.
I'd love to see you try and play bass parts with your feet, keyboard parts with your hands, and sing all at the same time. You wouldn't know whether you were punched, bored, or drilled!
Again, this is irrelevant. People create music for the purpose of entertaining other people (even if they claim otherwise; at the least, they're entertaining some people by not entertaining them in a "normal" way, a la The Mothers of Invention); if something doesn't entertain or interest somebody, then that person has no obligation to enjoy it no matter how much "technical" ability went into the creation of it. Furthermore, while I admit that Geddy doing all three was a fairly unique phenomenon (though frankly I wish he would've stuck to bass and singing and not let keyboards eat his soul), I can think of plenty of bassists and singers and keyboardists with as much or more technical ability than Geddy. Am I therefore required to like the entire output of those guys as well? I would say no; if I like all of something, then all of that something is cheapened. Passionately enjoying some things means that some things must be passionately disliked.
Finally I'd like to take you to the wall on your choice of "better" drummers over Mr. Peart. "I'd take Kieth Moon or Bill bruford.."
Bruford I'll let go, but Moon I have no love or respect for at all. Period! Most of the Who's early recordings sound like he drew the short straw and simple climbed behind the kit, and started bashing away. Drum rolls any place he pleased, cymbal crashes everywhere, and all this was take to be fresh and brilliant. By a populous addled on acid, pot and meth. In that state of mind, I would have sounded fresh and brilliant.
I think you vastly underrate Moon's ability to do all of these cathartic rolls and bashes and to *still not destroy the rhythm of the piece*. If you want to hear what Moon actually sounds like when he's ruining a song, look up the Kids are Alright version of My Wife. Otherwise, Moon's genius lay in the fact that he was essentially able to *imply* a beat without actually laying it down constantly. Again, though, this is a totally separate discussion.
Neil Peart is by far one of a list of truly great rock drummers, but it doesn't stop there, as his tribute album to the late Buddy Rich will a test, he can knock out jazz, swing and big band with equal a plum.
I do indeed think that from a purely technical perspective, Peart is indeed a great drummer. Hell, his peformances are often fantastic. I also think that he is inferior to Bruford in every area that he dabbles in, but that's not a terrible crime. In any case, I never made any sort of claim that Peart's drumming even approaches a "weak link" in the band, far from it; he is certainly one of Rush's primary strengths.
If Kieth Moon were alive today, I doubt he'd get past the first cord of any type of music other then that of the Who. A one trick pony, who wasn't very good at the trick, actually.
I'm not some teenage Rush fan, nor am I some middle aged guy who has RUSH Rules as a bumper sticker. Every band has records that are less then perfect, and I apparently can see and appreciate this more then the sudo critique you think you are.
Uh, of course every band has records that are less than perfect. What
exactly is your point in saying this? Do you even know?
Again, you have to understand something. While this may not be apparent from
reading only one individual page (though frankly it's not my fault if
somebody makes a judgement from only one page when I've put as much work as
I have into the site as a whole and have made it all easily accessible), I
hardly think Rush sucks in the grand scheme of things. If I thought Rush was
a crap band, they wouldn't even get reviewed. My problem with Rush is that I
don't think they do most of the things they do *as well* as a score of
Again, you have to understand something. While this may not be apparent from reading only one individual page (though frankly it's not my fault if somebody makes a judgement from only one page when I've put as much work as I have into the site as a whole and have made it all easily accessible), I hardly think Rush sucks in the grand scheme of things. If I thought Rush was a crap band, they wouldn't even get reviewed. My problem with Rush is that I don't think they do most of the things they do *as well* as a score of similarly-minded bands.
Johnny Troy (beachhousejohnny.yahoo.com) (1/16/06)
I like your site....a great read. Surprised that you are not as much of a Rush fan...but all Rush fans are surprised by dissenting opinion (we are a surly bunch aren't we??)...
anyway - been checking out some older Genesis (downloaded The Knife - EXCELLANT tune) per your recommendations and am liking what I hear.
Glad you took a stab at Sabbath as well. Amazing band....
Keep up the good work...I look forward to more!
"jevka.excite.com" (jevka.excite.com) (03/03/06)
interesting page...but i think the problem here may be, well, you.
you are not a rush fan - pure and simple. you never will be a rush fan (this is clearly evidenced by the fact that find only TWO songs on Moving Pictures to be interesting.), that is fine, that is dandy, this is that thing that, you know, goes around like that and does that other thing, and nobody cares. that's why whenever someone asks me to "introduce" them to "this band rush" i make them listen to Hemispheres and Signals first, cuz if you can't dig those two records, then fuggit, you ain't gonna get the rest of the catalog and you're never gonna appreciate RUSH.
while i admire your candor and respect your personal sensibilities, i believe you'd be better off not listening to rush at all and spending your time on other pursuits. yes, Mr. Peart's lyrics can be pretentious, wordy, tiresome, irritating, insular, selfish, childish...but that's just one of the reasons why rush fanatics like myself love rush. of course some of the band's little 'experiments' have failed - all good scientists find some eighty-odd percent of their adventures fruitless or boring: the important thing is that they keep working, and surely no one could consider rush a lazy band.
but wait...you think this
"Dantalion will ride again Raging forth underland
The course of evils standing straight Grind to grind
Hot metal will abound the land Churning out shout
As the form regards our blazing hand
Future times will stand and clearly see
Of the course of innocence"
is good work, but you think the lyric to Hemispheres sucks? (clears throat, nods, exits to dark alley, disappears.).
(author's note): No, I think those lyrics are terrible, and I said as much on my Yes page
as a rush nut, i often question my own loyalty to and admiration for this weird canadian three pieced anomaly. some days i try rather aggressively to convince myself that they really do suck, (honestly, i do.)...but i just can't make it stick.
i guess the gentle souls comprising rush should have spent their time making safe, commercially viable records like the ones Aerosmith keeps sticking their dicks into...or maybe rush really does fucking rule.
Pedro Andino (pedroandino.msn.com) (03/12/06)
all web critics suck the biggest cock!
Mark Edwards (medwards.stx.rr.com) (04/25/06)
The BIG question about Rush, is whether they get hammered for being fans of Rand. Most people don't even know or want to know who Rand is. Stoo, we all know that Rand is "The Queen Bitch". But the more broad question is, "Is Rand Correct?". Objectivism isn't going to go away, even though the Libertarian Party probably will!
I have read Rand's books extensively. She is correct, in my opinion. College professors who hate her, I say FUCK YOU, you have proven now that you ARE IDIOTS! And you do deserve getting left behind. Yes, even college professors can be idiots (all it takes to get this out, is, well, to not be under their thumb anymore).
A philosophy for 14 year olds, huh? Well, here is the problem. A dumb 14 year old is surely dumb. What do you get when he turns 50? A dumb professor!
Rand will outlast you. And Rush's songs are all the better for it. Rush's songs will have a long life. Have you ever seen the audience to the 1980's Rush Grace Under Pressure concert on MTV? They were not the deadbeats. The intelligent crowd is the Rush fans. By their nature, Rush can't get a huge audience, as they are not sucking up to idiots. When I went to my first Rush show, just a couple of years ago, I was shocked at the demographics of the fans. They were for the most part, MUCH more intelligent people than your average rock fans. Were you watching this phenomenon? Did you notice?
There is hope.
So, Stoo, here is an Objectivist question for you. Are terrorists at fault or is it Islam itself? There are other religions persecuted out there, just as bad as the Muslims, and they don't go around assassinating and intimidating everybody. The 9/11 bombers weren't poor or uneducated. But they were, horribly screwed up philosophically.
Objectivists have it understood correctly. Were waiting to see how many decades it will take people like you to figure it out. Were waiting, and guess what, nada, nothing is coming from you. Nothing. It's a boring life waiting on you guys to wake up. I think your generation will just have to die off, worthless.
(author's note): BEST. COMMENT. EVER.
john cantwell (jfcantwell.eircom.net) (05/12/06)
Some feedback to your work..... it's a pleasure to see reviews that do a proper analysis of musical subject matter instead of lurching to a fannish extreme at one end or the other. I normally read sites rather than respond to them but the linkage of Rush and The Who here reminded me of my own teenage days growing up in Dublin when I had one good friend who was a Who fan and another one who was a Rush fan and they got me into these groups. I was a regular reader of NME from about age 14 when Hemispheres came out till about 18 when Moving Pictures appeared, which helped me think more about the music and be an amateur critic. For my friends it was the "sci-fi" sound of Rush at that time that set them apart and made them compelling listening. The multipart songs they produced were pretty unusual for anyone used to pop music and they stood in complete contrast to the new wave and punk stuff that my group of friends disdained. Whether the lyrics are good or bad or predictable is a matter of opinion, for me if they fit into the music and enhance it or advance a narrative then they are good enough; this is generally true of the "sci-fi" Rush works.
I never thought to compare Moon and Peart directly, just looked at each artist's performance in isolation and on its own merits. Anyone can find a poor performance with which to slate a musician or a better one with which to praise them so it depends on the time and place concerned. It also depends on you and what your own attitudes may be at the time. Obviously live performances are more problematic as any error can ruin them. Or some idiot in the crowd who yells during a quiet section can mess things up for the serious fan. So the studio stuff is generally better if you are looking for musical perfection. In between we have "live in studio" - I still think that Moon's performance on the studio video of "Who Are You?" is terrific. Another point that critics would have made about the Who and Rush in those days (also Led Zeppelin) was their high quality live performance as a unit rather than as individuals. So it also depends on whether you want to dissect individual performances or appreciate the results as a whole. My attitudes to Rush changed over the years as I got older; the "sci-fi" or fantasy sound was less noticeable after Moving Pictures and whenever I heard later Rush works they did indeed seem to have gone into a repetitive slump - from distinctive and memorable to instantly forgettable. The lyrics also appeared to be semi-detached from the music. In the last few years my nephew gave me some of the later CDs; of these I enjoyed some tracks like "The Body Electric" (which at least is about an android) but now my tastes are diffused so it's hard to have the same feelings about a group that you had half a lifetime ago. Maybe I have too much balance of heart and mind now.... Finally I'd like to point out one more Who-Rush linkage I discovered lately - if you play the Necromancer - Return of the Prince, between the vocal sections, you can quite easily sing on top "Out here in the fields ... I don't need to be forgiven", from Baba O'Riley. Small world. Keep up the good work, JFC.
slackers united lmt. (sulcomics.hotmail.com) (09/20/06)
Unlike many of the people below me (or above, however the posting system works), I'd have to agree with 99% of what you said (The 1% being it took sometime to get used to Geddy's vocals). To make a statement as bold as Peart's lyrics are mostly dumb is a, in one hand 100% correct, and in another, almost unthinkable to say (or type) outloud because of the reverance that most of the fans place on them, such as the person who took the time to type out said lyrics in an attempt to prove you wrong (although even if he put the greatest lyric of them all, it would still fall under your "most of the time" statement) or the Objectivist who comes off as someone who thinks Ayn Rand is the next Karl Marx (or in other words, the inventor of another thoery that sounds nice, but wouldnt work) and basically states that any one who disagrees is wrong? Are you serious? I'd like to call myself a rush fan, being that I enjoy there music (for the most part), but I dont know if that name can be applied to someone who A.) doesn't think they are true Gods, the ones who know all the right philosophy and can do know wrong, and B.) Isn't willing to suck them off in the figuritive sense (ie: RUSH ISE TEH GRAETEST BAND EVAR!!1!) or in the literal sense (which by the sounds of it is what they would love to givin the chance). But I digress, in closing, good job on the site, stick to your opinions, and to those who who may bash you for your said opinions, deal with it.
Benjamin Musclow (godesteem.gmail.com) (10/27/06)
You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but it would be profitable to provide a few more concrete reference points so that the viewer can actually make an objective comparison. For instance, you call Neil Peart's lyrics "stupid", "ridiculous", etc, without providing examples of lyrics which are not in that category (from other bands). While I would conceed that Peart's lyrics are far from wisdom-rich at all times (Roll the Bones is a desparately quick retreat from the challenges of faith to a meaningless random existentialism; Between the Wheels is disjointed and difficult to sing, etc.), complaining that a three minute song's lyrics are the most stupid on an album (your citation " You can be the Captain, and I will draw the Chart, sailing into destiny, closer to the heart") screams for some objective standard! Just what is a "smart" lyric? If you wish to remain purely subjective, putting numerous Beatles albums on the top of your list (nothing but nice pop commercial ditties, where is the musicianship?), then so be it. Just don't expect many people to take you seriously - I could say the Beatles are a prim and proper garage band and get away with it.
mike noto (thepublicimage79.hotmail.com) (12/12/06)
I feel so sorry for you. My faith in humanity has been lowered. Significantly.
This is NOT a flame towards you.
I have never, in my life, seen such a rancid, mouthbreathing, sniveling, pretentious, and hideously sanctimonious group of idiotic losers in one place before. None of these fools know how to think for themselves, and they go to dogmatic blowhards like Ayn Rand so that they can feel even better about mindlessly condescending to anyone who doesn't agree exactly with what they think is the truth.
And those people who flamed you are all whiter than Wonder Bread after two weeks in the Antarctic.
As far as Rush goes, I've had severe problems with enjoying the few songs I've heard by them, due to the fact that Geddy Lee's nasal, dorky whine is about as listenable as Tiny Tim trying to play cock rock.
graham burnett (grayburnett.btinternet.com) (12/31/06)
hi there thankyou for reviewing rush. these are my thoghts on your thoughts about rush. first of all you need to listen to a cd version of the albums on a half decent stereo, not some crappy mp3 where the sound quality is rubbish. it you do not like neil as a drummer and lyricist then fine, but most rock drummers say he is the best drummer in the world eg the guy from dream theatre; he took keith moon as a influence and added all sorts of styles
(author's note): Huh? I like Neil's drumming! I just think he's not the greatest drummer in the world; those two statements are not mutually exclusive. Also, I must chime in with my obligatory "Dream Theatre sucks" comment.
i like rush alot but not everything they have done is great like most bands, but you do seem to be quite negative about them, i look upon rush as a would be led zep then growing out of that and looking for a new role to play in music and because of that they are always searching and because of that mistakes are made, but the flip side to that are some brilliant albums.
thay could not carry on playing led zep and anyway they can outplay led zep. led zep could not play rush and what would of led zep sounded like 30 years later, would they be still realesing vibrant relevant music, the answer to that is no. The best rush work is as good as led zep. led zep could never realease power windows (a tecno rock synth laden master piece)
i can go on
but first of all please get the albums and listen to them with the view that they are always moving forward with their music unlike most bands
Karen & Steven (skernst.optonline.net) (07/19/07)
Far be it for me, an average man, to critique a cultural, almost iconic group of musicians..
But I'm going to anyway... July 8th, 2007 at . 7:40pm..
In my opinion, Geddy, John and Neil have such a balanced sound and none of the pagentry that goes along with a lot of the groups around today. Their one extravegence is a hell of a light show. Pyrotechnics and lasers and smoke (old school)...And of all things Chicken rottiseries.
Other than that what else needs to be on stage except for the three of them and their "toys"...
All of them are effortless with their instruments. When the time seemed right, each went into their own little corner of the show with just playing on their minds. No egos, no flaming guitar tricks, just down to earth, solid, rock and roll...
John made a 12 string sing like a bird for 7 minutes...Neil's time was spent moving about two sets of drums on a turntable and he lit up the place with an amazing variety of styles, even tracking in with some prerecorded big band stuff sans percussion... And Geddy, playing for us as much as he plays for himself. Having fun and singing very The crowd seemed demure when they played their new stuff, but when the favorites came out, the place erupted...
All in all a great way to spend a rather warm July evening...As far as I'm concerned, the best concert I've seen in years...
Thanks for your attention...
Matthew Barker (matthew_p_barker.bigpond.com) (04/29/08)
You have pieced together an interesting critique on each of the albums, but there is a lot of juvenile criticism here, which in the end, ironically suggests that you are in love with this band absolutely and they have become something of an obsession, since you have take the time to write about each album and create a website. A lot of the most ardent Rush fans are those who bite the band with criticism but then confess love at the same time, and I guess this is a necessary process which people undertake unconsciously to evaluate the work of a genuine artist.
Let's cut to the chase. I am 42 years of age and have loved and hated Rush throughout the years since I was 16 when I first discovered them. In the final analysis, what I have conceded is that Rush have done something very unique, heroic and extraordinary in the history of rock music, that is, they have created music which has social importance, and at the same time, the music and lyrics together convey something along the lines of a universal concern for the world situation, the common problem of ordinary people, the struggle of the individual against the mass, and the wonder and mystique of life itself, which is utterly mysterious and wonderful (Mystic Rhythms).
Let's face it, what other rock band would write a lyric such as follows:
No his mind is not for rent, to any God or Government...
I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams
Experience to extremes
Experience to extremes...
These are pivotal, heroic Rush lines, they convey the essence of the individual struggle, since Rush's music is essentially about transcending mediocrity, finding a way through the chaos, discovering pure individuality, achieving mental clarity and so on, in order to be alive and fulfill the moral obligation of being a sensible and just person of society- a Tom Sawyer who does not care for the morality of the community and instead discovers his unique individuality amidst the surrounding chaos, alone. It is a heroic struggle and only the strongest among us can achieve it.
All the phenomena expressed in the Peart lyrics reveal the elemental things which become an essential part of an individuals self-discovery. Neil Peart is in reality a professional artist, the boys together know exactly what they're doing when they work with Neil on the songs, they're extremely clever with their approach and have discovered the alchemy and power of art to realise their artistic ambitions.
A lot of your criticism is directed at 3 very serious professionals. On balance, outside their responsibilities of the Rush phenomenon, they lead perfectly ordinary lives and are just like you and me, but Neil is the very essential element who is the genuine artist in the band. He knows what must be done and how the music is to be ultimately styled to create the artistic message. He discovered the alchemy of art early in his life.
They may fail sometimes (I perfectly agree that the Vapor Trails CD sounds absolutely dreadful and cannot to this day understand why Rush allowed this dreadful mix to be released to the public domain???), then at other perfectly resolute times, they may succeed by a mile. Above all, who is better than Rush? There is King Crimson, Tool, Radiohead, the big 3 who are doing interesting things, but Rush to me express a much greater understanding of life. The only preoccupation an artist seriously has is the morality of life. What is the morality of life- not to be dishonest? When one discovers the laws of being, such as Neil has done, pure artistic expression can be achieved. Art has no interest other than in the morality of life, and all artists are supreme moralists, so each of the Rush songs convey a deep moral message - you will see it in all their lyrics if you look hard enough. For instance, Presto is about the struggle to maintain ones rationality after a personal revelation that the world is not afterall a good place and that you have found a solution to solve the worlds problems, but it cannot be done by a wave of the magic wand, you cannot solve the problem overnight, you must find a way of achieving your mission with rationality and with good practical sense, which can only be accomplished over a period of time, not with the "temperature rising" or by radiating too much heat than light- you must have your head about you. This is just one example of the deep humanity and wisdom to be found in some of their lyrics.
So whether they succeed or fail I don't care anymore. There are some albums I like, some songs I very much love, then there are albums I don't very much like. But either way, it doesn't really matter does it, because here you have a band who are trying as best they can to produce a great article and I believe they have tried and succeeded more times than they have failed. In fact, I can listen to all their music over and over and never tire of it, so I guess I am an ardent fan!
If you are prepared to listen to music over and over more than 100 times because there is simply so much about it that is wonderful, then what else can great music possibly do, other than this?
Peter Ross (prog_man2.yahoo.com) (05/18/08)
Hey John, it's Peter Ross again. I just wanted to say great job on your
Rush rewrites--they're a lot less bitter than they seemed to be beforehand.
Even though I'm a huge, huge fan of the band (and that's what initially put
me off the page to begin with; I stopped reading when you said Neil was "an
absolutely terrible lyricist" in your old intro to the page), you really
brought up some good points. Looking at their lyrics from the end of the
'80s till VT, you're right--Neil's songwriting really fell off the damn
cliff. The lyrics on Counterparts have often made me cringe (especially the
chorus of Between Sun And Moon--UGH!) and T4E is damn near lifeless, except
for Resist. God, I love that song.
But...I adore AFTK and can't stand E...SL.
And Dream Theater is one of my favorite bands.
Them's fightin' words you writ there, buddy.
But I kid. A question--have you ever heard anything by Porcupine Tree? If there's ever been a band that's the modern-day equivalent of Pink Floyd, I'd have to say it's them.
And I just picked up Absent Lovers, and all I can say is HOLY SHIT. That rendition of Sleepless may be the best thing any KC incarnation ever did.
Matthew Boles (ozarkmatt.sbcglobal.net) (08/28/08)
Damn you, we have soft launch of a new website on Monday. And instead of spending this raining Saturday afternoon working on CSS tags, I'm reading all these reviews you have.
As for Rush, you missed the R-30 live album. True it showed up roughly the time you finished listening to the RnR CD for the first time, but since it was 30th anniversary tour, they really get into some "deep album cuts." Get the DVD, the audio of it is on CD in the package. The funny is, there is no mention of a CD on the outside labeling.
matt williams (bytor124.yahoo.com) (08/28/08)
My impression of you sir as a "rock music listener" is that you wouldn't know how to play a G chord from a C chord. There are cover bands that would love to play Rush but know they can't do it justice so don't even try. Most "major" rock musicians count Geddy, Neil, and Alex as some of the greatest on their respective instruments. I've read several music publications with artists that say so. As for their live performances, it's hard to find many that hold a candle to them. Their technical ability over a three hour concert seems almost superhuman. Have you ever seen them live? So sir, I just chalk you up as a frustrated know-nothing critic that wouldn't be worthy to shine their shoes let alone appreciate their talent.
(author's note): This email actually led to a rather pleasant conversation between us, funnily enough.
Ryan Novak (creativeaddress988.gmail.com) (02/13/09)
To those Rush fans who posted here before me, I shouldn't have to point out that Geddy or Peart (I can't remember which one) said you either love or hate Rush. Anyone here who is a Rush fan should realize that and not get so worked up over a negative opinion.
As for the review, I feel it certainly did justice to the band. Your approach feels much less opinionated than most. I am an incredibly big fan a Rush, and I know for a fact I would write a much more subjective review (as I would expect any Rush fan to do).
Keeping that in mind, here are my thoughts on Rush. I don't feel Peart is a particularly good lyricist, but I don't really let that bother me, because I can find much more in their music that I like rather than dislike. I love the chord progressions they use so much, and some (such as every single progression in Cygnus X-1) send a chill through me every time I hear them. They are also very consistent. I think they have some weaker albums and a couple absolutely horrendous songs (Stick it Out... Why, Rush, just... why?), but I found myself enjoying Snakes and Arrows just as much as I enjoy all their other work. Grace Under Pressure and Vapor Trails are the only albums I feel don't quite reach the quality I expect from them, but Vapor Trails shows a ton of potential. I heard a them in concert a year or so ago, and they played a song from Vapor Trails, and without the terrible mixing, it sounded very good. As for Grace Under Pressure, I never really liked it for reasons I'm not even sure of myself.
I personally feel you understated Geddy's Bass playing slightly, but that may just be because he has played a huge part in my musical life, as he is the one who inspired me to learn bass. From my experience, I believe the popular stereotype stating that the people who tend to like Rush are musicians is quite accurate; it is actually something that occurred to me before hearing anyone else say it (No stereotype is 100 percent correct, but most have at least some basis in fact). I feel though, that applies much more to very serious musicians (I am using parentheses way too much...). I have played piano since I was 4 (that makes 16 years, and yeah, I know, 70's rock was before my time, but I can't help it if modern music can't reach the quality music had back then), I've played bass for something like 4 years (which is also the time I discovered Rush, which I had just ignored before, since my mom doesn't like them and our musical tastes are very similar), I started guitar a couple years after that, and I played clarinet through high school (OMG NERD! Everyone point and laugh!). Rush also helped me discover Prog rock. I would never have found Tarkus by ELP if I hadn't enjoyed Rush's epic scale songs, which means I never would have discovered ELP either.
"Chris Schahfer" (chrischahfer.yahoo.com) (02/13/10)
So, right, Rush... I think you did a pretty good job with them. They don't suck, but on a whole I think they try way too hard to impress. They're good musicians, but they overplay like hell, sticking in all these fancy time signature changes and intricate guitar lines and whatnot just to prove that they can, even though it often interferes with the song's melody, which is usually pretty forgettable to begin with. And I second the complaints about Neil Peart's lyrics. My problem with them isn't the ideas as much as it is the presentation. His lines just scan really awkwardly, like he's trying to cram as many fancy words into a song as possible, once more just because he can. Plus Geddy Lee has the worst voice known to mankind, and their fans are really annoying. Still, they've done some good stuff, even though I'm really non-committal about them.
"Dave Parsons" (davidlibrarian.hotmail.com) (07/13/10)
John, I think you supported your position with reasonable explanations. I too find myself quite conflicted when it comes to Rush. Like many young boys, I was taken by the lyrical content of their songs because it inspired me to learn about topics of which I knew little. You made several references to teen-aged boys in your article and I think this is a completely accurate and important clue to understanding why there’s such a divide with the perception of this band in the general public. Rush, as musically competent and as highly worthy as they are of respect for their thorough craftsmanship, are a band that appeal primarily to young males. Such a large segment of the population can’t be left out of the equation without the whole “formula” of Rush having a major flaw.
I think the central flaw is that the band’s approach to both lyrics and music is one that relies too heavily on the promise of problem-solving -- as if everything is puzzle just waiting to be figured out. Rush loves complexity and obscurity, but lacks subtlety -- too much is dragged into the light for "serious" observation. Musically, this works much better then it does with regard to the writing of lyrics. I think the members of Rush truly love playing music, and that this love is apparent through all of the silliness (their attempts at fashion, album art designs, etc.). It’s an undeniable fact: they are fantastic musicians who have worked exceptionally hard to be as good as they are, however, I don’t think this is enough to consider them an exceptional band.
Neal Peart’s writing is at its best when he writes in terms of objects, not when he tries to address human issues directly. Red Barchetta is perfect example: the song is a delicious account of a man, his machine, and the interaction with his surroundings that it affords. Now, compare this song with Open Secrets where everything in the human exchange is painfully overly spelled out. It reminds me of a criticism that Roger Ebert made about the film 2010 (as compared to 2001) which was that it said too much – that too much was explained.
Rush’s appeal to the young male demographic is based upon separation, isolation, and a false sense of superiority. To quote from Paul Simon’s I Am a Rock: “I have my books/ And my poetry to protect me;/I am shielded in my armor,/Hiding in my room, safe within my womb./I touch no one and no one touches me./I am a rock,/I am an island.” Borrowing from Jim DeRogatis (I believe it was his comment), Rush can be summed up as such: great music, bad ideas.
My view on Rush is exactly the opposite of McFerrin's. I like the band very much but think most of McFerrin's ratings too high. This demands elaboration. Let's start with a thought experiment.
Make me Absolute Dictator of Rock for the seventies. I would have allowed Rush to release exactly one album. Track list: side 1, Anthem, Hemispheres (Cygnus X-I, book II); side 2, the acoustical coda of Hemispheres (I listen to it as a separate composition), Xanadu, Spirit of Radio, Tom Sawyer.
This album would easily have been the best prog/hardrock crossover ever and highly probably the best in both categories. How can I not like such a band? Still I am not able to close my eyes for Rush' flaws.
1) McFerrin is too friendly about their epics - the songs that last longer than say 6 minutes. I have complained about Tales of Topographic Oceans, but that one is nothing compared with the mess Rush created. Usually the long songs begin at a completely random point and subsequently don't go anywhere.
2) Rush did not release any excellent album. Some were good, maybe even very good, but still even the best albums contain filler or outright crap.
3) Besides the filler and crap Rush quite early showed a tendency to poppy songs that lack identity and are completely harmless. I can understand that McFerrin sometimes likes them. But I like my music hurting and offensive, at least to some extent. Music that only aims to please are almost always completely boring. Now someone may argue: what about Mozart? Well, see my next point.
4) Rush lacked composing skills, something you can't say of Mozart. Melodies are often bland, clear themes (riffs) are absent. Virtuosity does not compensate.
