Rush

Picture of Rush

Rush

Rush - Rush ©1974 Mercury/Polygram
1. Finding My Way
2. Need Some Love
3. Take a Friend
4. Here Again
5. What You're Doing
6. In the Mood
7. Before and After
8. Working Man

As just about any nerd who has ever gone on zit reconnaissance with Rush providing the soundtrack in the background, the band's 1974 debut is hardly representative of their overall style and prowest. In those early salad days, Rush was nothing more than just another hard rock act heavily influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream and other dinosaur rock illuminaries. Vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee spent quite a bit of time developing his best Robert Plant high pitched shrieking (which would be a staple of the band's sound until the 80s, when perhaps he began dressing in trousers that allowed some "breathing room"), while the band hammered out hard rock tunes that wore their influences on their sleeves. Needless to say, their debut is almost a curiosity in the catalogue, particularly since it's the sole album without Neil Peart on drums. In retrospect, his absence is utterly glaring. Original drummer John Rutsey was actually quite competent but wasn't flashy. But more importantly, Rush was lacking Peart's gift for lyrics, which would define Rush until the 90s, when suddenly he ran out of interesting things to tell us. (Not that it stopped Rush from releasing new albums.)

So rather than highbrow sci-fi themes and neo-progressive songwriting, Rush is a lumbering 70s rock album. Geddy Lee informs us that a) he "Needs Some Love" (quite possibly a difficult proposition for him in those early days), b) he's also "In the Mood" (yikes) and c) we should all "Take a Friend". Some of these songs are almost hilarious in the lyrical department. Rush probably would not have survived had they stuck to songs about their collective genitals and what they were hoping to do with them in their offtime. But what is evident, at least on portions of the album such as "Working Man" or "Finding My Way", is that Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson were above average musicians. These guys obviously took their ten collective strings quite seriously. And despite some of the galling lyrics, at least half of these songs are not too shabby. No doubt had the band failed to challenge themselves on future releases and simply stuck to this particular approach, they would have never found a major audience, but at the same time it's not an entirely embarrassing debut. Just partially.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2010

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Fly By Night

Rush - Fly By Night ©1975 Mercury/Polygram
1. Anthem
2. Best I Can
3. Beneath, Between & Behind
4. By-Tor & the Snow Dog
5. Fly By Night
6. Making Memories
7. Rivendell
8. In the End

After the self titled debut, Rush had its one and only lineup change by replacing drummer John Rutsey with Neil Peart. Peart helped catapult Rush greatly forward, moving them away from another lumbering 70s rock act towards the expansive realm of prog rock. Not only was Peart simply a far better drummer than Rutsey, he took over the lyric writing for the band. That meant no more anthems about Geddy Lee hoping to get lucky tonight. No doubt Geddy Lee appreciated having more interesting topics to sing about.

Peart's lyrics have obviously been a focal point for Rush ever since. Although songs like "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" are just a tad over the top with its storyline (as well as the extended "fight scene" musical passage in the middle of the song), they again were a major improvement over the debut's lyrics. This aspect cannot be overstated enough. Granted, Peart allowed Ayn Rand to be an influence on his writing, but no one is perfect. Meanwhile, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson spent more of their energy on the actual music, which certainly benefitted from having a rather dexterious drummer in the midst. The songs, outside of "By-Tor", still were of the shorter, uncomplicated variety, especially in comparison to the subsequent albums in their career. But there was also more variety, such as the quiet "Rivendell", or just simple, straightforward rock anthems, such as "Anthem".

The drawbacks of Fly By Night are those aided by decades of hindsight. Geddy Lee unfortunately was still stuck in his shrieking falsetto mode, which caused the material to sound way more preposterous than necessary. And despite the advances in songwriting, Fly By Night is unquestionably an album stuck in the 70s, which implies that there's a sense of dinosaurism. "By-Tor", which is a song I tend to find a bit goofy, started the band down the path of noodle-ism and the excess of prog oriented bands.

I enjoy portions of Fly By Night, but I can't help feel a bit embarrassed whenever some catches me listening to it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2010

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2112

Rush - 2112 ©1976 Mercury/Polygram
1. "2112"
2. A Passage To Bangkok
3. The Twilight Zone
4. Lessons
5. Tears
6. Something For Nothing

Let's be frank here. Although it's a sweeping generalization, a good chunk of us modify our love for Rush by saying, "Yeah, well, they were my favorite band in high school." I certainly do. But there are reasons. Although Rush's music slimlined and became a more interesting project (at least to me) in the 80s, their early output was the type of thing that I almost begrudgingly liked, but deep down I felt slightly embarrassed at listening to it. Just slightly. It certainly hasn't stopped me from buying every single Rush CD and remasters.

