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Old 05-06-2010, 03:40 PM   #21 (permalink)
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A Farewell to Kings (1977)


For those following, prepare yourselves. Within one album it seems Rush has figured out exactly how to make amazing progressive rock, create a style all their own, and still rock your face off. Yes, that's right. Rush has officially entered their classic era with “A Farewell to Kings”, my personal favorite "epic era" Rush album. The next few albums are generally considered the best of their career, and I'd have to say I completely agree. Whenever I'm in a mood for Rush, I generally reach for one of their albums from 77-82. I can't recommend “A Farewell to Kings” enough, and encourage everyone to give it a listen.

It is obvious straight from opening title track that Rush have finally found their place in the music, and they burst out with a new found confidence. The album starts with some classical guitar, something Lifeson utilizes a bit more often in the next couple of albums. Then they smack you straight in the face with a riff that is both highly creative in chord progression and full of energy. I think it is Lifeson himself who grew the most between albums, as he now knows exactly when to employ smooth, sweeping chords and when to use the almighty power chord. His playing is incredibly refined, and has never complimented Geddy's bass more. He uses the “chorus” effect much more, throw in some reverb, and what you get is an amazing tone. The whole thing just blends together so seamlessly.

“Xanadu” is probably one of the best songs Rush has ever written. It has everything I mentioned above, and also shows how much Rush has learned when writing progressive songs. One of my complaints in earlier albums (namely “Caress of Steel” and “2112”) is that their longer songs just sounded pieced together. “Xanadu” is the first evidence that they have finally learned how to make a prog epic that flows seamlessly as one piece of music. And just listen to the bassline in “Cygnus X-1”. With those two tracks alone, it seems as if Rush woke up one day and went, “Ah, now I know how we should play!” And decided to just lay out some of the best music ever recorded.

Though the longer songs are the stars of this album, “Closer to the Heart” was one of Rush's first radio hits and is a concert mainstay to this day. Sadly, the other two shorter tracks, “Cinderella Man” and “Madrigal”, drag the album down a bit. It is obvious they poured all of the energies into “Xanadu” and “Cygnus X-1”, and even though they aren't terrible songs, they aren't very strong, either. It is easily forgiven considering how incredible all of the other songs are.

I hereby give this album a 9/10. Near perfect, if it weren't for the two clunkers mentioned above. I also fear I haven't given Neil Peart much credit in my review. Rest assured, his skills are as incredible as ever. He is so good on his instrument, that I feel it just goes without saying. Listen and be amazed. Without a doubt, this album is a Rush must.



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Old 05-08-2010, 03:33 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I love Rush too. My favourite albums right now are the Grace Under Pressure (mainly because of 'Distant Early Warning'), 2112, Signals, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.
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Old 05-08-2010, 03:40 PM   #23 (permalink)
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The only Rush album I've ever heard was their debut, I thought it was okay. From what I remember anyway.
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Old 05-12-2010, 04:59 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Hemispheres (1978)


A lot of times when a band releases a really great album, it is easy to get this feeling that they just won't be able to top it with their next one. Rush, however, always made it a point to keep moving. Every album showed progress and growth and each subsequent album followed a very natural progression. In the late 70's, they got so good at this progression and change that nearly everything they touched was pure gold. Though “Hemispheres” has a sound very similar to “A Farewell to Kings”, it very subtly hints at albums to come.

Sure, there is still a giant 20 minute epic as the first track out of only 4, but it is “The Trees” that really foreshadows the pop structured songs Rush will be writing from here on out. Without a doubt, that is the highlight of this album. Maybe the subject matter is a little bit cheesy (trees used as a metaphor for the rise of communism), but the music is just ridiculously creative and intriguing. With this song alone, it is clear Rush is able to write shorter songs with the potential for being radio hits. The other shorter song, “Circumstances”, is another solid attempt at a traditionally structured song and fits into the album nicely, but it doesn't hold a candle to “The Trees”.

So, maybe Rush isn't so progressive after this album. “Hemispheres” is still balls deep in progressive rock, so I think I better mention it. In fact, this album really could be considered the pinnacle of their progressive attempts (which may be why they decide to totally change it up with their next album). “Cygnus X-1: Book II” has one of the most clever tie ins to another song I've ever seen. At first, it seems it has absolutely no relation to “Cygnus X-1: Book I” off their last album as it goes into Greek mythology and the latter is completely science fiction. However, if you pay close attention, you will notice that at the end of the song our black hole traveling hero from Book I emerges, having become disembodied and is now considered a god, even amongst those at Olympus! Pretty clever twist, Rush. I won't mention any more of the story since it is fun to figure out what is happening on your own. The only issue I have is that this is probably the only Rush epic that I actually get bored with. Right around the 12 minute mark I start wondering when the thing is going to be over. It is still entertaining, and I can still listen to the whole thing through, but this is the only epic Rush has written that gets me checking the time.