5) I don't need Rush live. The band typically reproduces the songs as closely as possible. As Vishnu isn't a member of the band Rush fails. So there is no reason to prefer Rush on stage to Rush in the studio.
So I did with Rush the same as with Black Sabbath: burned my own compilation. It's based on the five tracks above; I have added somel good, but perhaps imperfect stuff and my personal favourites. The result is two CD's I enjoy very much.
The first CD is superfluous. Why should we listen to that if Budgie and Led Zeppelin are available and clearly superior? Besides Anthem I only like Bastille Day, Something or Nothing and the snippet Temples of Syrinx. The reason should be clear: fine riffs and memorable melodies. As soon as I can find these Rush is my band.
Craig Clark" (CClark.machining-center.com) (02/13/11)
I've herd many songs in 4 different languages and yet when it comes to lyrics and music, no one can top RUSH.
The song closer to the heart explains and define Mankind should live by at all times.
Most of my friends that enjoy Rock music don't have a clue on RUSH lyrics or understand the objective behind Neil lyrics.
Most Americans and people around the world are dumb and do enjoy lyrics and music that deals with feeling and emotions and sensitivity. Feminine or crazy I must say.
"John Schmoldt" (John.Schmoldt.reznickgroup.com) (06/13/11)
I like everything about Rush, including Neil's lyrics and Geddy's voice, just fine, with one exception: that stupid naked guy that they used from 1976 to 1982. I mean, would it really have hurt anything to give him one of those Tarzan-style loincloths? Would the concept of the individual against the soulless collective (or whatever) not have been communicated just as effectively even with that minor change?
I will never purchase a CD of "Hemispheres" out of embarrassment of the cover art (at least on other albums, he is placed in the art a little more discreetly). Been bothered by this for decades!
Darren Atinsky datinsky.gmail.com (09/13/11)
Life changes occur every 7 years. By age fourteen, my life was under assault. I was in a new city and a new school. High school was intimidating, and my study skills were lousy. On top of that, my parents had split up, puberty was raging, and I was unprepared to deal with women, family, school, fights, adults, and authority. I was getting into small-scale troubles like shoplifting. My self-esteem was shot, exacerbated by pimples and the standard teasing. It was 1982. Into this social and personal morass came "Tom Sawyer", the first rock single I ever paid attention to and the most important. Now I realize that the uninformed, uninitiated listener can find much about Rush to criticize, but to me, "Tom Sawyer" was a clarion call and a rallying cry. By the 3rd time I heard it on the radio, I had to buy the album (remember those?). When I was able to collect enough money (about $8.00 - remember that?), I went to the record store and was transfixed by the cool looking cover. I didn't get the depth of the cover concept - the "moving pictures" inside joke, but the surface appealed. Notice the gothic architecture, the recutrring theme of 3, the Clockwork Orange-looking men moving pictures, the burning witch, the black/red satanic lettering, and the 'bad seed-looking' little girls with their parents? Rush were the master manipulators here - luring teens in to ponder what evil lurks underneath, while affirming the teen desire to rebel, to piss off your folks, thereby reclaiming your desire for power. Then you turn it around and it's literally and figuratively the reverse - no evil intents, just a film shoot - a motion pic shoot. It's still one of the all-time greatest album covers for me.
Then the inner sleeve offers those oh-so-cool pose pix of them in motion laying down some of the wickedest and hardest music in rock. I was held captive to the stereo system with the first track, "Tom Sawyer". Another reviewer questioned why it was first on the album. He may as well ask why a the door to a building is on the first floor. It literally is a song intended for an audience like me then. Figuratively, it became the soundtrack for my teenage life. It suggests a dark, aloof cynicism, and a preternatural desire to avoid conformity. It has a sound that is singular, distinct, and unique. The middle keyboard part that morphs into that intense jam is like a drug trip. There is an obvious love of technical proficience, a holdout for artistic quality, and a very masculine love for gadgetry and technology. It tows the line between European lyricism and the African hypnotic beat. It also was complete - the images, words, rhythms, ideas all were dynamic and interplaying, and justified the high art of production. And it covered a wide spectrum of sound - the puglistic punches and the shimmering, brassy crashes of the percussion. That impossible-to-duplicate fat, distorted bass sound. I still marvel at Geddy's vocal performance on this record. Lifeson's solos in "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", and "Limelight" are classic, yet all of his work is incredible here. His effects are equally incredible - the digital delay ending his solo in "Limelight", and his dead-on 'shrieking tires' starting his solo in 'Barchetta'. That's one of those moments that make your arm hairs stand up. It's one of many moments on this album where you realize you're listening to true artists who have thought long and hard on how to manipulate our senses for a desired effect.
Then there's that feeling that you are a witness to the recording (just what are they whispering to each other before the solo of "Camera Eye?"). Read the credits and you'll note the album was recorded digitally - in fact they're probably the FIRST to do it - 4-5 years before CDs became the norm. And that production had a strangeness to it - a haunting sense of light and shade, like an Ansel Adams photograph.
Rush were a breath of fresh air for me. I wanted to be a part of the cool trip they were on then. I began to teach myself the drums, and I proceeded to collect every one of their albums and I studied them like a monk studying the New Testament. In 2 years I began to master Peart's power, and subsequently I discovered the Police, Zep, Iron Maiden, Yes, Ozzy, etc. I became a rock student and a musician, dabbling with the bass and the guitar.
So thank you, Rush. This album was the raft on the Mississippi for me. I was Huck and I was Jim, and the drumsticks were my paddles.
Matt Barker mpbarker2112.bigpond.com (11/13/11)
Darren's ebullient review of the seminal Rush Moving Pictures album is one example of how involving Rush's music is to the intelligent, open minded listener! I think Rush would be very pleased to learn that their music is reaching people at a deep psychological level.
Excellent writing Darren
Matthew P Barker
graham burnett (grayburnett.btinternet.com) (04/13/12)
Please can you remove the “Ayn Rand The Musical” quote at the top of the page.
They are about to release their 20th album this year with only three of them having Ayn Rand connections their mid seventies period which is now 30 years ago!
These albums are Fly by night, Caress of Steel and 2112. You also need to put into context the why they were influenced by Ayn Rand, ie going out being individuals, outsiders and going against the grain and not just sheep. So having to produce records yourself and going against what the record company wanted them to produce (blues rock).
Your Ayn Rand slogan speaks more about your naivety about the band and you and your reviewing system then rush, of course in our free society you can write and say what you like but it has to come from an informed bases. Did you know that both Alex Lifeson’s and Geddy Lee’s parents were immigrant's from eastern Europe running away from right wing Nazism.
Neil Peart says himself - everyone was reading at the time and he was just a naive kid. You are just rehashing the silly uninformed NME article. Remember 85% of their output has nothing to do with Rand.
Lets talk about some of their lyrics about green issues, corporate greed, religion, celebrity etc etc
Chris Thomas (chris_thomas120.yahoo.com) (09/13/12)
After reading your endless prattle on Rush, I found far too many contradictions and self proclaimed statements that have no basis
Just WHO are you?
Are you an educated musician?
Have you been classically trained?
Have you met actual PROFESSIONAL musicians who actually KNOW who is and isn't considered good?
As a retired session player (Classically trained at Berekely then Juilliard ) who has spent time with top players for more than
30yrs, I can attest to this.
More (not all) PRO musicians aspire to Rush either as a band or as individual players than any other band (save The Beatles).
You forget Dream Theater...
Always on Rush's coat tails. Every album sounds the same. Washed out/over processed drivel.
But I do admit....They are (as individuals) very talented.
As I have played with them/met them and talked personally with them on many occasiona, I saw learned and have seen really
Here is ONE example...
They get on stage, play a few songs then say, Rush is in town tonight and they aren't playing Camera Eye, so WE are going to do it for you..They also rerecorded 2112?!?!?..
They have made their careers riding behind Rush as far as I'm concerned. It seems they either A: a hard on for Rush, B: Extremely jealous for Rush's success and there lack of success or C: Use Rush as a means to remain relevant when popularity starts to slip.
Don't believe me? Just look at their former drummer. Famous, rich, recording and touring, yet he has/had a Rush Tribute??? Penis ENVY.....
Another point among PRO Drummers....
Most consider Bruford good,very good.. Many consider Moon good, but too erratic.
How is Moon erratic?
I have had the advantage (most have not) to listen to Keith's actual tracks (solo) and there is no musical merit to or rhhythm what he does until it is played with other instruments.....
Neil, on the other hand, is considered among the top #1 with greats like Bozzio,Krupa etc...
I could go on and take your post step by step and show you your ignorance or honest lack of understand to what you listen to, but I won't... It would take too long and it would be a waste of time..
Seems any tool with a PC and an opinion can post nonsense today...
Randall Zidones (rzidones.gmail.com) (01/13/13)
I'm a recording musician and music teacher who has listened to, learned from, and liked Rush as long as I can remember.
I've never heard it elsewhere, but my criticism of Rush is this:
For the past 20 years (actually since Presto), they sound like a great band that was influenced by Rush (but that is not Rush).
Their first 15 years(ish) was full of risks, choices, eras, exploration, etc. After that they evened out somehow. Their daring musicianship sounded less daring. People criticize their 80s stuff for being too middle-of-the-road, too much an attempt to cross over to something else. Even if that was the intent, it didn't quite work. It ended up being, as you put it, weirdly arty. From the late 80s on it just sounded like random radio rock, sometimes successful, sometimes not.
Srijan Tiwari (srijaniit.gmail.com) (06/13/14)
The best comments page ever.
I guess if you were known to these Rushsperms personally, You'd be quickly assassinated..
Good work. Mark has lost his battle and George has mellowed bit.
Don't give up.. (is the worst PG song ) Dude.
Thanks for introducing me to Ween.
Although I credit Mark Prindle for introducing me to Sparks
And the Rush band?
Good Arrangements, as you pointed out.
But Really, I can't compare Alex to Prog rock gods.
Over and Out.
Nicholas Skakal (07/13/14)
Hey John. From what I gather, your site seems to still be running, though I guess it could be defunct (that is, if you have gotten a life by now). Anyway, I saw on another site (Only Solitaire Reviews, namely) that mentioned you are a reviewer, so I started reading.
Now, I am a huge Rush fan (I'll get that out of the way now), so naturally I went straight to my favorite band's page and discovered you weren't a fan. (Well, in the most general terms.) Now, I am of course subjective to my opinion of the band and their music, but bear with me.
I have somewhat skimmed over your general introduction of the band and find that I disagree with the majority of your claims. Being a typical up-in-arms Rush fan, I get pretty fired up when people bash them, but I do my best to at least respectfully disagree, as I do with your opinions on Rush.
I think the part I most disagree with is your opinion on Neil and his lyrics. The complaint I see most is that he is being pretentious, which I suppose is a justified view. With your review I found that you offered more than just that explanation. I'm sure you noticed but I feel the need to say that he did move on from "bad Tolkien tributes, and the bad Greek mythological fan fictions, and a myriad of individual stanzas" (although the last of those three I cannot say are not still present). Coming from me, I would say he does put more genuine thought and effort into his lyrics than you give him credit for. Again, I respect your opinion but also respectfully disagree. (Also, I'm not quite sure how they are presented in "some of the dumbest ways imaginable." I don't find them to be like an "educated" high school freshman's poetry, though in that regard I'm not much further from that age.)
Thanks for bearing with me, and from the couple of minutes I've been on your site, I must say I do enjoy it.
Conn Burns (conn.burns.btinternet.com) (04/13/15)
I think you like to be controversial and contrary and are a 'cup half full' merchant. I do not believe your review is credible for 3 main reasons:-
1. You compare Rush to sounding like DT, a group heavily influenced by Rush that formed many years after Rush had become a globally established act;
2. To view Signals as their "peak" album is just plain contrary. Moving Pictures would be cited by the majority of their critics and fans as their peak album. Signals followed and was at the time badly received by fans as it marked another seismic gear shift in their sound. It has taken many years for it to get a fairer review but would never be in the top 5 of their output;
3. For somebody to write 10,000 words about how mediocre Rush is tells me they are not mediocre at all. Mediocrity would not fill so many pages!
I also have a younger brother (also John by the way) who would have been brought up with Rush in the background and surprise surprise he does not like them either but is always happy to see them in concert and tells me anytime he sees or hears their name mentioned. I think if you had discovered Rush before big bro you would have a totally different outlook!
(author's note): This will not stand: I am the older brother thank you
For an academic review of Rush take a look at Dr. Sciabarra's (NYU) published article:-
"Rand, Rush & Rock".
You might learn something.
Solicitor (Attorney at Law)
Elizabeth McBride (emcbride.family-ymca.org) (04/13/15)
Hey I did not get a chance to read your whole page I am a huge rush fan. All I can say is that rush is most definitely not for everyone where you may speak of problems about the arrangements or that you begin to get bored listening to them I do not. I’m not saying everyone should like rush like you said Geddy Lee’s Voice will turn most people away immediately. For me I love songs that tell stories and Rush, Especially early rush, has so much of that. I don’t hate on anyone for not like them in the words of Rush “one likes to believe in the freedom of music” and I truly live by that where some people like to hate on groups like one direction I don’t because music is freedom and if little girls support them than its just wrong and rude of me to try to convince them that they are wrong for liking them. At the end of the day its how YOU feel about the music YOU listen to that matters.
One more thing
I personally don’t fined Rush to be too similar to dream theater
Like you I don’t like dream theater and I definitely know what you mean about the music being boring there.
Alastair Stewart (pufftentacle83.gmail.com) (06/13/15)
@Chris Thomas - wow, you're a modest guy. Who gives a shit where you studied music. This site reviews music created largely by people who taught themselves, so what's your point? I play music too, but i don't think that makes my opinion superior to that of any of my friends who don't play an instrument, so what's your point? Personally I think these Rush reviews are pretty spot on. My favourite drummer would be Terry Bozzio or Dale Crover, definitely not Peart. He's good, but he's not what I love. Am I wrong, or is it just an opinion? It's been said on this site elsewhere, and it's true - best has nothing to do with technical proficiency.
Jeigh Neither (jeighneither.gmail.com) (08/13/15)
I've never come across someone who knew so much and wrote "To their credit" so often about a band they disliked. You are well listened and versed in your Rush library, and I honestly don't think you can have so many favorable opinions about something you don't like. I don't even listen to the new albums (though I gave Counterparts a good many listens) and I still consider myself a huge Rush fan. As far as the Ayn Rand stuff goes; well, you're really going overboard. Do you work for Rolling Stone? Peart was attracted to the can-do attitude of the few Rand works, but he has distanced himself from the negative aspects on several occasions, and since the 80's. Peart is a self proclaimed Democratic socialist and is a very patriotic citizen of a nation that puts it to real-world practice. I think if you dug deep into this aspect you obviously despise, you would be surprised. I think you dislike Ayn Rand, far more than Rush. Nobody that would rank "Caress of Steel" so highly, doesn't like Rush. I'm sorry, but It's a brilliant album, and it takes a fan to recognize that. In fact your ratings were spot on in my book, despite the low curve. If this is what you call not liking, I can't imagine how you represent the things you love. Peace.
Best song: Working Man
In the beginning, before Neil Peart joined the band (the original drummer was one John Rutsey, who never really tries to make himself sound like a "drum god" on this album but at least sounds good enough), Rush was basically just another hard rock power trio, with one distinguishing feature; they could play the absolute living hell out of their instruments (well, they also had a singer who sounded like Robert Plant with his nuts in a vice, but we'll ignore that). They wore their influences on their sleeve, and none of the songs betray much in the way of stylistic originality (other than playing their instruments with greater ferocity than others did), so it's hard to rate this album as one of the band's best. Still, it's an interesting curiousity, and there are some parts here that rate with the best material the band did during the 70's.
The best tracks are the ones that bookend the album. "Finding My Way," if nothing else, displays an incredible sense of showmanship as an opener in the incredibly energetic guitar lines, and the way Geddy's screeching vocals play off of the solid main riff is very impressive. "Working Man," which closes the album, has an absolutely gargantuan slower riff in the verses, and an equally great faster riff which the band uses as the foundation of what's arguably the best pure jam the band ever did. I quite regret that Alex and Geddy didn't engage in these kinds of battles more often, honestly. This is one of the few Rush songs that I actively look forward to hearing on the radio; few things compare to the thrill of pumping the bass up to its highest level on my car stereo and blasting out my eardrums with that jam. And the extended ending, well, I like it just fine. After all, if Jethro Tull could have awesome extended codas, why couldn't Rush?
A third moderate highlight is "What You're Doing," with a riff closely modeled off of that to Heartbreaker and a great heavy guitar sound, as well as an amusing Geddy vocal delivery. Unfortunately, the album doesn't have any other tracks that I find very good, and some actively annoy me. "Need Some Love" and "In the Mood" are short and novel for Rush, but they're kinda dumb and average to my ears ("In the Mood" at least has some goofy joviality, though). "Before and After" has a fairly pretty acoustic introduction, with a nice build into the electric parts, but eventually it's overcome by a fairly pedestrian rocker. "Take a Friend" has a moderately catchy chorus, but its opening and closing, as intricate and tricky as it might be, just seems pointlessly messy to me (an ill harbinger of Rush to come). And finally, "Here Again" is about as close to a clone of "Since I've Been Loving You" as could exist without actually copying the melody, and it really betrays Rush's status as a second class hard rock band.
Still, this is reasonable for a debut album. It's extremely unpolished, but it betrays a good amount of talent on the part of the band members. There's no concept or real ambition, but that's where part of the enjoyment comes from.
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (10/05/08)
we got a problem. john rutsey died. well we rockers are gonna miss him. he may not be no drum god but he can play.I think it will be the last time rush playing songs from the debut but not working man. working man is heavy metal at it's crunchy and metallic. alex and his soloing shreds like knives cutting through cheese. geddy lee despite his super femnine scream can sound like plant and even a janis joplin in places. I think I will use some of the songs for an action movie called gunsmith cats. no emo shit though!. plenty of heavy metal and sometimes an alternative band or two but none of this faggy jonas brothers shit!. 14. ROCK N FUCKING ROLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Best song: Anthem
Wow. Neil Peart comes into the picture, and the band releases ... a really, really good album!?! I waver between giving it a 9 and an A, but every time I listen to it I come away happy and pretty impressed. In a coup for Rush, I don't consider a single track on here bad, and I find some of them just terrific.
You know what I like most about this album overall? It's the FABULOUS production, which I think may be the best the band would ever have. The equalization is almost textbook for mid-70's hard-rock, as all of the instruments jump out at and throttle the listener without ever suffocating the listener in unnecessary heaviness. Not only that, but I'd say that even a die-hard Geddy hater would have a difficult time saying that Lee ruins a single one of these songs, as his vocal screams often propel the sound forward in a way that couldn't happen otherwise.
Just as important, though, is that quite a few of these riffs and melodies are good. The best of these, of course, comes from the opening "Anthem," which might be in my top five tracks from the band. Sure, the lyrics annoy me in that wonderful Peart manner (the song is named after an Ayn Rand novel), but I cannot ignore all of the marvelous riffs that jump out throught these heavenly four minutes. Plus, I just adore the way that, as mentioned before, the band uses Lee's vocals as a way to catapult the jamming forward, especially when the "Wonders in the world! Wonders in the world! Wonders in the world! AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR ... *riffs*" part pops up. The guitar solos are great, too.
Originally, I thought the album was basically just "Anthem" with a bunch of filler, but that was a mistake. The title track is a great pop song; I mean, the riff is good, the guitar tone is solid, the vocal melody is memorable in a good way, and the chorus is very nice. "Beneath, Behind, Between" is somewhat neglected in the hierarchy of great Rush tunes, but I think that it has a great main riff, and having the vocal melody largely move in parallel with the guitar lines actually helps out the song. And finally, I'm very fond of "In the End," which I rarely see touted as a good song. Yes, it's seven minutes, and its mid-tempo, and it's largely based on a single chord sequence on guitar, but I like the chord sequence, and I like the vocal melody Geddy sings over. Yup, if I was going to pick a song as "most underrated Rush song ever," this would be a strong contender.
The other four tracks are a step down, but still not bad. "Making Memories" is an acoustic number with a lot of drive, kinda sounding to me like something Led Zeppelin would have had as an outtake from the III sessions, and I generally like it. The slow, quiet acoustic ballad "Rivendell" (yet another evidence in support of this era of Rush being a bit of a Led Zeppelin knockoff; the obligatory Tolkien-influenced number) is kinda dippy, not really going anywhere, but I don't find it offensive, so it can stick around too.
If the album has clear weak links, it's in the remaining two tracks. "Best I Can" isn't horrible, but it dwells too much on the lyrical message (penned by Lee, not by Peart) at the expense of solid hooks or riffs, and it doesn't impress me much. And, of course, there's "By-tor and the Snowdog." Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song. The big problem I have is that, given that Geddy has repeatedly stated that Yes' Relayer is his favorite album, it's very difficult for me not to end up trying to compare this track to that album's "Gates of Delirium" (the structure is largely the same, except for a reprise of the opening vocal melody at the end). And if you go to my Yes page, you will see that that's a battle that "By-tor" just can't win. Still, the song is pretty funny, and I only find it really annoying when the band starts to show off its ability to start and stop on a dime, as if they think that that's enough to make them impressive as a prog rock band. It would improve live, anyway. But all complaining aside, I'm perfectly content with this album. I consider it the peak of the early, hard rock epoch of Rush, and I really think it belongs in any decent collection of 70's hard rock.
The lyrics to "Best I Can" were actually written by Geddy Lee (he's the only one given credit for the song in the liner notes), which may explain their cheeziness, but it's one of my favorites on the album just because of the direct power it has - plus that riffing at the end of each couple chorus lines is just too cool. When I first heard the album, I'd probably have given it a 5, since it the rest of it to me was such a letdown after "Anthem" (which you're dead right on - what an incredible song showcasing Geddy's bass virtuosity and vocal screeching), but I'd give it a low 7 (10). The two songs I can't get into that much are the longer ones. "By-Tor & The Snow Dog" is indeed a third rate "Gates Of Delirium", and is decent but just not that interesting, and "In The End" IMO is one of the 5 or 10 weakest songs they ever did - I find it incredibly boring and go-nowhere. But other than that, it's a good album. "Rivendell" in particular is an extremely underrated ballad, the tirack isghghfdgdfgfd a deservedly celebrated catchy hit, "Beneath Between & Behind" is a cool rocker and "Making Memories" is an easily forgettable, but still enjoyable piece.
Best song: Bastille Day
And heeeere comes the artsiness. Oh sure, a third of the album is "normal" rock songs, but the rest is devoted to a couple of long, multi-part, atmospheric compositions of ... *ahem* ... varying quality. It's almost as if the band changed its mind in the middle of the recording sessions of what kind of band it wanted to be, and I can only imagine how confused the band's established fans were upon buying this. It doesn't help, either, that one of the decisions of Peart and company was to completely erase the strong production values of Fly by Night. The sound is very airy, almost of a demoish quality, and only the clever arrangements betray that this is, in fact, a finished product.
Even worse, the songwriting is clearly on a decline. Of the three regular songs that begin the album, only one of them meets the standard set by "Anthem" - the bitchin' opener "Bastille Day." Oh sure, I can complain that the song would be tons better if the instruments were less "dead" sounding, but I cannot deny the quality of that riff and that chorus. But the other two songs ... ergh. Well, ok, "Lakeside Park" is an alright soft number, though quite overrated - I think that the high esteem that it receives from many fans is a product of its placement between a couple of duds. There are lots of good songs that feature a wistful look back at one's childhood, but this isn't one of the better ones. It's still ten times better than "I Think I'm Going Bald," though, which sounds like it should have taken fifteen minutes to write (both lyrically and otherwise). Man, I'm not a Rush fan, but even I can't really believe that they'd run out of ideas this drastically so soon.
After "Lakeside Park," we enter "artsy" territory with The Necromancer, a three part epic that introduces Rush The Mediocre Prog Band (whereas "I Think I'm Going Bald" showcased Rush The Mediocre Rock Band). The piece does have its good attributes, I'll give it that, like the menacing slide guitars at the beginning, or that part near the end where the band enters an intense jam, or that funny "happy" part near the end, but the rest of the piece doesn't please me at all. The lyrics are based on The Lord of the Rings (Frodo and Sam journeying towards Mordor in The Two Towers), but they end up sounding like generic gothic Dungeons and Dragons fantasy crap, and the music is often as dull as could possible be. There are some good solos, but the "dark" mood that envelopes the piece just sounds completely ridiculous, fake and stupid sounding to me, and that hurts things a lot.
Much to my surprise, the second half of the album isn't anywhere near as unenjoyable as "The Necromancer." This side is taken up by the 20-minute side-long "The Fountain of Lamneth," and while it has its problems, I generally enjoy the piece more than not. I can hear its weaknesses easily (and that's not even accounting for the lyrics); the structure is very reminiscient of Genesis' "Supper's Ready" (pleasant acoustic opening, introduction of a "main theme" that pops up at the end and in places in between, in this case), and it becomes insufferably boring at a few points, but still ... I mean, for starters, the "I am born ..." acoustic opening is extremely pretty. It even features some of Geddy's most timid and "vulnerable" singing, which should make it a relief for bashers of his voice. And dang it, I LOVE that guitar line that pops up every so often; it's fairly simple, but the 'epic' sound it produces is genuinely great. That line also gives birth to one of the greatest stretches of 70's Rush, with the great alternation between the "My eyes have just been opened" vocal melody and the "yet my eyes are drawn" chorus. The drum solo with the screaming is kinda stupid, as is the way it ends in that loud "Listen!," but the section into which it leads, "No One at the Bridge," is quite nice. This section has quite a great guitar line, even if it is highly derivative of classic Genesis; the band had successfully expanded its skill set from good Zeppelin imitations to good Genesis imitations. Later is another solid acoustic number in "Panacea," which is quite pretty (if not very memorable) and soothing, even if the lyrics are distractingly stupid. Of course, the "Bacchus Plateau" chunk could leave for all that I care, but the reprise of that great opening theme ("The Fountain") closes things in a beautiful fashion, leaving me with a good feeling about the piece as a whole. And so, while the piece has many flaws (aside from what's already mentioned, the flow is a bit of an issue at times), "The Fountain of Lamneth" is still a perfectly reasonable, acceptable, and even enjoyable side-long piece.
All in all, this will never be one of my favorite Rush albums, as the weaker features are just way too distracting for me to ignore. But, the stretches of beauty, rare as they sometimes seem, ultimately make the album at least passable and somewhat worth my while. Rush has done better, but they've also done worse.
Call me crazy, but "The Necromancer" never bores me for a second. The lyrics are stupid, of course, but I don't really begin listening to Rush songs for lyrics until "The Trees". In my mind it's their second best song of the 70's behind only "2112", and it's certainly one of their better flowing art rock pieces, more memorable and coherent than "The Fountain Of Lamneth", which has its' moments also. The way the slow, dark and murky beginning builds up to awesome fast soloing and a GREAT uptempo ending just rules. A production style like this definitely wouldn't have suited the material on Fly By Night, but here it almost calls for it, as I can really picture the dark and threatening mystical places within these songs, and at the same time envision the band in their basement or something getting high, taking their vision to limitless heights - I'll take this stuff over A Farewell To Kings any day of the week. It's kind of difficult for me to see why fans ignore this record and proceed instead to 2112 (even Geddy is ashamed of it and even calls "Lakeside Park" a "lousy song"). An easy 8 - even with "I Think I'm Going Bald", which is sort of my guilty pleasure for this one. Very underrated, though I haven't seen many people put this one down too seriously, unlike the synth era. Blah.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
I once had this album. On MP3. But I lost the bloody thing. So I'm not very much familiar with some stuff here, but I can pull off some memories. First off, this might be the worst produced Rush album ever. It could have lots and lots of bombast. COULD. But the bad production hurts. It kills lots of potential here. Especially on The Necromancer. You see, you dislike this one. But I think it could be an excellent piece, if not for the bad production. That fade-in is almost inaudible in the beginning, and it doesn't sound alive enough to achieve its potential. And well, the lyrics... *ahem* Forget it. But there are lots of great moments on there, and the final part is great. It IS a good song anyway, and when you get used to the clumsy production, it manages to cook. And cooks for real.
