Test for Echo by Rush

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Test For Echo by RushRush evolved from the synth-drenched style of previous albums with the 1996 release, Test for Echo. The musical style delivered by the Canadian trio hearkens back to the hard rock sound of the group’s earliest years but with a definite diffusion of lyrical themes. At first listen, the songs may be a bit thick, but once you get through this opaque outer atmosphere you can hear the real underlying genius of this record.

Rush started to move away from its 1980s style with Presto and, to a lesser extent, on their early nineties albums Roll the Bones and Counterparts, both of which were produced by Rupert Hine. In each of these cases, it was evident that the band was attempting to forge a distinct and relevant sound.

Their sixteenth studio album and first one beyond the trio’s twentieth anniversary, Test for Echo was produced in collaboration with Peter Collins. Released three years after its predecessor, this album marked the first time that such a lengthy gap happened between studio albums as each of the band members embarked on outside projects. During this time, drummer Neal Peart studied with jazz great Freddie Gruber, which led to his radical decision to change to a more traditional grip from that point forward in his career.


Test for Echo by Rush
Released: September 10, 1996 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Peter Collins & Rush
Recorded: Bearsville Studios, New York & Reaction Studios, Toronto, January–March 1996
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Test for Echo
Driven
Half the World
The Color of Right
Time and Motion
Totem
Dog Years
Virtuality
Resist
Limbo
Carve Away the Stone
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Mandola
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion, Dulcimer

Test for Echo by Rush

Test for Echo starts suddenly and dramatically with a strong but measured chord pattern that builds ever so subtly before erupting into a classic-Rush style rudimentary riff. Stylistically, this song seamlessly passes through multiple repeating sections, while thematically it is a somewhat poetic commentary on life. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and nearly topped the Canadian Singles Chart, making “Test For Echo” Rush’s most successful single in about a decade. The equally intense “Driven” starts with a hyper-tense riff in an odd-timing with a strategic verse break of Alex Lifeson‘s acoustic guitar to temporarily break the tension. Lyrically, this song explores the dangers of over ambition.

“Half the World” is another philosophical rocker with animated and entertaining music throughout. Here, Geddy Lee provides some of his finest bass work on the album, with Lifeson layering some great electric and acoustic guitar textures. “The Color of Right” has a heavy blues rock feel in the vein of AC/DC through the intro, while the rest of the song drives through with nice, upbeat textures, making it a fine listen, but just short of its full potential as it doesn’t unravel like it could. While including some of the regrettable eighties-style synths, “Time and Motion” does thankfully settle into a guitar-centric riff jam for the verses and choruses, while “Totem” features another musical jam, albeit a mocking tone lyrically against people of faith.

Rush, 1990s

While still an entertaining listen, the album becomes a bit disjointed and uneven from this point forward. “Dog Years” may be the nadir of the album lyrically, while “Virtuality” is the most grunge-centric musically with some very dated lyrics;

Net boy, net girl send your signals around the world…put your message in a modem and throw it in a cyber sea…”

Yikes!

The highlight of the later part of the album is “Resist”, which starts with moderate a piano and acoustic verses, accented with fine bass and lead vocals. This is a true change of pace for the heavy rock album and gives it some real depth overall. Following the bass-driven near-instrumental of “Limbo” with slightly comical elements, “Carve Away the Stone” closes things out with Lifeson’s majestic electric guitar and Peart’s lyrical theme about removing obstacles in life.

Test for Echo reached the Top 5 on the album charts and was followed by an extensive North American tour by Rush into 1997. However, personal tragedy in Peart’s life lead to a five-year hiatus by the group into the next century.

~

1996 music celebration image

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1996 albums.

 

Moving Pictures by Rush
35th Anniversary

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NOTE: This article was originally published in April 2011 and re-purposed for the album’s 35th anniversary on February 12, 2016.

Moving Pictures by RushSince the arrival of drummer Neil Peart in the summer of 1974, Rush had produced six consecutive quality albums rock albums, up to and including Permanent Waves in 1980. Then came Moving Pictures which, in many ways, was their musical masterpiece and in all ways would become the most popular album they ever released. This album also would represent a crossroads for the band, at once showcasing many elements of the sound that they had forged throughout the late 1970s while also mildly previewing their new wave influenced sound of the early 1980s. In this sense, it may well be the most diverse album that Rush ever produced as well as the most complete and rewarding album overall of 1981, making it Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for that year.

Following the success of the 1976 concept album, 2112, the group delved further into progressive rock with the “Cygnus X-1” concept which spanned two albums and culminated with the 12-part instrumental “La Villa Strangiato” from the 1978 album Hemispheres. With Permanent Waves, released on the first day of the new decade, Rush began to alter their style with some reggae and new wave elements to complement the hard rock core, a sound they expanded upon when production began on this album in late 1980.

Moving Pictures was the seventh consecutive album produced by Terry Brown, who played a huge role in forging Rush’s sound during this classic phase of the career. It is also the first album where Geddy Lee plays some keyboards and bass on each and every song, complementing Alex Lifeson‘s guitar style and sound, which is distinct on every song. As a premiere rock drummer, Peart had long experimented with different styles and time signatures, and he continues to do so on Moving Pictures. But as the band’s primary lyricist, Peart explores more diverse subjects than he had in the past, finding lyrical inspiration in classical literature as well as contemporary events.

 


Moving Pictures by Rush
Released: February 12, 1981 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush & Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada, Oct-Nov 1980
Side One Side Two
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
YYZ
Limelight
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Musicians
Geddy Lee – Bass, Synths, Vocals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths
Neil Peart – Drums & Percussion

 
The final song on the album, “Vital Signs”, contains a dual reggae/electronica influence that would have fit perfectly on their next studio album, Signals. “Witch Hunt” features dramatic sound effects, a deliberate arrangement, and guest keyboardist Hugh Syme, who also designed the album’s signature covers. This song would later be revealed as the third part of the “Fear” series, released chronologically in reverse. As Peart explained in an interview;

The idea for the trilogy was suggested by an older man telling that he didn’t think life was ruled by love, or reason, or money, or the pursuit of happiness, but by fear.