"2112" is probably everything stereotypical about Rush that one can think of. It has the ponderous, far-future sci-fi story (want a synopsis? Not here, pal!), Geddy Lee's high pitched shrieking chipmunk voice and "adventurous" song structures, such as the title track's twenty minute epic tale. For some, this is everything that is right about Rush and for detractors, everything that is wrong. "2112" is one of the first Rush albums to really gain any real attention for the band as they rose to their cult status. Obviously the focal point is the title track and its tale of a future society where the discovery of a long lost stringed instrument seemingly topples all that is structured. Or something. It is a bit goofy. The song is broken into several parts and each section is very nearly its own song. The second side of the album is actually five separate, unrelated songs that seem to be forgotten about since most people focus on the title track. These other songs are a bit more standard along the lines of what Rush had been doing up to that point on Fly By Night or Caress of Steel. The Led Zeppelin hints still show up from time to time while the band tries to show their sensitive side on "Tears". Oh, those softies!

"2112" may be one of the band's defining moments, but it's not necessarily even my favorite of their 70s output. Even the most ardent fan should at least admit it was pretty darned laborious and cumbersome, particularly the concept behind the title track. Nevertheless, the album represents a very important step for the band and helped catapult them into the limelight. Thus, despite being a bit silly at times, the album still gets a recommendation.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2002

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A Farewell to Kings

Rush - A Farewell to Kings ©1977 Mercury/Polygram
1. A Farewell to Kings
2. Xanadu
3. Closer to the Heart
4. Cinderella Man
5. Madrigal
6. Cygnus X-1

Although "Closer to the Heart" apparently has become a mandatory concert inclusion, I generally find A Farewell to Kings to be the most excessive, overreaching and tedious release of Rush's early years. Oh sure, "2112" was a rather sprawling song with a grandiose concept behind it and Hemispheres again would take Rush on a journey through excessiveness, but A Farewell to Kings seems half-baked.

The album is made up of a mere six songs again, but it features two "epic" tracks in "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1". These both are songs that I simpy find unbearable. "Xanadu" is the more tolerable of the two as it features some good moments that are unfortunately broken up with noodling, rambling, diverging and drifting. Perhaps this was the point where drummer Neal Peart was really going nuts with expanding his drum kit and they were forced to find ways to integrate his various new toys, even at the expense of a good song. "Xanada" has a good core, but it probably could have been done and over with inside of four minutes. "Cygnus X-1" is just like a bad science fiction movie and should be subjected to heckling.

The remaining songs are either nondescript or fairly decent. Actually, "Closer to the Heart" is probably the only song on this album that I rather enjoy at this late date. The rest of the album is precisely why Rush fans are given the bad rap of living in their mum's basement, enjoying Dungeons & Dragons a bit too much and generally being socially awkward. After all, this sort of high-falutin', yarn-weaving neo-prog stuff seems to scare off pretty girls and guys who cheer for local sporting teams. This is the definition of nerd rock. While I might have been on the geeky side of the fence in high school, complete with the awful haircuts and oversized glasses, A Farewell to Kings simply was not my personal anthem. I shudder to think there may be people nerdy enough to relate to this album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2010

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Hemispheres

Rush - Hemispheres ©1978 Mercury/Polygram
1. Hemispheres
2. Circumstances
3. The Trees
4. La Villa Strangiato

Hemispheres was traditionally my favorite Rush album, the pinnacle of their achievements. That I can only stomach about half of it indicates just how far into the abyss my love of the band has descended. The musicianship, as you would guess, is pretty much top notch, with incredibly precise playing, crisp guitar tones, and ample instrumental wank. The eighteen-minute title track that occupies the tolerable half of the album is complex, alternating between amply charged, frenetic virtuosity and more relaxed segments where Peart's jazzy percussion breathes and the music carries a more epic, soaring quality. The arrangement of the song is very similar to the epic Iron Maiden structure that would come years later, and many of the clean guitar sounds would emerge in the work of eighties atmospheric rockers (Fields of Nephilim etc.). Make no mistake, this stuff is wicked influential. The problem with this material and the Achilles' Heal of Rush, are those insane forest-elf-on-Prozac Geddy Lee vocal lines. It's as though Rush discovered a strange inverted alchemy, where gold is magically transformed into shit. Just add a teaspoon of Geddy Lee's nasal wail and a cup of Neil Peart's pretentious lyrics, and poof! Your intricate music is magically transformed into Camaro-ready butt-rock. The title track gets by on the merits of its arrangement and extended instrumental segments. But tracks like “Circumstances”, and particularly the libertarian agitprop anthem “Trees”, are a sonic nightmare waiting to happen, Randroid idealism coupled with singsong enthusiasm guaranteeing a spirit-crushing experience. “La Villa Strangiato” almost pulls the album up with its virtuosity and lack of glade-dancing vocals, but is perhaps a bit too long and a bit too wanky to achieve escape velocity. So, in conclusion, Hemispheres is half tolerable. I'm too stodgy and too cynical, and I fear I may never be able to reclaim my stolen youth, or love of Rush. Here's to trying.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 07/2002