Now, The Fountain Of Lamneth, I'm not very familiar with that one. But the opening and closing sections are wonderful. The acoustic opening, that electric riff... lots of goodies here. The middle parts have lots of moments of sheer beauty and brilliancy. But alas, I'm VERY familiar with Bastille Day. Now this is something. Pure brilliancy on every second, even though the bad production does hurt it a bit. Still, it manages to make a fair match with Anthem. Lakeside Park is one marvellous tune, I think. It manages to be soft, but still have that same Rush trademark sound to it. I Think I'm Going Bald is just plain silly, though I hope they came up with less sillyism there...
So, anyway, a promising album this is, but nothing solid and great. Just nice to listen to when you're in a good mood.
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (06/15/08)
why does everybody hate the album? I liked it fot that reason and I liked what the other review guy said. I just liked this album like chocolate syrup!. bastille day kicks your face in!. with the riff and screeching vocals of lee that sound like screech from saved by the bell getting electrocuted!. lol!. the ending reminds me of queen too. I think I'm going bald is the most hated rush song but I kinda dig it. lakeside park is cute but why does geddy hate it so much?. on the prog side the real meat of the album is the necromancer. it reminded me of the legend of zelda: twilight princess. the first part is a little faint after being drowned out by so much volume. the voice peart used is sounding like gandalf and the second part deals with the three people trapped in the wizard's power until the hero link or by-tor acording to some fans slays the wizard in a tasty electric guitar solo. the final part is peaceful as link rescues the 3 prisoners and finally ends the journey. I can make an anime of the album because a lot of prog rock is like that but once you get addicted you get addicted. the fountain of lamneth or link's journey as I liked to call it begins with in the valley. quiet guitar chimes and hard electric parts drive the song as the hero link rides his horse and the jouney begins. the drum solo is kinda funny because link as I picture this in my head runs across a shaky bridge and runs as fast as he can until he jumps very high and when they scream LISTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, he climbs the part of the already destroyed bridge, tip toes into the grass and he saw a ship. no one at the bridge has the hero sailing a ship but violent winds and the arrival of the enemy ship crashes the ship and link was jumped in to the water. what can he do?. link was unconcious and a lady saw him and she rescues him from death, does a little CPR and link choughs water and seeing the woman he just smiles and the two share into a sensual exploration of the two bodies as they rest panacea chimes sweetly in the background. the party began and link was in the festivities as bacchus plateau plays. the fountain has our hero facing his nemesis that takes hostage a princess as the final seconds of the guiatrs roar and lin stabs the bad guy saving her. the end of the story has the two getting married and the book closes. I gave this underrated album a 10. I know ths story has nothing to do with the review but I just love it.
Best song: Tears
If there's such a thing as The Stereotypical Rush Album, then this is almost certainly it. Pretty much any serious discussion of Rush will bring this album up early on, and I've found reactions mostly tend to fall either into worshipping the album or spitting upon it. As often happens in such cases, I fall in the middle.
As with Caress, this album shows Rush showing itself as both a prog rock band and as a more conventional 70's hard rock band. This time around, though, this division actually seems to have been totally planned, and the confused feel of the last album is gone on this one. The production is also a LOT stronger and more forceful here than there, even if the sound still isn't as powerful as on Fly by Night. This album also lightly introduces synthesizers (and even a mellotron here and there) into the band's sonic pallette, and they work more effectively than I might have thought from just listening to the band's first three albums.
The first side is occupied in its entirety by the famous title track suite, with which I am not head-over-heels in love. The story is closely based off of Anthem (it also has some similarities to the plot of Lifehouse), and the liner notes contain the sentence, "Dedicated to the genius of Ayn Rand." Basically, the story concerns a future totalitarian society in which The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx control everything that people can read and listen to. One day, a man makes the archaeological discovery of an electric guitar, which he is instantly able to start playing in a way that produces coherent music. He shows the guitar to The Priests, thinking they'll be all proud of him and amazed at his discovery, but instead they tell him it's of no use to them and they destroy it. The protagonist then sulks about this (and has a vision of the world in which this guitar was created) until he's gotten so depressed that he kills himself. The end. Wow, Neil.
Needless to say, I'm not at all impressed by the concept of this piece, and it's really the quintessential example of why Rush tend to annoy the living crap out of me. The more "dramatic" moments of the piece work for me only as unintentional comedy; hearing Geddy squeal "I don't think I can carry on!" and "My lifeblood spills over..." inevitably makes me laugh every time, and the ending "announcement" is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard on a rock album. The closest comparison I could make would be to the ridiculous "This is our Independence Day!'" speech in that 1996 movie, and that is definitely not a compliment.
So ok, I don't like the lyrics or the story, but what about the music? Well, truth be told, I think the actual music of the "Overture/Temples of Syrinx" is fantastic, and close to the best (and at least the most powerful) music to come from Rush in the 70's. A bit too much of it is taken up with dated sound effects, but when the band is actually playing, it almost seems as if they've found a bottomless well of cool riffs. Plus, the lyrics are so over-the-top hilarious that, in the context of these good riffs, it's almost impossible for them to hurt anything, and they even almost contribute to my enjoyment of the piece. The rest of the piece, though, strikes me as thoroughly mediocre. Only the reprises of the opening theme have much of a positive effect on me at all; the rest of the time, the emphasis is clearly on the lyrics, and the music just isn't memorable to me in either melody nor in arrangements. So basically, the first half of the album consists of seven minutes of greatness, and thirteen minutes of me waiting for the second side to start.
The second half of the album, then, is where I get most of my enjoyment, and is the reason this album gets as high of a rating as it does. The Lifeson-penned hard-rocker "Lessons" is a messy throwaway, but I find every other song on the side to be good or better. "Passage to Bangkok" has a great set of riffs and some decent lyrics that seem to be about going to various drug-producing locations in the world, and is a Rush song I can easily get in the mood for. "The Twilight Zone" has some goofy lyrics, but they amuse me, and I find the introduction great and the song itself quite good, so it can stick around.
The last two tracks end the album on an extremely high note, and ultimately ensure the album its grade. My personal favorite is the oft-ignored but oh-so-beautiful ballad "Tears." Laugh if you want, but I think it has an absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar line, a nice vocal melody, lyrics that are good enough for the song's purpose, and even effective mellotron use. Yes, it's a "wussy" song, but I can't help it if I think the wimpiest song on the album is easily the best. At the other extreme, the closing "Something for Nothing" is a screeching rocker with some nice guitar lines and a GREAT memorable chorus. The lyrics strike me as stupid and obnoxious (they read like a Libertarian creed in parts), but they're delivered with enough power that that is at least somewhat offset.
In the end, I actually consider this a perfectly ok album (I originally went with an 8, but my esteem for the last two tracks has only grown over time, so I nudged it up a whee bit), and a necessity for all Rush fans. It just so happens that my reasons for liking it will be different from the reasons that most Rush fans will have for enjoying it. Slice through the pomp and half-baked "artsiness" of the title suite, and what you're left with is a really decent 70's hard rock album.
Somehow I knew you were going to put down the title track suite and give this album a 7 (10). It's understandable, though, since you have a dislike for Peart's lyrics and concepts. Here, the lyrics could have been written by a 14-year old poet, I'm not gonna argue that one. It is very childish in the way it's presented - 'Another toy, that helped destroy, the elder race of man'... 'it's got wires that vibrate, and give music, what can this thing be that I've found'....
The song IMO is pushed to incredible heights due to the fact that this is Alex Lifeson's absolute peak as a guitarist, and that's saying a lot. I love your description about finding a bottomless well of cool riffs, but I feel it applies to the entire thing (particularly Overture/Syrinx though). The first two sections aren't even my favorite - the waterfall-like buildup to the 'Presentation' section through 'Discovery' has an awesome contemplative flow and when 'Presentation' finally hits - wow. I don't know, I suppose the lyrics should detract from the listening experience, but somehow they don't. The fact that Geddy practically sounds like a 14-year old elf screeching them in an over the top fashion backed by those RIFFS seriously adds charm and power to the piece. Yeah, it may be an obnoxious concept, but I could never call something so naive and childish overblown. This is, without a doubt, my favorite Rush song ever, and even though the album is only my 4th favorite in their catalog (and Hemispheres is probably the most quintessential), this is what I'd recommend starting out with first, and not just because I did too.
The only reason I wouldn't give it a higher 9 overall (I'd throw a 12 on this one), is that the other five songs almost seem like a totally unrelated EP. A very terrific 8 quality EP, but one that doesn't fit in nonetheless, judging by the feel "A Passage To Bangkok" has of a 'natural second song' that sounds as if it's followed a normal length first one, not a 20 minute piece. I have to agree "Tears" is the best conventional length number on here - unjustly overlooked, a great melody with Geddy's vocals and lyrics at their most beautiful, and "Bangkok" does indeed have a great riff. I think the lyrics to "The Twilight Zone", though, are the most cringe-worthy of the album - they make the title track look deep. Nevertheless, as always, the music is fantastic in the song and that's what matters most.
(author's note): Just wanted to point out that the reason I don't mind the lyrics to Twilight Zone is that here, the lyrics are FUNNY. Not in the so-overblown-that-they're-annoying manner of the title track, but in a truly chuckle-worthy way.
I admit it that Rush is one of my favorite bands ever, but I will agree with you when it comes to 2112. It's very overrated, and the lyrics of Neil Peart are pretty non-sophisticated, and he probably was just getting the hang of it. The music for the most part is pretty good, especially in the Overture. I hated parts 3 & 4 (discovery and presentation) though parts 5 & 6 are very beuatiful in my opinion. I'd give that song a 7/10, only for making a worhty attempt at creating a decent epic, like they would in subsequent records.
Side Two of the record does not thrill me. I think a passage to bangkok and the twilight zone have pretty shitty lyrics, and Geddy (as much as i love him) didnt deliver them that well... and his high voice gets on my nerves. I liked Tears and Something for Nothing... a good way to close off an album, but this album is overrated and it sucks that it gets more recognition than Hemispheres or Permanent Waves. i'd give it a 6/10 (or a 9/15 in your scale)
hmmm.....well, I do like this album. I don't worship it. I'd say the title track is the best thing they made in the 70's, but that doesn't mean it's one of the best 20-minute tracks out there. I really just wrote to say that I keep hearing people (in various sources) say that the song has a happy ending, or that the main character "triumphed" over the authority figures, but judging by the last line "I don't think I can carry on this cold and empty life" and the piece ending with the government saying they've assumed control, it sounds like the guy killed himself.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
I bought this LP along with Hemispheres. Mostly out of curiosity.
About the suite? Well, I can't deny the sheer power of the Overture / Syrinx part. It's prime distant early Rush! (get the pun? Ha! I can be the next Mark Prindle. Ehh... not.) They are all willing to shake and rock and kick and cook on there, and it sure starts things off marvelously. I don't think the rest is so mediocre. Presentation has some neat 70 bouncy guitar rock, and the chorus sections are good, and it presents a neat guitar solo reprising the Syrinx theme. Soliloquy is haunting, and creates the mood very well, and Grand Finale makes justice to its status of grand finale. It sounds truly apocalyptic, and I do think the vocal effects are cool. Notice that "attention all planets on the Solar Federation" has 7 words, and is repeated three times (21 words), and " we have assumed control" has 4 words, and is repeated three times as well (12 words). 21 - 12. Get it? Hoo!... Now, I do have some gripes. Oracle sounds too clumsy to me. It could have done better. And Discovery could have been shorter. Ok, it means the guy discovering the guitar, but well... it takes too much time, that's it. Still it has a great feel. The guitar sounds beautiful, and the transition into Presentation is just perfect.
The second side satisfies me, though. A Passage To Bangkok is fun, fun and fun. The pot lyrics are neat, and the guys rock for real on there. And Something For Nothing has a great 'epic' feel, and it sounds fabulous. Twilight Zone sounds a bit too silly sometimes, but I enjoy iy nonetheless... except that that ridiculously high pitched guitar note before the solo makes me cringe... Lessons is some of your 70's bouncy happy shiny nifty pop with neat acoustic guitars. And Tears... Woo, Tears is beautiful. And shows Geddy CAN do good work in the lyrics. When he's not trying to sound hip and cool on the debut. Yikes. I've once seen a comment on this album "If not for Tears, this album would be flawless." Now, this is scary. I think the grade of 7 (10) is apt.
Best song: Anthem
A SOLID double-live album, one that demonstrates every good side of the earliest epoch of Rush and virtually none of the bad. The only complaints I can really muster for the album are that (a) the performances don't differ from the studio versions that greatly and that (b) being early Rush and all, much of the material still contains problems that I already may have mentioned in the studio album reviews. But otherwise, any negatives for the album are few and far between.
Certain things really jump out at the listener when partaking of this live album. First of all - the band focuses strongly on the RAWK aspect of their sound (which was their main strength of this period, after all), so much so that even the artsier periods are overwhelmed with massive headbanging. Second, related to the first, is that Alex Lifeson has a chance to break free of whatever shackles he may have had in the studio (there weren't many at this point, but you get the message) and break free he does. The rendition of "By-tor" here destroys its studio version, if only because of the efforts of Lifeson. In addition to all sorts of cool ultra-fast solos, he also pulls out guitar sounds that I can only compare to those by David Gilmour on the Ummagumma live album (in particular, listen to "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun"). That's a big big compliment, if you don't know it already (that live album, no kidding, was what got me firmly into Pink Floyd).
Lifeson also gets the chance to rescue "2112" - not only is it about 25% shorter (less atmospheric wank! yay!), but the jamming in every part becomes at least SOMEWHAT entertaining this time around (as opposed to before, when "Overture" and "Temple of Syrinx" were all I liked of it). The lyrics still make me cringe, but whatever - that's a problem with the original, not this version. At least this time the ending parts that are supposed to make me bang my head actually do so.
Elsewhere, the album is pretty much what you'd expect. The bitchin' kickoff rockers of Night and Steel get the album off to a great start, with this version of "Anthem" even managing to exceed the original. Geddy's screaming is even more convincing, Lifeson's solos are more blazing, the sound blows out your speakers if you're not careful ... just beautiful. Anyhow, the rest is all good, if not "jaw-dropping." The most refreshing thing is that the album contains four numbers from the band's debut - on the one hand, I'm not exactly a huge fan of the debut, due to its massively derivative nature, but on the other hand, it's good to see that the band hadn't yet decided it was too good for its non-artsy roots. Call it an issue of psychological appeasement, if you will. And beside, "Finding My Way" and "Working Man" were the two best songs there, while both "In the Mood" and "What You're Doing" are just fine and dandy. Come to think of it, this album has all of the songs from that album that I liked, so maybe you should skip that one and get this.
Elsewhere, ya got yer "Fly by Night," ya got yer "In the End," ya got yer "Something for Nothing" and ya got yer "Lakeside Park." All standard, yet all good. Point is, if you have an interest in the earliest incarnation of the band but don't feel like wading through all the filler, this is as good a place to start as you're going to find. And hey, even if you're an experienced fan, the energy by itself makes it all worth it.
klbax63 . (klbax1963.gmail.com) (05/13/16)
How could you fail to mention Neil's Drum solo? It is without a doubt the biggest part of this Live album. By the time this album was recorded Drum solo's had become a staple of every Hard rock bands live set, and to be honest most were pretty lame, But the solo performed by Professor Neil Peart from this album was a game changer...First off at 4:50 it's pretty short and unlike most drum solos this one had kind of a song structure to it having a beginning,middle and an end. It showcased Neil's mastery of beats,fills,timing as well as his ability as a percussionist with his use bells chimes and woods.The solo from All the worlds a stage Made Neil Peart a Legend and was the first thing talked about by fans after hearing it for the first time.
Best song: Xanadu, nothing else comes close
Lots of fans consider this at least a minor classic; to me, this is an enormous, unfathomable letdown. This is the album where Rush seriously incorporated the gimmicks, relatively complex song structures and various trademarks of prog rock, and I sense that that's part of the reason that many fans adore this album. Well, after buying who knows how many prog rock albums over the years, I'm well past the point of being impressed by the gimmicks themselves. When I listen to this album, I can only focus on one thought; with one major exception, the songwriting, often solid on 2112, has gone straight into the toilet. Five of the six songs strike me as mediocre or worse, and since they're often quite long on top of it, this makes most of the album into a horrid experience for me.
Ok, first the good news. The good news is that the album's second track is my favorite Rush song by a good amount. Xanadu is a magnificent prog epic; I'm probably biased towards it because the atmosphere is rather Yes-ish (it reminds me a bit of the "I Get Up, I Get Down" portion of "Close to the Edge"), but it's a masterful piece in its own right. One thing that strikes me as a little weird about the track is how little of it consists of the (great) "regular" song; probably 2/3's or more of the song is spent on either the bombastic introduction or the grandiose coda. Fortunately, the introduction is freaking great, largely based around an intricate, hypnotic guitar line, mixing in some magnificent ambient guitar noise and some cool riffs. The coda is quite nice too, with some great triumphant guitar solos leading the way. The main part of the song, though, is what produces the bulk of my love for the piece. The lyrical concept is actually quite intriguing (about somebody who achieves immortality but at the cost of never leaving "Xanadu"), the melody is beautiful (yet mildly rocking in the up-tempo parts), and I totally buy the emotions that the piece attempts to generate. Yup, this was as good as Rush ever got.
Too bad the rest of the album SUCKS ASS. The opening title track sounded ok the first couple of times I ever heard it, but quickly became one of my least favorite Rush radio standards. It has a decent classical guitar introduction, but the opening riff strikes me as an inferior rewrite of "Fly by Night," the melody seems boring and rambling, and the lyrics just seem really stupid to me. They're not as stupid as the ones on the fan favorite, "Closer to the Heart," though. The band brought in somebody else to write the lyrics for the song, but they're worse than almost anything Peart ever wrote. I dislike most of the lines, but one line pretty much takes the cake in terms of making me want to stab out my eardrums: "You can be the Captain, and I will draw the Chart, sailing into destiny, closer to the heart." The mid-song guitar solo is ok, but the lyrics, combined with a melody that's sing-songey in the worst sense of the word, make this one of my least favorite Rush songs ever.
Side two isn't any better. "Cinderella Man" is a generic "complex" rock song with more stupid lyrics (and nothing that I find memorable), while the ballad "Madrigal" passes me by every time I hear it. The closing "Cygnus X-1," then, just gets worse and worse each time I hear it. If "Xanadu" was Rush's masterpiece, then this was Rush's greatest self-parody. There isn't really even a song in here; it sounds like a bunch of lazy warmup riffs pasted together (only made recognizable as Rush by the repeated start-stops for their own sake), all tied together by ridiculous "sci-fi" sound effects and lyrics about traveling through space into a black hole. If I want to hear a song about traveling through space, which actually FEELS like a song about traveling through space, I'll put on "Pioneers Over c" (by Van Der Graaf Generator); if I want to hear a song about traveling into a black hole, which actually FEELS like traveling into a black hole (or something similar), I'll listen to "Into the Void" (by Black Sabbath). I will never, EVER bother with something as half-baked as this.
I know that many Rush fans might want to kill me for this review, but this album mostly disgusts me. Were it not for the greatness of "Xanadu," this album would be in the range of a 3 or 4; as is, it's still easily Rush's worst album of the 70's. Fortunately, it was pretty much an anomaly; the band's best era was about to begin.
Mostly in agreement here - when I first heard this album, I thought I'd end up giving it a 5 myself, but I do admire "Closer To The Heart" somewhat. It's not their best 'pop' oriented song, not even close, but it is rather nice - and I don't even mind the lyrics (Peart did have a hand in writing them, BTW). This album should be very very thankful for the presence of "Xanadu", though, cause without it I would probably give the album a 4 (not godawful, but lousy nonetheless, according to Prindle's scale). I don't love that song quite as much as you do, but it is a damn impressive piece, and the fact that at 11 minutes it's the longest thing on the album helps everything out immensely. With it, the first half ain't bad, probably in the 7-8 range (the title track is decent, but the melody is weak, which pretty much keeps it from reaching any potential it could have had). The second half, however, is a total drag to sit through. "Cinderella Man" is completely generic, "Madrigal" is a really non-descript ballad, and "Cygnus X-1"... ergghh errggh erggghh. That's probably the WORST Rush song I can think of with the possible exception of "The Big Wheel" (but that one's only half this song's length). Neil, this is taking the sci-fi stuff too far! And while you're at it tell Geddy to stop screaming! For me, this is by far the low point of Rush's progressive era, and IMHO the worst album they'd put out until Roll The Bones, which has an even more depressing to sit through second half.
Cole Bozman (bozmn.intercom.net)
hey John, allow me to be the pedantic jerk who points out that Pye Dubois didn't write the lyrics to "Closer to the Heart", he (she? is "Pye" a male or female name?) wrote the "Tom Sawyer" lyrics. Some guy named Talbot wrote the lyrics to "CttH".
Stephen B Marseille (sbm82.columbia.edu) (7/21/01)
Yet again, we find ourselves in agreement (regarding Rush, at least). Xanadu is easily their best effort, far outstripping anything before or after. When I was 14, I was a Rush fanatic - I had all the albums, videos, et cetera. But now, 11 years later, I only own A Farewell To Kings... and it is only for this one track. I sit in wonder of the fact that I used to really love this band when I hear most of their material now (with a couple of exceptions, albeit few and far between), but Xanadu remains a fav. Behind a few Genesis (PG era), Mike Oldfield, and Yes tracks, that is.
james rowlee (jmrwl13.yahoo.com) (10/29/02)
Well I can't say as I agree with you in your rating for this fine album. I mean I thought it was their third best work for cygnus x-1 and closer to the heart as well as xanadu.
I enjoy it a lot . it's up in the 8-9 range for me. my fave rush albums are #1. 2112 I give it a 10 out of 13.
#2. self titled this has some gret hard driving quitar work and drumming as well as good hard singing. I give it 8 out of 13 rating.
And farewell to kings of course is #3. followed by Tom Sawyer (red barchetta rules you know).
I am not much of a fan of live albums by this band because it seems to water down the studio effect for me.
As for the rest of their stuff....
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Oops. Okay, okay, so Xanadu is terrific. There's nothing much to say here, except that it's terrific, period. But hey, I don't hate the other stuff that much. In fact I don't hate it at all. The title track is nowhere near 'bad' for me. Of course the riff was made as if Alex had to come up with a riff in 5 secs in order to save his life, and the solo is, uh, 'drunk', but I like the song, somehow. Cinderella Man is nothing nasty to me, and I do like it a lot - probably one of my favourites on side B. Madrigal is cute and short. Fine by me. And then, I adore Closer To The Heart. The acoustic line sounds really nice, the sounds they create here are pleasant, and the vocal melody is well-crafted. Lyrics? Uhm... right. And what's wrong with Cygnus X-1? I don't see anything nasty on it... er, except for the narrated intro. Of course it's nothing but a hodge-podge of riffs thrown carelessly on there, but I think it creates a neat effect, and it sounds great. For me, at least. I'd raise this rating to a 7, possibly. The same as 2112, yeah.
john avalos (re3012001.yahoo.com) (11/06/04)
like foreman said 2 merchant,"u look at boxing u dont know boxing". this is not pablum. cinderella man is a courageous effort do u really think they wanted that title? alexs backwards solos and wah tech on cm was way ahead of its time. as 4 the "pretty good solo" in aftk, its a f'n masterpiece, ged alex n Neil improv stsggard meter is unique 2 this day,(keep in mind that the nuge was considered god at this time) lol. have u ever been experienced ? well i have. i dont blame u bout closer i always thought it was weak, but hey they gotta play the bills right? i got an idea, if ur ability 4 recall is a barometer 4 ur intel try hummin the solos, or hey try thinking polyphonically ? in ur case bud a little knowledge can be a dangerous think or do i mean thing? watch out 4 dat ice age!
McFerrin doesn't praise Xanadu enough. It's perfect. All those tempo changes, all those different melodies and themes result in a highly complex composition - far more than CttE - and still Xanadu remains very tight. It's one of the very, very few compositions I haven't been able to unravel completely (classical music included) and I know it for 30 years or so. It manages to build up the tension slowly while keeping the listener's attention. The coda provides a satisfying feel of symmetry by equally effectively cutting back on the tension.
Closer to the Heart is the first of a whole string of poppy songs. It surprises me somewhat that McFerrin doesn't like it, as it already hints at later similar stuff. The title song shows that how inconsistent Rush could be even in one relatively short song. The acoustic intro is gorgeous. It's really a pity the band did not do acoustic music like that more often. Complex and still highly recognizable themes with shifting accents - forget Black Mountain Side and Mood for a Day. Unfortunately A Farewell to Kings (the song) is followed by one of the most generic hardrock riffs I have ever heard. The musical interlude is intriguing because of its unusual rhythm, but the guitar solo falls completely on its face.
I have a weak spot for Cygnus X-1. Don't protest, all McFerrin's criticism is justified. Still here and there there are some fine riffs to find.
The other two songs perfectly define filler.
"matt faris" (7headedchicken.gmail.com) (04/13/11)
I'd have to disagree slightly and give this one an 8, mainly because the song "A Farewell To Kings" is so good. Won't argue with you on "Xanadu", though. Will on "Closer To the Heart" - that is a great pop song. So is "Cinderella Man" - I think it would have fit in nicely on side two of *2112*. Would probably give the album a higher rating if not for the last two tracks: "Madrigal", like all progressive rock songs that are called "Madrigal", is a little dull, and "Cygnus X-1, Book 1" is not one of their best extended pieces. The bass, of course, rules. But that is just from the standpoint of reviewing and rating albums. There have been times when I've listened to *A Farewell To Kings* and considered it to be just as good as *Fly By Night*, *Hemishperes*,* Moving Pictures*, and *Test For Echo*, and I also hold the belief that any idea, musical or not, can be appreiciated if in the right frame of mind.
Here's a mixed one. Of the six tracks here, only half of them I find to be keepers. The title and "Madrigal" are nothing special (though not offensive), but "Cygnus X-1" is indeed a mess.
As for "Closer To The Heart", it's not that bad really. Oh well, one man's treasure is another's trash, I suppose.
All in all, a disappointment compared to what the band has done before and since.
My rating: 6/10. Maybe weak 7/10, but I'm probably pushing it there.
Best tracks: "Xanadu", "Closer To The Heart", "Cinderella Man"
Worst Tracks: "Cygnus X-1"
Best song: Hemispheres
A GOOD album, and none too soon. A Farewell to Kings could have easily indicated that Rush had run out of gas and were about to fade into oblivion, but fortunately that wasn't the case. Starting with this album (and fan favorite, in my observation), the band was able to launch itself into a period of, if not necessarily greatness, then solid competency.
The fact that I enjoy this album so much is made all the more remarkable by the fact that, lyrically, I consider this album bad even by Rush standards. Of the three songs with lyrics (the fourth, the closing "La Villa Strangiato," is instrumental), one ("Circumstances") is unremarkable for good or bad, but the tracks which bookend it strike me as totally ridiculous. The opening side-long "Hemispheres (Cygnus X-1: Book II)" tackles the age-old concept of the heart-mind dichotomy, but the problem is not the subject matter; rather it's that Peart decides to frame the argument around what I can only describe as a greek mythology fan fiction. The lyrics make me cringe every time I hear them, and given that the track lasts over 18 minutes, there's a lot of them to make me grit my teeth. The other offending track is "The Trees," where Peart writes a straight-forward parable deriding the concept of labor unions. The lyrics are off the charts on the unintentional comedy scale, to say the least.
When I ignore (and I don't mean tolerate or just allow to blend into the background, I mean IGNORE) the lyrics, though, this album turns out to be really great. Musically, the title track is EASILY my favorite of the band's three side-long epics, and strikes me as one of the neatest things the band ever did. The first ten minutes are built around a growling bass-driven riff, which regularly alternates with a beautiful, ambient-esque guitar line from Lifeson, and they interact amazingly. One thing that really impresses me is that those ten minutes do a good job of slowly, continually building up tension, while also continually releasing that tension, but at a slower rate than the build up; the result is that, by the end of those ten minutes, there's an overwhleming amount of net tension, and I have to respect any piece that can pull that off.
