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Old 12-10-2011, 01:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Rush, Vapor Trails- 2002


Rush Vapor Trails- 2002
RMR Album Rating- 9


What a waste of 10 years…

I certainly owe this album an apology, for I completely ignored and dismissed it for almost a decade, and it wasn’t until I returned to it for this review that I realized how great it is and what I had been missing. I guess, in a way, I’m kind of happy about this because it gave me a new Rush album to explore that I had completely overlooked.

I bought “Vapor Trails” the day it came out in 2002, and I don’t think I had ever been more excited to bring home an album, as it was the first new studio material from Rush in over 6-years; however, when I played it, it didn’t really resonate with me at all. I didn’t think it was awful, but for the first time, I was really indifferent about a Rush album; I didn’t really care about it, and I’m not sure what was stranger for me: the fact that the album didn’t resonate with me, or the fact that I felt an indifference toward Rush.

In retrospect, I can now see what lead to my indifference toward the album and the band. Rush was the band that really got me in to serious music in the first place, and up through the “Test for Echo” album and tour, Rush reigned supreme over all other bands. In my opinion, they could do absolutely no wrong. With that being said, I still listened to and collected loads of other albums from other bands, and I have always enjoyed all types of music, but during that time— in my mind, no one else compared to Rush. So, when Rush went on hiatus for six years, I pulled myself together and sought out music from other bands. This actually ended up being an excellent turn of events because during that six year period, which actually turned into an 11-year period (because I didn’t really get back into Rush until their “Snakes and Arrows” release in 2007), I really expanded my musical horizons, and during that time, I read more about music and bought more music than I ever had in the past, and it was during this time that I became obsessed with music and not just Rush music.

Moving back to present day, Rush once again reigns supreme as my favorite band, albeit not at the level that they once did. I can also now say that I absolutely love “Vapor Trails,” and I rank it as one of Rush’s best albums, so the big question is: why did my opinion of the album change so much?

Well, it all comes down to musical maturity. From 1997 until now (2011), my taste in music had diversified and matured, and I now hear “Vapor Trails” as Rush’s most mature album. I wasn’t ready for this in 2002, but I am now, and the album sounds completely different to me now than it did in 2002. I do want to point out that I don’t view Rush’s previous releases as immature, but “Vapor Trails” has an element of consistency to it that once made it sound monotonous to me, but it now sounds completely balanced and mature.

This new maturity of sound comes from two key elements: The lyrics and the subtleness of the music…

Lyrics: The main reason Rush took such a long break is that Neil Peart’s wife and daughter died just 10-months apart (shortly after the conclusion of the “Test For Echo” tour). As a result, Neil just fled. He went on a 55,000 mile motorcycle trip riding solo from North America all the way through Central America, where he had time to think and reflect on his life and the events that had occurred, and most of the the lyrics on “Vapor Trails” deal with his travesty in some way. I could highlight individual lyrical segments, but the lyrics are best taken as a whole, and if you read the lyrics while listening to the music, they really read like a metaphorical psychology therapy session documenting Neil’s personal transformation from agony back to recovery.

Subtleness of the music: “Vapor Trails” is a more subtle record than any other Rush release, and this is the main reason that it didn’t resonate with me right away. There are no keyboards or synths, there are no guitar solos, and taken on the surface level, all the songs sound very similar and even run together, and there are not really any true standout songs or singles (with the exception of maybe “Earthshine”). However, once the surface level is brushed away by many repeated listens, the songs don’t run together at all, and each song actually stands equal and unique on its own pedestal of distinction.

The one exception to the lyrical resonance and subtly of music on the album is the last track— “Out of the Cradle.” I don’t think it fits the flow of the rest of the album, and I think it should have been left off. If it were, “Vapor Trails” would definitely be a 10-star album for me. With that being said, it’s an easy skip, and since it is the last track, it doesn’t detract from the flow of the first 12 phenomenal songs.

As for those 12 tracks, I really do think each one is excellent and equal in its own right. So for me, “Vapor Trails” is not an album of favorites, but I will highlight three songs that I think best demonstrate the album’s greatness as a whole. “Earthshine,” as I mentioned, does stand out a bit from the other tracks because it is far heavier than the other songs on the album (Earthshine- YouTube clip below). “Ceiling Unlimited” has a great pace to it, and going back to my comments that the album’s lyrics are a psychological journey for Neil from agony to recovery, this song certainly represents his recovery, and this is perfectly illustrated in the last two verses of the song: “winding like an ancient river/ the time is now again/ hope is like an endless river/ the time is now again.” These lines always garner my attention and stick with me (Ceiling Unlimited- YouTube clip below). Lastly, I’ll point out “Peaceable Kingdom,” which shifts back and forth seamlessly between a heavy and melodic tone. Plus, Geddy’s vocals (mainly during the chorus sections) are almost reminiscent of his amazing falsetto vocals from the 70’s and 80’s (Peaceable Kingdom- YouTube clip below).

To conclude this, I’ll rephrase my opening line. The 10-years that I spent not giving “Vapor Trails” the credit it deserves were not wasted. They were saved; they were saved for a time when I was ready to appreciate the album for how good it really is, and to re-quote “Ceiling Unlimited” from above, that “time is now again/ the time is now again.”





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Last edited by RMR; 12-10-2011 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 12-10-2011, 06:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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My feeling towards this album have always been mixed, first off its got some great songs and it was the bands best album in years when it came out and I loved the way they returned to a harder rocking sound, after years of never nailing down a proper sound in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. The big down-point of this album though was the production, I remember years ago reading about its production techniques and the issues a lot of reviewers had with it, as I found the music was just too loud in relation to the vocals of Geddy Lee, which kind of dampened the impact of the album.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post
My feeling towards this album have always been mixed, first off its got some great songs and it was the bands best album in years when it came out and I loved the way they returned to a harder rocking sound, after years of never nailing down a proper sound in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. The big down-point of this album though was the production, I remember years ago reading about its production techniques and the issues a lot of reviewers had with it, as I found the music was just too loud in relation to the vocals of Geddy Lee, which kind of dampened the impact of the album.
The production used to really bother me when it first came out, but I've now listened to it so many times, I really don't notice it as much any more. There is talk of remastering the whole thing, which would be awesome. Here's what Wikipedia says:
The production of Vapor Trails has been criticized because of the album's "loud" sound quality. Albums such as this have been mastered so loud that additional digital distortion is generated during the production of the CD. The trend, known as the loudness war, has become very common on modern rock CDs.

As told by Rip Rowan on the ProRec website, the damaged production is the result of overly compressed (clipped) audio levels during mastering,[8] though Rush has admitted that there was digital distortion during recording, which also contributed to the damage. Remastering the album would not correct the damage from digital distortion that was introduced during recording, but it could correct the other, more destructive damage that is the result of overly compressing the audio during mastering.

On Retrospective 3, Richard Chycki, who recently worked with the band on the R30 and both the Snakes & Arrows album and live sets, remixed "One Little Victory", and "Earthshine". In an interview with Modern Guitars, Lifeson remarked that since the remixes were so good, there has been talk of doing an entire remix of the album.
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Old 12-25-2011, 08:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I like this album. I just got it like two years ago. But it's found it's way into my rotation. Earthshine is my favourite track on this album
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