Moving Pictures is also the last album from the era to include an extended piece, “The Camera Eye”. The track paints a lyrical and musical picture of the metro activity of New York City and London, with the title deriving from works by American author John Dos Passos. To this point in their career, Rush had included a track of seven minutes or more in length on each of their first eight albums (including Moving Pictures), but would not do so again for over 30 years. Another rarity on future Rush albums would be a pure instrumental. “YYZ” is a fantastic and thrilling little jam that showcases each of the trio’s musical virtuosity. Musically, the song displays a steady, trance-like motif with many showcase sections for each musician, with its title coming from the airport code from the group’s hometown Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Tom Sawyer singleThe best known song on the album, and probably the band’s most popular song ever, is “Tom Sawyer”. The song was co-written by Canadian lyricist Pye Dubois, who gave a poem to the band entitled “Louis the Lawyer” and asked if the band would be interested in putting it to music. Peart then added “the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be”, by using the American literary metaphor. Musically, this steady but complex song incorporates a heavy use of synths, differing time signatures and accessible melodies. “Limelight” was another hit off the album, which portrays Peart’s uneasiness with fame. It contains one of rock music’s most famous riffs, delivered by Lifeson in a perfectly cultivated crunch of distorted guitar that sounds as good as any sound he had ever cultivated. Peart’s lyrics speak of his slight disillusionment with fame and the growing intrusions into his personal life, complete with Shakespearian references.

The tour-de-force of the album is the fantastic “Red Barchetta”, a vivid action story about a joyride in a car taken during a dystopian future where such actions are unlawful. The song was inspired by the futuristic short story “A Nice Morning Drive,” by Richard Foster, published in 1973, which Peart adapted with his own love of classic automobiles. A true classic jam, this complex song was recorded in one take and contains some of the best bass playing by Lee, who really shines on this track.

Rush in Studio, 1980

Moving Pictures was the first Rush album to top the Canadian album charts and nearly did the same in the US and the UK, reaching the Top 3 in both those countries. The album went on to reach quadruple platinum status world wide and it still sounds as fresh and relevant, multiple decades after its release. During Rush’s 2010–11 Time Machine Tour, the album was played live in its entirety for the first and only time.

~

1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1981 albums.

Rush 1975 Albums

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Buy Caress Of Steel

Rush 1975 albums1975 was the year when Rush truly became Rush with the first recordings following the arrival of drummer and lyricist, Neal Peart. During the course of that year, the group released two albums, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel, which document the Canadian trio’s remarkable evolution from straight-forward hard rockers to a distinct style of complex, progressive rock featuring dynamic musical arrangements and a multitude of lyrical depth. Over the course of this year, the group also experienced a dramatic rise and fall in mainstream popularity, as these albums had vastly different receptions in terms of sales and critical response. This fact would ultimately forge the band’s musical vision for years to come.

After a half decade of building their following in the Toronto area, Rush released their independently produced self-tiled debut album in early 1974 with drummer John Rutsey backing up bassist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. In the summer of 1974, Rutsey was forced to depart due to health difficulties. Peart had recently returned to his native Ontario after several years in England and auditioned for the newly opened position with Rush. The group desperately needed to find a replacement for Rutsey in order to fulfill their tour obligations, which launched with a show as an opening act in front of 11,000 in Pittsburgh just two weeks after Peart joined the band. Now signed to Mercury Records, Rush was able to enter the studio with a proper producer in late 1974.

Rush in 1975

Terry Brown first worked with the group when he remixed the debut album for larger release (the original pressings for Rush were only 3500 copies). Impressed by his talents, the group asked him to produce their sophomore effort, Fly By Night. This album was recorded in bits and pieces between the group’s various gigs on the tour circuit over the Winter of 74-75. Aside from his percussive talents, Peart (an avid reader) had many lyrical ideas which made him chief (and eventually sole) lyricist and added more dimensions to the group’s sound and imagination. However, with the exception of one extended suite and one acoustic folk tune, Fly By Night stayed pretty much within the heavy rock/blues bounds established on the debut album, but with a richer, hi-fidelity sound.

In contrast, Caress of Steel, showed the group quickly moving towards progressive rock with two mult-part suites accompanying three traditionally arranged rock tracks. These longer pieces used various textures and sonic dynamics to portray the desired dramatic effect, which worked in some places but not so much in others. The group was very ambitious and enthusiastic about this third album, following the commercial triumph of the second, but it sold fewer copies and has become one of Rush’s most overlooked recordings. Both Fly by Night and Caress of Steel were recorded at the state-of-the-art Toronto Sound Studios on 24-track analog tape, which would remain the highest professional recording standard through the mid 1990s. Including these two albums, Brown would produce ten consecutive releases by Rush through 1982’s Signals.


Fly By Night by Rush
Released: February 15, 1975 (Mercury)
Produced by: Terry Brown & Rush
Recorded: Toronto Sound Studios, Toronto, December 1974–January 1975
Side One Side Two
Anthem
Best I Can
Beneath, Between, and Behind
By-Tor and the Snow Dog
Fly By Night
Making Memories
Rivendell
In the End

Caress of Steel by Rush
Released: September 24, 1975 (Anthem)
Produced by: Terry Brown & Rush
Recorded: Toronto Sound Studios, Toronto, June–July 1975
Side One Side Two
Bastille Day
I Think I’m Going Bald
Lakeside Park
The Necromancer
The Fountain of Lamneth
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass
Alex Lifeson – Guitars
Neal Peart – Drums, Percussion

 

The world’s first introduction to Peart both lyrically and percussively comes with “Anthem”, which opens Fly By Night. A frenzied beginning with oddly-timed riff and beat gives way to the musical main phrase of “Anthem”, with the verses highlighted by Lee’s animated bass underneath his soaring, high-pitched vocals. During the lead section, Lee and Peart show how tight they keep the rhythms as Lifeson goes off in a Jimmy Page bluesy lead on a song which features lyrics inspired by elements of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. “Best I Can” was composed solely by Lee and sounds closer to material from the debut than the opening song. However, there is enough edge here with just the slightest flourishes by Peart on the drums and Lifeson providing a wah-wah laced lead, to make it all interesting. Lifeson contributes Zeppelin-esque, bluesy double guitars on “Beneath, Between & Behind”, with Peart adding some lyrics which appear to be about the rise and decline of the United States as it headed for its Bicentennial;

Ten score years ago, defeat the kingly foe, a wondrous dream came into being / Tame the trackless waste, no virgin land left chaste, all shining eyes, but never seeing…”

Fly By Night by Rush“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” is the first of many sci-fi/fantasy inspired epics by Rush during the late 1970s. The eight and a half minute track works well as a good narrative accompanied by upbeat, almost funky hard rock throughout and with plenty of dramatic pause for theatrical flourishes. There is a wild, triple guitar lead by Lifeson during the “battle scene” after the second verse, which concludes with a tremendous rudiment section with each successive phrase being slightly shortened than the previous. A calm, effect-driven section takes up some time in the middle before Lifeson returns with his “victorious” lead prior to the concluding final verse. Overall, this track is the best production by Terry Brown on this album.