The best part of the track, though, and the chunk that drives me crazy with glee every time I hear it, is around the 12-minute mark or so. It's that quiet, robotic-sounding (drenched in atmospheric synths) part with the "I see the gods in battle rage on high" lyrics. The idea at this point in the song is to portray Cygnus' entry into the palace on Olympus, and they did it they did it they did it so well!!! That part is so majestically eerie that I can't help but tip my hat to the talent the guys so obviously posessed. Too bad they couldn't show it all of the time ...
The track ends with a rather throwaway acoustic snippet, which was obviously intended to be a "heart-warming" coda, but which seems a bit tacked on to me. Still, it hardly mars the effect of the whole track, which is quite magnificent. The second side, then, can't possibly hope to live up to the first, but it does a decent job anyway. "Circumstances" is a decent riff-rocker; it never quite moves beyond the main riff, and seems to me to somewhat overstay its welcome, but I'm fine it. As for "The Trees," well, my opinion of it is pretty much the exact opposite of what it used to be: I used to think the lyrics were ok, while the music was lacking. Now, though, I basically hate the lyrics, but I think the melody (which starts off acoustic-based) is quite nice, and even the mid-song instrumental break, even if it's too overlong for my tastes, is quite cool.
The most famous track from this album, then, is the closer. "La Villa Strangiato" is a 14-part instrumental (supposedly) based around a strange dream that Lifeson had one night (I am SO GLAD Peart didn't try to write lyrics for this). The music is good, especially for how it gives Alex a chance to display his diverse skill set. I don't find it an immortal classic, and it doesn't seem as energetic on the whole as it does when I play it in my head, but most of the individual sections are quite interesting. The "monsters" riff, and the parts where the riffs seemingly use the quiet synth parts as a launching pad, are my favorite parts, but it's all quite decent. I still prefer the Exit ... Stage Left version, though.
This is a fine, fine album. I am not a Rush fan by any means, and the lyrics cause me to be much harsher to it than I'd like to based on the music itself, but I cannot deny the high quality of the album. No Rush fan should be without it. It's kinda short, but there's a good remedy for that; play it twice.
It's kind of hard to pick which album exactly is the most representative of the entire Rush catalog, since their sound gradually changed over the years to the point where the difference in sound between the debut and Test For Echo is pretty damn overwhelming to the point it doesn't sound like the same band at all (and yes, those were the last two studio Rush albums I bought!!), yet they're both essentially hard rock, not prog, albums. Anyway, though, as I mentioned before in an earlier comment, I think Hemispheres would have to be that quintessential album. There's a trace of their hard rocking period in "Circumstances", the synth era in that eerie portion of the title track (which completely kicks my ass as well, and would later be redone in an inferior fashion on the next album's "Jacob's Ladder") among other places, the extremely technical musicianship in "La Villa Strangiato", and the condensed complex prog format of "The Trees" (my personal favorite), which I feel is the key link between the 70's and 80's periods of the band, as it's where I think Peart really comes into his own as a lyricist. I'd agree with the 11 overall rating for this album - I gave it an 8 on my site originally, but I'd settle with a very very high 7 now, since there are parts of the two longer songs which I'm not hugely in love with, like the title track's lyrics (though I'm extremely moved by the ending acoustic bit - I would dispute that those lines aren't VERY poetic) and vocals, and the arrangement of "La Villa". I just had to be difficult and switch the ratings with Grace Under Pressure, since that album has a somewhat bigger effect on me (well mostly the first half, admittedly), and I play it much more often than this one.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Ooh! Ooh! Goody-goody! The first true Rush goodie! Yay! I love this word, HEMISPHERES, especially when it's written in capitals and in Arial. I love it! HEMISPHERES! HEMISPHERES! I can't get tired of it!
And neither can I get tired of that song. Boy, the first time I heard it, I was in paradise. The guitar sounds are superb, the production is flawless, the drums and bass interplay, the riffs, the lyrics-- oops! The lyrics... Ehh, they're annoying, as I said before. But screw the lyrics, I can hardly understand them anyway (Brazil, you know). The music here is superb. The Prelude is a promising intro, and the rest keeps up well with it. All guitar parts here soar, like those opening booming F# chords, the neat appregio that follows the heavy riffing, the moog synth riff (I love that one! Meeeew - Meeeew - MEEW, meew, MEEW, meew), the riffs that go through Apollo and Dyonisus... Everything. I love the guitar solo between the two twin parts with that athmospheric picking behind it. Apocalypse is infinitely cool as well. And, hoo boy, glad you mentioned the part that comes afterwards. It's really, really beautiful. I think it's up to match the I Get Up I Get Down part of Close To The Edge ::ducks a tomato::. And the mighty comeback on Cygnus part is neat, as long as that speedy coda... and The Sphere is so beautiful... I love the way the moog synth comes below the guitars and it ends with that D note dying away...
Fortunately, B side reveals some more goodies. Circumstances is kinda underrated. The chorus riffing is magnificent, and the whole song has a superb flow. The Trees is more show-offy, but has neat stuff all through it. And then, La Villa Strangiato... I have no words to it. Really. It's fabulous. I'm in total agreement with your 8 (11). Well, maybe almost total. I'd raise it to a 8 (12), maybe.
john avalos (re3012001.yahoo.com) (11/06/04)
its funny how u dig the village so much when the boys were doing it in jest, parr 4 the course, "the whole wide world an endless universe still u keep looking thru the eyeglass in reverse". i am pleased that u curb ur scoff at the story tellin of book 2, "beating down the multitudes and scoffing at the wise"(aftk). geddys role is that of sage storyteller here, this is a tru masterpiece with the comercials at the end on side b. alexs use of the problematic gr500 was great,(i ued 2 own one 2)his upgrade frm echoplex to roland re301 an hiwatt amps were his most defining sound. dont believe me just axe him. thier use of the moog taurus is exel after ged got the voltage control mod, ie (used to play higher register sustaining notes, ie the 1st solo), a technically sound production.
Hemispheres is easily my favourite Rush album and still I have a major complaint. I just dislike La Villa Strangiato. It's just a show-off, a hollow presentation of meaningless virtuosity. The musical content lacks any depth. Remove the brilliant play and the fine arrangement and simply nothing is left. LVS is just a lot of swank, even worse than Paganini's boring output.
Fortunately the rest shines. Hemispheres is the one and only successfull rocksymphony I know. To be more precise: the song is written as a first movement as it uses the sonata form. In the instrumental introduction several main themes are presented. When Lee begins to sing "When our weary world..." the exposition begins, after which the themes are developed. The quiet synths part deviates, but oh is it well placed from a musical point of view. It provides a huge contrast with the recapitulation, which sees the melody slightly changed. Compare "When our weary world ..." with "Apollo was astonished ...". A short but violent instrumental coda brings the song to its logical end.
As I wrote above I also like the acoustic part very much, but only on itself. It hasn't any musical relation with the main structure and as such it is superfluous. Still by no means I would want to miss it. Note how every single line presents a variation on the main melody and how it naturally passes into a completely melody, that perfectly serves as a coda.
Surely Circumstance and The Trees don't live up to that standard - not to speak of Xanadu - but as the riffs, melodies and arrangements are fine I am happy with them.
Trfesok.aol.com (05/13/12) Yes, this is definitely stronger than the next one by far. The playing and production are much tighter, particularly on the title track. Marvelous musically, but, yeah the lyrics are a bit much (a space traveler passes through a black hole [which you can't do], reaches Olympus, and becomes a god? Huh?). The Yes influences become quite pronounced on all the songs, such as on "Bringer of Balance", the bridge of "The Trees", and some sections of the other two tracks.
"The Trees" was the most popular track, but I like the lyrics even less after reading here that it's a diatribe against unions. (I was having trouble figuring out how the last verse could make any sense). But, what's the message here, Neal? Don't bother trying to cooperate with each other, because, in the end, the Corporate Man will just chop you down? This seems especially hypocritical when you realize that bands HAVE to join a musician's union. I'm sure a lot of 15-year-old metalheads thought that the metaphor was oh-so-profound, but it's just another byproduct of Randian nonsense. Too bad, because it's a good song musically. "Circumstances" was the other track that got a lot of airplay, and the lyrics, but putting a line in French is rather odd - -trying to get the Quebecois in the audience? Finally, the band has a sense of humor by subtitling "La Villa Strangiato" "An Exercise in Self- Indulgence" (that would apply more to "Hemispheres") and giving the sections goofy titles. But the track is another fine example of their musicianship.
I'm getting a little bit more intrigued by Rush (particularly Signals, because it was such a radical change in sound for them), but I find it hard to believe that they surpassed this one.
Best song: The Spirit Of Radio or Free Will
There weren't many bands from the 70's that clearly improved with the beginning of the 80's as much as Rush did. This album isn't as different from their previous work as I used to think, but it feels different, and that means a lot for me. Yes, it's still largely tied to prog rock (I mean, it is a full length album with six tracks), and it's bombastic in places, but this album is not juvenile. It's very geeky in places, yes, and overly simplified philosophically in others, but Rush finally feels to me like it's grown up (or at least advanced further in puberty). The band has taken its core sound and made it more accessible, but without coming within a hundred miles of "selling out" or anything like that. It's my understanding that critics of the day largely knocked them for not coming up with a truly original sound, and that has a point, but the band came up with a plenty enjoyable stew of influences, so I'm not terribly bothered by this brand of new-wave progressive pop rock. The songwriting dips noticably in the middle, but aside from that, this is a very nice album, and definitely the band's best yet.
The first two tracks are two of the best known, and best, tracks the band ever did. "The Spirit of Radio" does a lot of things well, and much of what it does mines familiar territory (the awesome "rolling" guitar riff, a lot of cool processed guitar noise in Lifeson's sound in the middle), but there are some nice new twists. There's a goofy (but great) reggae-ish section near the end (which was used in a Burger King Kids Club commercial in the late 90's), a repeated neat sequence where the riff launches itself off of some simple keyboard lines, a melody that actually has an effective pop feel, and even lyrics that I find very good (if a bit labored in the typical Peart way). Plus, the song has a feeling of joy I've never really felt in a Rush song before; it's so nice to feel such a friendly vibe when Geddy sings, "Begin the day with a friendly voice," and I can feel that the band really has a love for good music and those radio stations that play it. Yup, this here is a great song.
"Free Will" is a classic too, dagnabbit. The lyrics are dumb, yes, and the chorus just sounds a bit too much (both lyrically and musically) like what I'd expect to be the climactic song in a Broadway musical about the life of Ayn Rand, but it's still a great song. The basslines are ridiculously entertaining, the vocal melody is fun, the mid-song jam sounds interesting every time I hear it, and yes, I even like the chorus, despite myself. For better or worse, this song has become one of Rush's calling cards through the years, and I know that, were I ever to go to a Rush concert, I would be very disappointed not to hear it.
Unfortunately, the album gets noticably weaker after the second best opening 1-2 punch in the band's catalogue. I used to consider "Jacob's Ladder" close to the best song on the album, but I'm much less thrilled with it than I used to be, even though I consider it quite good and overly maligned by many. The song is basically Rush's interpretation of a lightning storm, not from within the storm itself (if so, it would be a lot louder and faster and more spastic), but rather from a distance, watching the clouds gather and lightning flash far away. From that perspective I find it to be quite atmospheric, menacing and even powerful; it has a lot of tension in its leaden, mid-tempo jamming, and the lyrics only enhance the experience and never detract from it. It's kinda boring in terms of not going anywhere and in terms of how few ideas it has, but those ideas are basically done well enough.
The second side, honestly, starts as a bit of a disappointment for me, with two pop ballads that might represent new stylistic ground for the band but don't suggest it was a good direction for them. "Entre Nous" only has a decent introduction and that interesting melody with the "Just between us, I think it's time for us to recognize" part; otherwise, I find the song quite bland. I've listened to "Different Strings" plenty of times, and except for a single line in the middle, I've found it continues not to make any lasting impression on me. I don't hate the track, but I don't really like it much either.
I like the album closer, "Natural Science," way more than I probably should, though. One should always have a slight suspicion when Rush makes 9 minute songs, but I think this one is just magnificent. The lyrics are sometimes hilariously dumb ("A quantum leap forward in time and space!"), but the music is great. The acoustic intro is beautiful, the middle third is memorable, catchy and complex at once, and the final third is grandiose without being annoying. What else could you possibly want from a Rush epic? I could listen to this twenty times in a row and not get as sick of it as I do from one listen to Cygnus X-1.
I find this album weaker than I used to, but it's still great by Rush's standards. It goes without saying that any Rush fan should have this, and even people who don't like Rush should have this in their collections.
High 8, bordering on 9. I once thought for awhile I'd be switching the rating with 2112 at one point, but that'll probably never happen. The best songs on here, though, are just as amazing as the ones on Moving Pictures, it's just that album has more outstanding consistency. I agree with most of this review, except I find "Jacob's Ladder" kinda dull and "Entre Nous" fantastic (fabulous chord sequence and verse melody, and it's one of their most moving songs). The former isn't a bad song - I just think the jam's too repetitive and it seems to me the music rips off the ideas already explored in "Hemispheres". But I seriously dig the Exit: Stage Left version of it for some reason - in fact, I probably prefer the whole entire first half of this album live to the originals (which I guess says something, and IMHO that's a rare case for E:SL, sorry to say), particularly "The Spirit Of Radio", which is in my top 10 Rush tracks easily. Even Neil Peart haters have to admit the lyrics are good (I love 'em - but I' m a dork and proud of it!) And the music can't be beat! "Natural Science" is also in my top 10, has fantastic poetic moments I think ('art as expression, not as market campaigns?' yeah!) and the music flows exceptionally well. I agree it's extremely hard to tell what the best track here is - I would have said "Entre Nous" at first, but now for me it rotates between "Spirit Of Radio" and "Natural Science", two opening and closing tracks as magnificent as any pair I've heard. An extremely high 11. Or low 12 or whatever.
My second favorite Rush album. I'll agree with Awake600's take on "Jacob's Ladder." I really wish this song was just a little bit better, so I could call this a great album. I think it almost succeeds, but there's some parts that seem a little boring, and I don't like the ending. But every other song is just great. Some of the best Rush out there. "Entre Nous" and "Different Strings" are not bland, there are very beatiful and interesting. When these two songs are on, I feel like both sides of my brain are being stimulated. I don't think I've heard Rush sound this convincingly sensitive anywhere else. And of course, the remaining songs are worth talking about too, but it's been done here...
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Boy, I suffered to get this one. Damn that old Morpheus, I took too long to get those Entré Nous and Jacob's Ladder and Natural Science. But they rock. They definitely rock. Natural Science is the best. Ok, that acoustic intro doesn't do much to me, but it has an eerie "cavernous" effect. And I like the way the riff comes and it kicks off into Hyperspace, with those great riffs and that speedy part with the synth leading the way. Finally, we have the Permanent Waves section, and it's top-notch. The way it alternates between the two parts is great, and the vocal melody is nice. But hey, Jacob's Ladder is a goodie too! The way it emulates the storm is dazzling, and I can already visualize the sky becoming grey as the intro kicks in. And I hate that. I hate rain. I despise rain with all my passion... Whatever, even the rain becomes beautiful in this song. The onslaught of guitar work is superb, and the way the synth parts come in clearing the sky and the 'redeeming' riff kicks in is fabulous.
The pair of opening tracks is magnificent as well. Both Spirit Of Radio and Free Will are well deserved classics. I can't find words to describe it. You do it. Oh, you already did it. Great. And the pair of B side openers don't disappoint, either. I think Entré Nous is really, really great. The opening guitar line is superb, and the vocal melody is nice. It has a great vibe. I don't find it bland. It's tastey in my ears. Ehh... Whatever. I also don't dislike Different Strings. I also find it very good. It's also a fan favourite, as far as I cal tell. And Geddy once again deals fine with the lyrics. "Making arrows out of pointed words." Good going, Geddy! Have a cookie.
Overall... Yeah, a very strong 8 indeed.
This is the only Rush album that I own, and that's only because I won a free LP. Inspired by your review, I recently pulled it out to give it a few spins. It was in really good shape, which indicates how much play it got over the years. I remain sort of underwhelmed. For better or worse, this album typifies why I just can't get into Rush. I would think that I'd be able to. They have all the ingredients for major prog fans -- terrific musicianship; weird, pretentious lyrics; time signature changes galore.
However, despite this, there are drawbacks. Alex is a great guitarist, but for all his tricks, his work still sounds like a fairly typical hard rock/heavy metal player. The standard I hold this band up against, and especially Alex, is 1973-74 King Crimson. As far as prog goes. he simply can't hold a candle to Fripp for melding hard rock and prog with more creative sounds. Of course, this made Alex more accessible to the many headbangers in Rush's audience.
Then there's Geddy's voice. For me. it's not a case of not liking high pitched male vocals, since I own a vast majority of Yes's albums! To me, the guy's voice sounds unnatural, as if (increasingly obscure analog reference coming) he was recorded at 33RPM and played back at 45RPM. It has a nasal, cartoonish quality which can really grate on me. In some ways, this makes Rush's instrumentals more fun, by default.
As for Peart's lyrics, I find him rather awkward and somewhat overwordy, more than anything else. Reading that he's influenced by Ayn Rand was interesting. My limited exposure to her is that she was, basically, ripping off Nietzsche (and her "Objectivism" didn't seem to help her in her personal life one iota). Neil's attempts at depth seem to reflect the lack thereof in Rand's work, no matter what he's trying to write about.
As for this album, the two epics, despite some good playing by the group, don't leave any lasting impression. The first two songs got infinite airplay at the time, which meant that they wore out their welcome for a long time (along with "Tom Sawyer", which I still can't stand). Nowadays, they come off as nice enough pop songs. "The Spirit of Radio" was released, ironically, at the the time that the spirit of late 60's/70's free form radio was being overtaken by corporate programmers such as Lee Abrams. Peart was astute enough to recongize this. "Free Will", for all its big phrasing, is indeed simplistic, atheistic "philosophizing", but it's pretty catchy. "Different Strings" is OK, but my favorite is probably "Entre Nous", which also got a bit of airplay. Neil actually approaches real emotional resonance here, but you need another singer besides Geddy to get there.
I also recently listened to Hemispheres all the way through, and it strikes me as the stronger album. Still, neither have converted me. OK for an occasional listen (nothing here is outright terrible), but I'll take my Red or Larks' Tongues in Aspic any day.
McFerrin is spot on when it comes to Spirit of Radio; nothing to add to his comments. But I largely disagree on Free Will. Again bland riffage, bland melodies and a desire to please by omitting everything that could be even vaguely harmful. It's the logical successor of Closer to the Heart. I think McFerrin is inconsistent here, which he fortunately has the full right of.
I think it remarkable how few people seem to get Jacob's Ladder - the first part. The second part is a boring piece of ambient. I understand that it is meant to contrast with the first part, but as such 30 seconds would have been more than enough. Long live the computer age - I have cut it off mercilessly. It's the first part that rules. Has anybody but me tried to find out which time signature it has? 11/4, 13/4, 17/4, I don't know. Still the riff sounds so natural and is varied in so many ways. Well done.
I also like Natural Science. As a composition it's failure as the three parts don't have any musical connection. Still there are several good riffs, though it has far less ideas than Xanadu. The acoustic intro is beautiful and clever again. The other two songs have never left any impression.
Best song: Limelight
My original impression of this album was that this was the inferior younger brother of Permanent Waves, with fewer interesting songs and a more synth-based, less interesting sound. I had given the album the same grade as PW, but did so very grudgingly, and a 9 or so would have been more in line with my true feelings. Now, though, I give it a solid B, and this grade is one I actually believe in for the album. Furthermore, I now better understand the album's place in Rush's evolution; where I had once considered it a step back in quality (done in the name of sounding "modern"), I consider this another strong step forward for the band, and the best album the band had done yet. I'm not overwhelmed by most of the songs, but now I can understand how somebody could be overwhelmed with them, and that makes a big difference.
The giants of the album are "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight," two tracks that I've always loved and are certainly among the band's best work. I once used to consider the synths in Tom Sawyer to be a little overdone, but I wouldn't dream of that now; this is one of the most effective examples of "power synths" I can think of from any band, and it blends in well with the strong work from the other three (I'm really fond of Lifeson's mid-song screwy guitar solo, which kinda reminds me of the atonality from his solo in "A Farewell to Kings," only done a million times better). Plus, I like the vocal melodies a lot, too. As for "Limelight," my enjoyment of the track has just grown and grown over the years, until it's easily become my second favorite Rush song. Lyrically, it's a treatise on alienation from others as one's stardom grows, but while some of the lyrics are quite nice (albeit stiff and pedantic in the standard Peart way), the lyrics aren't the main draw for me. This is just a fantastic rock song, with an amazing bass line, phenomenally tight playing, a great guitar sound, and a terrific vocal melody that does a perfect job of working in and around the instrumental parts. If there's a reason to consider MP an all-time classic, "Limelight"'s gotta be that reason.
So those are the tracks I've always loved, but what about the rest? Well, truth be told, I still don't love any of the other five tracks, but I do at least like most of them without hesitation, and that's an improvement. The tracks bookended by "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" on the first side, "Red Barchetta" and "YYZ," are better than I used to think. "Red Barchetta" is an up-tempo rock song about a guy having to play "chicken" in his automobile with a couple of futuristic "air cars," and while it's kinda silly lyrically, it has some nice riffs and a good vocal melody. My problem with this version is that I don't feel the sense of excitement and energy that I think Rush meant to convey (and that I'm sure many fans feel when listening to the song); I can't really shake the feeling that it's a song about excitement more than it's one with excitement. It's still nice, though. "YYZ," then is a much beloved instrumental, and on paper it should be the greatest instrumental Rush ever did and one of their best tracks. I mean, it has quite a few different riffs, it incorporates a number of styles, it has a ton of power (the ensemble playing is insanely tight), and it has no Peart lyrics! So, um ... why is my ending reaction to the song always along the lines of a mild "Hey, that's kinda neat" and a shoulder shrug? I really don't know; it's not lack of memorability (like I once thought), so I'm gonna have to say it's more that the piece doesn't once evoke a noticable physical or emotional response in me. Still, despite that flaw, there's something to be said for a piece that I think is this neat.
Starting up the second half is an 11-minute epic in "The Camera Eye," which marks the last time Rush would do a piece of this length. I do think it's a pretty good extended number, but, well, pretty good extended numbers aren't that hard to find in the world. It's mildly impressive when it's on, and Lifeson has some cool echo effects in his guitar, but 11 minutes is a bit much for a piece that's basically built around two decent musical themes. I get the feeling the band put a lot of effort into the small details of the song, and it does have a decent build as the piece goes on, but again; how many times can I use the word "decent" to describe this song before I just have to accept that it's not much more than that?
Up next is "Witch Hunt," which is probably my third favorite of the album, behind the two giants. It's rather silly lyrically, but it has a convincing dark atmosphere, and the combination of the grumbling metallic riffage and the slow synthesizer chord sequences makes it totally worthwhile musically. And finally, "Vital Signs" is a mildly disappointing closer, with a decent vocal hook in parts of the chorus, and an amusing tinge of reggae in the verses, but not much in the way of a memorable vocal melody in the verses.
As usually happens with Rush albums, I find this one very inconsistent, but at least it's inconsistent at a higher level than what had come before. I will never find this even close to an all-time classic, but I do think it belongs in any decent rock collection, and that means something.
Well I'm at least glad you gave credit to "Limelight" - it's definitely in my top 5 Rush tracks too... I absolutely LOVE the melody, lyrics and bassline. Other than that, I guess it's understandable that you'd give this an 8 (11), but to me all these songs just rule. They're extremely catchy, but still very precise and technical. And the vibe of the music fits perfectly with the lyrics. I just totally adore the first half of this thing. "Tom Sawyer", as overplayed as it may be (though I don't listen to the radio much anymore), is one hell of a song, with the spacey synth melody and amusing lyrics. "Red Barchetta" is in my opinion the ULTIMATE driving song - just listen to it when you're out on the road, it's simply magical. "YYZ" has got to be their best instrumental by a longshot, and of course there's "Limelight". The second half is just a tiny bit weaker, but it still kicks nonetheless. "The Camera Eye" (their last extended epic) is a nice farewell to that song style, alternating between great riffs, awesome keys and a 'streets of the city' atmosphere that works marvelously. "Witch Hunt" is one of their great underrated tracks, with a dark vibe and a fabulous verse chord sequence and synth between the verses. The closing "Vital Signs" is SO unbelievably dorky in its' melody and lyrics that it's extremely fun and infectious. Definitely my pick for Rush's masterpiece. ** 10 (14) **
"Sittinger, Brian D" (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/29/01)
As this is a Rush album, and I'm not a Rush fanatic (this will not happen, either, I feel ambivalent about them, similar to you perhaps, only I haven't had the spine to check out most of the rest of their catalogue), I bought this one on sale! Well, it's okay, and that's that!!
The only song that I skip is "Vital Signs" (the synths get on my nerves here, plus these lyrics are truly laughable). Other than that, no bad songs on here, the highlight being "Limelight". I won't say this is as catchy as .... (see Prindle's page to fill in the blank!), but it's among my favorite Rush songs, being based on a good riff, and having GOOD LYRICS (ha! ha!), pleasant singing, and a great solo. "Tom Sawyer" is okay, never one of my all-time favorites (you would thinks its complex structure would grab me a bit more!?), though I maintain the E:SL version is a tad better (as is "YYZ" and "Red Barchetta", too). "Witch Hunt" has a great atmosphere by the synthesizers (of all things!), while "The Camera Eye", while on is very pleasant, is a bit repetitious, and can be unmemorable. But, they are truly not bad at all!! This album is worthy of a very low 8 out of 10 (a 7 doesn't feel quite right).
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Oooooh... Boy, I love this one. These 4 dudes in side A were some of my first Rush songs ever, and I still hold them a place in my heart. Tom Sawyer rules with all the might, and Limelight both sounds rocking and gorgeous at the same time. Beautiful guitar riffs there, and an interesting chord sequence. Red Barchetta.... I love that one! Perfect song for driving! Or... for riding a car... or a bus. I don't drive, you know. But I love going to the beach by bus. This song's a must. And YYZ is downright great.
Side B is weaker, I agree. The Camera Eye is a nice goodbye to their long tracks (it is, isn't it? I'd hate to make myself an idiot here). It has great guitar work, also, and neat sounding synths. Now, Witch Hunt doesn't attract me so much. Sure it's haunting, but... meh. I must be in the right mood to be carried away by it. Though Vital Signs has a better haunting effect. I love that chorus repeated over and over on the fade out, and Geddy sounds very intriguing there. I feel sometimes he's about to choke. Ehh... Whatever. I'd give this boy an 9 (13), I think. Maybe I'd love Exit Stage Left, but I don't own it! Listen, I don't have that much money, alright? Dang. Funky dang. I went downtown Monday to buy me a record, but I couldn't find that bloody To Our Children's Children's Children. Not even Days Of Future Passed. Stupid LP stores. But I got Foxtrot, so I'm happy.
Okay, moving on.....
"Fernando H. Canto" (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (2/26/03)
I just wanted to make a little remark on YYZ, that I forgot to do before. I think I feel the exact opposite of what you feel about it. The first time I listened to it on MIDI format, I've thought "Wow, this is *cool*!" And it was even better when I got the real version. The song is very cleverly crafted, and it gives each member the opportunity to shine. I remark that part where Alex plays those variations on the same riff, and both Geddy and Neil alternate in their short solos. The riffs are cool, and the whole band interplay is awesome. And yes, it's perfectly memorable to me. But then again... each to his own twisted brain.
Eric Hart (ehartgator.cfl.rr.com) (08/16/06)
Rush is my favorite band, and while I don't agree with everything you say in your critique, I do appreciate the honesty and objectivity. Before I comment on this album, however, I do have a bone to pick with you. A common theme of yours is how much certain songs sound like Yes, which implies that Rush is constantly ripping off Yes. It is obvious that you were a Yes fan first, and I think that this is clouding your objectivity.