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Permanent Waves

Rush - Permanent Waves ©1980 Mercury/Polygram
1. The Spirit Of The Radio
2. Freewill
3. Jacob's Ladder
4. Entre Nous
5. Different Strings
6. Natural Science

When Rush stepped into the 80s (not that they had any choice in the matter), they began their transformation from a heady, quasi-prog rock band to a more technologically sequestered group, Permanent Waves became their transitional album. Gone were the epic, full side songs such as "2112" or "Hemispheres". Though certain tracks like "Natural Science" were still rather lengthy and ambitious, the trio learned a bit about honing their excessive traits into a more digestible style. Permanent Waves also hinted more strongly at the eventual use of keyboards, synthesizers and sequencers in their music, though Alex Lifeson still played a prominent guitar role on the album. But as "Spirit of the Radio" and "Freewill" showed, the band was a lot more interested in writing songs that threw out some of the dross and excess for songs that could be heard and remembered like other rock anthems of the day. And more importantly, Geddy Lee was shedding the shrieking chipmunk falsetto of the 70s for a much more palatable singing voice.

Overall, Permanent Waves as proven to be a decent but not overwhelming Rush release, especially in the context of their entire career. There are some songs that I just don't find particularly exciting, namely "Entre Nous" and "Freewill". On the other hand, the ambitious "Natural Science" is a wonderful inclusion in the Rush Epic Song Catalogue. Another great song is "Different Strings", a more somber and quiet number that features rare Geddy Lee lyrics. "Jacob's Ladder" is an iffy epic number that on some occasions proves to be a bit cumbersome and on others is a good treat.

Permanent Waves is probably one of the few albums that appeals to both fans of the older 70s Rush and fans who enjoy their 80s synth phase. Based on that alone, there is no reason for you not to have this album but do be sure to get Moving Pictures to see what this band could really do with their new style.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2000

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Moving Pictures

Rush - Moving Pictures ©1981 Mercury/Polygram
1. Tom Sawyer
2. Red Barchetta
3. YYZ
4. Limelight
5. The Camera Eye
6. Witch Hunt
7. Vital Signs

One of those albums that just makes you go wow. Rush was slowly introducing keyboards, bass pedals, and sequencers into the mix and this was one of their best demonstrations of the latest technology. "Tom Sawyer" opens the album, and that seems to be the song everyone liked when I was in high school. "Red Barchetta", a futuristic story of a boy and an outlawed gas automobile going on a joyride, is one of my favorite Rush songs ever. "YYZ" is another great Rush instrumental, with a killer bass line (Geddy is one of the best). "The Camera Eye" is the epic track, but it moves differently than any of their previous long songs. Rather than piecing together distinctly different segments under one title, this song maintains a flow throughout. Then you have "Witch Hunt", which builds into a slow climax. And the whole thing ends with "Vital Signs", implementing sequencers and displaying great song movement. If you don't own this one (and in fact, I have two copies of this so I guess I'm twice the Rush fan), don't call yourself a Rush fan.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1997

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Signals

Rush - Signals ©1982 Mercury/Polygram
1. Subdivisions
2. The Analog Kid
3. Chemistry
4. Digital Man
5. The Weopon
6. New World Man
7. Losing It
8. Countdown

If any one album every completely and totally recruited me into the Rush cult in high school, Signals is that very album. Upon finding it, I proceeded to listen to it nearly every day for weeks on end and to this day I still find it to be one of their finest moments as a band. Push aside the fact that the band was more than dipping a toe into their synthesizer era as well as the muddy production (something that was somewhat rectified on the later remastered editions) and you have yourself one of the best pieces of Rush's work in their recorded history.

