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Rush - Topic

Hold Your Fire Play

Hold Your Fire is an album in the purest sense; infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, it gradually draws in the listener by slowly revealing its nuances and secrets. While the use of keyboards is still overwhelming at times, Geddy Lee employs lush textures which, when coupled with a greater rhythmic and melodic presence from guitarist Alex Lifeson, results in a far warmer sound than in recent efforts. Of course, drummer Neil Peart is as inventive and exciting as ever, while his lyrics focus on the various elements (earth, air, water, fire) for much of the album. Opener "Force Ten" is the band's most immediate number in years, and other early favorites such as "Time Stand Still" and "Turn the Page" soon give way to the darker mysteries of "Prime Mover" and "Tai Shan." The multifaceted "Lock and Key" is quintessential Rush, and sets the stage for the album's climax with the sheer beauty of "Mission." As was the case with 1976's 2112 and 1981's Moving Pictures, Rush always seem to produce some of their best work at the end of each four-album cycle, and Hold Your Fire is no exception. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Fly by Night Play

Prior to one of Rush's first U.S. tours, original drummer John Rutsey split from the band, since he wasn't prepared to commit to the band's rigorous touring schedule. And it proved to be a blessing in disguise, since his replacement was to become one of the most respected rock drummers of all time, Neil Peart, who would also steer the band towards success with more challenging material -- starting with Fly by Night. While the title track and the album-closing ballad, "In the End," still had Zeppelin roots, the album isn't as straightforward as the debut. Rush's first bona-fide classic, "Anthem," is included, while the over eight-minute "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" helped pave the way for the group's future epics ("2112," "Cygnus X-1," etc.), and introduced the fans to Peart's imaginative lyric writing, often tinged with science-fiction themes. The reflective and melodic "Making Memories" is an underrated early composition, while "Beneath, Between, & Behind" is a furious heavy rocker. Fly by Night may not be one of Rush's finest albums, but it is one of their most important -- it showed that the young band was leaving their Zep-isms behind in favor of a more challenging and original direction. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

2112 Play

Whereas Rush's first two releases, their self-titled debut and Fly by Night, helped create a buzz among hard rock fans worldwide, the more progressive third release, Caress of Steel, confused many of their supporters. Rush knew it was now or never with their fourth release, and they delivered just in time -- 1976's 2112 proved to be their much sought-after commercial breakthrough and remains one of their most popular albums. Instead of choosing between prog rock and heavy rock, both styles are merged together to create an interesting and original approach. The entire first side is comprised of the classic title track, which paints a chilling picture of a future world where technology is in control (Peart's lyrics for the piece being influenced by Ayn Rand). Comprised of seven "sections," the track proved that the trio members were fast becoming rock's most accomplished instrumentalists. The second side contains shorter selections, such as the Middle Eastern-flavored "A Passage to Bangkok" and the album-closing rocker "Something for Nothing." 2112 is widely considered by Rush fans as their first true "classic" album, the first in a string of similarly high-quality albums. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Power Windows Play

Like much of the band's '80s output, Power Windows finds Rush juggling their hard-rock heritage with new technology to mixed results. With Alex Lifeson choosing sparse, horn-like guitar bursts over actual crunch, Geddy Lee's synthesizers running rampant, and Neil Peart's crisp, clinical percussion and stark lyrical themes (evoking cold urban landscapes), the result just may be the trio's "coldest" album ever. Still, it does boast its share of important tracks in "Marathon" and "Manhattan Project," while offering an energetic, tongue-in-cheeck hit single in "The Big Money." In an album that rewards patience (repeated listens are the key), the most gripping moments are saved for last, with the beautifully eerie textures of "Mystic Rhythms," a song that was later used as a concert drum solo showcase for Peart. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

A Farewell to Kings Play

On 1977's A Farewell to Kings it quickly becomes apparent that Rush had improved their songwriting and strengthened their focus and musical approach. Synthesizers also mark their first prominent appearance on a Rush album, a direction the band would continue to pursue on future releases. With the popular hit single "Closer to the Heart," the trio showed that they could compose concise and traditionally structured songs, while the 11-minute "Xanadu" remains an outstanding accomplishment all these years later (superb musicianship merged with vivid lyrics help create one of Rush's best all-time tracks). The album-opening title track begins with a tasty classical guitar/synth passage, before erupting into a powerful rocker. The underrated "Madrigal" proves to be a delicately beautiful composition, while "Cinderella Man" is one of Rush's few songs to include lyrics penned entirely by Geddy Lee. The ten-minute tale of a dangerous black hole, "Cygnus X-1," closes the album on an unpredictable note, slightly comparable to the two bizarre extended songs on 1975's Caress of Steel. A Farewell to Kings successfully built on the promise of their breakthrough 2112, and helped broaden their audience. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Vapor Trails Play