(author's note): This is actually incorrect. I did not hear a single note of Yes music until July '98, and didn't get my second Yes album until October '98. Due to my brother's collection, however, I was familiar with a good chunk of Rush's catalogue as early as late '96.
Now to Moving Pictures. This was my first Rush album, which I purchased right when it came out. I was a fan ever since. By the way, the building on the cover is the parliament building in Toronto--I have a picture of myself standing on the steps. Yes, I am a nerd, and I am proud of it.
Overall, the album impresses me as being one of the best produced albums of the entire Rush catalog--at least for the 70s and 80s. You say that Signals is a great album--I agree, but there is a noticable drop-off in production quality between Moving Pictures and Signals. Rush actually fired their long-time producer after Signals because they couldn't believe he did such a slack job on Signals.
Here is my song-by-song analysis of the album.
Tom Sawyer is solid but overplayed. I love the drum runs towards the end of the song. I must look like a real freak in the car as I bang on my air drums in rush-hour traffic.
Red Barchetta is good. I love the ambiance in the buildup at the beginning with the guitar harmonics and bass punctuations. If you see the band live, they break the song down at the end in a similar fashion. The texturing is awesome.
YYZ is pretty cool. Some interesting tidbits about the song... the beginning beat is Morse code for YYZ, which is the three-letter airport code for Toronto (Rush's home town). The Canadians pronounce the song "Why-Why-Zed." I love the call and response between the drums and bass in the middle of the song.
Limelight is overplayed. It is a great song, and you analysis was right on.
Camera Eye is a masterpiece--in my opinion one of Rush's greatest. The melodies and riff changes are subtle but majestic. The lyrics are very poetic, and for all of your Neil (it's spelled Neil not Neal) bashing, you really owe him a compliment on this one. The song paints a vivid snapshot of a day in a busy city, and climaxes with the following lines:
Pavements may teem with intense energy,
But the city is calm in this violent sea.
(insert amazing guitar solo here)
I feel the sense of possibilities.
I feel the wrench of harh realities.
The focus is sharp in the city.
The Camera Eye is a song that took me a while to appreciate. I felt the same way you feel now about the song when I first heard it--nothing memorable. The thing is that it doesn't have that catchy hook that gets in your head and you can't get rid of. You don't get sick of it. It sounds better every time you listen to it. And if you have a copy of the lyrics, you really get a sense of how well the music paints the picture.
Witch Hunt is the first Rush song I fell in love with, and while some of the lines are corny--especially the opening lines--there are some truly great lyrics here. It starts out by describing a scene where vigilantes have gathered to mete out justice...
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right,
Confident their ways are best. Oh...
The Righteous rise with burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will.
Madmen fed on fear and lies,
To beat and burn and kill.
(and towards the end...)
Quick to judge, quick to anger,
And slow to undestand.
Ignorance and prejudice and fear
Vital Signs is the weakest track on the album, and I agree with your assessment.
Moving Pictures is my second favourite Rush album, but not for the reasons McFerrin provides. Limelight is yet another step towards Rush' later poppy music. I just refer to Closer to the Heart and Free Will. The same for Red Barchetta. YYZ essentially is La Villa Strangiato rehashed with all the defects left intact. It's only positive side is that it is much shorter.
To my taste Tom Sawyer is too cheesy - another sign of what would come with all the synths. But I just can't deny its genius. It's one of the few perfectly constructed compositions. It changes in mood so fluently, the transitions are completely natural. Indeed the excellent guitar solo provides a fine contrast.
I also like how Camera Eye is build up. Sure, for its lengths it doesn't have too many musical ideas, but those few are developed excellently. I listen to it as Rush' attempt to minimalism - but I don't mean the arrangement! - and as such it works. Witch Hunt and Vital Signs suffer from the same flaw. Neither song fullfills the promise made in the introduction. But those introductions are good. Witch Hunt begins very spooky and the reggae of Vital Signs is great fun. Alas as whole the two songs do not live up to the raised expectations. It is not a good idea to present your best ideas at the beginning of a composition.
After Moving Pictures I lose my interest. The Analog Kid is still acceptable, but Signals as a whole just doesn't have any convincing riff or memorable melody. I just think, to quote McFerrin, that already here the songwriteing falls off a cliff.
Best song: Xanadu
I can understand where giving the highest rating to what looks suspiciously like a Greatest Hits Live album could be considered the highest level of obnoxiousness by Rush fans. Rush Live doesn't differ much from Rush Studio, as the band's main goal on stage has been, for most of its history, to recreate its studio work as exactly as possible. Plus, my understanding is that these tracks received a LOT of overdubbing and doctoring of the original performances, so the album's value as a live document is dubious at best. Yet for all that, I generally find myself wanting to listen to the versions presented here more than the original studio versions. I really feel that the takes here are, at worst, equal in quality to the studio takes, and at best significantly better, even if they're still essentially the exact same tracks. Who knows, maybe I'm just a total sucker for echo.
A big help is in the strong song selection. Only two of the songs irritate me at all, and for 70+ minutes of Rush, that's a good accomplishment. The sole offenders are "YYZ" (which matches the original in the "regular" portions, but which also receives an extended "multi-cultural" drum solo), and "Closer to the Heart" (which takes a song I already disliked and makes it into an audience singalong), both of which would have been swapped out for Limelight if I'd had my way. Other than that, though, the song selection is virtually perfect, and as already stated, many of the performances here are better than the originals.
Indeed, it's hard not to be thrilled with "The Spirit of Radio" when the initial rolling guitar line sounds to me like it's exploding from Alex's hands. It's hard for me not to prefer this version of "Red Barchetta" when I actually feel some excitement in this one, whereas I felt that was largely lacking from the original. I also far prefer this version of the closing "La Villa Strangiato," all because of the breathtaking energy level. Gosh, they even improve "Jacob's Ladder," upping the intensity even further and making the storm seem that much more, well, stormy. And so on and so on.
And, of course, there's Xanadu. I was skeptical when I originally read the gushing adulation given to this specific version by a commentator on Mark Prindle's page, but this track absolutely amazes me, possibly even more than the studio verson. If it's possible to create a perfect musical painting of a fictional place, Rush pulled it off in a big way here. This is clearly, to me, the best officially released live Rush performance ever, and that has to mean something.
As for the rest, you can check the track listing and refer back to the original studio album reviews (I'll also say that "A Passage to Bangkok" sounds better here than in the original, and it's a LOT of fun to hear "Beneath, Behind, Between" here). They're all good, and overall I prefer to hear them here. Plus, even if you disagree, you have to agree that the album cover (front and back) rules. I mean, YOU try to pull off a reference to each of your first 8 studio albums on one front-and-back cover!
I understand your reasoning for giving this album the 10, given that you're not really really huge on the studio stuff they put out, you like live albums a lot, and the track listing here consists of mostly great songs. The only modifications I'd make is get rid of the drum solo from "YYZ" (which is one of my favorite Rush songs otherwise) and lose "La Villa Strangiato" altogether (I like it some, but it just doesn't excite me that much compared to the other songs here), and replace those two with "Natural Science" and "Limelight", but otherwise I can't complain about the selection at all. However, too much of the time I think the songs are either played by the book with little or no difference from the studio originals, and sometimes things get sloppy (I really don't understand why you people have so much regard for "Xanadu" live over the studio version - they do the faster part of it way too sluggishly in particular) or unequalized (come on, John, how can you prefer "Red Barchetta" here? I can hardly hear Alex in the middle at all!). The major exceptions for me are the entire performance of the first half of Permanent Waves, "A Passage To Bangkok", and possibly "Beneath, Between & Behind", probably just because it's faster than anything else, and "Closer To The Heart" (hey, I LIKE the audience singalong!). Those performances, and the fact that the songs themselves are awesome, guarantees this a high 7 from me, but it's not one of my favorites.
"Sittinger, Brian D" (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com)
If you are exactly not the biggest fan of Rush (like myself), or have a passing interest in the band, then Exit: Stage Left is a good place to start.(Or, maybe Retrospective I or II, depending on your interests between hard ("prog" at times) rock or synth-driven songs. On Retrospective I, if you are not a fan of Geddy's voice during Rush's "golden period," then many parts of this album will definitely offend your ears (because of Geddy's screaming).) Anyway, the all-around musicianship is excellent, Geddy's voice is mostly easy to take (comparatively!), and overall there is a great choice of songs.
Complaints? No "Working Man" or "Limelight" (I guess it's hard to please 'em all, but the song selection is so solid otherwise, that this ie easy to overlook.) "Beneath, Between, and Behind", although played well, always seems to strike me as the only spot of filler on this record, perhaps due to the brevity of lyrics.
Merits? First, these songs from the small handfull of Rush albums or music I have heard are very similar to their studio counterparts. However, some nevertheless are improvements, such as: "Xanadu" (yes, a bit slower but Geddy's voice is easier to swallow here), "Tom Sawyer" (more energy in the middle), and "Free Will" and "La Villa Strangiato" (due to a more vibrant tone coming from Lifeson's guitar). Also, no real synth overdoses yet! (Though it works with "Subdivisions" very well at the very least on the next album...) And finally, "Jacob's Ladder" rules, due to the tension built up through the song.
In short, this album earns a solid 9 out of 10.
Johnny Troy (beachhousejohnny.yahoo.com) (1/16/06)
I am one of a handful of Rush fans, it seems, to hold an opposite view of this album...so many fans whose opinions I've read or heard praise this album - I assume mostly because it's representative of what is arguably Rush's most popular time period.
I, however, think this is one of their worst albums. To me it is so lifeless and numb. For me, the only highlights are a GREAT version of La Villa Stragiato, and Alex's intro to The Trees (Broon's Bane) - other than that - most of the other tracks are far more lifeless than their studio counterparts (no Rush pun intended. Especially Xanadu...I always thought that song was boooring anyway.
It is nice to hear the audience in Closer to the Heart, but I feel the version on A Show of Hands is the definitive. Overall, I think Rush live is an amazing spectacle, visually and sonically. I would rate their other albums much higher though:
All the World's a Stage: In my opinion, one of their best live efforts. Raw and loud and hungry.
A Show of Hands: Excellent! I was astonished at how great some of the more intricate, keyboard layered songs held up. And Ged's vocal on Marathon, and DEW especially - fantastic.
Different Stages/Rush in Rio: Pretty similar - but Alex is the star on both of these with GREAT tone. Rush Rocks again! Overall, I prefer Rio, but love the complete 2112 on DS.
R30: Anther Lifeson tour de force - also some great performances...not brekaing any new ground, but cool for Between the Wheels, Force Ten.
anyway....that's my take....
Best song: Subdivisions or The Analog Kid
I don't know this with 100% certainty, but I'm willing to bet that the band lost a lot of fans with this album. The reasons are simple: (1) There are more songs on here than on any of their album's since Fly by Night (which, consequently, means the songs are shorter than fans would have grown accustomed to); (2) the keyboards are EVERYWHERE in the sound, and (3) Alex is a lot less prominent than on previous albums, even though he's still important to the sound. Yet while Rush might have taken a risk in streamlining its sound, I certainly think the move paid off, as this is definitely my favorite studio album from the band, and the only one that I would call great.
The sound is definitely a bit of a shock at first, as the production is fuller and more drenched in keyboards than what one would have expected from the band, but unless you're a total junky for the 70's hard rock sound, that shouldn't be a crippling factor. The production never once bogs down the songs, and the keyboards are never overbearing or distracting. More importantly, though, the actual songs are great, with just a couple of exceptions. I've tended to like "Chemistry" less and less over the years; the main riff is basically a rewrite of the "Twilight Zone" riff, the lyrics are awfully stupid in their sci-fi cliche banality, and it's once again very hard to shake the feeling that the band members (particularly Lifeson) are engaging in cheap instrumental pyrotechnics to distract me from the mediocrity of the song. On the other hand, there is a neat feeling in the way Geddy sings the chorus, which helps. "Digital Man" isn't much better, mainly because it's probably two minutes too long, but it's kinda neat to hear the band again weaving in its weird fascination with reggae rhythms.
The other songs are fabulous, especially the first two ("Subdivisions," "The Analog Kid"). I mean, Rush albums almost always tend to start off very strong, with one or two great tracks, but it says something when BOTH of the first two tracks of the album make my top 5 Rush songs. One major reason is that I really feel like Peart pulled out lyrical gems for both of these. Look, I don't know any of the details of Peart's upbringing, but I don't have trouble for a second believing in Peart's "authenticity" about growing up in the conformist hell that is suburbia, or of being an awkward teenager lying in a field and dreaming of a better life, and you'd better believe that I can empathize with these lyrics. It's not just the lyrics that make these classics, though. No, what amazes me the most is that Rush finally figured out how to make songs that could stand as great WITHOUT requiring spectacularly intricate instrumental parts. This isn't to say that "The Analog Kid" doesn't have some amazing instrumental work; the mid-song Lifeson solo (the only really great one on the album) is out of this world, and the main riff sounds tricky as hell. No, what I mean is that even if the song didn't have such effective playing from the trio, it would still be a great song due to the main vocal melody, and the gorgeous second theme ("You move me, you move me..."), and the amazing melody in the "Too many hands on my time ..." part that leads into the solo. As for "Subdivisions," it doesn't even bother to have any particularly stereotypical Rush instrumental moments, and it doesn't need them; the main chord sequence is absolutely brilliant, as is the vocal melody on top of it, and the song absolutely nails the hopelessness of the suburbs for an average dork. These songs are GREAT, dang it, and they almost make reviewing this band worth it on their own.
The rest of side one is filled out by the weak songs I already mentioned, and they make it seem like this is going to be just another typical inconsistent Rush album. Surprisingly, though, the second side is quite good. One of the tracks, "The Weapon," is a freaking classic, just a step below the brilliance of the opening duo. It passed me a bit the first few times I listened to it, but I really have no idea why at this point. The main portion of the song is driven by a neat little Lifeson riff over a clever bassline, but the real greatness of the song lies in the alternate melody, driven by a powerful chord sequence with a fascinating vocal part and some really nice lyrics. The other songs aren't fantastic, but they're good on the whole. "New World Man" (apparently a hit single) is a moderately catchy song whose most interesting part (to me) is the opening low-pitched synth grumble, and the ballad "Losing It," driven by keyboard and violin interplay, is a lot more interesting to me now than it once was (I once dismissed it as an "Entre Nous" rewrite, a statement which now confuses me greatly). It tackles an intriguing lyrical concept not often (if ever) broached in rock music; the despair and frustration that one feels as one gets old and knows they're losing their mental faculties. Sheesh ... Neil really did a pretty nice job on this album with the lyrics.
The closing "Countdown" is a track that seems a little dumb on paper, but I enjoy it a lot. It's a VERY heavily synth-based (complete with a keyboard solo in the middle) atmospheric piece about a typical space shuttle launch, and as much as any track in the Rush catalogue it just screams out DORK with every second. The thing is, though, that I really like the track, for two reasons. The first is that it totally captures the tension and excitement surrounding a space-shuttle launch, and the radio transmissions that are sampled in throughout always help and never detract. The second is that the blatantly 80's synths are ideal for a song about a space shuttle launch; few things have ever combined "futuristic" and "dated" as much as the space shuttle, and this is captured perfectly in the sounds in this song. Maybe that wasn't the band's original intent, but it sure worked out nicely.
This is such a good album. It also caps what I consider a pretty impressive achivement for the band; this is the fourth straight album from the band that I consider their best album to that point, and I can't really think of any other bands that showed that kind of consistent improvement in their career. Sure, this streak was about to end, but by this time, Rush had made itself into a really nice band, one that I could enjoy with almost no reservations. I originally gave this a B, but this is definitely a C-quality album.
Come on, John, give it a 9 - you know you want to. It's as deserving of one as any Rush album out there, definitely my second favorite, and if not for "Chemistry" (whose only detracting feature is blatantly copying "The Twilight Zone" in the beginning - the rest of the song is entertaining) I might have given it a 10. But it's a very very high 9 nonetheless, and buying this the same day as Close To The Edge made me very, very pleased. Just about half this album, in fact, consists of songs in my version of the Rush top 15, or at least very close to it. "Subdivisions" and "The Analog Kid" are absolutely brilliant, nothing to say that you haven't already, except the lyrics to the former probably hit me the hardest of any Rush song there is - oh boy can I relate. And the latter's chorus and mood is just beautiful. "Digital Man" at one point was my favorite song on here - I'm not so sure about that now, but it still grooves extremely well, and "Countdown" pulls off the space shuttle launch atmosphere in a breathtaking fashion. This is why I'm so much in love with Peart lyrics in the 80's, because they WORK with the music better than anything else I can think of. And come to think of it, "The Weapon" may be somewhere up there too - it's eerie, and the synth/guitar line is very cool. "New World Man" is very catchy and well-written, especially for being a hastily put together song - it was the last thing they recorded, and they had to fill up less than 4 minutes of space on the second half. And "Losing It" is a neat use of keys and violin interplay to create a despairing mood. 9 (13)
And BTW, Permanent Waves should be abbreviated PeW, not PW - have you forgotten there's another PW album in Power Windows?
Get it right you spineless Yes fanatic! Why are you even bothering to review Rush if you don't even like them??? Go back to interpreting Tales From Topographic Oceans and waste your -- oh, sorry, got carried away with this interactivity thing... :)
"Sittinger, Brian D" (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/29/01)
This is the other Rush studio album I have, as I was curious about this "synth"-era of Rush. Normally, I am very weary about synth-ridden records, but I heard "Subdivisions" and enjoyed it. So, I finally bought it. Here we go...
Well, "Subdivisions" is by far, the best song on this record, containing a great synth riff, wonderful lyrics, and still-existing guitar underpinnings with a decent solo. "The Analog Man" is not too far behind, especially with the slow sections ("You move me..."), gorgeous. The rest of the album, though pleasant, really drags, much less memorable than the non-memorable songs of Moving Pictures. (I finally listened to this entire stretch continuously when I was resting my mouth, having just had my four wisdom teeth all pulled out, thus having nothing better to do... !) The song structures seem a bit formulaic to me, too. A solid 7 out of 10.
(By the way, how come when Geddy's voice finally mellows out, so does the use of their guitars? Gotta love those 80's...)
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Another great album? Woo! Subdivisions is mighty. The synths, for once, WORK here! Work 100%. Still we have Analog Kid, and it rocks. Nice to see (or hear) Alex's guitars still sounding potent.
Now, we have those synths... Damn the synths. But not for now, they work here. Chemistry is sickening, though I think its dorkiness is really intentional, and it's interesting. Digital Man... Ooo, I love this. I reckon the guitars SHOULD me more potent. But, anyway... Geddy's vocals are cool, and the guitars have a cool Ska hits sometimes. And they pull off some nice chords that recall the opening chords of Hemispheres. I don't find it overlong... Just a bit. Maybe... Nah, it isn't.
But The Weapon definitly isn't any overlong. The opening guitar lines are great, and Geddy delivers some interesting lyrics. Yeah! Talk about the lyrics. I like them here. Just like in most of Moving Pictures. Lyrics! Lyrics! Talk about them, please, John. They're good! Serious! Just look at them once again. But hey, The Weapon has great passages, and the synth / guitar lengthy solo in the middle is something Rush should do a bit more often. It sounds marvellous. And Countdown has more great passages, more heavy and intense, and with neat SFX sometimes.
New World Man is catchy as hell. The speedy pace create a great effect. And Losing It? Terrific! The synth riff is great, and the guitar pulls out some wonderful riffing, not to mention that fiddle (?) solo in the middle.
Overall, a great record, this is. Gotta love the doggy! Though I like cats the better. I love cats. Know of any album cover with cats on it? I can't remember right now. When I have my own cat, I'll name it Lucifer Sam!
... oh, yeah, you finally gave it a 9. Though I think Moving Pictures deserves that 9 better... Heh, anyway...
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (12/13/07)
oh fuck you man! I liked rush better than you and you know what I am still better than you in terms of reviewing. hey don't get me wrong I liked them and the album but I feel you are too damn harsh. let's get to the songs. SUBDIVISIONS. the keys reminds you of journey and separate ways but I liked it. ANALOG KID. this track speeds and zooms. chemistry is like a nerd anthem. ha! I DO LIKED CALLING YOU A NERD BUT HAVE YOU HEARD OF IRMA FROM TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES? someone made a fan art of her in her I LOVE NEW YORK shirt and her underwear. DAMN! she is so innocent and sexy and that is why I call it geek love. digital man is like the computer song. the weapon in part 2 of fear is like the dark track. new world man is like a pop song but losing it is like a beautiful love song that reminds me of different strings from permanent waves. countdown is like natural science with a an outer spce concept. I give it a 14 because I liked it more than you so don't be so hard on yourself man!.
Best song: Distant Early Warning
This album has always disappointed me, though my disdain for it now is much less than when I first listened to it oh so many years ago. The album more or less sounds like what I'd expect from a sequel to Signals, but I find myself getting irritated by the sound and the songwriting much more here than I ever did there. This isn't anywhere near a bad album, and some of the songs really grew on me over the years, but there's no question to me that it's a major step back for the band.
The first few times I listened to the album, I made the mistake of thinking the problem was that the synths had become too prominent, and that Lifeson was excessively shoved into the background. As a reader below pointed out, I was full of crap for thinking this; there's clearly a lot more guitar work on this album than on Signals, and I don't think there are many more synths on here than there. The big problem with the synths, I think, isn't that they're used too often, but rather that when they are used, they almost never work. The keyboards on Signals, to my ears, never once hurt the sound; on Grace, they sound painfully awkward almost every time they're used. They're almost always set on BIG DRAMATIC mode, but they never really enhance the songs, and at worst they really harm them. I have never liked the keyboard work on "Afterimage" or especially "Between the Wheels," and even in a song like "Distant Early Warning" I don't really see their point. Come to think of it, I'd be really interested in hearing a mix of the album that stripped out all of the keyboards.
Then again, it might not be that interesting even then. The band is as virtuostic as ever, and as I said there's a marked increase in Lifeson's presence (with some great parts from him), but there's an excessively sterile feel to all of the instrumental work here that really bugs me. Lifeson adopts a Synchronicity-style sound in a few of the tracks, and while that sound worked with the kind of tweaked pop songs The Police wrote for that album, I don't think it works as well here. Defenders of the album often point out that the lyrics are very bleak and depressing on the album, and that because of this it makes sense for the music to match it in bleak soullessness (and it certainly does). Well, I hate to be a presumptuous ass (more so than usual, anyway), but if these lyrics were going to require Rush to make its music sound this discomforting, maybe Geddy and Alex should have made Neil write some new lyrics.
Despite these problems, and despite the fact that I think over half of the songs on here are overlong by at least a minute, I still think there's a lot of strong material on here. Actually, come to think of it, the whole first side is good. The opener, "Distant Early Warning," is a bonafide classic, with decent lyrics about nuclear war, a nice vocal melody with a legitimate feel of desperation, and a lot of memorable guitar work. "Afterimage," then, is a song I used to completely dismiss because of the awkward keyboards, but I've come to realize that they're a relatively minor part of the song, so I should focus on the other aspects, which are quite good. The lyrics are a decent look at the emotions that surround losing somebody close to you in an accident, there's a nice (albeit somewhat overlong) instrumental stretch in the middle, and a great frequent guitar line that sounds like Steve Hackett on a very good day. "Red Sector A," an ode to holocaust survivors, is an up-tempo, almost dancable pop song, with decent interplay between the simple synths and the rest of the band in the main parts of the song and a great vocal melody to go with a great vibe of (again) desperation. The side closer, "The Enemy Within," is somewhat weaker, as the funky ska-portion feels awkward next to the heavenly synth portion, but it still kinda works, and I think the hooks are ok.
Unfortunately, my attitude towards the second half of the album veers between boredom and revulsion. "The Body Electric" has one of the dumbest vocal hooks I've ever heard, and I don't hear anything especially interesting in the instrumental work to make me want to hear it again. "Kid Gloves" is a mediocre pop song that I was told (by my brother, who says he read it in an interview with Peart) was about fighting between Geddy and Alex (about the band's stylistic direction); while it's possible that this isn't the case at all and I've been blinded by hearsay, it makes a good story and I'm sticking to it. Either way, though, I find the song neither catchy nor rousing, and it passes me by every time.
The last two tracks really suck. "Red Lenses" is a play on all of the different ways that "red" can be construed, and a really dippy one at that; the production also just sucks the life out of this one completely, and the melody doesn't impress me at all. And finally, "Between the Wheels" is just a fall-on-your-face disastrous combination of bad synthesizers and ugly, UGLY instrumental passages, with a feeling of bombast that feels completely unjustified to me and only bits of enjoyable melody to speak of (I admit to somewhat liking the parts where it goes into "generic uplifting 80's Rush" mode). In short, there's half of a good album here (despite that half being plagued by the same problems as the other half), and half an album that shows a level of writing incompetence not seen since A Farewell to Kings. It's worth hearing for the best stuff, but I just don't get the appeal of the rest.
(addendum): I've tried, and I've tried, to find that interview I was told said that "Kid Gloves" was a fight about the band's direction ... but I've failed, so I'm gonna concede that I probably misunderstood something at some point. For all I know, Lifeson was perfectly happy about the band's direction during these sessions. Of course, the song still kinda sucks.
I see where you're getting at with the sequel thing. I also think this album is a step down from Signals - but I don't think it's as big a decline as people make it out to be (certainly not like AMG's 4-1/2 stars to 2 - that's in my view a rare case).
That said, your review here points out this album's weaknesses in a far more convincing fashion than any analysis of it I have ever read - and kudos for pointing out the "Kid Gloves" lyrical reference. Wasn't aware of that one, but now that I think of it, it makes sense. In fact, I actually agree with the points you've brought up, and when I first heard this, I really wasn't all that impressed at all. And you're also right on about Alex as well - outside of Hold Your Fire this album is probably his least impressive performance. When he's not simply doing Police-like sound coloring, he's desperately 'screeching' out from under the synths in an attempt to be noticed (this is particularly noticeable in "Between The Wheels" - hey, what is it about Rush songs that have 'wheel' in the title that suck?? hmm...)
But for me there's something about the atmosphere of this record that made me want to listen to certain songs repeatedly, and as a result, this is quite possibly the most addictive album I own, if only for the first half. "Distant Early Warning" in particular is EASILY one of my top 5 Rush songs, as it still shows the elements of their 80's style at their best, with an amazing driving chorus. At first, "Red Sector A" sounded like an ultra-generic synth oriented dancey song, like Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" or something like that, but the music and lyrics combination is what propels it to great heights - as in 'Top 10 Rush song' heights. And "Afterimage", though it took a few listens to get into, has a very very haunting middle, and "The Enemy Within" is a cool funky ending/beginning to that three part backwards 'Fear' trilogy.
But afterwards, blah.... "The Body Electric" is somewhat catchy in a dumb way (not unlike "Vital Signs") and "Kid Gloves" has an enjoyable groove going for it, but "Red Lenses" and "Between The Wheels" are crap, with lyrical missteps to boot, the former a real clumsy tossoff and the latter an overblown and dull "anthem" that mentions 'time' about fifty million 'times' in the first verse. Yeah. Really, I shouldn't have given this album any more than a 7, but since the first four songs have this indescribable addictive impact on me, and there are some good moments within the last four, I'd give it an 8. But it's one of the lowest 8's I've ever given.
Your P/G review has some problems that need to be pointed out. The first is about Alex's performance. Grace Under Pressure is considered by Rush fans to have the most up-front guitar of their post Moving Pictures 80's output. In fact, Geddy Lee was quoted as saying Grace Under Pressure was an *over reaction* to the background role that Alex played on Signals. Saying that Alex was less important on P/G than on Signals is just plain wrong, you need to listen more carefully. Alex stated that he intended for the guitar parts to sound like keyboards in many places, which may be what is confusing you. Also your theory that Kid Gloves was about a fight between Geddy and Alex would be laughable except that you presented it as fact. How can you be sure that Neil wrote the lyrics about a fight between Geddy and Alex given that tensions inside the band have never been a subject for any other Rush song? Are you making stories up or did you actually hear or read this in an interview with band members?