“Fly by Night” starts the original second side as the most popular and successful track on the album of the same name. Musically driven by Lifeson’s riffs and progressions, the song’s lyrics were written by Peart when departing for London in 1971 in an attempt to “make it” in music, an endeavor which ultimately failed but, ironically, led to his getting the gig with Rush back in Canada. “Making Memories” is a simple acoustic funk about the group’s early experiences on the supporting group touring circuit. Eventually released as a single in 1977, the track features great electric guitar overtones and a later blistering lead by Lifeson.

After six consecutive fast-charged songs, the platinum selling Fly By Night concludes with two relatively laid back numbers. “Rivendell” features Lee on finger-picks acoustic, with Lifeson adding some pedal-effected guitars throughout. Although there are no drums on this track, Peart added the poetic lyrics on Tolkein’s fictional paradise, which Lee delivers in a reserved, folk-singer like method. “In the End” is, unfortunately, the weakest song on the album as its finale. Not terrible, but essentially acoustic and electric versions of the same repeated song stretched to seven minutes with simple, pre-Peart lyrics.

Rush in 1975

Caress of Steel kicks off with “Bastille Day”, a very heavy rock song musically, but with some interesting time changes and style caveats. Lifeson’s first lead is quite jazzy, with a back-to-back second lead being pure heavy metal. Lyrically, Peart throws in plenty of historical and poetry references about societal turmoil  and the French Revolution specifically. “I Think I’m Going Bald” is a bit less effective than the opener. Almost a joke song, but with some philosophical undertones. In this musically moderate tune, Peart got the idea for its title and theme from both the track “Goin’ Blind” by fellow touring mates Kiss and due to LIfeson’s obsession with his hair. The third and final standard length song is the exquisite and excellent “Lakeside Park”. This song portrays the simplicity and magic of fun events during childhood and adolescence and features a simple vibe with more complexity in its structure. Of particular note are the pauses between verses and prior to the outro section, where Peart adds very interesting drum fills that somehow fit into the slight time allotted without missing a beat.

Caress of Steel by Rush“The Necromancer” is the side one closing epic fantasy, which incorporates the members of Rush (three travelers, men of Willowdale) into the narrative as they face an evil supernatural force in the forest. Peart’s spoken narration introduces each of the suite’s three distinct sections, starting with Lifeson’s multiple guitar textures of “Into the Darkness”. This is followed by the hard-rock oriented “Under the Shadow”, with a single, uni-directional verse followed by a strong jam section, leading to the moderate finale with simple chords called “Return of the Prince”.

The entirety of Caress of Steel‘s second side is the over nineteen minute “The Fountain of Lamneth”, which in reality is not not a cohesive long piece, but several short pieces wrapped by a common intro and reprise theme. In fact, each of the six parts of this were listed as separate “songs” on some later cassette versions, and not even in the same running sequence. The intro “In the Valley” has three distinct musical phrases with Lee providing distinctive “voices” for each. It starts as a pleasant folk acoustic song, then breaks into a thunderous electric-driven heavy metal part which alternates with interlude sections which are cool and jazzy. For the concluding chapter, “The Fountain”, the arrangement repeats in reverse order, giving an arc of symmetry to the whole piece.

The four middle parts of “The Fountain of Lamneth” are each rather interesting and original, starting with “Didacts and Narpets”, Peart’s wild drum piece with shouted vocal lines and sounds is very new wavish in approach. “No One at the Bridge” has a dark feel initially, which slightly gives way to patient musical interludes and gentle sonic swells. This piece uses a ship lost at sea as a metaphor for a feeling of being lost on a personal level. “Panacea” and “Bacchus Plateau” are both solo compositions by Lee, something that will become exceedingly rare over time. “Panacea” features Lee playing a classical acoustic with Lifeson slowly adding electric overtones with very cool pedal effects during the verses, with a fuller band arrangement during the choruses. “Bacchus Plateau” is a more pop oriented rock song with an upbeat sound and vibe that somewhat betrays the lyrical theme of demise;

Draw another goblet from the cask of ’43, crimson misty memory, hazy glimpse of me / Give me back my wonder – I’ve something more to give. I guess it doesn’t matter, there’s not much more to live…”

To the dismay of the band and their label, Caress of Steel, would not attain gold certification for nearly twenty years after its release. The effect of this “commercial failure” on Rush was immediate, as they were soon playing smaller concerts and given an ultimatum by the record company for success on their next release. They delivered in a big way with 1976’s classic 2112, which combined the better elements of both Fly by Night and Caress of Steel. The rest, as they say, is history.

~

1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Permanent Waves by Rush

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Permanent Waves by RushOn the very first day of the new decade, Rush launched an evolved sound for the 1980s with Permanent Waves, their seventh studio album. The group approached this album differently than previous efforts by designating specific time and space to compose and rehearse. The result is a strong collection of songs more succinct than those on the group’s most recent efforts, such as 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and 1978’s Hemispheres, which were among Rush’s most progressive-oriented releases. While Permanent Waves maintained some of the core elements and rudiments of previous work, the group now ventured into fairly uncharted rock sub-genres such as new wave and reggae.

Both of those previously listed Rush albums were recorded in South Wales during the summers of their respective years of release. After Hemispheres was released in October 1978, the group went on an extensive eight-month tour into mid 1979. They decided to take some time off for the first time in several years to recoup and plan their next album. According to lyricist and drummer Neil Peart, this was the first time they had ever taken time off prior to recording an album and the group retreated to a farmhouse on the Georgian Bay in Northern Ontario. Later, the group also performed some of the tracks from Permanent Waves (primarily the three from ‘Side A’) live in late 1979, prior to the album’s release.

In fact, the album’s tracks were pretty much completed in the same sequence as they appear on the final product. When Rush moved into Le Studio in Quebec in the Autumn of 1979, they had nearly a full album’s worth of material, including an extensive, medieval-inspired track called “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” However, the group decided this was too “out of place” and the song was eventually discarded with short sections appearing elsewhere. The album was produced Terry Brown, who had worked with Rush on each of their previous five albums (and would also do so on two future albums). The album’s title was coined by Peart when discussing “cultural waves” with vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and exclaiming that “a big album was like a permanent wave”.