Most longtime Rush fans realize that a new album from the Canadian trio in the early 21st century is quite an accomplishment. After drummer Neil Peart's much-publicized tragic turn of events in his private life not long after Rush's 1996 release Test for Echo (the death of both his teenaged daughter and wife less than a year apart), the group's future was understandably cast into doubt. Slowly but surely, however, the band regained their footing and issued their 17th studio album in 2002, Vapor Trails. You would think that a veteran band entering their fourth decade together would perhaps mellow out a bit, but this doesn't prove to be case, as evidenced by the leadoff track "One Little Victory," while the majority of the album follows the same direct and hard-hitting sound as their past couple of releases (fans of the group's more synth-based and sterile mid-'80s style will have to look elsewhere). Peart, who remains the group's main lyricist, opts to conquer such challenging subject matter as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on "Peaceable Kingdom," while bits of the lyric to "Ghost Rider" ("Pack up all those phantoms/Shoulder that invisible load") lead the listener to believe that perhaps the drummer is sharing his personal healing process with the fans. Other standouts include the melodic "Sweet Miracle," the explosive "Out of the Cradle," the mid-paced title track, and "Earthshine," the latter of which showcases how fine Lee's voice has matured (especially when compared to his high-piercing shriek on Rush's early albums). All in all, Vapor Trails does an amiable job of signaling the welcome return of Rush. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Feedback Play

This is a riot! Rather than put out some windy and dreary box set to celebrate their 30th anniversary, Canada's seminal power prog band and one of big rock's most enduring units turns the tables and lays out hot and heavy covers of eight classics from the annals of rock & roll history. The track list is amazing, and the cool thing is that the arrangements of these nuggets are not all ripped up and mutated, either. "Summertime Blues" may begin as a nod to Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," but it comes roaring back as an acknowledged homage to the Who's Live at Leeds version. The version of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" begins as a slippery little acoustic tune but quickly turns into a heavy, droning rock orgy. "The Seeker" goes for the jugular in the same way that the Who's did; Geddy's sneer has a little less contempt than Daltrey's but it's just as hungry and desperate. "Heart Full of Soul" is pure psychedelic Yardbirds elegance with a bunch of space and dimension added to redeem the track for the 21st century. The backmasked guitars on "Mr. Soul" and Neil Peart's deliberate mix of thud and snap give the cut a solid footing for Alex Lifeson to unhurriedly coax Lee's vocal along the lyric. The ringing of Lifeson's chords that barely hold this side of overblown feedback is masterful in keeping the original spirit of the song while future-dating its sonics. Rush's read of "Seven and Seven Is" is much faster that Love's original, but its barely-on-the-rails tempo is welcome in lieu of the fact that these guys are all in their fifties and play like they're kids. "Shapes of Things to Come" is fun, and a real attempt to provide nuance to a great song, especially the cross-channel fading in the guitar mix. But on "Crossroads," the other bookend of this EP, Rush give a romper-stomper wailing performance of Cream's arrangement of Robert Johnson's seminal blues tune. Lifeson leaves Eric what's-his-name in the dust. Lee may not be the vocalist that Jack Bruce is but he kicks his ass as a bass player, and his moment of glory in this cut tears the roof off the song. None of these tunes are done with an ounce of camp. What the listener encounters is a Rush that has never ever been heard before: they indulge in the hero-worship and dream roots of the garage band that eventually became Rush, and they simultaneously search for the young garage band whose members never dreamed they'd be playing these tunes 30 years later as Rush. Anyone who thinks that there is no life left in the classics of the genre needs to hear this. That something this wild and freewheeling could only be pulled off by a band with 30 years experience is not only worth noting, but celebrating. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Counterparts Play