(author's note): My brother regularly reads interviews with artists in groups he has some sort of interest in. He learned this tidbit from an interview with Neil (unfortunately, the site that had it is gone, which is a shame).
Also, comments such as the songs are too long and every song uses a Police-style guitar tone are flawed. Compared to every previous Rush album besides the debut, this album had the shortest and tightest compositions. Even Signals, which was the first album not to contain at least one 8 minute or longer epic since the debut had some songs (Digital Man and The Weapon) with meandering instrumental breaks that could have easily been trimmed. This album has no examples of that (except maybe Afterimage). You suggest there is a lack of musical ideas that require the songs to be shorter, but you give no examples and frankly, I don't see it. As far as the Police style guitar tones go, yes there are some clear examples of open chords and reggae rhythms that suggest Andy Summers but certainly not on every song. For example, try explaining the Police influence on the guitar on Between the Wheels. In fact, Alex's playing on every song is much more aggressive and heavy than anything Andy did with the Police. Go listen to the solos on Kid Gloves and Afterimage (actually any song would do) and tell me they don't rock in a very un-Police like manner. I think Power Windows has a far more light airy guitar sound if you want to make Police comparisons.
The synths and electronic drums from this album do sound dated, but I don't think that they sound any more dated than the keyboards from some of the Yes and Genesis albums that you have praised. Basically, the only argument that you have left regarding this album is that you simply don't like it.
(author's note): And I thought I enumerated some reasons WHY I don't like it. Which I thought was my purpose from the beginning.
Unfortunately the flaws in your review leave me with the impression that you only listened to this album once or twice on MP3 files before reviewing it. I'm not sure you bothered to give it a chance.
(author's note) Once again, I can think of only ONE album on the entire site that I completely blew off after one or two listens, the ELP bastard child To The Power of 3. EVERY other album has gotten three or four careful listens before a review.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Aww... Man, this album... The synths start to become sickening, and Alex is deep there, in the back, struggling to make his guitar noticeable in the mix. You know, I rather dislike that one. It's way too bland. Of course we have some goodies. Distance Early Warning, Red Sector A, and the underrated Kid Gloves that I absolutely adore. But... ehn. There's nothing much more than that. I also lost this bloody MP3, but I don't miss it much. Only Kid Gloves. But, you know, Afterimage is kinda cool, but it imitates Distant Early Warning in that pre-chorus thingy. The Enemy Within is absolutelly nothing special. The first time I heard it, I thought... "This is the song?" The Body Electric is unmemorable. Between The Wheels is nice, but a bit annoying. And... Red Lenses? RED LENSES? Come on, Red Lenses? What's the deal with this song? It's a pain. Okay, it's quite interesting in parts. But... ehn. I even feel a bit remorseful to bash it like that, and I might enjoy it if I'm in a REALLY good mood.
Whatever. There's a 6 and nothing more.
James Harrigan (jamesbrianharrigan.gmail.com) (12/13/14)
In response to your Kid Gloves claim http://www.2112.net/powerwindows/transcripts/19840731circus.htm is the only thing I have seen that offers support.
Peter Drosos (peterdrosos.icloud.com) (05/13/16)
I'm a younger-ish Rush fan (just turned 29). This album, especially when I would listen to it in high school and my early 20s spoke to me in many ways. The lyrics speak a lot about transformation and growing ('Hold Your Fire' speaks to this really well too). I love 'Afterimage' especially in that they speak to real things, loss and coping with loss. 'Red Sector A' is standout song, and in fact a great gift from Neil to Geddy. To be able to write lyrics about something that is such a part of who Geddy is and hear him sing those lines with such passion is a really neat thing. 'Between The Wheels' is really aggressive and especially the line 'frozen in that fatal climb but the wheels of time just pass you by' that's the kind lyrical mastery that separates Rush from their peers because it provoked a confused and lonely teenager to think about the world in larger terms and that everyone struggles to maintain any measure of control.
Best song: Mystic Rhythms
This is one of the most frustrating albums I've ever heard in my life; it is extremely rare for me to simultaneously like and dislike so many things about a single album. On the one hand, while I was iffy about it at first, I've come to really like the general sound of the album. The way the powerful and simultaneously precise mix of solid production, interesting guitar lines (Alex is really at the top of his game here, both in ambience and in riffage), GREAT basslines (even by Geddy's standards), aggressive drumming (Peart's drums are heavily electronically enhanced, but they produce a lot of cool rhythms) and dated-as-hell mid-80's synths (that took me aback the first few times but which don't seem overdone at all now) makes this album almost sound like it was done by a machine, and I mean that as a compliment. If ever there was a Rush album that deserved to have "Power" in the title, this was it.
On the other hand, the songwriting starts falling off a cliff on this album. The more up-tempo/rhythmic songs (and parts of songs) sound great with this new approach, but the style of a few of the songs has creeped into the land of generic adult pop, and no amount of busy arrangements can really save them. The one I like the least is the fan favorite "Manhattan Project"; I no longer consider it the worst song they'd done to this point, and I've actually grown to like the up-tempo parts with the "big bang came and shook the world ..." vocal melody, but oh man I hate the main portion of that song. I'm sorry, but I just cannot see the appeal of a generic adult contemporary melody singing hackish lyrics about WWII and the atomic bomb. I just can't buy the idea that singing about a "serious" topic makes a song with such a weak musical skeleton better; to me, it can only make it worse. The ending orchestration definitely only makes things worse.
Switching gears, I have to say that, after many, many listens, I still have trouble finding much to praise in "Grand Designs," "Middletown Dreams" or "Emotion Detector." Ok, "Grand Designs" has a really intricate arrangement of interlocking synths and guitars, and one mildly ok hook, but I can barely keep my attention focused on it when I'm listening to the song, so retaining much more from it once it's done is a nearly impossible task. "Emotion Detector" has a decent up-tempo chorus, and "Middletown Dreams" has some passion in its more "heavenly" moments, but that's largely all I retain from these two tracks. The sound is still cool, but the hooks are largely absent, and that strongly matters to me.
The other four tracks, though, are freaking amazing, and because they've impressed me more and more over the years, I've boosted the album's rating a good deal above where it was. The opener, "The Big Money," demonstrates all of the album's strengths in ample form (with amusing lyrics to boot). I mean, you have the amazing opening barrage of riff-interplay from the guitars, drums and synths; you have a fun vocal melody; you have a great mid-song jam, with all of Lifeson's skills on display. I know some who consider it one of Rush's cheeziest singles, and they may be right, but it's still extremely entertaining. As is the first-half closer, "Marathon," a rousing anthemic pop song with a nice vocal melody and a chorus that may be based in cheezy 80's pop but is still extremely well-written (and so much fun to sing along with). The synths are way too quintessentially mid-80's, and the lyrics are a bit silly, but I find the song great despite these two small flaws.
The second half starts off with "Territories," a track that sounded impressive the first couple of times I heard it, then became less so (once I realized how similar the main guitar line was to guitar lines in the title track of King Crimson's Discipline album), then became more interesting as I realized it had other cool aspects as well. The lyrics are a decent jab at the concept of nationalism, and the way the music alternates between the "hypnotic" main guitar line and more aggressive parts is quite impressive. It's a little overlong at 6+ minutes, but it's a nice song. It pales in comparison, though, to the concluding track, which I simply adore and so should you. "Mystic Rhythms" is extremely different from anything the band would ever try again in their career, but there are just so many great things about this song - that simple yet catchy "African" beat throughout, the "mystical" lyrics, the FANTASTIC chorus (with terrific guitar and synth interplay) ... I mean, I don't even mind the lengthy fadeout! As far as mid-80's Rush goes, music does not get much better than this.
After all is said and done, if you're really desperate for mid-80's-style Rush, you'd be much better off getting Signals. But if you've consumed that album as much as possible, then this should be the next stop. At the very least, I can say this - for what's largely a generic mid-80's album, this sure has a unique sound, and that's enough for me.
Nice review for this one - I was afraid you would just dismiss this album in one or two paragraphs as generic mid 80's synth mush like certain people do. This album I think is a unique case. It sort of sounds like the rightful follow up to Signals in that the songs are a heck of a lot more dynamic and guitar heavy than the two albums this is stuck between, with Alex's presence much more apparent and inspired and great bass playing as usual from Geddy (I don't think his keyboard work obscures that here at all, unlike P/G) and yet in the melodies and parts of the backing music, it unfortunately points the way to Hold Your Fire. Actually, based solely on first listens, this album was, by far, the easiest Rush album for me to get caught up in. As far as the 'it's extremely rare for me to like and dislike so many things about one album' factor this is EXACTLY the way I feel about HYF - I feel the great and terrible is pulling me simultaneously there, whereas this one I don't find much in the way of detractions (in fact, this, song for song, may be IMHO their most consistent album). If any, they are minor ones - sometimes the sound is a bit derivative, and occasionally Alex Lifeson plays as if he's gonna quit the band and audition for spots in U2 or The Police. Plus, the melodies aren't overwhelmingly spectacular (and the sound is sometimes generic), but it's the choruses where this album really hits me.
The only thing I really don't get at all is your bashing of "Manhattan Project" - I can't fathom how anyone could consider it their worst song up to that point, especially considering some of their really weak filler. It's definitely adult pop, sure, but so what? Adult pop stars would kill for a song with arrangement and lyrics this well done (I don't see what's so pretentious about retelling the dropping of the atomic bomb in a song - you don't hear people call historical fiction such... but that's just me), and I'd prefer to think the orchestral stuff near the end gives it a nice epic sweep.
(author's note): The reason I hate MP somewhat falls under George Starostin's "adequacy" standard. For me, important-sounding lyrics and overly elaborate arrangements are not a positive if combined with a pitiful melody. I have no problem with 'pretentious' music ... but the pretentiousness must be at least somewhat justified. MP's is NOT.
Otherwise, though, I agree with your assessment on "The Big Money" (boy, these guys were just a little OK at openers, weren't they?) and "Mystic Rhythms" (eerie as hell).
I was also glad you gave credit to "Marathon", which I was afraid you would bash, because that chorus and arrangement is extremely inspirational, and the moment when the chorus comes back for the final time with the orchestra and the choir is my absolute favorite moment in all of Rush music... period. But I think all the other songs are almost as great too (except for possibly "Grand Designs", but even that is quite good). I guess I'm one of those who obsesses over this one - my love of it probably proves my 'hardcore' fan status, as it's one of those albums the die hards are supposed to love. But then again, they're also supposed to love A Farewell To Kings and I umm, don't love that one. But I love this one! Seriously, the overall sound of PoW is a huge influence on me as a wannabe musician, and is a great blueprint for a record I'd wanna make. Another 9 (13) - but unfortunately, this from my perspective is the last album of their glory days. "Mystic Rhythms" would have made a great career closer, though! Sure, we'd miss everything from 1987 on, but I could fit all of my favorite stuff from those years on one side of a 45 minute tape, and I still probably wouldn't like it as much as this album as a whole.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Better, I say. Why? I was shocked the first time I heard it. While I expected something sounding like Signals or MP, those 80's synths, airy guitars and echoey snares invaded my ears. I thought, "what the?" Hold it, it was just The Big Money. And what a great tune, this is.
Actually, I don't dislike this album a little bit. I love this "airy" and echoey production, even. It gives the tunes a good effect. Big Money is simply great, and Grand Designs is pretty. But, hey, I absolutely adore Marathon. It's just absurdely great. You know, even with that over-blown chorus with synths and chorus-like effects by the end, it gives me shivers. I love that tone-up, tone-down by the end.
And so, there's Mystic Rhythm, that's absolute thrill, and Territories is a song I like very much myself. And what's with Manhattan Project? I don't find ANYTHING nasty here. The chorus is great, and there are lots of stuff that sound great here. Now, there are those two songs that sound somewhat fillerish, but are good nonetheless. Middletown Dreams and Emotion Detector are nothing special, but good. I like those synth notes on the intro of the latter.
So, an album I can enjoy without problems. Deserves the 7 (10), if not a wee bit more. 7 (11), maybe? That rating exists, right?
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (02/13/09)
you should see nick karn's review of power windows and I'll be nice this time! I think he gave it a 9 or a 10 or something. power windows may sound like a synthesized cartoon or a john hughes movie but I liked it. even though it sounds like signals 3, it rocked. the big money, grand designs, midddletown dreams and emotion detector are beautiful slick rock/synth/prog songs with the police-like guitars, techno drums and soaring synths. to me much of the album screams 80's right at your face. big money and grand designs should have been anime themes but did not make the cut. as for marathon it sounds like the olympic theme that never was and it is so uplifting. I don't see why you hate manhattan project and finally the concert/rush favorite that has a drum solo called the rythym method. 15 for me. I don't see why the wrc hates this but me and nick or anyone else.
Best song: Force Ten
The All-music Guide states that this album is "infinitely greater than the sum of its parts." Since my first listen, I've tended to think the opposite, that this album is much worse than its individual components, which overall aren't that impressive to begin with. I don't hate this anywhere near as much as I used to (I once gave it the equivalent of a 3), but as you can see from the rating I still don't have many warm feelings towards it.
I have a lot of problems with all of the tracks on this album after the opener. My main issue is that most of the tracks, at their cores, are really generic, really dull adult-pop songs. When the songs are slow, they don't have strong, memorable melodies, and when they're fast, they don't have strong, memorable riffs. Plus, the album tries to pass itself off as a high-brow art-rock album, filled with grandiose synths and ridiculous lyrics (there is quite a bit of dime-store psychology on here to go with the more typically grandiose Peart material), but the artsy aspects are mostly just a superficial covering for the rotten, boring melodies underneath. There are some good basslines, but the sound is so trebly and wussy that it drives me nuts. The drums only sound like there's a real virtuoso behind the kit some of the time; they're booming and loud in the mix, but very rarely impressive. Lifeson gets more to do on this album than I used to think, as he has a small number of great lines, and he does do a lot of work in setting texture (along with the synths), but I don't get the sense that he's a crucial part of the sound when I listen to this album.
Few of the songs are immediately offensive, and mixed in with other albums they would have just been fairly below average filler. An album like this, though, with one clearly-below-average song after another, becomes a pain in the neck to listen to. Plus, there are some unbearable moments of unintentional comedy. Hearing Geddy bellow out, "I DON'T WANT TO FACE THE KILLER INSTINCT, FACE IT IN YOU OR ME" over important-sounding synthesizers pretty much sums up on its own why I can't take this album seriously, and the rest of the song (Lock and Key) doesn't get much better. The opening chords of "Mission" sound like music I first heard in Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, and the lyrics seem to think they're making an important artistic statement but are really just a lot of hot air. The song gets faster than the opening "majestic" section, but at best it's a generic, by-numbers 80's Rush rocker. "Turn the Page" is a rocker with some decent drive to it, but it's not that impressive a song, and when the song goes into the expected tricky instrumental break, all I can say is whoop-dee-freaking-doo. And as for "Tai Shan," well, I think George Starostin got it right when he said (essentially) that the lyrics sound like the reaction of a generic tourist upon visiting China; hearing these lyrics set to an oh-so-generic synth-heavy melody doesn't improve my mood much.
Fortunately, there is some really good stuff on here. I've always adored the opener, "Force Ten," a great rocker with a terrific bassline, some powerful riffage, a great vocal melody (especially in the "slower" portion) and good lyrics. The angelic chorus synths in the beginning are a little silly, and some of the synths in the middle are far cheezier than anything the band had used to that point, but when I listen to this song, it inspires me to think I can accomplish anything, and I respect any song that can do that to me. While I used to think this was the only worthwhile song on the album, though, I can now pick out three others (all in the first half) that I like a decent amount. "Time Stands Still" would work better as a 3-minute song instead of a 5-minute song masquerading as some kind of profound art-rock, but the lyrics at least touch on a subject (growing old, wishing time wouldn't slip by so fast) that can resonate with everybody. "Open Secrets" has some fabulous emotional guitar lines, and "Prime Mover," at the least, is a noticably better generic 80's up-tempo Rush song than either "Mission" or "Turn the Page."
Aside from a couple of other tracks (which have neither much of a positive nor much of a negative impact on the rating), my overall attitude towards the album is one of sleepy boredom, which is at least an improvement over my former vitriolic hate. I know that lots of fans consider this one of their best (though I have noticed that there are even a lot of fans of their 80's stuff who wrinkle their noses at this one), but I can't help but see this as a total dead end for the band. Unless you're a diehard, you should probably avoid this one.
Rich Bunnell (richbunnell.home.com)
I actually think that "Time Stand Still" may have been a pretty decent song - it has a really nice, if merely pleasant, melody - had they accentuated Lifeson's guitars a little more. As it is, I can't help be annoyed by the lifeless, muted, in-the-background sound they gave the guitars for the final mix. This is one album that really deserves a re-recording.
Oh yeah, and "Mystic Quest" is a crappy game, but I give it credit for getting me into RPG's, for better or for worse.
Ugh, well... I knew you were gonna bash this one to hell, and for the most part you gave decent reasons for it, so I'm not arguing much, except that I disagree that they're trying to pass this as an 'art rock' album here. It seems to me that the songs don't try to be more than generic synth pop. Sure, the overabuse of that instrument may be high and 'important sounding', but I think the lyrics are anything but - with a couple of exceptions like "Second Nature" (which is a pretty trite social commentary song) and "Tai Shan" (which may be a little cheezy in its' opening lines, but still works OK), it's almost all entirely non-pretentious introspective writing, like "Open Secrets", "Lock And Key" (dealing with fan and media pressure), "Time Stand Still" and "High Water" (seems to be very reflective and relaxing). And I happen to think almost all of them are extremely well written. But then I must be a complete idiot. I'll admit the melodies in general leave A LOT to be desired - the synth melodies are often as 'generic adult pop-ish' as the vocal ones are - and that Neil and Alex's playing are sadly indistinguishable, but I think Geddy's bass work is still quite solid (and I don't understand the complaints about the 'wussy' and 'trebly' sound, but that's just the complete idiot inside me talking again). Anyway, I count only three 'somewhat below average' numbers here in my mind (SN, LaK, and Turn The Page) - all the rest have something fine going for them, even if that something is never great melody (although there are some entertaining ones like in "Force Ten" and "Prime Mover"). I'd stand somewhere in the middle between the 'hardcore' fans (they're dangerously high with the ratings from the early to mid 80's onward), and the bashers of this album and give it a mid-level 6. This is by far the most frustrating listen as an album in their catalog, though, and such a huge falloff from the last one...
Oh yeah - on a message board I visit and post to quite frequently, I have actually found someone who thinks that this album AND Calling All Stations are the best albums from Rush and Genesis respectively, and otherwise he's offered some of the most intelligent opinions I've ever read on the net, always participating in the most provocative discussions we have! That's kind of scary....
Hold Your Fire is easily the most misunderstood and under appreciated album in Rush's catalog. It may not pack the hard rock crunch of some of their other efforts, but in many ways it is their most accomplished and ambitious album. Hold Your Fire is the culmination of the band's 80's "synth" era, which started with Signals. More than just increasing the role of synthesizers, this era saw the band pushing the boundaries of the sonic palette that could be achieved by a touring three-piece rock band. *All* of the instruments were expanded in terms of the tones and textures they could produce. Sonically, Hold Your Fire is easily Rush's richest album. Playing it at high volume on a decent stereo is necessary to get a full appreciation of the excellent production.
In terms of playing, the album lives up to the high standards set on earlier albums. Some people ask where Alex's guitar went, but he is actually employing the instrument in a far wider variety of textures and sounds than ever before, from the shimmering chords of in Mission, to intricate arpeggios in Tai Shan to hard rock rhythm in Prime Mover. Geddy's bass work is generally acknowledged to kick serious ass on this album. As far as the drums go, there are plenty of classic Neil Peart moments. Check out the sprightly yet complex hi-hat and ride outro to Open Secrets, the tribal rhythms of High Water, the lightning fast fills during the instrumental break in Turn the Page and the full drum kit thrashing at the end of Lock and Key.
The songwriting on this album definitely takes some time to grow on a listener but the patience is rewarding. Some of the songs, such as Force Ten and Mission are immediately engaging. Time Stand Still, for example, is one of the best pop songs the band ever wrote. Others such as Open Secrets or High Water are far subtler in their brilliance, but rank with the band's best work. The lyrics are some of Neil's most introspective. A theme revolving around the elemental forces of wind, earth fire and water loosely ties the album together.
Rush eventually would move back to a more straightforward hard rock sound on later albums, but Hold Your Fire effectively caps an interesting and ambitious era in the band's career. Some fans only want to hear Rush rocking hard and hate this album, but for those who want to hear the band push their sound out in all directions, Hold Your Fire is a rich experience. It should at least be rated an 8.
Roger et Lucie (Rcharles.attcanada.ca) (9/06/01)
Hey, hello there! I read your page on Rush. He he he... It was really funny! Do you just get a kick out of pissing Rush fans or what? Anyhoo, I just wanted to congratulate you on this great webpage of yours, as it is a wonderful testament to your complete lack of musical knowledge. Rush doesn't deserve the bashing you give them, and you talk of things you obviously have no knowledge or experience about. You destroy Hold Your Fire and call Test for Echo a masterful comeback. Man, just for those two, you had me rolling on the floor! Anyhoo, stop talking out of your ass kiddo, you're a waste of bandwith.
but can't for get prime mover or lock and key or time stand still that is what i think.hello my name is phillip iam a big fan of RUSH sence i was ten and know iam fourteen.iam going to see them september 14th at the gorge it well be cool of course.well later/peace/rock on dude/
Chris Wright (christophewright.hotmail.com) (08/16/06)
Just a brief interlude from someone with the whole collection (who also likes Yes - and Marillion for that matter): HYF is a perfectly decent Rush album with some guitar rising above the rather harsh grinding mix to my ears of recent albums. Tai Shan is a relaxing and intelligent contribution and High Water a decent modern rock song with attitude. I wonder what else you all want out there - what proportion of most stuff released these days can hold a candle to Rush anyway? Maybe not all of it is magnificent - but two out of ten? Do me a favour.
But fan as I am Test For Echo was not a "masterful comeback" and somehow my interest dived from Counterparts onwards. Strangely, I have to thank the Rio and R30 DVDs for getting me into VT. On the keyboards argument if Alex wants to come right out front then where are the soaring solos? Recent stuff just doesn't seem to go anywhere. For me it doesn't soar.
On Peart, just an aside. I thought not many people could match him - save for Bruford - but then I somehow came across Dream Theater.....................................
As a further postscript, if you think opinions are divided (hearts and mind collided???) on Rush, check out Marillion fan sites. Now THERE are some disagreements to mull over.
Pete Anderson (pete.distantearlywarning.info) (12/13/09)
Although I agree with those who consider Hold Your Fire one of Rush's weakest studio efforts (along with Caress of Steel), I don't really consider it a bad album, per se. It is well produced and has its share of great songs ("Time Stand Still" is my favourite, and even at the tender age of 18 I can relate to it); it's just distressingly uneven. The problem, I think, is that being at the dawn of the CD age, Rush felt obliged to make the album longer than their earlier efforts, hence the presence of fluff like the pathetic "Mystic Rhythms" rip-off that is the closing "High Water".
The album we know gets a 5(8) from me, and is only recommendable to big fans of the far superior (9(12)-worthy IMO) Power Windows.
John P (dalecroverstoms.yahoo.com) (01/13/14)
Funny you should mention Mystic Quest(I think you were referring to the town theme) Final Fantasy V is a much better game in every conceivable aspect(even the story, as stupid as it gets at times), I'm not sure how it was supposed to sell in the day, but some people who played it shockingly like it.
Anyways, the album. I have to agree they hit something of a dead end here. It's clear they thought of themselves as a contemporary band, but they still took care to put interesting melodies in all the previous albums from the synth period. Here, they forgot how to sound too much different from the adult contemporary acts of the time, other than having a rock overlay. Sure, they throw in some little tricks every now and then, and the songwriting's still better than every album before Hemispheres, but that doesn't make it worthwhile. Especially since Peart's lyrics almost never fit the generic mood, and they are pretty forgettable, by and large(though Second Nature was actually fairly intelligent, and "Lock and Key" rather preachy after going back to listen again) The only Rush album that fails to try as bad as this one is Roll the Bones (though i sort of like "Ghost of a Chance, and I don't think it's just the fancy arrangements either)
Best song: Mystic Rhythms
And in parts, it does just that, and yet the album manages to not suck. There are some serious stinkers on here (listening to "Turn the Page," "Manhattan Project" and "Mission" consecutively is my personal equivalent of entering the 8th circle of hell), as expected, but the song selection manages to please me about as much as it possibly could, once I recover from the presence of, again, only ONE Signals track. Bastards. But anyway, Grace rewards my ears with the two standouts ("Distant Early Warning," "Red Sector A"), and I'd go so far as to say that the live version of the latter manages to surpass its studio counterpart. The playing isn't different, but there's a level of intensity and OVERWHELMING desperation in Geddy's singing that the studio version could only hint at. As for the HYF stuff ... er ... well, "Force Ten" is here! Yay!
Best of all, though I never want to suffer through "The Manhattan Project" again, the band also makes sure to throw on the three Power Windows tracks that I loved oh so much. The differences between these and the originals are mostly in the semantics, of course, but if pressed I'd probably say that "The Big Money" is done as well as before, "Marathon" a little worse (the first verse drags a bit too much here) and that "Mystic Rhythms" somehow got EVEN BETTER. Perhaps it's just my ears playing tricks on me, but it almost seems to me that the band managed to loosen up just a smidge for this track, allowing a bit of flow and vitality to seep into the track that wasn't there before. Many might disagree, but I can easily see why the band put this version of the track on their compilation Chronicles instead of the original (which I still love, mind you).
The one big surprise of the album comes right after "MR" - the band brings back "Witch Hunt" (from Pictures) and it also has an energy that I largely missed originally. Alex suddenly gets some crunch back in his guitar, Geddy snaps out the lyrics intensely, and overall it was a large part of what made me go back and give Moving Pictures a bunch of extra listens.
Anyway, that's your album, (except for Neil throwing in the SAME drum solo that he gave on the past two live albums - yeah yeah, I'm sure there are some differences, but do we need this many versions of it??? Bleh). As much as it should bother me in general (I also get irritated at the cover - I don't want to see a cover that emphasizes Geddy behind keyboards rather than playing his bass), much of it manages to be surprisingly decent. At worst, it works as an ok compilation of the last few 80's albums - I'd recommend skipping Grace and HYF in favor of this, but that's just me.
Oh! I forgot about what is EASILY the funnest part of the album! The introductory music is Three Blind Mice! Let's give our Rush-men credit - even when their pretensions become goofily grotesque, they still find a way to not take themselves too seriously. What a bunch of good guys, dorky as they may be.
Stephen D'Amico (darkwind89.yahoo.com) (2/09/01)
Just surfing the web and came across your music reviews inadverantly. Just to answer your question if i interpreted it right...parts I and II of the fear trilogy are the enemy within from P/G and the weapon from signals.
P.S good reviews by the way..not to thrilled with some your opinions regarding rush..but ehh but subjectivity keeps thrings interesting.
Stephen B Marseille (sbm82.columbia.edu) (2/09/02)
Just two quick thoughts for you on "A Show of Hands". First, while indeed the intro melody is the tune of Three Blind Mice, it is actually the version of the tune adapted by The Three Stooges for the opening credits in their shorts. The little video clip that accompanies this intro music hammers the point home a little more clearly - but the in-joke is a Three Stooges reference, not a Three Blind Mice ref. Minor point, but since you took such delight in that little passage of music, I thought I'd give you the skinny.
The other point I'll make is that the Fear trilogy is in reverse order - Part II "The Weapon" is on Signals (take a look at the liners), and part one... well, I haven't looked at my copy of Grace Under Pressure in 5 years, and I'm not about to start now. But its something on there. Maybe "The Enemy Within"?