Rush's time as a pure and true prog band concludes with their first instrumental. And oh, is it a fitting conclusion. “La Villa Strangiato” is one of my favorite songs ever by any band. Starting off nice and slow, it slowly builds until it smacks you straight in the face with some of the best instrument interplay ever crafted. It gets fast, it gets slow, it rocks, it gets emotional...this song has it all. All I can say is you are doing yourself an incredible disservice by not listening to this song at least once in your life. If I had to point to one musical moment in Rush's back catalog thus far proving their prowess, this song would be at the top of my list. Just freaking listen to it.

So what does the final album is Rush's epic years get? I'll give this one a 9/10. It lost a point just because “Cygnus X-1: Book II” got me checking my watch on occasion. Their last epic ever shouldn't have done that. You'll notice 9/10 is still a very high score. Yes, that is because you need to listen to this album. So listen to it. Now.




Sadly, I couldn't find a studio version of "La Villa Strangiato", so you get a live version. Maybe this will motivate you to go get the album.
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Old 05-12-2010, 05:53 PM   #25 (permalink)
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"The Trees" is the sort of thing I mentioned earlier. It's really silly. Still a good song, though.

I do like the upcoming albums more than the stuff you've reviewed already.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:05 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Permanent Waves (1980)


As I mentioned in the last review, Rush fully exercised their epic song demons and with “Permanent Waves” decided to work on traditionally structured songs. This worked out extremely well for them since this and their next album “Moving Pictures” are considered their two best. They certainly contain the songs that are played the most on the radio. This doesn't mean that Rush is any less progressive, however. They still have odd time signature changes, incredibly virtuosic playing, and weird sci fi sociopolitical subject matter. In fact, this is another reason Rush can be proud of their musical output. They are one of the few bands to write the majority of their songs under 10 minutes while still being able to remain progressive.

Up until this point, Rush has been consistently evolving. Though they dropped their hard rock blues inspired vibe after “2112”, there were still hints of it all the way to “Hemispheres”. This is the album where that style has been almost completely dropped. Their style has become much more fluid, marked by the addition of a more liberal use of synthesizers and the fact that Lifeson began to use single coil guitars rather than his go to humbuckers. You may have noticed the growing use of said synthesizers in their last couple of albums. Well, they are only going to become more and more important to Rush's sound all throughout the 80's. “Permanent Waves” and “Moving Pictures” are the two albums where the band manages to strike the perfect balance of synthesizer and guitar. If Rush were a less creative and inspired band, they could have kept with this style for the rest of their career and they would have been completely successful for it.

This is one of two albums (as I said, the other being “Moving Pictures”) that practically define what Rush is all about. If you have enjoyed any of the preceding albums at all, this album is sure to blow your mind. It is amazing the way Rush was able to come together and write such amazingly catchy and entertaining music while staying true to their intense level of musicianship. The album begins with two of the best openers ever conceived, “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill”. The latter is the song that originally got me into Rush, as I'm sure it did for many others. They are two of their most well known songs. The lyrics for “Freewill” are also very thought provoking. This album contains some of Neil Peart's best lyrical work. There are two longish songs on this album (“Jacob's Ladder” and “Natural Science”), but the way they are structured it seems as if they are long naturally and not for the sake of being prog rock. “Jacob's Ladder” just flows in such a way that it ends up being a little longer than your typical pop song. “Natural Science” almost hits 10 minutes, but it really just seems they wanted a great album closer. They completely nailed it, as well. “Natural Science”, along with the two openers, is one of the highlights of the album. It's another number where the lyrics are just amazing. “Time after time we lose sight of the way – our causes can't see their effects,” is such a great line. “Permanent Waves” is packed with those.

This album doesn't have a single weak moment on it. If I had to choose a low point it would be “Entre Nous”, but even that song is good. This is an absolute must hear for everyone. I can't say I really have a favorite Rush album, but if I had to pick, “Permanent Waves” would be a good candidate. From beginning to end, I am completely satisfied with everything my ears are hearing. That's why this album gets a perfect 10/10. I wish I was able to write music like this.