It probably helps to have a wonderful album opener such as "Subdivisions", which features a great usage of keyboards as well as some darned pointed lyrics. "The Analog Kid" is possibly a refugee from the previous two Rush albums, still using their style from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures with some synth washes in the chorus. "Chemistry" is a fairly clever lyrical number. "The Weapon" is a very powerful number, while the follow-up, "New World Man", seems to be the song most people remember from this album. "Losing It" is a slower number regarding the affects of age on talented people. The album closes out with "Countdown", which is a tribute to the launch of the first space shuttle, complete with sampled recordings from Houston and the cockpit of the Columbia.

With the exception of "Digital Man", every single of these songs belongs on a greatest hits album for Rush. The interplay between synthesizer, guitar and the rhythm section is particularly solid throughout. Geddy Lee had thankfully put his youthful shrieking well behind him and that suits the music much better on Signals. The album is a graceful transition into a newer style that may have alienated puritan rockers, but excites and gallantly thrills those who could follow the progress of the band. Absolutely one of the band's best.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Grace Under Pressure

Rush - Grace Under Pressure ©1984 Mercury/Polygram
1. Distant Early Warning
2. Afterimage
3. Red Sector A
4. The Enemy Within
5. The Body Electric
6. Kid Gloves
7. Red Lenses
8. Between The Wheels

Having rectified the production issues of Signals, Rush unleashed yet another wonderful record of immensely powerful songs that both continued their sound in the synthesizer world and gave guitarist Alex Lifeson refound prominence in the mix. Grace Under Pressure, the band's 1984 release, is a remarkably sparkling, crystal clear foray containing yet another eight fantastic songs. Whatever issues plagued Signals behind the scenes are not to be found here. The clarity and expert sound of Grace Under Pressure is among the band's best productions. Moreover, these songs are very well written, working within the band's strengths and revitalizing themselves entirely.

The overall mood of the album is very tense, particularly in the cold war chill of "Red Sector A" and "Distant Early Warning", both longtime concert favorites. Although the sounds presented on the record are quite open, you can never escape the underlying feeling something is not quite right in the world presented here by Rush. "Afterimage" is a touching ode to a friend who has passed away while "The Body Electric" takes on a science fiction approach once again. "Red Lenses" always reminded me of the tension of the 80s created by the Cold War between the Soviets and Americans. The closing song, "Between the Wheels", is one of the band's all time best songs, containing an ominous synth structure woven within a great build and chorus.

While the band seemed to have lost many older fans with their continuing experiments with synthesizers, sequencers and keyboards, Grace Under Pressure is entirely wonderful album that ranks among my personal favorites. Whatever mood was infecting the Rush camp during the songwriting of this album is perfectly captured and presented. Grace Under Pressure is a fitting followup to one of my favorite Rush albums, Signals.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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Power Windows

Rush - Power Windows ©1985 Mercury/Polygram
1. The Big Money
2. Grand Designs
3. Manhattan Project
4. Marathon
5. Territories
6. Middletown Dreams
7. Emotion Detector
8. Mystic Rhythms

Certainly one of the most villified releases in Rush's career, Power Windows is actually the very first album of theirs that I purchased as a teenager and frankly, it's a pretty damned good record. The onslaught of keyboards, sequences and synthesizers might have turned off purists, as well as the crystalized, expansive production of Peter Collins, but Power Windows is chock full of mesmerizing songs in a larger than life musical setting. Geddy Lee was one busy little beaver, handling vocals, bass and the vast array of keyboards that resembled a setting from Star Trek. Moreover, Neil Peart was as strong as ever, creating masterful rhythm patterns for the music. I suppose Alex Lifeson was feeling a bit left out of the ring, with his role as guitarist being pushed back to song texture than shredding leads, though he sneaks a few killer solos in here and there.

But the thing about Power Windows that makes it work is the excellent songwriting. If you put aside some of the reliance of synth technology, at the heart of it all are great songs. "Manhattan Project", "Marathon", "The Big Money" (a concert favorite, it would seem) and "Middletown Dreams" all contain some spine chillingly good music. "Marathon" features both some incredible bass playing by Geddy Lee, wonderous drumming from Neil Peart and some fantastic, inspirational lyrics. (Incidentally, Satan Stole My Teddybear's own Jonathan Arnett used excerpts from those lyrics in his 1992 valedictorian address.) "Middletown Dreams" uses a great sequencer series in the middle of the song to elevate the mood behind it.