Permanent Waves by Rush
Released: January 1, 1980 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush & Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, September-October 1979
Side One Side Two
The Spirit of Radio
Freewill
Jacob’s Ladder
Entre Nous
Different Strings
Natural Science
Group Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion

Permanent Waves launches with the wild fingerboard action of guitarist Alex Lifeson, introducing the exciting and unique opener “The Spirit of Radio”. Inspired by the slogan of a local Toronto rock radio station, the song transcends into a pure celebration of music, showcasing a perfect blend of Rush past and present. Funky rudiments lead to the main riff, which bookmark the accessible verse sections where Lifeson’s guitars ring out like a chorus of triumphant bells across a landscape. The track also uses effects and hard production untypical of any previous Rush track, such as the inclusion of steel drums by guest percussionist Erwig Chuapchuaduah, an atypical but fantastic method that introduces the Rush of a new decade.

As fine as the opener is, “Freewill” is the best song on the album. Lyrically superb as Peart’s words are dripping with wisdom and philosophy, Lifeson’s guitar strikes the perfect balance between a ring and a crunch while remaining cool and even throughout. The bass led mid-section is the real highlight that puts this song over the top, with perfect timings and a potent jam as good as any of the group’s historic instrumental flourishes. Like on much of the album, Lee’s voice is reserved, direct, and sung at a lower register than on previous albums. However, during the final verse Lee lets loose the highest part of his vocal range for a dynamic climax to the song. “Jacob’s Ladder” comes in with a pure march joined by all three members, and only employs one single verse before a fine instrumental section is kicked off. Led by Lifeson’s harmonized guitar leads, the song goes from here through the final five minutes or so on a soundscape of morphing textures. From hard rock jam to synth ensemble to repetitive rudimentary pattern which builds in intensity until reaching the songs climatic outro. There is so little spoken word on this extended track that it is almost although the musical and sonic motifs speak to the listener.

Like the first side closer, the album’s final track, “Natural Science” is an extended track in the spirit of earlier Rush material. This final track was the only one fully constructed in the studio, composed after the band discarded the intended “Green Knight” epic. Peart locked himself in a cabin near Le Studio for three days to come up with the new lyrical concept, which explores the autonomous societies that emerge and decline in tidal pools. Musically, the track starts with a calm, strummed acoustic section with heavy natural reverb on Lee’s vocals along with water sound effects recorded by Lifeson and Peart in a row boat. The song soon launches into an exciting rock part with wild vocals by Lee and tremendous drumming by Peart (but, what else is new?). Late in the song comes the “lesson” lyric from the professor;

Wave after wave will flow with the tide and bury the world as it does, Tide after tide will flow and recede, leaving life to go on as it was…”

While it was written prior to entering the studio, “Different Strings” was reserved for production in order to embellish some sonic qualities and add some piano by artistic collaboratoe Hugh Syme. The interesting “Entre Nous” is about as close to pop/rock as Rush will ever get. With a theme of relationships, the track starts with a rotating electric guitar by Lifeson and a heavy synth by Lee. The verse is pure hard rock with a direct and choppy riff along with a direct beat by Peart. The choruses introduce a quasi-folk element with an acoustic guitar and the refrain of “just between us”, which technically translates to the song’s title.

Permanent Waves became Rush’s highest charting album to date, reaching #4 in the US. This also began a string of releases through the early eighties which continued the band’s commercial success as the rock trio continued to evolve their sound and compositional approach.

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Classic Rock Review 1980 promo

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

 

Grace Under Pressure by Rush

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Grace Under Pressure by RushFor their tenth studio album, Grace Under Pressure, Rush brought in producer Pete Henderson, after employing Terry Brown for eight consecutive studio albums, dating back to Fly By Night in 1975. The parting with Brown was amicable and the band even went so far as to include a small tribute to him in the liner notes of the album. A dark album thematically, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart examined subjects from within and without and from the past and present. Peart gave the album its title from a Ernest Hemingway line that seemed to describe were the band was after leaving Brown and moving onto uncharted musical territory.

Grace Under Pressure is a natural compliment to Rush’s previous 1982 album, Signals, although this one is a bit darker and more mechanical in approach. Like on that album, bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee continued to use synthesizers as a primary instrument, but the production on this album balances the synths perfectly with the layered guitar work of Alex Lifeson. Although he had a lighter role than on previous Rush albums, Lifeson described Grace Under Pressure as the, “most satisfying of all our records.”

Rush had originally approached producer Steve Lillywhite to record this album, but Lillywhite withdrew at the last minute, leaving the group to temporarily self-produce until Henderson was hired. Recorded in the familiar confines of Le Studio in Quebec, Henderson and the band spent up to fourteen hours per day perfecting the album’s sound.


Grace Under Pressure by Rush
Released: April 12, 1984 (Anthem)
Produced by: Peter Henderson & Rush
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, November 1983–March 1984
Side One Side Two
Distant Early Warning
Afterimage
Red Sector A
The Enemy Within (Part I of “Fear”)
The Body Electric
Kid Gloves
Red Lenses
Between the Wheels
Group Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths  |  Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion

The album starts with Lee’s driving bass line and key synth hook on “Distant Early Warning”. Unlike much of Rush’s early catalog, Peart uses repetition to get across important lyrical themes and “red alert” is the key hook here, as Peart conflates the universal and the personal. Lifeson later adds a minimal, textured guitar lead, which brings the strongest rock element to the song as a whole, as the track continues to build to a crescendo. Released as a single, “Distant Early Warning” reached #3 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts. Peart wrote “Afterimage” to describe the impressions left by a friend who died suddenly in an accident. The song roars in with a wall of pure sound during the intro and first verse and music and has elements of reggae during the post-verses, while the choruse uses more pop/rock elements with Lifeson’s lead riff mimicking Lee’s voice

“Red Sector A” is built on Peart’s consistent, almost disco-flavored beat and Lee’s constant synth arpeggio, as there is no bass guitar on the track. Lyrically, this is one of the darkest songs in Rush’s collection, as it was inspired by Lee’s mother’s stories about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where she was held prisoner. Using an atypical arrangement, in a lot of ways, it is Lifeson’s guitars that best convey the feel of this song as his chord structure throughout mimics the desperate wails of a human soul in a mechanical Hell; “Are we the last ones left alive? Are we the only human beings to survive?” The open reggae chords and funk rhythms of “The Enemy Within”, concludes the first side. Far from the doom and gloom of other parts of the “Fear”, this upbeat track is rhythmically supreme, especially with Lee’s bass.

The first two songs of the second side are where Lifeson has the most presence. “The Body Electric” is an exciting rocker that seems to at once celebrate and lament and the emerging computer age. Built on Peart’s rotating and almost robotic drum pattern, Lee and Lifeson add much melody over top during the verses, while the choruses are more rock-oriented and intense. “Kid Gloves” features Lifeson’s well-textured, staccato guitar riff and some odd-timed rudiments as it moves through passages that play with time and tempo.