Kolby Kramer (gkkramer.gmail.com) (03/17/07)
"...except for Neil throwing in the SAME drum solo that he gave on the past two live albums - yeah yeah, I'm sure there are some differences, but do we need this many versions of it??? Bleh..."
I seriously thought I was the only damned person on earth who thought the EXACT SAME DAMN THING! Do not get me wrong, Neil Peart is a fantastic session drummer, but Christ Almighty, as soloist he is seriously THE MOST unoriginal, boring, tedious and overrated drummer I have ever seen/heard. His drum solo has been the exact same since the 1980s, even to this day. Toms leading into same cowbell pattern for the past 20, almost 30 years, back to Toms, snare interlude, electronic gong sound, xylophone pattern, leading into a big band finish, topping it off with the final gong sound. The order could be changed, but all of the same elements are there to his formulaic solos. Like I said, in studio, he's fantastic, but he's just an AVERAGE soloist. It's essentially the same generic solo with little tidbits added on every 5 or so years. If I played the same solo for 30 years, I'd be pretty damn great at it too.
Best song: The Pass
I do generally like the first half, though. The arrangements are nothing special, and the style is almost totally unoriginal, but there are some decent riffs and melodies here. One song that totally eluded me my first few listens, but that I now really like, is "The Pass," a touching song about somebody contemplating suicide and how it's really not worth it. I don't get really moved by a lot of Geddy's singing or Neil's lyrics, but I definitely feel something in hearing Geddy sing, "Don't turn your back and slam the door on me" and other lines here. I'm also fond of the opening "rocker" "Show Don't Tell" (my former choice for the album's best), which has a very good chorus that easily sticks in my head.
Despite some of the silliness in the lyrics, I find "Chain Lightning" very memorable, and Lifeson has some effective uses of his standard arpeggiation throuighout. The title track is a little dippy lyrically, but only a little, and it has a mildly entertaining melody. And, well, "Scars" has a pretty strong hook in its chorus. "War Paint" isn't that notable to me, but it's still ok, and I don't mind when it's on. If the first half of the album (through the title track) falls on the level of "moderately above average," though, the second half definitely falls on the level of "moderately below average." None of the songs (except the really dippy "Superconductor," one of the dumbest "rockers" I've ever heard from Rush) are clearly awful, but he melodies are really non-descript, and the lack of hooks ends up emphasizing the adult-contemporary aspects all the more. It's just boring, and a band like Rush really has to entertain me for me to care much.
Let me stress again that I'm glad that the band abandoned the synth-heavy sound (largely for good), I really am. The thing is, Rush was never really meant to be a regular, conventional pop band (albeit with lyrics that are more sophisticated than those of a normal pop band); pop hooks, absent of hard riffs or bizarre synth parts, never were the band's main forte. I hear some good songwriting on here, but there's just not that much, and there's not a lot to make up the deficit. Fans will definitely want this, but I don't know about the rest of us.
I think this album in somewhat overrated by fans and certain critics - AMG gave it a best of artist 4-1/2 star rating and said it showcases 'many of Rush's virtues in their best light' (whatever!) - but somewhat underrated by you and Prindle. It may be a collection of uninnovative, fairly regular pop rock songs, but I still enjoy most of them. They're entertaining and catchy groove rock, and far less boring, preachy and trite than the following two albums. In fact, the only two numbers I don't care for much are "War Paint" and the title track, and both of those are on the first half of the album. I don't get why you two think the last half sucks. You call "Superconductor" 'annoying beyond words', I call it an amusing attack on the late 80's musical performers, I very much enjoy the wordplay and mood of "Anagram (For Mongo)" and what's wrong with "Available Light"? I think that's a really pretty ballad with effective snare drum use to boot. And the lyrics to me still present interesting views on regular every day topics like memories, hiding who you really are, and suicide attempts. A lowish 7.
Fernando H. Canto (sirmustapha.ig.com.br) (12/18/02)
Presto! Boy, I took way TOO LONG to get this album. Why? Because it rules. I know this is unconventional, but it's one of my favourites in the Rush catalog. Behind MP and Hemispheres, mind you, but ranking very high. Of course it the least progressive along with the debut, but does it matter? We have great stuff here! To start off, Show Don't Tell is an absolute classic. I just think they could remove a bit of those 80's synths and add more to the guitars, and it would rank as high as most stuff from Signals. But it's still wonderful, along with Chain Lightning. Tell me it doesn't SOUND like chain lightning. Love it. But hey, the absolute best here is The Pass. Beautiful beyond words. Simply dazzling. The introductory bass riff is tasty, and the lyrics are really sorrowful. It moves me. And Geddy's vocals soar here. But we have the magnificent guitar work on the chorus. And then, there's the third occurance of the chorus with those lyrics "no hero in your tragedy, no daring in your escape", with that break and the cry "Christ, what have you done" that razes me to the ground. Might be the most poignant Rush moment ever. This song is fascinating.
The rest doesn't disappoint. I don't see why Available Light sucks. I love it. It has that great guitar riffing in the chorus and lots of goodies. Superconductor would be a nice rocker if the guitars were stronger. But it's great. Anagram is a beautiful ballad. Generic? Hell yeah. But it's so beautiful I can get past all the genericism. See? That's the catch of Presto. It IS generic most times, but it's very, very beautiful. You know, it's the album for LISTENING. It's absolute thrill. Most stuff here is. Though it loses a bit of steam on Hand Over Fist, and War Paint could be better. But hell, this is wonderful.
Look, I know you stated in your review that you gave presto a less than great rating, however I still think it is the best album they recorded in the eighties. I'd even go so far as to say it's the best one they have come out with so far. The reason for that? unlike any other album they have yet to make, this one has absolutely no bad songs on it, with the exception of their album signals. And by the way, the songs on here are way stronger as well.
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (11/22/08)
good job on the rewrites. I can see fans are pissed off at you. this presto is beautiful bteer than hold your fire which I don't have and it is more soothing than the hard rock/prog rock/synth hybrids. it is about love, relationships, life,death, the economy, fame, fortune. show don't tell is a rocker that wakes you up. the pass is more sad but beautiful ballad but neil's lyrics are more darker like teen suicide and such. war paint is beautiful and deals with relationships. it is the first album for atlanta records after alll the mercury albums that have been remastered. scars is fast and so is superconductor. superconductor deals with the plasticene and stupid hollywood and entertainment industry today. hannah/jonas bullshit ugh!. rap ugh! even death and nu metal. anagram is so sweet because most rush songs on presto sound like ballads. I give this a 14. underrated release by the 3 kings of rock.
Best song: Bravado
I've had a lot of problems with Rush albums, before and after this one, but not even on Hold Your Fire could I accuse the band of not making a distinct impression. I really get the sense in listening to this one that they only cared about having some decent chart success (and this did hit the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic), even if it meant largely meant not having a good idea of who they really were in the process of making the album. This is an album that's way too concerned with sounding contemporary and with not being immediately dislikable, and not concerned enough with leaving a dent in the world past its initial burst of commercial success. The lyrics may be darker on the whole than most Rush albums, but that's the only aspect in which this album hasn't had almost all of its rough edges (which could have lended some interest to the whole thing) sanded off. There are some decent songs, but by and large this is easily the most generic album Rush ever made (with the possible exception of the debut, but that at least had tons of youthful energy, not to mention the hilarious vocals).
As usual, the album starts off moderately strongly, making it seem like things might work out well after all. The opening "Dreamline" sounds more to me like a Police or U2 song than a Rush song, but while the lyrics are kinda dippy and the vocal melody is only so-so (not to mention that the synthesizers are somewhat obnoxiously loud), Lifeson's guitar line largely saves the song. The following track, "Bravado," is easily the best, most inspired and most beautiful song on the album, featuring a really gorgeous guitar pattern, a nice vocal melody that plays well against it, and a great timid vibe that lends a sense of subtlety to the piece. Plus, it has a nice build throughout, turning into an anthemic classic by the end. So far, so good.
Then we hit the title track. This would actually be a fairly decent generic arena rock song, with some good energy and an ok chorus, were it not for the worst idea ever to come from the band: Geddy. Lee. Raps. His voice is artificially deepened, but it ends up sounding stupider than it would otherwise, and the lyrics in this section are so embarrassingly bad that the song fails the "could I play this in front of my friends?" test worse than most songs in my whole collection. I mean, I guess this was the time of Vanilla Ice and all that, so maybe there was just something in the world's drinking water, I don't know.
Among the seven remaining tracks, I only particularly like the instrumental "Where's My Thing?," which isn't as inspired as previous instrumentals but which still features the most distinctive basswork and riffage on the album (and effective use of the cheezy, chimey synths). Of the rest, the closing "You Bet Your Life" at least has some energy, though it sounds more than a bit like a "We Didn't Start the Fire" ripoff, and the rest just feels like it could have been written by most anybody. Some of it is offensively bad ("The Big Wheel" is the worst of the lot), some of it is just mediocre ("Face Up," "Neurotica"), and some of it makes no impression on me whatsoever. At least there are no awkward synths to make the experience unbearable, but if the best compliment I can give a song is "it doesn't make me want to stab my eardrum with a Q-tip," something's not right.
Oddly enough, some people really like this album, but I can't see at all why. Why should I care about a Rush album without interesting instrumental work and without really strong songs? Few parts of it are horrible, but there are so many better things one could listen to.
I agree on the rating. This album, far more than any in their catalog, depresses the hell out of me. And yeah, Grace Under Pressure is also a dark and depressing album, but on that one the music and lyrics are well constructed enough to make it an incredibly moving kind of depression. Here it sounds like the band has absolutely no will to attempt anything creative, and they continually sound throughout the record like they'd rather be anywhere but in the studio. And these lyrics were written six or seven years BEFORE Peart's tragedies! Oh boy. And speaking of lyrics, these things are his poorest since the 70's - they may not be pretentious like that material, but they're extremely bothersome in a preachy and trite sort of way, and all seem to set the same mood as the album title. Add that to the fact this album seriously lacks standout instrumental performances, and it's an iffy experience. To be honest, I should only give this a 4, using your Hold Your Fire logic - for you, "Force Ten" is the one good song on that album followed by 9 dull generic pop songs, and on this one, I think the first three are all good to great (yes, even the title track - that rap section is a hilarious joke! oh well, I guess that's one of those 'love it or hate it things' - and "Dreamline" and "Bravado" are both beautiful and inspired), followed by 7 dull generic pop songs. And within that stretch of dull generic pop songs may be Rush's worst ever ("The Big Wheel")! Oh man is that one ever annoying. And "Heresy", "Ghost Of A Chance" and "Neurotica" are all a 'bored to tears experience' in the most brutal sort of way. "You Bet Your Life" makes up for those songs a little with some good energy, but that one is merely passable. The last two that close the first side - "Face Up" and "Where's My Thing?" - are pretty forgettable too, though the latter, despite sounding pathetic compared to past instrumentals, is pleasant in places. A LOW 5, and that's sort of generous. But it's not nearly as bad as the next one.
Best song: Animate
The biggest improvement to this album over the last couple is that the band no longer sounds uncomfortable with the notion that they're a freaking power trio. Supposedly (maybe this is me getting fooled by another myth, I dunno), Alex and Geddy had an argument over the direction the band was taking, with Alex wanting the band to go back in a harder direction, and Neil ended up siding with Alex. This resulted in drastic changes in the band's sound; for the first since the 70's, the band put out an album that RAWKS (not "rocks," but "RAWKS"). Geddy clearly uses a different-sounding bass from the last few albums, and the bass sound returns to the low-pitched and superactive *rumble* of the band's earlier years. Similarly, Alex got to heavy up his sound and take a more prominent role than on any album since ... man, maybe since Hemispheres. He even incorporates a grunge sound from time to time (well, it was 1993); I can understand why some fans might cringe at this (Rush's guitar sound was a bit hair-metallish at times in the 80's, and grunge was pretty much created to destroy hair metal), but I definitely have no problem with grunge when there are good chops backing it.
As usual, there are a couple of great songs, and as usual they're placed near the beginning. "Animate" showcases everything good about the album's sound and couples it with strong guitar and bass lines and some really good hooks. Even the softer parts of the song are quite decent. As for "Stick it Out," well. I know many fans despise it, but I enjoy it a bunch. It's a good hard rock song! I guess I'm just a sucker for the heavy guitar sound, but that shouldn't be surprising at this point. I'd listen to this ten times in a row before I'd want to listen to "Mission" again ...
Unfortunately, as usual, the rest of the album is somewhat of a letdown. As much as I love the new sound the band adopts, it can't prevent me from thinking that there are some really stupid songs on here. Peart has some ridiculous lowpoints on this album, and there's even a bad set of lyrics from Pye Dubois in "Between the Sun and Moon" (I like the song itself, though). "Double Agent" features spoken interludes from Geddy that I think are supposed to be spooky or intimidating or whatever, but they pretty much cement the song as one of Rush's worst ideas. And, well, there's a good number of songs that are okayish, but which don't have melodies that are much better than the typical work from the past couple of albums.
I can think of least two other songs on here, though, that I think are notable. "Nobody's Hero" may have the most ridiculous first verse in the history of man, and I can only appreciate it on a purely ironic level, but once I get past the lyrics I find the song quite nice. What can I say, I think the melody is well-constructed, and even the chorus, overblown and cheezy as it might be, sounds moving to me in its own way. I'm also quite fond of the instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone" (boy, it's nice of Rush to start consistently putting instrumentals on its album), which is kind of a sequel to "Where's That Thing?", but featuring stronger and heavier basslines, and a more intense vibe.
The rest is the rest, and you know what? It's enough to make this into a somewhat decent album, even if I wouldn't recommend getting it on the grounds that all of the best songs are available on Different Stages. I happily give it a 7, which, by the way, is the same grade I once gave Power Windows. But you might hate it. Take it away, Nick!
Damn you John, I knew you would torment my soul and give this album a higher rating than anything since Power Windows. I guess the main problem I have with this album is not specifically that it's grunge-sounding (I listen to and quite enjoy several bands that have that sound), just that it's forced-sounding heavyness (so they'd have an excuse to feature Alex prominently again), and that other than Geddy's vocals, there's hardly anything to tell me that it's Rush - I personally don't hear all that many decent riffs (some of them are so simplistic like "Cut To The Chase" and "Double Agent") or melodies - I can't see how people can call this, and not, for instance, Presto as a catchy album, but my concept of melody must be different than any other web reviewer in the universe. Plus, all these songs to me are so boring and don't seem to be doing anything, and the fact that lyrics are a more important part of Rush music to me than the average listener hurts my listening experience immensely (the ones on "Stick It Out", "Nobody's Hero", "Between Sun And Moon", "Alien Shore", "The Speed Of Love" and "Double Agent" - err, that's half the album! - are the most painful and trite in the band's career)
(author's note): Ah, see, there's a huge chunk of the discrepancy there - I've been happily ignoring Peart's lyrics from almost day one, so I can't be fazed by stupid lyrics anymore.
Sure, it's nice to have Alex in a heavier and more important state again, but how can anyone even distinguish his playing here from anyone else around that time? I agree that "Animate" is the best song here, and I'll say "Cold Fire" and "Everyday Glory" are also good, but they're almost highlights by default - on practically any other album they wouldn't be even close to the 'best songs'.
And "Stick It Out" better than "Mission"?? It's not the worst Rush song I've ever heard, but.. ugh... you know what, isn't it bizarre that almost EVERYONE puts the debut album in the same rating range but the ratings for the rest of them are as varied as you can imagine - I guess they're one of those bands where every album does something different for everyone. And this album hardly does anything for me except bore me to death and make me cringe - you'll probably kill me for saying this, but I've been listening to Wind And Wuthering and Tormato lately, and I even like both those albums more - not that this is saying much, considering both of them are just mediocre, and I can only give this one a low 4 (not a 3 because the highlights are solid enough).
And yeah, I know Test For Echo has a lot of the same general sound as this one, and the lyrics still suck, but at least on that one the musicianship is more accomplished, the heavyness more natural and the melodies and riffs are memorable... that's for the next review though.
Pat D. (blppt.hotmail.com) (10/7/01)
Hoo boy. The lyrics are bad on this disc. And the mix, the MIX!!! Terrible. They tried to add a grungy sound to a clean, precise mix. No no no. Man, you know i'm starting to wonder how hard it is to produce and engineer an album considering how many blatant fuckups there are out there.
Anyways, despite the ridiculously bad writings of Neil, there are a few enjoyable tracks on here. Stick It Out has a nice, rhythmic Lifeson riff. Animate suffers the worst from poor engineering with depthless drumming, bottomless bass and an overall almost 'hollowish' sound. Still, its catchy as all hell. As many have mentioned "Nobody's Hero" has such a bad opening verse, that it may turn you off to the rest of the song for a good long while. Thats bad folks. But the song has some beautful melodies. "Alien Shore" and "Between Sun and Moon" again, have pathetic lyrics, but great riffs ultimately save them. But thats it folks. The other songs dont have the riffage to lift each tune above Neil's unbelievably painful lyric writing. Geez, what was he on when he penned some of this stuff? Go listen to the awful "The Speed of Love" if you dont believe me. Gah. I'd give it a 5 at best.
Stuart Hodgetts (hodgetts.cyllene.uwa.edu.au) (08/06/06)
Just my (aussie) 2 cents worth (not much in todays exchange rate!)....
Nevermind comparison to previous albums in terms of "classic" Rush sounds/music construction.....I can listen to this album in its entirety more times than any other album. Not to say these songs are better or worse than others (one man's steak is another's salad)...but the arrangements, overall sound and feel to the songs are very rich. Something I think the great god Geddy himself once described as probably the most important part of their music.
I even used this album to recruit many a Rush disciple, and to bring some "back to the light".
Stick it out.....the whole point. What a great song for a bold change of direction.
This is one of my favourite Rush works - if not THE favourite.
Best song: Driven
Sonically, this is a masterful comeback. The songwriting is more or less back to the level I'd like from Rush, but what's most important to me is how this sucker sounds. The production is utterly fantastic, and an absolute treat for fans of Lifeson's guitar. Whereas in the 80's the band would have chosen to fill some of the space in the mix with synths, here they mostly fill it with guitar and more guitar. All of Alex's best tricks are on prominent display here, from mad soloing to powerful riffing to his hypnotic ambient style.
Even better, to me, is that, whereas the heaviness on Counterparts could seem a bit forced at times, with the extensive use of grunge tones, the heaviness doesn't seem awkward or discomforting at any time. Add in that there are several solid riffs here (and I still maintain that good riffs are the primary source of quality heavy music), and you have this listener's delight. Plus, Neil apparently took some drumming refresher lessons since the last album, and in the process revamped his style, providing some badly needed swing to his sound.
Once again, the two best tracks on the album come first, and they are awesome. The lyrics of the opening title track seem a bit on the raving nonsense side, which might turn off some people, but I find the main guitar pattern catchy and economical, and the faster instrumental breaks are simply breathtaking. As for "Driven," I think that even somebody who's not a Rush fan should this song at least a couple of times in their lives. The main rhythm guitar part is like NOTHING we've heard from Rush before, and the riff is just soooo good. And the middle jam, a classic Geddy/Alex duel the likes of which hasn't been heard from the band since "Working Man," whomps me into the ground each time.
As usual for Rush, the rest of the album doesn't live up to the initial onslaught, but whereas with most Rush albums this means a mix between average and poor tracks, here it just means a bunch of tracks that range from average to very good. I'd be hard-pressed to call a single of the remaining tracks bad, and the only major problem is that the songs blend a bit too much for my tastes (except for the closing "Carve Away the Stone," a good song that opens with a lot of power). The instrumental ("Limbo") is a little half-hearted this time around, and tracks like "Time and Motion" or "The Color of Right" will never strike me as particularly good, but I'm fine with the rest. "Half the World" and "Resist" are very catchy pop-rockers with notably good lyrics, "Virtuality" has some great riffage despite the incredibly dumb lyrics (Neil Peart, of all people, should not be writing about the internet), and even the oft-maligned "Totem" and "Dog Years" seem fine to me. Heck, I think "Dog Years" is waaaaaaaaaay underappreciated; if anybody needed to loosen up and write song lyrics that mention "doggy heaven," it was Neil Peart. The melody seems fine to me, too.
I guess what I appreciate most about this album is that Rush finally seemed to find a sound they were totally comfortable with. When I listen to Test for Echo, I never find myself thinking that Rush sounds like a bunch of old men on this album. They don't sound mellowed-out and boring (like on much of Presto and Roll the Bones) and they don't sound like mellowed-out and boring old men awkwardly trying to latch onto what the kids are doing (like on much of Counterparts). This should have been a great formula for Rush to use in dominating the remainder of the 90's, and only good days should have been ahead.
Unfortunately, in the late 90's, both Neil's wife and only daughter died, and he entered a massive seclusion. As of the original writing of this review, a new album was due out in 2001 or 2002, and it seemed like we'd hear from the band again after all.
Wow, I'm surprised you gave this album this high of a rating. But it definitely is, by far, Rush's best album of the 90's, for exactly the reasons you said. I think the guitar playing on this record is great. The riffs are definitely some of the band's best in a long time, and I love the way Alex overdubs acoustic with his electric parts to create a really full sound that truly benefits from the album's production. And Geddy's playing memorable basslines again! Neil's drumming has improved too, which also helps the arrangements lean more towards progressive than pop - maybe this record can't live up to the standards of, for instance, Permanent Waves in that respect, but considering how long they've been around to this point, everything's good. Of course, I can't really give the album anything more than a low 7 (I think it's around the same quality as Fly By Night and Presto) just because there aren't that many great songs, mostly just good ones - things sort of die down after the awesome opening trio of the title track (my favorite on here - excellent groove), "Driven" (what an excellent riff and transition to the chorus) and "Half The World" (one of the catchiest songs they've written), although there's only one total crap number ("Dog Years" - what were you guys thinking?) and one really unnoticeable one ("Carve Away The Stone"). Good job, though.
And a couple post album notes: Neil, believe it or not, has actually remarried again, and seems to be from what I've read in decent spirits. And Geddy's solo album My Favorite Headache is actually quite good - from listening to it you can tell from which member a lot of the band's melodies come from, especially nowadays. Fairly similar to the overall sounds of Counterparts and Test For Echo, and it's a little better I think.
Best song: There are too many songs to adequately choose
This is a three-disc compilation of live recordings from the Counterparts, Test for Echo and even A Farewell to Kings tours, and the main advantage (and disadvantage) is that there's more than 3 hours of material on here. This is bad in that there are a lot of tracks on here that I find rotten ("A Farewell to Kings," "Cygnus X-1," "Cinderella Man," "Closer to the Heart" ... boy, I really don't like A Farewell to Kings), but it's good in that there are so many good tracks on here that I'm mostly willing to disregard them.
The first two discs (taken from the 90's tours) have a pretty decent track selection, drawing heavily from the previous four albums and augmenting them with a good selection of older classics (they even bring back "Natural Science"). I could live without the title track to Roll the Bones, and I definitely don't need "Closer to the Heart" or ANOTHER drum solo, but I can't really complain about what they included (especially when they throw in nice renditions of "Limelight" and "The Analog Kid"). One major surprise is that they brought back "2112" (the track, not the album) in full, and I definitely prefer this version to the original (it still doesn't measure up to the All the World's a Stage version, though), if only because the guitars and bass are clear and crisp and powerful to an extent that even the parts that bored me in the original have some excitement. The song sounds a little stiff being done by men in their 40's, and it still has some silly parts, but I still can't help but wish they'd had production like this back when they'd done the original.
The 1978 show isn't perfect, but it still has a lot of high points. "Bastille Day" and "Anthem" are just as rousing as they were on Stage, "Xanadu" is incredibly lovely (not quite as good as the one on Exit Stage Left, but close), and "Working Man" still rules as much as ever. Plus, how can I resist hearing the "Fly by Night"/"In the Mood" medley again? Sure, there are major low points on this disc, and it's a little redundant now that I own Stage, but it's nice.
This is a bit difficult to listen to all at once, and as usual the songs are a little too close to their studio counterparts for comfort, but this is probably the best compilation available of the band's career to this point. Many fans will probably dislike the absence of anything between 1983 and 1987, but I honestly don't even miss them here. Plus, if nothing else, this album largely makes Roll the Bones redundant, as the best stuff from there can be found here.
Robert Grazer (xeernoflax.jack-the-ripper.com)
Hey, I know this one!! Yeah, three CDs. Damn that's a lot of songs. You got it pretty much right on here. I have never been too huge a Rush fan, possibly because other than this, the radio stuff, PeW, and a handful of mp3s, I don't know a whole lot about them. The purpose of this comment is actually to bring up the Peart drum thing. I'm not certain what the name of the song is or if it was on a different album (feel free to correct me if necessary).
That there is talent. I doesn't make him the best drummer (Cobham? Sherlock?), but I think it secures a position on the top five or ten. I was never that big of a live fan, so this album really doesn't do too much for me. Well, for live it's pretty good I guess. Hey good job on the Rush reviews. Maybe I will look into them a little more.
Best song: The first minute
Hey, what do you know? We heard from Rush again! Yup, Peart was finally able to work through his losses enough to be able to get back to musical business, and Rush finally began their fifth four-album cycle. Unfortunately, quite frankly, the band shouldn't have bothered - the material is overall quite mediocre, and 68 minutes of it is far too difficult for somebody who respects the band but is by no means a fan to tolerate.
The biggest blow by far for me is the production, no questions asked. I LOVED the T4E production, and it was a major factor in rating the album as highly as I did. The sound was saturated with guitar, but it was the kind of saturation that didn't feel a need to shove loudness down the listener's throat. Lifeson's ambient skills were in full force, not to mention the shredding freedom he seemed to have again, and that meant a terrific combination of delicate and aggressive all throughout. But that's simply not to be found here. Lifeson is active, to be sure, as there doesn't seem to be a single synth part on the entire album, but the number of guitar parts that are quintessentially Lifeson is a very low number. More alarming, though, is that the problems with dynamic compression ranted about so forcefully in other forums make themselves shown here with aplomb. The bass is mixed far too high, the guitars aren't given room to do much, and the "soft" parts are much too close in sonic texture to the loud parts for comfort. Worse yet, one almost gets the feeling while listening that the band somehow screwed up in the mixing process, as if they mixed everything wrong in one act of drunkeness and sheepishly realized they couldn't fix it (but that's just me).
Alright, so the boost in rating from production that T4E received is out of the question here, and it makes sense that the rating would suffer accordingly. But even that wouldn't be too much of an issue were the songs of a comparable quality to those like "Test for Echo" or "Driven." Unfortunately, that doesn't happen. Geddy's vocal melody-writing skills had obviously atrophied very heavily over the years - there are bits and pieces of good stuff, like parts of "Peaceable Kingdom," but the days of great vocal melodies a la "Spirit of Radio" or "Marathon" or whatever are mostly a thing of the past. It does help that the lyrics aren't terrible (not particularly good, though), but even great lyrics require a decent delivery.
So that leaves the instrumental parts as the primary focus, and as you've probably gathered, there's not a ton of stuff to write home about here. Almost all the songs have something interesting in the instrumental backing (musicians as technically proficient as the guys in Rush couldn't help but accidentally do something neat once in a while), but even then, they're mixed very poorly, and the moments of quality are quickly drowned out by modern-rock genericism. Seriously, far too much of this album just seems like typical riffless modern-rock that happens to be done by Rush, and while little of it is blatantly nasty, I'd be a hypocrite to say "oh, it's so wonderful."
Still, there are neat bits here and there. The first minute of the album is extremely deceptive as far as the quality of the whole goes - it's filled with FEROCIOUS jamming, some of the best I've ever heard from Rush, as if the band really wanted to make sure that they made the listener take note of their comeback right away. There are also some neat guitar bits in "The Stars Look Down," what I think is a mandolin in "How it is," some GREAT guitar lines in "Ceiling Unlimited," and ... uh ... well, there's some other cool stuff. "Secret Touch" is kind enough to present some well-placed discord in the instrumental sections, "Earthshine" has a TERRIFIC riff that hearkens back to the hard rock days of the 70's, and ... yeah. Don't make me rack my brain anymore looking for stuff.