Certainly the members of Rush were in rapture of a humongous desert-wide sound for Power Windows as well as a little boy's fascination with new technology and their roots were somewhat forgotten about. Regardless, Power Windows still features some of their best material to date and frankly, I like how they used keyboards. So there.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Hold Your Fire

Rush - Hold Your Fire ©1987 Mercury/Polygram
1. Force Ten
2. Time Stand Still
3. Open Secrets
4. Second Nature
5. Prime Mover
6. Lock And Key
7. Mission
8. Turn The Page
9. Tai Shan
10. High Water

Even though the Rush-o-philes out there consider the trio's synth-drenched 80's output to be something akin to a kitty barfing in your favorite pair of loafers, I will proudly stand on a very tall rock and hereby announce, "I dig this stuff." I'm sure that Alex Lifeson might have been a bit miffed that Geddy Lee was fully burying the guitar under a towering monolith of keyboards, sequencers and bass pedals, even if it was a subconscious thing. But regardless of how the band went about making their music, Hold Your Fire had one major thing going for it: the songs are good to great throughout. "Force Ten" is undeniably a classic Rush track, complete with a major mood shift for the chorus and very wide open atmospheric affects. "Time Stand Still" is the poppiest and probably the most radio friendly song of the album. "Open Secrets" is a floating, pondering number that contains some very good lyrics from Neil Peart. At this point Peart was rock solid on introspective lyrics and this here is one of his better examples. Meanwhile, the music underneath is expansive and moving. The most upbeat song of the album (and the only one where bass really gets a mod) is "Turn the Page". Overall, the production on Hold Your Fire takes the band into a territory started with Power Windows. The sound is immense and still allows a lot of space for musical notes to breathe and stretch out. Regardless of the fact that the band fails to "shred", this is one contender for a Rush classic.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1999

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A Show Of Hands

Rush - A Show Of Hands ©1988 Mercury/Polygram
1. Intro
2. The Big Money
3. Subdivisions
4. Marathon
5. Turn The Page
6. Manhattan Project
7. Mission
8. Distant Early Warning
9. Mystic Rhythms
10. Witch Hunt
11. The Rhythm Method--drum Solo
12. Force Ten
13. Time Stand Still
14. Red Sector A
15. Closer To The Heart

Rush's career has always been divided into different phases of style and approach. Moreover, as each phase drew to a close, the band sees fit to release a live album to encapsulate and document that era for their audience. All the World's a Stage brought an end to the band's formative early years in 1976, ushering the über-prog of the late 70s and early synth era of the very early 80s. That particular era ended with Exit Stage Left in 1981 and the rest of the 80s were spent exploring the synthesizer and sequencer technology to the utmost of their ability. By 1989, Rush had seen fit to end that era with A Show of Hands, which also marked the final release for their longtime label of Mercury.

Beginning with the intro sounds of The Three Stooges, Rush blazes through their hits of the 80s, but only one track from pre-1980, the required concert finisher, "Closer to the Heart". Certainly some fans were put off by the setlist of this release, but this live album captures this era of Rush's existence extremely well. Perhaps doctored in the studio, the production of this album is fantastic, giving these songs great life onstage and the performances are roundly wonderful from the three members. Obviously Geddy Lee kept busy while performing, handling the synths, bass, singing and bass pedals. The experience is lush and vibrant, making this CD nearly a greatest hits package from the 80s. For the fans who actually appreciated where the band went in the 80s, A Show of Hands is a very wonderful record and transcends the usual lack of necessity some live albums have.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2001

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Presto

Rush - Presto ©1989 Atlantic
1. Show Don't Tell
2. Chain Lightning
3. The Pass
4. War Paint
5. Scars
6. Presto
7. Superconductor
8. Anagram (for Mongo)
9. Red Tide
10. Hand Over Fist
11. Available Light

Anyone who has paid attention to Rush might note that the band will go through a distinct musical phase that is closed out by a live album. All the World's a Stage closed out the band's original early rock stage while Exit Stage Left finished up their infamous prog rock 70's period with their beginnings in synth stylings of Moving Pictures. A Show of Hands, released in 1989, wrapped up their loved/loathed (you know which side of the fence you are on here) keyboard drenched 80's music. As a result, the following studio album, Presto, was again a shift in direction for the trio, this time going for a more back to the basics approach. For whatever reason, the band decided to place the keyboard racks in the garage and opted for a style that reminded them that yes, Alex Lifeson indeed played guitars and was a pretty snappy guitarist to boot. Presto, while sporting more than a handful of good songs, does have a thin production quality, unlike the billowing clouds of sound of the past few studio releases. But good songs are often more important than perfect production and for that, Presto still rates as a long time favorite of mine. It's actually easier to count the songs I dislike over the ones I like here. The band takes the listener through a maze of moods and tempos throughout, from the moodiness of "The Pass" to a more fanciful approach on the title track. Naturally the playing from all three members is quite rock solid, although there seems to be a lot less emphasis on showing off just how darned good they are in accordance to this new song-oriented approach. Presto was indeed a good magic trick to remind some of their fans that the band was not totally lost in Casio technology and could still harness the old rock trio horse.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2000