The oddest track on the album, “Red Lenses” alternates between two distinct sections of chorus and verse, with the verses being totally synth-driven and almost cheesy in approach, while the opening and chorus sections are built on a cool, funky bass and rhythms. During an expanded mid section, Peart moves from marimba-style beats to additional, percussion-driven parts, making this his strongest overall track. The grinding synth intro of the closer “Between the Wheels” perfectly illustrates the song’s intended vibe of a negative and dystopian world. The track contains sections of brilliant rock arrangements, always eventually returning the beginning grind, and ends almost violently, with foreboding riffs on guitar and percussive smashes on drums and piano.

Grace Under Pressure reached the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts and immediately went platinum upon its release in the US. This would mark the high-water mark of Rush’s mid-eighties body of work, as subsequent albums relied much more heavily on synthesizers.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

Rush 1974 debut album

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RushRush burst onto the international scene in 1974 with an energetic and entertaining debut album. The only album to feature drummer John Rutsey, this self-titled album is also unique in the style, with many of the tracks taking a direct blues-flavored rock approach reflective of contemporary groups like Led Zeppelin and Nazareth. The Canadian power trio sets the template rudimentary sonic output that would become a signature over their long career. However, by predating the arrival of drummer and lyricist Neal Peart, it is clear that much of the thematic and rhythmic elements of later Rush albums is not present on this debut.

In September 1968, Rush played their first gig in a church basement in Suburban Toronto, led by 15-year-old classmates Geddy Lee (Gary Lee Weinrib) on bass and lead vocals and Alex Lifeson (Aleksander Zivojinovic) on guitars. In 1971, the group signed with Ray Daniels and got a fortuitous boost when Ontario dropped the drinking age to 18, allowing the band to play the Toronto night club circuit. Here, their emerging style of heavy-blues and rock was well received and the band was soon playing gigs six nights a week and began composing some original songs. When Daniels was initially unsuccessful in getting the band signed to a major record label, he created his own called Moon Records.

The band started recording in Toronto during late night sessions when the rates were least expensive. Rush’s first effort was a rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, which the band released as a single in 1973 along with the original composition “You Can’t Fight It” on the B-side. These initial sessions were produced by Dave Stock but the group was not happy with the quality of sound and decided to self-produce the rest of the album at Sound Studios in Toronto, using (rather prinitive) 8-channel multi-track recorders.


Rush by Rush
Released: March 1, 1974 (Moon)
Produced by: Rush
Recorded: Eastern Sound Studios, Toronto, February–November 1974
Side One Side Two
Finding My Way
Need Some Love
Take a Friend
Here Again
What You’re Doing
In the Mood
Before and After
Working Man
Group Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Vocals
John Rutsey – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

Lifeson’s powerful riff slowly fades in to introduce the album and its opening track “Finding My Way”. The heart of the song contains a kind of hyper-blues approach, which only kicks in on the inverse verse, post-verse, and bridge sections. Lyrically, the song is more motif than lyrical substance but there is a cool rhythmic section post-lead showing Lee and Rutsey had some pretty good rhythmic comparability.

The next two tracks are examples of songs you won’t see on any future Rush albums beyond this debut album. “Need Some Love” is a straight-forward and, frankly, trite rocker which is nonetheless catchy and infectious, especially due to Rutsey’s fine drumming. “Take a Friend” is the most disposable song on the album. The most interesting part of track is the 30 seconds or so of rolling rock frenzy that fades in before the song proper kicks in.

Rush recovers nicely with the first side closer “Here Again”, a bluesy and moody rocker which shows the first flashes on brilliance in Geddy Lee’s bass playing. It is also Lee’s finest vocal performance on this album, showing much range and variants of intensity. For his part, Lifeson offers a variety of electric and acoustic guitar textures on a song that is very patient as it builds tension for about four minutes before hitting the climatic refrain followed by droning but potent guitar lead.

Side two begins with a couple of sexually charged songs, albeit of differing styles. “What You’re Doing” is the most Zeppelin-esque track on the album, with riff-driven phrases and guitar interludes between verses and wet, reverb-drenched vocals for maximum effect. Rutsey also goes into several frantic drum rolls during the guitar lead in this truly entertaining rocker. Conversely, “In the Mood” leans more towards pop/rock, with a smoother groove than the previous track. Released as a single, this track was played by a St. Louis Classic rock radio station each night at 7:45 due to the light “hey baby, it’s a quarter to eight, I feel I’m in the mood…”

“Before and After” is Alex Lifeson’s strongest showing on the album, with the instrumental “before” part being an absolutely beautiful piece of sonic treasures. It starts with a chimed electric over strummed acoustic and rounded bass notes and slowly builds into a stronger second section with heavily flanged guitars. A little over two minutes into the track it changes course and breaks into a more standard hard rock track with animated drumming and strong guitar riffs during the “after” part. The album ends with its most popular and indelible song, “Working Man”. This song is rather simple as far as Rush songs go but is definitely catchy and accessible, in a Black Sabbath-sort of way. The mid section takes a radical turn with upbeat bass line leading the multi-section jam, featuring several different leads by Lifeson, all in different styles. “Working Man” was the song that introduced Rush to America, when Cleveland DJ Donna Halper adopted it as a theme for the working-class town.

While Rush was only printed in 3500 copies in its original pressing, the American breakthrough of “Working Man” caught the attention of Mercury Records, who signed Rush by mid 1974. However, Rutsey was unable to physically keep up with the pace of national touring and left the group that same year. He was soon replaced by Peart, establishing the rock trio that persists to this day.

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1974 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1974 albums.

 

Presto by Rush

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Presto by RushFor all the musical complexity that Rush has shown over the years, it is absolutely amazing how much they can do with simplicity. On Presto, their thirteenth studio album released in late 1989, the classic rock trio showed such masterful efficiency like never before or since. As lead vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee stated, “We wanted Presto to be more of a singer’s album, and I think you’ll notice that the arrangements musically support the vocals.” Produced by Rupert Hine, the album is also unique in some of its arrangement techniques, such as the inclusion of piano arpeggios (a first) and backing vocals by guitarist Alex Lifeson (a rarity).

In a way, it seemed like, for a good part of the 1980s, Rush was chasing the sound that they finally caught on Presto. It may be the point where the band started embracing their past and abandoned their silly technology-based notions of 1980s music. That being said, the group did pen an occasional gem during this three album (1984’s Grace Under Pressure, 1985’s Power Windows, and 1987’s Hold Your Fire) foray into synth pop. The problem was the lack of vigor and consistency on those albums, which they were finally able accomplished on this album.