Overall, I can give the album a 6 because there are several nice bits, with a couple of bits that are as good as anything they ever put to tape. On the other hand, I can't give it any more than that, seeing as the album doesn't have a single song that I like start to finish, not a single one (though "Earthshine" comes very close). Face it, instrumental prowess, no matter how great or fiercesome, can only get you so far if you can't match it with good production and consistently solid melodies, both instrumental and vocal. Besides, let's be fair - a decently produced version of this album could probably muster a 7 or even an 8 (or higher if they cut out some of the filler - 68 minutes is FAR too long for this album).
PS: I should note that songs from this album, when performed live, would sound pretty great. If anything, though, this only makes more frustrated at the presentation of those songs in this context.
Addendum: In 2013, the band issuse a newly remixed version of this album with the creative name of Vapor Trails Remixed. The production problems of the original version are completely eliminated, and the result is a very clean sounding album that sounds like a perfectly decent late-period Rush album. After initial listens I would likely give this version a grade of 8 or 9. Expect a full review of Vapor Trails Remixed eventually.
Stephen D'Amico (pestilence008.yahoo.com) (10/23/02)
Just wanted to offer some of my own thoughts, not to mention reactions, regarding vapor trails and your review of it. I was patiently awaiting its arrival, and finally here it is. : ) Anyways, from what i can gather from speaking with various people and from my inevitable encounters on the internet, the release of vapor trails polarized fans to two very distant extremes(with not many falling into the middle), much like the ambivalent reactions in respone to Signals, but this time not so much because of the change of complete musical style, since VT in many ways musically possesses superficial flashes of test for echo like "brilliance." I have seen reactions run the gamut between ceaselessly lauding vapor trails as the "best rush album since (input early rush release here)" and absolute sub par quality in comparison to previous releases. Many fans find the lack of guitar solos and synth usage as near blasphemy, while some others use these decisions as viable evidence for rushs apparent new progression.
Where do fall with all of this? More towards the subpar category to be honest. The reasons for this being fairly overt, at least for me. The production is absolutely horrid. Myself, and others whom I have spoken to, can actual discern irksome crackling and other miscellaneous background noises when the music is played at a reasonably high volume. This is irritating as all hell. Aside from this? well the album is enitrely too muddy and borders dangerously on the cacophonous side.(i Dont care what fans say, those crashing chords in secret touch that appear right after that beautiful clean tone guitar intro just annoys the hell out of me). The drumming is disappointingly inadequate(which immediately is disturbing since we are talking about ONE of the greatest rock drummers ever), there are way too many messy layers of guitars piled ontop of one another, and the bass is often savagely heavy. Obviously geddy went more for thick bass chords, rather than the brutally complex riffs he is known for. This isnt to say that the album doesnt exhibit melodic beauty or interesting musical passages. I find, like you, that each song has at least a few moments of greatness in them. These include the jangley repetative chords in freeze, the drivenesque riff that appears midway and at the end of Peaceable kingdom, the frenetically fast bassline in ceiling unlimited, the mandolin in earthshine, and little riff that appears during the musical "interlude" midway through nocturne. These area all quite interesting. There are more, but i dont feel like trying to remember them all. Best songs? easily Freeze, nocturn, peaceable kingdom and earthshine. Freeze and nocturne are the only songs that are really set apart musically from the others. They have a sort of "progressive" flavor to them. The lyrics are decent and both songs are at least original sounding.
Now, as far as Neil Lyrics on this album go. What you must understand is that neil peart did indeed have to suffer through some of lifes most terrible trammels, so many of his lyrics on Vapor Trails reflect his healing process during rush's extended hiatus. The most obvious is Ghost Rider which recounts Neils aimless motocycle journey across North America after the death of his Wife. Sweet Mircale also is apparent in its theme. Trite sounding yes, but Neil wasnt going for profound poetic beauty with those two. At any rate, i find some of the lyrics on Vapor Trails to be some of his absolute best. Peaceable Kingdom harbors some of Neils most deliberate and clever writing, originally slated to be an instrumental it was decided at the last minute to add lyrics to the music following the tragedies of september 11. I find Neils references to tarrot cards VERY interesting and creative, espeically how he integrates them into the lyrics. What about Earthshine? "pale fascimile, like what others see when they look in my direction" Tell me thats not a pretty kickass line. Well, i like it anyway. Anyway, its obvious that vapor trails is yet another one of those transitional rush albums, where we see the trio moving away from ambience(yes it was found sufficently on CP and T4E) and more towards generic modern rock sounds. Of course, i will say this, as "generic" as it might appear, i coudnt tell you of another rock band that sounds like that. Rush always manages to retain their own unique style, no matter how subtle it is.
Michael J. Dickinson (mjd.atmos.albany.edu) (10/29/02)
A couple of quick comments. While I am a RUSH fan, I have to admit I generally agree with your ratings (though I would probably adjust many albums a shade higher except for Hold Your Fire). I eagerly awaited the release of Vapor Trails and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I agree that the mixing is poor. Apparently, once the three of the them finished the album, Neil and Alex both left leaving the entire "post-processing" part of the album to Geddy. Geddy apparently had some difficulties in the mixing and eventually became frustrated by the whole process (http://www.canoe.ca/JamMusicRush/may7_rush-can.html). Also Neil really hadn't played drums for 3+ years after the death of his wife .
On VT there are some interesting musical passages (I really enjoy Earthshine and Secret Touch). I think this album "shines" lyrically (well shine brighter than other RUSH albums - it is all relevative after all). As Stephen D'Amico noted, there is none of that pretentious or sci-fi stuff (or crap depending on your taste) throughout the album, most of the lyrics appear to be written in the first person as a way to express (and perhaps relieve) his emotions. Could you imagine a line like "There is never love without pain" on a RUSH album? I enjoyed this album much more than Roll-the-Bones, which you also gave a 5 (this however may reflect my enjoyment of the "harder" sound than the "pop" sound of the late 80's).
Ben Rising (brising.wk-mapeco.com) (11/06/02)
I’ll throw in my two cents on Vapor Trails. First of all you are correct in going off on the production. It sucks….and sucks hard. It is way too loud and bass heavy and the sizzling bacon sound of digital distortion is obnoxious. It’s amazing to me that a major label put this thing out. It is by far the worst produced Rush album and it is a strong candidate for the worst in my entire CD collection. This album presented an enormous departure from the way Rush typically does things. Normally Rush spends months writing and rehearsing material and then spends a few weeks recording it at a professional studio. This time around they spent about 14 months writing and recording by themselves and the glued the whole mess together to form the songs. Alex spoke in interview of how some parts were played and captured only once and he liked the spontaneity of that approach. For this reason many of the songs have an unpolished feel. I think this new approach was an interesting experiment, but ultimately a failure. Alex and Geddy are musicians, not audio engineers, and it shows. Most of the digital distortion seems to be associated with the drum tracks. My little theory is that they boned up the recording of the drum tracks but realized it a bit late in the game. Given Neil’s precarious emotional state, they didn’t dare tell him that they screwed up the recording of his parts and he would have to re-record. So they decided to live with it.
Instrumentally the album is not as crisp and sharp as most of Rush’s material. The drumming is not quite up Neil’s usual standards although there are some cool bits here and there. Alex does some heavy riffing and some good rhythm work but stays away from any fast solos. There is a nice slow solo in Earthshine though. Geddy’s vocals are better than usual and are certainly an improvement on T4E.
What makes this album pretty darn good IMO is the songwriting. Quite a few of the songs are really good and none of them are bad. Just off the top of my head, I would say Earthshine, How It Is, Nocturne, Vapor Trail and Sweet Miracle are better than any song off T4E. Some of the hooks like the “Did I have a dream?” part of Nocturne are better and stronger than anything else the band has done recently. The two weakest songs are Peaceable Kingdom and The Stars Look Down and they are actually quite decent. The lyrics of this album focus on Neil’s recovery from his loss of his daughter and wife and are quite a departure for him in that they deal directly with his life and emotions. Sweet Miracle in particular is quite moving. Overall, I would give this album a 7 or so. The songwriting is excellent but the production really pulls it down.
Jason Phair (phairphunk.yahoo.com) (12/23/03)
Agreed on your review, especially the first minute being the best part of the whole album. Now, as to the production, the reasoning for the crackling and lack of dynamics was not in the recording or mixing, it's from the mastering process. Whoever mastered this (I'm too lazy to pull out the insert and look it up right now) used severe brick-wall limiting on this album, causing serious clipping, and cutting of all dynamic range. This is a modern practice used on cd mastering taken to a horrible extreme.
Todd Tennison (TTennison.nuvision.coop) (11/05/06)
I also have to agree that production of this album was very poor. When I heard the songs performed live they sounded way better than the album and thought to myself (WTF happened?) Only way this album sounds they way it should is with a stereo that has an equalizer so you can make the appropriate adjustments. One Little Victory sounded terrible on the Radio with more crackling than usual and to date VT is Rush's weakest selling album. I can only hope a re-mastering of the album will be released because to me it was a very ambitious album with lots of potential with a poor finishing touch, like a really cool car with a crappy paint job, you just can stand to look (or listen) to it after awhile.
Best song: What?
Simply put, a condensed, 2-CD version of this album would earn a D, the status of my favorite Rush album, and a rating upgrade for the band up to ***. The album's biggest problem to me is that there's too much time spent on songs that I don't just dislike, but hate with a passion. So help me, hearing "Roll the Bones," "Closer to the Heart," another nine-minute drum solo (I will admit I find some of the midi-orchestra stuff cute this time around, but I still have my usual allergic reaction to this on the whole), "By-tor and the Snow Dog" (which isn't awful, but which is, uh, the 7th best track on Fly by Night) and a three-minute excerpt of "Cygnus X-1" is enough to seriously cramp what I otherwise find a perfectly delightful experience. One or two of these might have been forgivable, but ALL OF THEM??!!! That's enough to knock this album out of any chance of a C rating or higher, that's for sure.
And that's a shame, because the rest of the album is awesome. One major difference between this and previous Rush albums, which largely works to this one's benefit (and I say this as somebody who loves Exit: Stage Left), is that the sound is extremely unpolished, and sounds like it's from a high-quality bootleg. The band combines its usual note-perfect tightness with incredible volume, distortion and aggression, and the band wisely leaves in the over-the-top excited crowd noise that so obviously fueled these performances. Listen to the crowd singing in the opening "Tom Sawyer," or especially in how they sing along with the melody of "YYZ," and you'll get what I mean. The band basically sounds like it feels they should have always sounded on its live albums; like a power trio that incorporated synthesizers as needed.
And, you know, the setlist is really good, aside from the stinkers I already mentioned. The band apparently intended this tour to mostly work as a career retrospective, and they did a good job of mixing their staples with tracks that had been left behind, like "The Pass" (the rendition here was what made me realize how good the original was), "New World Man," "Red Sector A" and "The Big Money." Plus, it's good to hear them to keep two of my favorite Test for Echo tracks ("Driven," "Resist"), and the fact that they close with "Working Man" just warms my heart. And, well, it's nice to hear the band just do the first seven minutes of "2112," making it sound like aggressive prog-metal geek bliss. The band also includes four tracks from Vapor Trails, and all four of them ("Earthshine," "One Little Victory," "Ghost Rider," "Secret Touch") come across as much more interesting here than they did in the oppressive sonic environment of the album.
There's a lot of other goodies too (like the best version of "Distant Early Warning" I've ever heard, or a really lovely "Bravado," or a version of "La Villa Strangiato" that concludes with band playing along to a a weird Lifeson rant that I originally mistook as being some movie I hadn't heard of), but more than stressing individual performances, I want to stress that this album accomplishes the feat of actually making me feel excited and enthused about listening to Rush. Of course, it also ends up frustrating me that much more for the parts I dislike so much, but I guess that's just inevitable with Rush. Regardless, I highly recommend this live album to anybody who thinks they at least kinda like the band.
Best song: Summertime Blues
Then there's the other cases, like this EP (by CD-standards; it's about half an hour, or about the length of an early Byrds album). This album has Rush doing covers of eight tracks from the 60's and very early 70's, which I'm sure Alex and Geddy played frequently in the early days of the band, and which I'm sure the band members still enjoyed very greatly. The covers certainly sound ok, and there is a certain novelty in hearing Rush directing its brand of instrumental texture towards songs that did just fine in their original versions. Plus, the song selection is pretty strong, and the band does a good job of staying away from choices that would seem too obvious. The problem I have is that I just can't figure out the point of this album in the grand scheme of things. With the exception of the opening "Summertime Blues," which starts and ends with a nod to "Foxey Lady," none of the performances on here feel like they'd deserve consideration as among the best versions of each track. If the band had stretched out the songs, transforming them into something more fitting with their style, that would have helped, but as is, these are just pretty standard renditions with somewhat denser and louder arrangements.
In short, I just don't understand why I'd ever want to listen to this version of "Crossroads" instead of Cream's, or this version of "The Seeker" instead of The Who's, or especially this version of "Shapes of Things" instead of Jeff Beck's. I give it an 8 because none of the songs are remotely bad, but going beyond that is pretty much not possible.
Anton Jägare (antonjagare.hotmail.com) (04/13/10)
Just a boring note here, not even the opening 'Summertime Blues' with 'Foxy Lady' riff trick is anywhere near original, it was done in exactly the same way on Blue Cheer's version of the song.
I guess the same goes for the rest of the EP as well, like you say. Yeah, 'taint offensive, it's just so boring realising that I could be listening to ten times better versions of every one of these songs. Heck, I have better versions of 'Shapes' by The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Nazareth and Gary Moore. Pretty pointless.
Best song: The Main Monkey Business
Of course, this being Rush, a clear view of the various strengths and weaknesses of the band at this point only results in me enjoying this as a solid second-tier album, but what are you going to do. The opening "Far Cry" is a solid song (albeit with a main riff apparently nicked from Dream Theater), with a good anthemic chorus that stands well aside the usual masterful instrumental parts (Lifeson in particular sounds like a beast on this track and the rest of the album, bringing in the diverse set of styles and tones that made him my favorite person in the band to begin with), but the next few tracks quickly dip into what I expected of this album coming in. You know the drill: extremely well-played, yet slightly mushy guitar-rock that doesn't sound terribly far from a bunch of Presto outtakes, with Peart making a half-decent stab at profundity in his lyrics. Not that I'm saying these songs are as mediocre as the most mind-numbing stuff from Presto, of course - an album entirely consisting of songs of the same quality as these would probably get a low 7 or so, and "Spindrift" certainly has some especially noteworthy elements. But overall, these just don't excite me too much.
Strangely enough, though, the album really entertains me from the next track onward. One thing that helps a lot is that three of the last eight tracks are instrumentals, and all three of them are terrific. "Hope" is a pleasant acoustic guitar number (not unlike a typical Steve Howe piece), "Malignant Narcissism" lives up to its name in a good way, with lots of great sounding bass-breaks, and "The Main Monkey Business" is probably the best Rush instrumental I've heard yet (at the least, it's in a tie with "La Villa Strangiato"). What I love most about it is the way it teases the listener, mixing a fairly hypnotic main theme (featuring a good dose of well-placed mellotron) with more energetic passages that feature some of the most rousing breaks I've heard from the band ever. I mean, Rush instrumentation is always incredibly professional, but there are way too many times when I can't discern a point in their instrumental parts other than, "wowee, look how professional we are." Here, though, the parts generate all kinds of good physical responses in me (heart pumping slightly faster, head starting to bang, etc), and show a legitimate flair for the dramatic that the band so often seems to be imitating but doesn't pull off like I'd like. If Rush sounded like *this* more often, maybe I wouldn't feel so ambivalent towards the band so often ...
The remaining non-instrumental tracks aren't perfect, but they're very good on the whole. "The Way the Wind Blows" gets a little schlocky in places, but I don't mind things like Geddy's falsetto in the chorus as much as I would have thought, and it's a decent number. "Faithless" and "Good News First" are perfectly servicable numbers, with lyrics that slightly grate on me (Peart sounds a little like he's imitating himself, if you can get me) but with good guitar parts and melodies. "Faithless" actually sounds a bit like R.E.M. in the guitar lines and vocal melody (I mean that in a good way), and "Good News First" sounds exactly like an average track off of Test for Echo, which is a compliment.
"Bravest Face," then, is a minor classic that comes extremely close to knocking off "Monkey Business" as my favorite on the album. I actually like the way Peart uses various cliches in the verses, rambling about the good and the bad that comes from them. More importantly, I like everything in the chorus, from Geddy's singing to the lyrics (yes!) to the dramatic chord sequence (with a slight unexpected twist) to the guitar sounds, and it helps carry the song to a level of greatness. And finally, "We Hold On" is a terrific closer, with my favorite Lifeson guitar parts of the whole album, and a bunch of clever melody and rhythmic twists that leave a very good taste in my mouth.
Unless your general preference is the band's synth-heavy days, I don't see how any Rush fan could dislike this. It's not mindblowing from start to finish, but it's full of clever instrumental parts, decent vocal melodies, tolerable singing and good songwriting. As far as I'm concerned, that's what Rush can give me at best, and it's enough for me.
"Pete Anderson" (pete.distantearlywarning.info) (02/13/10)
I love this album! Very heavy and intense but actually well-produced, it's everything Vapor Trails should have been and much more. "Far Cry", "Spindrift", "Faithless", "Bravest Face" and the instrumentals are highlights. 9(12).
Best song: Give me a break
The first and foremost problem for me, of course, is how literally this album takes the meaning of its title. I'm all for supporting the album you're touring, not making it entirely into a Greatest Hits Live show, but there is a point of excess, and this album crosses past it. Of the thirteen tracks on Snakes and Arrows, NINE make it onto this live album. Do any of them have any significant differences from the studio versions? Of course not, unless you want to count the obligatory ten-minute drum solo that immediately follows "Malignant Narcissism" as some major elaboration or enhancement. Plus, the selection of tracks from the album bothers me quite a bit; not only did they select the three tracks I would have unquestionably cut from the final release ("Working Them Angels," "Armor and Sword," "The Larger Bowl"), but the four tracks they left off are ones that I consider highlights from the album ("Bravest Face," "Faithless," "Good News First," "We Hold On"). If there was ever a perfect indication that my idea of what constitutes good Rush music differs from what the band considers good Rush music, this album is it. Anyway, as in the studio, "The Main Monkey Business" is the highlight of all of these, and the probable highlight of the album, but as it's basically identical to the studio version but for some production polish, it would feel redundant to give it a nod
Aside from a couple of tracks from VT ("Secret Touch," "One Little Victory"), the rest of the album comes from the band's past ('87 and earlier), and splits between well-worn standards and some tracks the band hadn't featured on a live album in a while (or ever). Thing is, while I'm fine with the idea of the band bringing out tracks it hadn't done in a while, I'm not thrilled with their choices. Ok, so it's nice to hear "Subdivisions" again, and both "Witch Hunt" and "Passage to Bangkok" are pleasant surprises. "Digital Man," though, was one of the two Signals tracks I didn't really like, and my deep dislike for both "Mission" and "Between the Wheels" is no different here than before. "Circumstances" is a decent inclusion, but it was the weakest track on Hemispheres, and "Entre Nous" was never one of my favorites from Permanent Waves.
So that leaves the evergreens, all of those tracks from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures that have been played a zillion times by the band if they've been played once. Surprisingly, I can't say they're played just the same as usual, but that's not a compliment. See, this is the first Rush live album where the band actually sounds a bit sluggish in playing their standards. Everything's just a whee bit slower and more careful than before, and for a band that has always based itself around its blazing instrumental skills, that's a major hit. The songs don't even have the same heavy intensity as the renditions of the same on In Rio; they just sound old and tired.
Now don't get me wrong; a lot of the songs on this set are ones I find very good, even while many annoy me, and the performances overall are decently enjoyable. On its own merits, this live album easily deserves the 8 grade that I give it, meaning that I don't love it but basically like it. If I was rating this on "purpose for existence," though, this would be one of the worst-rated live albums I've ever heard. I can easily see a Rush fan enjoying this, but you're a sucker if you buy it new.
Best song: Whatever
The band makes some interesting choices in terms of older material they choose to resurrect; I've never liked "Time Stand Still" as much as "Force Ten" or "Presto" as much as "The Pass," but they both sound ok here, and I'm rather pleased that "Stick it Out" makes a return (I would've preferred "Animate," but I guess they were making a concerted effort to pull in some less obvious choices). The band totally ditches Vapor Trails and Test for Echo, but three Snakes and Arrows tracks make it on, and while I still don't like "Working Them Angels," I've always enjoyed "Far Cry," and I'm very pleased to hear "Faithless" get a live treatment. Elsewhere, aside from a slightly surprising revival of "Marathon," the material is all familiar; aside from a brief acoustic solo, and whatever variations Neil threw into his endless drum solo, everything else here either appeared on Rio or Snakes and Arrows Live, and all of it is done in a way closer to the latter than the former.
I suppose there's nothing especially wrong with this live album (though there's nothing especially great about it either), and as secretly half-assed as the gimmick for this live album (doing Moving Pictures straight through) may be, it's still better than having no gimmick at all. I guess that if I had to choose between this and Snakes and Arrows Live I would take this one, but that's a pretty silly decision to have to make.
Best song: BU2B or Clockwork Angels
I didn't think it would end up this way, though. The opening "Caravan" (released as an advance single), to be honest, still leaves me feeling somewhat disappointed, and I don't think it's a good representative of the album. I mean, it does have strong playing (duh) and decent riffs and contrasting sections and all that, but I feel like it better fits in with the duller first half of Snakes than with the more varied, more interesting second half. Plus, it feels weirdly disjointed in spots to me; there's an instrumental section in the second half of the track that feels like it was wedged in just because the band decided it just wouldn't be ok for the track to last only 4 minutes, and the guitar solo especially sounds like it was grafted in as an afterthought. I will admit, the first time I heard this album, "Caravan" put me in a slightly irritated mood right away, and while I like the track more than I did (again, it would make a decent 4-minute track), I'm still not thrilled with it.
The next two tracks are freaking great, though. "BU2B" (the other lead single) starts with a low-key, hazy, atmospheric part with Geddy singing something almost indiscernable, and this does a good job of amplifying the impact of the heavier parts that follow. The rest of the track features back-and-forth between these heavy verses and a section driven forward by an energetic, exotic-sounding, higher-pitched Lifeson part, and the band spins off ideas from this foundation with great ease. Even better may be the title track, which also makes use of a quiet, unsettling open (this time driven by a nagging processed bassline, kinda like something from "One of These Days") before making a grand anthemic entrance, and the entire track is about creating drama in the same sort of way that "The Main Monkey Business" did. All of the anthemic aspects in the sections starting with "Clockwork Angels..." and ending with "...as if to fly" feel genuinely earned, largely thanks to their careful alternation with the frantically arranged verses, and all of the instrumental departures (as well as the fairly odd quieter section in the last couple of minutes where Geddy's vocals become distant again) are extremely entertaining. Now this is what I want from Rush!!
The rest of the album isn't mindblowing, but it still hovers closer to the greatness of "BU2B" and the title track than the ehn of "Caravan." My favorite of the remaining tracks is "Seven Cities of Gold," which builds off a great slap-bass riff into a solid main riff that in turn gives way to a catchy-as-hell anthemic secondary melody and chorus. With the other tracks, my initial impression was that they were all somewhat samey and made the album into a bit of an impenetrable mass, but I really don't think that's the case anymore. Maybe individual tracks might often last a little longer than their main ideas might merit, but that doesn't mean the main ideas aren't good, and what's more is that the ideas are different enough that each track manages to carve out a nice role for itself. "The Anarchist" and "Headlong Flight" are "the fast tracks," and what each lacks in a catchy vocal melody is made up for with speedy and effective riffs (the latter also has instrumental parts that may be among the most entertaining Rush ever put to tape). "Carnies" is "the noisy riff track," featuring a cool squealing riff in the beginning that repeatedly gives way to more upbeat parts and featuring some fantastic instrumental parts. "Halo Effect" is "the acoustic-based track" (though it turns fully electric from time to time), a song that reminds me (in vibe, not in melody) of "Half the World" and the In Rio performances of "Resist," and that's a comparison that makes me happy. "The Wreckers" is "the generic Rush anthem," but meant in the good sense; it has one of those overly verbose Rush choruses full of phrases that don't really work when sung, but it's still rather memorable, and there are other enjoyable aspects as well (I'm especially fond of the weirdly murky section in the fourth minute that breaks up the "get yer lighters out" direction the track tries to go in otherwise). "BU2B2" is "the short quiet reprise," "Wish Them Well" is "the memorable track that focuses and prepares the album for conclusion" (it doesn't significantly deviate from its main idea, but the idea is decent enough) and finally "The Garden" is "the atmospheric and moving concluding track." Not bad!
I should make it clear that I don't actually love this album; as I said, I find most of the tracks at least a little overlong, and I do inevitably droop during some instrumental breaks (that weren't explicitly mentioned as being great), and I once again don't find myself giving a hoot about the lyrics. And yet, when I think about this album, what I realize is that Rush have finally, after so many years, provided an album where (to my mind and ears) they don't shoot themselves in the foot. The lyrics may not have impact on me, but they don't distract me either. The number of tracks that I want to skip is held to a minimum. The instrumental breaks are awesome with enough frequency for me not to focus much on the ones that are a little stretched out and pointless. The production and instrumental approach are ideal for the band at this point, and so on. If you are not a Rush hater (and while I don't like Rush, I don't hate them either), this album is a necessity.
Matt Barker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The most interesting thing about this album is the presence of a carnival, lost love, misfortune, the watchmaker, the anarchist and a garden. All these elements have thematic links and if anyone wishes to discover this albums meanings, work out the puzzle by trying to discover what those links are. A clue: the watchmaker is symbolic of what in our own society?
Best song: Whatever
While this clear emphasis on providing a different kind of show than usual might not have been ideal for many fans attending the shows, it did make for a live album that has a bit more of a reason to exist than its two immediate predecessors. Ok, yes, there are downsides to having such a strong on emphasis on material from Signals onward; I end up having to sit through "Grand Designs" and "The Body Electric" again, and the bonus tracks end up including "Middletown Dreams" and "Manhattan Project," so that's not ideal for me. Then again, it's great to have "Subdivisions" and "The Analog Kid" on a live album together, and it's great to have a live version of "Territories" to go with another good version of "Big Money," and I still find "Red Sector A" moving, and I still enjoy every version of "Force Ten" that I can get my hands on. Plus, while "Dreamline" and "Bravado" make it on, "Roll the Bones" thankfully does not, and in its place we get "Where's My Thing," albeit coupled with a drum solo. But wait, even the requisite drum soloing is better this time around! Somebody must have pointed out to Neil that he'd basically been playing variations of the same drum solo since the beginning of time, because he found a way to add more variety to it; instead of taking one long solo, he takes three relatively short ones, spread throughout the show. The total amount of time spent soloing is probably about the same as usual, but I end up treating it as less of a chore this time around, and I have to give credit where credit is due.
As for playing Clockwork Angels in almost its entirety, I can't begrudge them this when the album is one of my favorite Rush albums and only had minimal live album coverage to this point. "Caravan" continues to have a lot of the attributes that tend to bug me about Rush, but everything else from that album is rousing and energetic and a surprising amount of fun here. The live string section ends up as a very nice touch as well; it's not like it's an integral part of the sound like the orchestra on YesSymphonic, for instance, but it adds some depth to the sound in useful points.
While I don't exactly think that the original versions of the material on here were better than the original versions of the material that had become the central feature of Rush live concerts and live albums, I do think the material played on this tour was a better fit for the band at this point in time. I don't hear the same sluggishness playing the Signals-onward material that I had started to hear with the Permanent Waves/Moving Pictures material in previous live albums (and oddly, there seems to be a little less sluggishness in that material as played here than there had been on previous albums), and there's certainly no sluggishness in all of the material the band had just finished up in the last few years (I should mention that there's also a performance of "Far Cry" on here, and it's good enough). Where the last couple of live albums each merited a couple of listens and a shrug, this one earns its keep. If you force-fed yourself the last two live albums, or even if you didn't, be sure to give this one a shot.