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Old 05-13-2010, 06:47 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Great review of Permanent Waves. My mom is a huge Rush fan, and as a kid I remember seeing a copy of this record as well as a copy of 2112 in her collection that were almost completely worn out. I'm familiar with all the singles of course, and I'd like to thank you for sharing some of the deeper album cuts. All three of them are amazing musicians.

Neil Peart did a hilarious interview a couple of years ago with Rick Mercer - he's kind of like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, except he goes out and does interviews, as well as the fake news type of thing. You get to see Neil's amazing kit and hear him play some cool stuff. Here it is if anyone's interested:



I know a few people who went to the same high school as Neil Peart in Hamilton ON, though not at the same time!

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Old 05-14-2010, 03:52 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Hemispheres and Permanent Waves are both fantastic. I'm with you on La Villa Strangiato - that bass solo blows my mind!
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Old 06-18-2010, 04:04 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Moving Pictures (1981)


Yes, I'm still writing these reviews. Just a lot more slowly than I was. Since I have half an hour to kill before I get off work for the weekend, I figured another review would help move the time along. You know how sometimes a band will have one particular album that everyone ends up owning? Like Peter Frampton and “Frampton Comes Alive!”, “Moving Pictures” is the album that a casual music lover would have if they only had one Rush album. Is it the best Rush album? Well, that is really up to the listener, but the fact that nearly everyone can at least mumble the lyrics “Modern day warrior mean mean stride, today's Tom Sawyer mean mean pride” does say something about the album's quality. Especially since they were still considered prog and it was the 80's and people were pretty much over prog at that time. It hit number 3 in the US and has gone quadruple platinum, so if you haven't heard it then you should probably get on that...

I would be surprised if anyone reading this never heard “Tom Sawyer”. It still gets played quite a bit on the radio and has made its way onto several movie soundtracks. It is one of those songs where once you hear it you know you've heard it before, just not by who. This song is a phenomenal opener. Just listen to that opening snyth part. Never has something sounded so 80's yet so timeless all at the same time. Rush was the sneakiest band ever when it came to throwing in synth to a guitar based band. “Moving Pictures” has ever so slightly more synth than “Permanent Waves”. A few albums down the road, all the sudden you are thinking, “Didn't they have guitars before? WTF happened?” The awesomeness continues with “Red Barchetta” and one of the best instrumental ever written, “YYZ”. YYZ is the airport code for Toronto Pearson International Airport, and they play the letters in morse code at the beginning of the song. The rest is just deadly. There is some drum and guitar virtuosity going on in the song, but Geddy really steals the show with the bass in that one. “Limelight” was another huge radio hit, “Witch Hunt” would go on to have several sequels on other albums, and “Vital Signs” is an excellent closer. “The Camera Eye” is Rush's final foray into longer songs. Never again will they play a song over 10 minutes. It's a good thing they pull off another classic with this one, then. “The Camera Eye” is another long song that doesn't feel long at all. Somehow, Rush is able to keep the whole thing interesting the entire time.

The overall sound, though slightly beefed up in the synth department, is very similar to the sound they achieved on “Permanent Waves”. In my mind, that and “Moving Pictures” seem like they go together as if they are part 1 and part 2. “A Farewell to Kings” may be my favorite Rush album, but those two albums are the two albums that say better than any other “We are Rush...here is what we can do”. The bass has never been more versatile while still being so driving, the guitars use very smooth open chords while somehow keeping a hard rock feel, and as always not much needs to be said about Neil's drumming. After this album, it starts to become very very apparent Rush want to mess with synths. I'm just glad they held off this long and were able to give us this masterpiece.

What else would I give this album besides a 10/10? There is a reason Rush is going to be playing this album in it entirety on the next tour. Which I will be gladly attending.

Yes, I'm purposefully not posting Tom Sawyer on here. If you really haven't heard that song, look it up.



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Old 06-18-2010, 07:34 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Oh man, Moving Pictures was one of the handful of albums that built the foundation of me loving music from my earliest years. When it came out I was only four years old and obviously not running out and buying albums, but my brother was 12 and my cousin was 14 and they listened to this album constantly. I just remember the songs from the album being omnipresent in my early childhood. And I loved that album cover! I think all of it seeped in on very fundamental level with me and has informed my tastes one way or another ever since.
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