Presto was the band’s first album with Atlantic Records, after their long association with Mercury Records. In kind, the album feels like a fresh start on many levels, including lyrically. Drummer and lyricist Neil Peart provided more experience-based lyrics which were given the ability stand out more than in most past Rush projects, due to the methodical arrangements. Peart also admitted that he took a looser approach to the lyrical content than on other Rush albums, with the songs “many threads” but with no “manifesto”. Rush also chose to remain close to home when recording this album, mimicking their frequent practice from the early years.


Presto by Rush
Released: November 21, 1989 (Anthem)
Produced by: Rupert Hine & Rush
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, June-August 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
Show Don’t Tell
Chain Lightning
The Pass
War Paint
Scars
Presto
Superconductor
Anagram (for Mongo)
Red Tide
Hand Over Fist
Available Light
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Vocals
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion

Presto by Rush

 

While Presto is enjoyable throughout, there is no doubt that this album is a bit top-heavy with much of the finest material coming early on in the album’s sequence. “Show Don’t Tell” begins with a signature is the opening rudimental riff sequence, which harkens back to the groups excellent 1970s material. Lee plays a funky and bouncy bass throughout, including
a mid-section jam with a short bass lead. The verses and chorus hook are less classic Rush than 1980s Rush on this song which reached #1 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, however the song overall reaches a nice balance between the two worlds. And from here, the album only gets stronger.

“Chain Lightning” employs a unique hipster riff with exciting motion, like moving through a superhero sequence through verse and pre-chorus. A short but potent guitar lead by Lifeson complements the fantastic bass throughout and the rich vocal effects actually work well during the choruses. “The Pass” is simply a masterpiece and lyrically, one of Peart’s best ever efforts. Musically, the mood is captured with the pulse of simple, chorded bass notes that prove counterpart to the melody. There is a feeling of an emotional journey throughout as the second verse changes up the backing rhythm and Lifeson’s slow brewing guitar lead in the mid-section is backed by Peart’s drumming with expert efficiency and precision. Stated by the group on multiple occasions as one of their all-time favorites, the true highlight of “The Pass” is the potent lyric right from the top;

Proud swagger out of the schoolyard, waiting for the world’s applause / rebel without a conscience, martyr without a cause / static on your frequency, electric storms in your veins / raging at unreachable glory, straining at invisible chains…”

Rolling in like a hard rock song, “War Paint” soon becomes much more complex as it builds through the verses and choruses. The subtle musical passages are again masterful on this song, as this may well be Rush’s perfect 80s-era pop song. Lyrically, Peart uses a military allegory to describe perceived beauty and romantic courting, almost like different take on “Cinema Show” by Genesis. The heavy and climatic third verse precedes Lifeson’s best lead on the album, as the final lyrical turn calls for the “war paint” to “paint the mirror black”.

From here, the album becomes a bit weaker, while still staying well beyond the threshold of listen-ability. “Scars” has an interesting synth/percussion intro but is really quite hollow beyond that, fueled almost entirely by Peart’s lyrics and rhythms (both influenced by Africa). The album’s title song, “Presto” is a bit frustrating in the sense that it never seems to deliver on it’s own promise. A nice, driving acoustic throughout the verses is interrupted by a disjointed arrangement which tends to make the song lose momentum every time it feels like its about to hit its stride. “Superconductor” is built on simple rock riffs with lyrics that somewhat harken back to material on Signals and a very interesting, synth-fueled ballroom-waltz-like middle section, but falls into mediocrity beyond that.

The true highlight of the latter part of the album is “Anagram (for Mongo)”. This sounds like the kind of song that Rush was supposed to write in their new, sophisticated 1980s form all along. The driving pad-topped intro gives way to pure rock verses with Lifeson’s muted electric riffing, and then the chorus is lighter but beautifully melodic with Lee’s vocals. But the true genius of the song is the incredibly profound wordplay by Peart, who fused together multiple word puzzles (in the form of anagrams) into a coherent and melodic rock song. This leads the listener from room to room of philosophical observances and absurd contradictions, all while playing with words in a most cleaver way. Modern Rock Review listed “Analog (for Mongo)” as the #1 Great Forgotten Rush song.

The final three songs on Presto are almost experiments in sound, each with a strong piano presence. The dystopian “Red Tide” starts with a piano arpeggio and synth motifs, which are a little over the top for Rush. The song does pick up pace a bit in third verse but then unwisely falls back opening riff. “Hand Over Fist” contains a light and funky guitar riff which is soon dissolved in more textured beats and lyrics. This song has a fun lyrical configuration and hook, but not too much musically. “Available Light” closes the album as a moody track with slow, deliberate beat and minimalist piano chords which build in intensity through the chorus progression. This is another track which shows much promise but never quite delivers, making for a somewhat anticlimactic end to this fine album.

Despite the fact that it is rarely listed in the upper echelon of Rush albums, Presto is still a fresh and excellent listen a quarter century after its release. While reaching the Top 20 on the album charts, it did not fare much better commercially than its predecessor Hold Your Fire, but it was a definite symbol, as Rush entered the 1990s, that their sound and direction of the 1980s was about to be left behind.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

 

Hemispheres by Rush

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Hemispheres by RushHemispheres, the sixth studio album by Rush, was the second straight album recorded in the United Kingdom. It also contained the second half of a multi-album concept called “Cygnus X-1”, which took up the entire first side  as its title track. Musically, the group continued to use multi-movement song structures, complex rhythms and time signatures to pack this album with musical virtuosity by this trio at the very height of their talent and creativity. Lyrically, Neil Peart continued the scientific/fantasy approach of recent albums but with a decidedly philosophical bend, using a mixture of literary, factual, and fictional methods.

The music is complex and flowing with a lush production. Like the previous four studio album, Hemispheres was produced by Terry Brown. Influenced by progressive rock bands like Yes and King Crimson, the group set out to make more complex music, stretching the maximum potential of three rock musicians to be replicated in live situations. Lead vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee added Minimoog synthesizer and bass pedals to his arsenal while guitarist Alex Lifeson  experimented with classical and twelve-string guitars, often using a holder stand to easily switch between guitars live. Peart continued to add diverse percussion to his ever-growing drum set, including timpani, blocks, orchestral bells, chimes, and melodic cowbells.

Although the second half of a multi-part fantasy which starts in space but ends on Mount Olympus, the overall concept of Hemispheres is to explore and interpret human psychology via the left and right portions of the brain. This whole concept was developed by Peart who, as lyricist, had led the group to to ever greater levels of conceptual complexity since joining Rush in 1974. For their part, musical composers Lee and Lifeson, matched the ingenuity with their tightest, sharpest, and most inventive playing ever with brilliant complexity.