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Roll The Bones

Rush - Roll The Bones ©1991 Atlantic
1. Dreamline
2. Bravado
3. Roll The Bones
4. Face Up
5. Where's My Thing? (part Iv--the Gangster Of Boats Trilogy)
6. The Big Wheel
7. Heresy
8. Ghost Of Chance
9. Neurotica
10. You Bet Your Life

Rush entered the 90s, their third decade of existence, by gambling a little on Roll the Bones. Featuring both some of their best material in years as well as some rather eyebrow-raising moments, this disc is a mixed bag, but ultimately essential for any fan of Rush post-1981. Using Presto's trimmed down motif as a foundation, Roll the Bones has a tad more meat on its bone structure, allowing electronics and keyboards to act in a better supporting role than their 80s material. Alex Lifeson continues to enjoy reemergence as a major focal point on this record.

The songs on a whole are very ear-friendly and possibly their most pop oriented up to 1991. However, surprising moments occur in the middle of the title track as a tongue-in-cheek "rap" pops up unexpectedly. Other tracks are inherently catchy and energetic, particularly "Face Up" or the excellent album opener "Dreamline" (one of the best Rush songs in ages). There are a couple entirely tepid numbers in "The Big Wheel" and "Heresy", which does bring the impact of the album down quite a bit. There is also an amusing instrumental called "Where's My Thing? (Part IV: 'Gangster of Boats' Trilogy)" that allows the band to show off a bit. For most of the album, the band actually restrains themselves from showing off their considerable collective talents, honing things into the friendly song form.

For fans of older Rush, Roll the Bones may come up snake-eyes as there is little of the 70s sci-fi adventurism or Geddy Lee's hysterical shrieking. However, for those who were able to make the transition of the band from lumbering neo-prog nerd rock to their more radio friendly era, Roll the Bones is a worthwhile album providing a handful of excellent songs.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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Counterparts

Rush - Counterparts ©1993 Atlantic
1. Animate
2. Stick It Out
3. Cut To The Chase
4. Nobody's Hero
5. Between Sun & Moon
6. Alien Shore
7. The Speed Of Love
8. Double Agent
9. Leave That Thing Alone
10. Cold Fire
11. Everyday Glory

The second I heard the opening line "I knew he was different, in his sexuality" on "Nobody's Hero", I knew Rush had offered the first full disappointment in their long career. For a band who had excelled in intelligent lyrics, the pandering and trite lyrics that are sprinkled throughout Counterparts were utterly uncomfortable to hear. And that is too bad. The first two tracks on the album, "Animate" and "Stick It Out", are both great and incorporated a very contemporary edge that had seemingly borrowed in spirit from the Seattle explosion without being trendy. Unfortunately those two songs represented the only ones even remotely strong enough to be called Rush. The trio's attempt to hone in their sound, beef it up with more guitar and a friendly bass/drums sound also whittled away the songwriting. Face it: "The Speed of Love", "Cut to the Chase", "Cold Fire" come across as weak radio rock. You might expect this sort of pablum from a bar band emulating Rush, but not from Rush. On "Double Agent", Rush even apparently borrows ideas from White Zombie with a weird "evil" spoken section bridging the arrangements. Shades of "Black Sunshine", anyone? I'll give credit to the band for a somewhat moody, but well-done instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone". But unfortunately, the three good songs are not enough to save this album from severe mediocrity.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1999

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Mirrors [bootleg]

Rush - Mirrors ©1995 Monada/Oxygen
CD one:
1. Intro (The Three Stooges)/Force Ten
2. Limelight
3. Freewill
4. Distant Early Warning
5. Intro/Time Stand Still
6. Dreamline
7. Bravado
8. Roll The Bones
9. Intro/Show Don't Tell
10. The Big Money
CD two:
11. Ghost Of A Chance
12. Subdivisions
13. The Pass
14. Where's My Thing?
15. The Rhythm Method
16. Closer To The Heart
17. Xanadu
18. Superconductor
19. Intro/Tom Sawyer
20. Medley

Normally a bootleg copy of a live show is not necessarily something one who values quality will desire or pay high dollars to possess. In my experience the vast majority of illicitly recorded bootlegs are subpar embarassments that offer a tinny, horrible representation of a band. There is a reason why most bands do anything they can to quell the distribution of such bootlegs because they can lead to a bad reflection upon the band. Moreover, there is the consideration of quality control which bands lose with bootlegs.