By 1993, alternative rock had arrived in a big way, and surprisingly, Canadian veterans Rush were game, releasing their most honest and organic rock & roll record in over a decade with Counterparts. Opener "Animate" is straightforward enough, but doesn't even hint at the guitar ferocity and lyrical angst of "Stick it Out," a song which undoubtedly polarizes Rush fans to this day. Intellectual melodic rockers like "Cut to the Chase," "At the Speed of Love," and "Everyday Glory" are also present (and less shocking), but diversity continues to rule the day with Geddy Lee's bass taking charge on the amazingly somber "Double Agent" and the giddy instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone." Pure hard rock resurfaces on "Cold Fire," but it is the largely acoustic "Nobody's Hero" which provides the album's most gripping moment with an impassioned plea for HIV consciousness and understanding. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Permanent Waves Play

Since Neil Peart joined the band in time for 1975's Fly by Night, Rush had been experimenting and growing musically with each successive release. By 1980's Permanent Waves, the modern sounds of new wave (the Police, Peter Gabriel, etc.) began to creep into Rush's sound, but the trio still kept their hard rock roots intact. The new approach paid off -- two of their most popular songs, the "make a difference" anthem "Freewill," and a tribute to the Toronto radio station CFNY, "The Spirit of Radio" (the latter a U.K. Top 15 hit), are spectacular highlights. Also included were two "epics," the stormy "Jacob's Ladder" and the album-closing "Natural Science," which contains a middle section that contains elements of reggae. Geddy Lee also began singing in a slightly lower register around this time, which made their music more accessible to fans outside of the heavy prog rock circle. The album proved to be the final breakthrough Rush needed to become an arena headliner throughout the world, beginning a string of albums that would reach inside the Top Five of the U.S. Billboard album charts. Permanent Waves is an undisputed hard rock classic, but Rush would outdo themselves with their next release. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Caress of Steel Play

When Rush finished their third album, Caress of Steel, the trio was assured that they had created their breakthrough masterpiece. But when the album dropped off the charts soon after its release, it proved otherwise. While it was Rush's first release that fully explored their prog rock side, it did not contain the catchy and more traditional elements of their future popular work -- it's quite often too indulgent and pretentious for a mainstream rock audience to latch onto. And while Rush would eventually excel in composing lengthy songs, the album's two extended tracks -- the 12½-minute "The Necromancer" and the nearly 20-minute "The Fountain of Lamneth" -- show that the band was still far from mastering the format. The first side contains two strong and more succinct tracks, the raging opener, "Bastille Day," and the more laid-back "Lakeside Park," both of which would become standards for their live show in the '70s. But the ill-advised "I Think I'm Going Bald" (which lyrically deals with growing old) borders on the ridiculous, which confirms that Caress of Steel is one of Rush's more unfocused albums. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Signals Play

Instead of playing it safe and writing Moving Pictures, Pt. II, Rush replaced their heavy rock of yesteryear with even more modern sounds for 1982's Signals. Synthesizers were now an integral part of the band's sound, and replaced electric guitars as the driving force for almost all the tracks. And more current and easier-to-grasp topics (teen peer pressure, repression, etc.) replaced their trusty old sci-fi-inspired lyrics. While other rock bands suddenly added keyboards to their sound to widen their appeal, Rush gradually merged electronics into their music over the years, so such tracks as the popular MTV video "Subdivisions" did not come as a shock to longtime fans. And Rush didn't forget how to rock out -- "The Analog Kid" and "Digital Man" were some of their most up-tempo compositions in years. The surprise hit, "New World Man," and "Chemistry" combined reggae and rock (begun on 1980's Permanent Waves), "The Weapon" bordered on new wave, the placid "Losing It" featured Ben Mink on electric violin, while the epic closer "Countdown" painted a vivid picture of a space shuttle launch. Signals proved that Rush were successfully adapting to the musical climate of the early '80s. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Rush Play

Rush's self-titled debut is about as uncharacteristic of their renowned heavy progressive rock (perfected on such future releases as Hemispheres, Moving Pictures, etc.) as you can get. Instead of complex arrangements and thoughtful lyrics, Rush sounds almost identical to Led Zeppelin throughout -- bluesy riffs merged with "baby, baby" lyrics. The main reason for the album's different sound and direction is that their lyricist/drummer, Neil Peart, was not in the band yet, skinsman John Rutsey rounds out the original line-up, also consisting of Geddy Lee (bass/vocals) and Alex Lifeson (guitar). It's nearly impossible to hear the anthemic "Finding My Way" and not picture Robert Plant shrieking away, or Jimmy Page riffing on the jamfest "Working Man," but Rush was still in their formative stages. There's no denying that Lee and Lifeson were already strong instrumentalists, but such predictable compositions as "In the Mood" and "What You're Doing" prove that Peart was undoubtedly the missing piece to the puzzle. While longtime Rush fans can appreciate their debut because they never returned to this style, newcomers should stick with their classics from later years. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Presto Play