Hemispheres by Rush
Released: October 29, 1978 (Mercury)
Produced by: Terry Brown and Rush
Recorded: Rockfield Studios, South Wales, June–August 1978
Side One Side Two
Cygnus X-1, Book II:
Hemispheres
Circumstances
The Trees
La Villa Strangiato
Primary Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synthesizers
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synthesizers
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion, Synthesizers

 

While the story line isn’t as comprehensible as “2112”, the side-long suite of “Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres” is much more consistent musically. In fact, it is constructed more like a stage musical than a contemporary prog-rock piece, with the “Prelude” section acting as a true overture. starting off with slow rudiments which, for a moment, feel unsure, the music soon finds its groove, moving through seamless passages in the first three instrumental minutes. You don’t have to be a Rush fanatic to appreciate the quality rock on display here, which (like “2112 Overture”) is the most indelible part of the overall extended piece. A single verse three minutes in sets the stage for the story.

Next come the two parts which describe the two sides of Hemispheres – “Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)” and ” Dionysus (Bringer of Love)”. These two parts are really just different verses of the same tune, with a Lifeson guitar lead representing the “the bridge of death” crossing between them. Surprisingly, there is not a bigger contrast sonically between these two contrasting characters, as Geddy Lee brilliantly has shown he could pull off in “2112”. The awkward transition into these tracks is the first real flaw of the extended piece. After abandoning the “chains of reason” in pursuit of “joy and love”, the mythical civilization faces cold, starvation, and predators, which causes caos and ultimate battle in the very theatrical climax to the piece, “Armageddon (The Battle of Heart and Mind)”. Here Lee’s voice hits the highest of registers, perhaps a bit too far for contemporary tastes, as he relates the story of aimless conflict which ensued with the confusion brought on by the awareness of Apollo and Dionysus.

Finally, comes the bridge back to the final song from A Farewell to Kings. “Cygnus X-1:Book I” was a spacey number about a guy who deliberately steers his spaceship into a black hole out of his burning curiosity to see what was on the other side. On the “Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)” echoes from that song overlaid on the long synth sounds of Lee while Peart’s lyric morphs from the philosophical to the fantasy. The protagonist from the former song was able to make the chaos suddenly cease (although it is really unclear why) and the world unites into a “single, perfect sphere” as described in the pleasant acoustic final part with its Pollyanna, Utopian vision.

The second side begins in sharp contrast with excellent, frenzied musical piece of “Circumstances”. This is Rush, the rock band, at their absolute best. Peart’s crazed but ultra-tight drumming and Lee’s thundering Rickenbacker bass provide the best rhythm section in rock and are in top form. There is very short middle section for variety, where a synth-led waltz gives way the chord-and-riff-driven jam before breaking back into one final chorus. In a way, there is more sonically packed into this less-than-four-minute piece than all of the extended, 18-minute “Hemispheres”. Further, the song has great philosophical lyrics in two languages;

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, the more that things change, the more they stay the same…”

The philosophy continues with “The Trees”, a parable on socialism and collectivism. Here, Lifeson takes center stage from his classical acoustic intro through the incredible movement through differing guitar textures. Like “Circumstances”, there is another mid-section which starts with some synth and percussion motifs before breaking into a full band jam, which brings the tune to a fevered conclusion with an ironic lyrical ending.

This all leads to “La Villa Strangiato”, the crowning musical achievement of Rush’s long career. The band admits that this was incredibly difficult to record, even claiming that this single track took longer than the entire album Fly By Night. At first, they were obsessed with recording the nine-minute, twelve-section track in one single take, but eventually capitulated and recorded it in three parts. The result is an analog recording with a bit of tape hiss, but this does not detract from the music one bit. Based on a dream by Lifeson, “La Villa Strangiato” (“The Strange House”) begins with half minute Spanish guitar that gives way to, perhaps, the most exciting intro in rock and roll. Like a world awakening from a long slumber, the dream flanged guitar is cut through by the underlying, three-note beat by Lee and Peart. Eventually, the tension breaks into a full band rudimentary riff offset by interludes of smooth instrumental soaring. During the complex middle section, the mood comes down a little bit, to a basic beat for Lifeson’s bluesy guitar leads (like Rush in Pink Floyd mode), again building ever so slowly towards a more intense rhythm part. Several more connecting sections ensue, including a jazzy section led by bass and drums. The music meanders and draws the listener to a lull before suddenly breaking back to the main theme as a lead-in to the outro with a sudden and abrupt ending, which leaves the audience wanting for more.

Although Hemispheres received relatively good reviews it did not fare well commercially. With great success on the horizon, this would be the last Rush studio album to fail to make the Top 10 until 1987’s Hold Your Fire, six albums in the future. The recording of five studio albums in four years, coupled with 300 gigs a year, and the shear exhaustion of making such a complex album would play a major factor in the band deciding to move towards more accessible material in the future.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1978 albums.

1978 Images

 

Counterparts by Rush

Counterparts by RushWhile there is a definite break from the pop-leaning, synth-fused sound that had defined the Rush sound since the mid-1980s, their evolution back towards rock was not quite complete on Counterparts. Some have claimed that this was the back-to-basics album for the rock power trio, the truth is they had been migrating back on their previous two albums. But while the material leaned more towards the then-hip alternative rock sound, the album still contained its share of pop oriented and radio-friendly material, and it paid off commercially. The band’s fifteenth studio album, the album was Rush’s highest charting album in the US, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200.

The dark and emotional themes of Neil Peart‘s lyrics on Counterparts continue many of the trends of the band’s previous 1991 album Roll the Bones. Also resumed from the previous album was the inclusion of the instrumental, something that the band had abandoned through most of the 1980s. In this case, the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone” was a thematic sequel to “Where’s My Thing?” and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1994.

While Peart took care of all the lyrics, bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson composed all the music, an arrangement employed by the band since the mid 1970s.
 


Counterparts by Rush
Released: October 19, 1993 (Anthem)
Produced by: Peter Collins & Rush
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, April-June 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Animate
Stick It Out
Cut To the Chase
Nobody’s Hero
Between Sun and Moon
Alien Shore
The Speed of Love
Double Agent
Leave That Thing Alone
Cold Fire
Everyday Glory
Geddy Lee – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars
Neal Peart – Drums & Percussion
 
Counterparts by Rush

 
An opening drum beat by Peart introduces “Animate” and suggests the album is intended to be built on musical motifs with lyrical rhymes, rhymes, and more rhymes and just a touch of poetry. Still, a decent overall sound and a very entertaining middle part which includes the line which gave the album its title followed by a short, bluesy guitar lead by Lifeson. “Cut to the Chase” contains a moody picked guitar with bass accents by Lee eventually gives way to harder rocking section. As many have labeled Counterparts as Rush’s foray into “alternative” music this may be the best example to make that case, with the sound having a definite 1990s “groove”.

