Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rush & Me Part II

I know I already did a Rush and me article.  This one is going to be slightly different.  It is going to be my impressions of each Studio album that Rush has released in chronological order. I am also writing each write-up while listening to the album.  I thought this would help on the albums I am less familiar with.  Some I am less familiar with due to it having been a while since I heard them, others because I never listened to them that often.  My history with the band until the last album has been sporadic since Counterparts in 1993. I am also going to split this into two articles.  The first ten albums will be written up here, the last ten in another article.

Rush (1974)

This is their first album, but it is not the most familiar line-up.  This is the pre-Neil Peart version of the band.  The lyrics and drumming are not quite what Rush fans are used to.  This is not to say it is bad, it is not what we think of when listening to this band.  The stand out songs are: Finding My Way, Need Some Love, and Working Man.  It sounds more like a typical Hard Rock band from the late sixties and early seventies. It is not what would later become their hallmark sound.  It is solid and well played.

Fly By Night (1975)

This is the first album with Peart.  It starts with Anthem which throws the listener in to what would become their signature style, a tight rhythm section with melodic guitar work.  This also has Rivendell and By-Tor & the Snow Dog, both examples of the story songs involving fantasy element known in their earlier work.  It was also the first album that Neil Peart took on the lyric writing responsibilities.  By-Tor and the Snow Dog was the first long form musical piece with movements that the band did.  It is only over eight and a half minutes. That is smaller than future pieces with the same format.  So many firsts on this album that would become part of the band signature style even to this day.  The Notable Songs on this album are: Anthem; Beneath, Between & Behind; By-Tor & the Snow Dog; Fly by Night; and Rivendell. 

Caress of Steel (1975)

This album includes the first single album side long form musical piece.  In the days of vinyl albums, sides were around twenty plus minutes.  This also translated over to cassette tapes as well, although those could be made longer.  It is also the second album with the most famous line-up of the band.  Commercially this album was a disappointment.  It only had five songs, two of which were the long form.  The Necromancer, which clocked in at twelve and a half minutes, was the return of By-Tor and a tribute to Lord of the Rings.  The Fountain of Lamneth was the first of the side long, over twenty minutes, musical pieces by the band.  They only did this three times.  The Notable songs here are Bastille Day, Lakeside Park, The Necromancer, and The Fountain of Lamneth.

2112 (1976)

This is one of two albums many fans consider as Rush’s Masterpieces.  It has the most famous single side long form piece, 2112.  Basically these pieces are like a half concept albums.  This piece was about a future where religion rules and joy is lost.  A young man finds a guitar to try to help the masses and get rebuffed by the priests.  This piece is considered the best of these long form pieces.  The rest of the album is fun.  The notable songs are everything one of their flawless albums.  After the commercial failure of Caress of Steel, many would think the band would have acquiesced to the demands of their record label.  Instead they did 2112 as their last hurrah.  It turned out to be commercially successful.  Critically Rush has always had problems with Rock Critics.  The critics never understood them or their fans.  Because the musical piece, 2112, was loosely based on Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the band was labeled by the critics as right winger extremists.  To this day it is one of the two most popular albums by Rush.

A Farewell to Kings (1977)

As I am writing this I have been going back to listen to each album to reacquaint myself with Rush’s work.  This and Hemispheres were two I was sure did not have a many songs I enjoyed.  I was utterly wrong.  It has two long musical pieces both between ten and eleven minutes.  One is Xanadu which is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem Kubla Khan.  The other is Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage, this is part of a two part musical piece the second part is found on the album Hemispheres which was released a year later. Book I is about an explorer entering Cygnus X-1, a black hole.  The big hit on this album is Closer to the Heart.  Closer is the first Rush song to included a lyrical co-writer from outside the band, Peter Talbot.  The other songs are A Farewell to Kings, Madrigal, and Cinderella Man.  It is a solid album.

Hemispheres (1978) 

This album starts with their third and last to date single side musical piece Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres.  The explorer from the first part finds himself in Olympus dealing with a struggle between Apollo and Dionysus over Mind over Heart.  It is a classical struggle of logic and emotion.  This album has the fewest number of songs, four.  Two of which are long form pieces.  Circumstance, is an autobiographical piece lyrically about Neil Peart’s time while living in England.  Then it is followed by The Trees, about Maples and Oaks in an argument as to who gets the best sunlight.  The final piece for the album is their first completely instrumental song La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence).  The song clocks in at just over nine and a half minutes.  Over all it is another solid album.

Permanent Waves (1980)

This is their first album released in the eighties.  It also is their walking away from long epic musical pieces.  This move lends to a more radio friendly and single laden album.  The album opens up with Spirit of the Radio, which includes some experimenting with reggae sounds and style.  The song is about the dichotomy between the commercialism and art with music and the music industry.  The next song is Freewill discussing the subject of Freewill and the downfalls of blind faith.  This album and their next, Moving Pictures, are a bridge between their older sound of the seventies and their later synthesizer heavy sound.  This also includes the last long form musical piece that is divided in movements, Natural Science.  After this the band kept most of their songs under seven minutes, until Clockwork Angels.  It is another solid album.

Moving Pictures (1981)

Many consider this the companion piece to 2112, in that it is one of Rush’s two Masterpiece albums.  Many of the album’s songs received serious radio play on Album Oriented Rock Radio Stations.  Moving Pictures began the trend of the progressively increasing use of Synthesizers.  The album opens with their timeless anthem, Tom Sawyer.  The song is about reconciling the various incarnations of ourselves, specifically the childhood and adulthood selves.  Red Barchetta is an exciting song about a dystopian future where some kinds of cars are illegal.  It is about a joy ride in one such vehicle.  The music gives you the sense of driving and accelerating.   The next song is an instrumental, YYZ.  Canadians pronounce it, YYZed.   The title is the airport code for Toronto’s major airport; the beginning rhythm is the Morse code for YYZ.  Limelight is about the disadvantages of fame.  Over all this is one of their flawless albums.  Warning this is also the album that started me on the Rush rabbit hole, so I have a huge soft spot for this album. 

Signals (1982)

This album is the beginning of the band’s foray into a synthesizer heavy sound that progressed for three more albums.  The album begins with Subdivisions speaking of the highly socially stratified life of being a high school kid in the 1980’s, especially in the suburban areas of North America.   This is an album I did not get till years after its release and it has only four songs that speak to me: Subdivisions, Analog Kid, Digital Man, and New World Man.  Analog Kid is about remembering the idyllic days of youth and being open to the wonders of life.  New World Man was about the various views of the world from an economic point of view. I am not saying this is a bad album, the songs are well written.  It just does not resonate with me like other albums.  It also is the last album the band did with producer, Terry Brown.  There was some conflict with the direction musically of the album. 

Grace Under Pressure (1984)

This was the third Rush album I owned, Moving Pictures being the first and 2112 the second.  This album is dark and moody with a rich amount of subject matter.  Distant Early Warning is about the fears and aftermath of a nuclear exchange.  In the mid 1980’s this was still a fear.  Afterimage is about being haunted by memories after the loss of a loved one.  Red Sector A gives allusions of the Holocaust and the horrors that entailed.    The Enemy Within discusses the inner sources of fear and darkness.  Body Electric is about robots and artificial intelligence.  This album has a lot of synthesizer work.  During this period the guitar work was mostly rhythm guitar.  Not as melodic as pervious albums, but included quite a bit of harmonic accents.  I enjoy this album, even though I prefer the less electronic sounds of the band.

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