After being slagged off for the electronic ambience of its predecessor releases such as 1985's Power Windows and 1984's Grace Under Pressure, Rush bounced back with their 13th release, Presto. Yet again the prog-rock trio proved that their tight guitar work and lyrical originality was not long lost or overlooked in an attempt to secure the latest technical flash. Rupert Hine's production work totally brings things to the forefront by molding solid piano breaks instead of the typical adventure-like synthesizers into Alex Lifeson's spellbinding guitar work. The sound quality is strong and thick, making the sounds of Presto complete. Neil Peart also makes headway with his natural percussion power, and Geddy Lee's trademark delivery of Peart's lyrical complexities shine like signature Rush perfectionism. Songs like "Scars" and "Superconductor" are sonically firm, but "Show Don't Tell" is the album's infectious standout that's heightened thanks to Lee's stunning vocal wizardry. Presto intelligently leads Rush into the '90s without musical bleakness. They weren't ones to be blinded by such creative mediocrity anyway. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

Test for Echo Play

After flirting (albeit mildly) with alternative rock on Counterparts, Rush returns to classic progressive rock on Test for Echo. Cutting back many of the AOR production flourishes that hampered most of their late-'80s and early-'90s releases, the band concentrates on the sounds and styles that made albums like Moving Pictures huge successes in the late '70s and early '80s. Test for Echo is all instrumental gymnastics and convoluted song structures, all of which demonstrate each member's skills. And the key to the album is the individual performances, since each song isn't particularly memorable as a song, only as a way to showcase the solos. With Rush, such a tactic isn't necessarily a bad thing, since they have always been better at playing than writing, and they have rarely played better in the past ten years than they have on Test for Echo. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Grace Under Pressure Play

Grace Under Pressure was the first Rush album since 1975's Fly by Night to not be produced by Terry Brown, who was replaced by Peter Henderson (Supertramp, Paul McCartney). The change resulted in a slightly more accessible sound than its predecessor, Signals, and marked the beginning of a period where many Rush fans feel that synths and electronics were used too prominently -- in effect pushing guitarist Alex Lifeson into the background. The songwriting and lyrics were still strong however, as evidenced by the video/single "Distant Early Warning" (a tale about nuclear war) and the often-overlooked highlight "Kid Gloves," one of the album's few songs to feature Lifeson upfront. Other standouts include a tribute to a friend of the band who had recently passed away, "Afterimage," the disturbing "Red Sector A" (which details a concentration camp), and one of Rush's first funk-based songs, "The Enemy Within." Whereas most other rock bands formed in the 1970s put out unfocused and uninspired work in the 1980s (which sounds very dated), Rush's Grace Under Pressure remains an exception. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Chronicles/Moving Pictures Play

In 2002, Mercury released the Rush DVD/CD set Chronicles/Moving Pictures, which combined the DVD Chronicles: The Video Collection (1990, originally released on Mercury) with the CD Moving Pictures (1981, also originally released on Mercury). ~ John Bush, Rovi

Sector 3 Play

Sector 3, the third installment of Rush’s Sector series of box sets, finds the band diving headlong into the ‘80s with a more synth-oriented approach. Featuring the albums Signals, Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, and the live album A Show of Hands, this period of Rush's career finds them focusing more on Geddy Lee’s multi-layered synthesizer excursions and finds guitarist Alex Lifeson moving into more of a support role as he begins to experiment with a more effects-heavy sound. Despite these changes, it would still prove to be a strong period for them as three albums in the set achieved platinum status in the United States (with all five of them hitting platinum in their native Canada). Serving as a blast from the past, these remastered reissues are repackaged in tiny re-creations of the original vinyl LP jackets, and the set also features a 52-page booklet containing lyrics and unreleased photos from the era. Also of interest to die-hard fans and audiophiles, the set includes a DVD-Audio version of Signals that contains both stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes of the album for those who wish to explore all the sonic depths that the album has to offer. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi
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