“Nobody’s Hero” contains a nice strummed acoustic and good guitars all around by Lifeson, with lyrics which remember lost friends much like the song “Afterimage” on Grace Under Pressure a decade earlier. “Stick It Out” takes a more raw, grungy sound and combines it with an almost-89s-hair-band-like anthem lyrically. The simple yet doomy riff over the verse gives way to a softer middle section, which just acts as a wall to bounce off the more appealing, heavier elements of the song, which charted at #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.
 

 
Peart really shows his drum chops on “Between Sun and Moon”, while yielding the lyrics to guest Pye Dubois. Combined, the song is melodic and entertaining throughout, and purely the most enjoyable song on the album. “Alien Shore” is driven by a funky rhythm on Lee’s bass and a great drum shuffle by Peart, but the vocal melody kind of mundane and repetitive, resulting in the song never quite hitting its potential, as one might have under the production techniques of Terry Brown, their producer from the early days.

The album’s latter tracks include the sonically pleasing “The Speed of Love” and the odd but original “Double Agent”, which forecasts the future Rush sound of the 2000s while continuing their occasional experimental pieces of the 1990s, such as the title song from the previous album Roll the Bones. “Cold Fire” is laid back with a steady beat, soaring vocals, and a good hook which made it very radio-friendly and earned it a #2 on the U.S. mainstream rock charts. The album concludes with “Everyday Glory”, which includes Lifeson’s bright guitars and Peart’s strong rhythms with a good bridge being the salvation of this song.

While it was the commercial peak of Rush’s long career, few would rank Counterparts in the top echelon of albums in Rush’s long career. This album’s success was due primarily to weak competition during the rather weak rock year of 1993.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.


1993 Images

 

Signals by Rush

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Signals by RushSignals was the much anticipated ninth album by Rush, as it followed up the blockbuster 1981 album Moving Pictures. This album would be the first where they would depart from the band’s classic sound and migrate towards more “modern” genres of new wave, reggae, ska, and synth-driven pop music. When the album was finally released in September 1982, it was a bit of a disappointment for many of the longtime fans who grew  up with Rush’s classic sound and had really hoped the band would up the ante following the fantastic Moving Pictures with an even better album. They didn’t and it was not. That being said, Signals is still a very good album. It would also establish a pattern of disparate songwriting, such as one song that was the product of drummer Neil Peart jamming with some of the road crew, one with differing parts written by each of the three band members at completely separate locations, and one that included a sequenced bass and guitar part that producer Terry Brown so strongly objected to that he would never again produce a Rush album.

Rush had begun to experiment with synthesized technology as early as 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, when bassist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee played short synth parts. On subsequent albums the band slowly implemented more electronics, such as foot pedal triggers, to explore more complex arrangements while maintaining their core sound. On Signals, the band brought the synthesized sounds to the forefront, ushering in a new sound for the band which they would explore through the rest of the 1980s. Unlike those later albums, however, this album maintains a rock edge tinged in various sub-genres, which make it a unique and interesting listen. Guitarist Alex Lifeson is still very strong on this album as far as providing the predominent musical melodies.

Further, the lyrical content on this album was a far cry from the deep, philosophical epics of the band’s past. More contemporary and accessible topics were explored such as teen repression, peer pressure, old age, and modern professions.
 


Signals by Rush
Released: September 9, 1982 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, April-July 1982
Side One Side Two
Subdivisions
The Analog Kid
Chemistry
Digital Man
The Weapon
New World Man
Losing It
Countdown
Band Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Synth Pedals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synth Pedals
Neal Peart – Drums, Percussion

 
The song “Countdown” was the earliest written for this album, just months after the release of Moving Pictures. The band were invited to a V.I.P. viewing of the launching of the very first space shuttle, Columbia, in Florida in April 1981. This event would be the inspiration for the song which describes the launch in detail along with audio clips of some of the radio talk recorded during the maiden flight. The song, which closes the album, was later used as a “wake-up” song for astronauts during future space shuttle missions. “The Weapon” is a solid song, musically, which includes some sequenced parts and acts as another part in Peart’s disparate trilogy called “Fear”.

The album’s opener, “Subdivisions” is the most enduring song on Signals. This is especially due to the fantastic drumming by Peart, who stands out here more than anywhere else. With the advent of MTV, the band would produce their first music video for this song, which carries a duo meaning, exploring adolescent social constructs as well as urban geographical layouts. Lee also shines, with solid and melodic vocals topping a performance on synthesizer that includes two solos done on a Minimoog and interspersed bass guitar parts.
 

 
The song where Rush sounds the most like its old self is “The Analog Kid”, especially during the hyperactive intro riff and verses. Lifeson provides an excellent solo which introduces a climatic outro to the song. Both “The Analog Kid” and “Digital Man” were later reborn as characters in the 2004 comic Common Grounds. “Digital Man” has a reggae-based backing, which was a sore spot for Brown who was reluctant to leave behind the band’s past sound, while the band members wanted to explore such new musical directions. This song contains some of the most interesting bass playing on the album.

“Chemistry” is probably the weakest song on album, but an interesting “experiment” nonetheless. Each member wrote a different part of the song, including lyrics, from remote locations prior to the album sessions. The song was then compiled in sequence. It would be the last time to date (30 years and counting) that Lee or Lifeson would contribute lyrics to a Rush song. “Losing It” is another experimental song, bringing in a guest violinist Ben Mink on violin. The song is soft and melodic with calm virtuosity and melancholy lyrics and a writer and a dancer past their prime. Lifeson’s dramatic lead greatly enhances to the overall tension of the song.

“New World Man” returns back to the reggae influence, fused nicely with solid, new wave rock beats. the song became a surprise hit single for the band, peaking at #21 on the Billboard charts, the band’s highest charting single and only top 40 ‘hit” in the US. The song was the last composed for the album song on the album, as their goal was to write a song between 3:40 and 3:50 in length to keep the “sides” of the album fairly even. The song was written and recorded on the same day.

The album itself reached #10 on the Billboard album charts and was certified Platinum within two months of its release. The band then embarked on the biggest tour to date, criscrossing North America, Britain, and West Germany to support Signals through 1983.

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1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1982 albums.