In the case of Mirrors, most of the problems inherent with bootlegs are nonexistent and in fact, gives the listener a double CD treat, capturing Rush in their live prime. This particular bootleg was recorded on January 30th, 1992, in Oakland California, and shows without a doubt what this band pulls off on every show of every tour. The peformance is flawless throughout and the sound quality is damn near perfect. The guitar sound only suffers slightly, being placed somewhere further back than it should. However, that is a very tiny quibble since this package rivals every one of the official live releases Rush has put out in their career. Crowd sounds are very well placed and do not overpower the band (often a major failing in most bootlegs). Moreover, Rush's setlist for this particular show is wonderful. The band offers quite a bit of material from their then-most recent release Roll the Bones as well as tasty bits from their entire career. Their output from the 80s, particularly Presto, is well represented, as well as snippets and fan favorites from earlier in their career. Of course you get the obligatory drum solo on "The Rhythm Method". And as a neat little treat, you also get a career spanning and show closing medley.

A lot of care and respectful work went into packaging this bootleg. Whoever was responsible for making it offers a nice looking cover as well as a brief tour history on the inside tray inlay. While you may end up paying quite a bit if you do happen upon this bootleg in your local independent record store, this is one of the very few bootlegs that is worth the price paid.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000

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Test For Echo

Rush - Test For Echo ©1996 Atlantic
1. Test For Echo
2. Driven
3. Half The World
4. The Color Of Right
5. Time And Motion
6. Totem
7. Dog Years
8. Virtuality
9. Resist
10. Limbo
11. Carve Away The Stone

Paging Rush, paging the aging members of Rush! Ever feel your best days are behind and you are now chasing the alternative flock? Neil, you may have been told by rock journalists that you are a profound and deep lyricist. Um, but this "Dog Years" stuff? C'mon, maybe Geddy or Alex have something to say, too.

All right, all right, enough old rock fogey bashing aside. It's like tearing into a senile grandfather...obviously his condition isn't his fault. Geddy and the boys are still quite dexterious and talented. Parts of the songs are quite interesting ("Driven" has a great bassline...until the acoustic guitar chorus breaks in and takes away the mood of the song). Other songs just fall flat in dreary boredom (i.e.--"Half the World", "The Color of Right"). The rare times that the music is interesting, the lyrics detract greatly. The aforementioned "Dog Years" is a real foot-tapper (hey, this isn't death metal here), but those stupid lines! ("And all too soon a canine/will be chasing cars in doggie heaven"...even in context, the lyrics are still trite.) Another song attempting a heavy, alternative guitar riff is "Virtuality", which tries to colorize the Internet.

Overall, there isn't a single song really worthy of Rush's vast catalogue. Whether they listened to a few too many Seattle bands or just have dried up the creative well, I don't know. But you just want to sit these guys down and tell them, "Hey, retirement isn't that bad." Better than assaulting us with mediocre pablum. One can only hope another live album is on the way to usher the end of this terrible midlife crisis era and maybe begin a nice Golden years trend.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1997

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Retrospective I 1974-1980

Rush - Retrospective I 1974-1980 ©1997 Mercury
1. The Spirit Of The Radio
2. The Trees
3. Something For Nothing
4. Freewill
5. Xanadu
6. Bastille Day
7. By-Tor And The Snow Dog
8. Anthem
9. Closer To The Heart
10. 2112 Overture
11. The Temples Of Syrinx
12. La Villa Strangiato
13. Fly By Night
14. Finding My Way

It's a given that any band who has been around as long as Rush is going to have a multitude of live packages, best-of collections and compilations to choose from. The first major collection was Chronicles, which was a decent two album release covering the main high points of Rush's career up to that point. Now we have the Retrospective collections, which split up the band's career into a couple eras, this one covering 1974 to 1980.

Coming up with a succienct and perfectly encompassing collection for a band like Rush is nearly impossible. The one possible benefit of the Retrospective collections is that Mercury Records split up the two divisive eras of the band and allows fans of the older, more "progressive" years to have a non-synthy album for a best of package. But even narrowing the song selection down to just the 70s output (and 1980's Permanent Waves) still comes down to the discrimination of those in charge of this package. Retrospective I reads much like a possible live set list for the band in 1980. Most of the choices are obvious fan favorites or ones that appeared on the various live albums released over the years ("The Spirit of the Radio", "Closer to the Heart" and "Freewill" are terribly expected). Only one track appears from the band's debut but the rest of the albums receive fairly equal representation otherwise. The sound is, of course, excellent throughout due to the remastering of all the original albums.

With the liner notes only offering basic information and none of the tracks being a rarity, this compilation is hardly essential to any hardcore Rush fanatic. With the advent of CD recording technology, one could probably burn their own personal "best of", tracks selected to personal taste. That in itself makes Retrospective both redundant and somewhat unnecessary, but convenient if you find it used for cheap.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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Retrospective II 1981-1987

Rush - Retrospective II 1981-1987 ©1997 Mercury
1. The Big Money
2. Red Barchetta
3. Subdivisions
4. Time Stand Still
5. Mystic Rhythms
6. The Analog Kid
7. Distant Early Warning
8. Marathon
9. The Body Electric
10. Mission
11. Limelight
12. Red Sector A
13. New World Man
14. Tom Sawyer
15. Force Ten

Retrospective II 1981-1987 logically picks up where the first Retrospective left off. Containing all the most obvious selections by Rush released during the 80s while still on Mercury records, Retrospective II is a broad overview of that era without offering the fan who already has all the albums anything new or useful. One might argue that the need for this sort of collection is lacking, as it seems nearly anyone who likes Rush tends to already purchase all the albums as casual fans don't necessarily exist. Of course, being more fanatical, I can't say I quite know much about being a casual Rush fan. But considering there already has been one Rush anthology in the form of Chronicles as well as the live A Show of Hands, released in 1988, there truly isn't a burning need to actually rush out to purchase this particular collection.

However, if you are a casual or curious fan, Retrospective II does offer all the album highlights from their 80s releases and is in fact a very listenable and enjoyable album. Perhaps it might supplant your homemade, best-of cassette you made for playing in the car on the way to work. Beyond that, its existence doesn't particularly require your immediate attention.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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Vapor Trails

Rush - Vapor Trails ©2002 Atlantic
1. One Little Victory
2. Ceiling Unlimited
3. Ghost Rider
4. Peaceable Kingdom
5. The Stars Look Down
6. How It Is
7. Vapor Trails
8. Secret Touch
9. Earthshine
10. Sweet Miracle
11. Nocturne
12. Freeze (Part IV Of "Fear")
13. Out Of The Cradle

In a way, we're probably lucky this album ever came about. After drummer Neil Peart lost his daughter and wife within a year's time, it was obvious the man would need some time to himself to recover from his terrible losses. Some things just require priority in life. Meanwhile, singer/bassist Geddy Lee took some time to record his first solo album, My Favorite Headache, to keep himself busy. But finally Peart was ready to play music again and now we finally have Vapor Trails, a good six years after the band's last studio album, Test For Echo.

Test for Echo was a major disappointment for me. Lacking any sort of spark or drive that has at least sheparded the band through creative gaps (which happens to nearly any band during a lengthy career), it was the first Rush album that I absolutely couldn't stand. My Favorite Headache was an improvement, although technically not a Rush album, so it seemed there was a glimmer of hope. Once Vapor Trails came out earlier this year, it immediately came across as an improvement over its predecessor, but never completely clicked with me. Thus, it languished away for several months before I finally made myself pull the CD back out and pay closer attention.

Vapor Trails is surprisingly the band's most aggressive album to date, which is pretty nifty considering these are three men hovering around fifty. The most notable things upon first listens are the fact the guitars are in full force, the rhythm section is of course quite busy, and Geddy Lee's bass playing is outstanding. Lee, being the consummate professional that he is, seemingly has no need to dominate the music with his ability, but he sneaks in a ton of subtle bass lines that enhance the overall quality of the songs. The other thing that pops up is the fact that the band adds a little bombast and dirtiness to the music. Rush has had tendencies to subliminate contemporary influence into their music and you get the impression someone in the band might have put on a Tool record sometime in the past few years. "Peaceable Kingdom" is an example where Alex Lifeson's guitar suddenly becomes dirtier than a specialty martini. Most imporantly, the songs themselves are memorable. It might take a few listens before some of it sinks it, but they shall over time. Considering the current state of rock radio (the state is, of course, decline), there aren't exactly any tunes on here that are going to elbow Kid Rock aside, but these are well constructed songs that allow the band show their impressive musical skills in a tasteful way as well as a hint of pop sensibility.

While it has taken me awhile to appreciate Vapor Trails, I can safely say it's a nice return to form for Rush. One gets the impression that the band enjoyed making the album and are simply have a good time playing music now. Their niche in rock history is essentially carved out and at this point, just playing some good music is all they should be required to do.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2002

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