When starting to understand and appreciate the Canadian rock gods known as Rush, it can be daunting. Yes, what I had heard previously was great, but for me, whose currently about 15 albums behind on what they created, it’s not as easy. Today we’re gonna be taking a little trip down into progressive rock territory with a little piece I thought should be called “Learning to Love Rush.”
For many rock fans, the voice of Geddy Lee is a breath of fresh air, while others go hard for the dynamic drumming of the best rock drummer to ever exist, one Neil Peart. Or maybe it’s the soaring melody of guitarist Alex Lifeson, who I assume has his own set of devotees. My point is, there are very, very few bands that match the artistry and instrumental skill that the members of Rush possess. On this journey, and for the sake of time and space, we’ll be exploring the more critically acclaimed albums, or rather the ones that made me wake up and go, “Holy Shit Rush is great.”
When I was young and uninformed, hearing the name Rush meant very little to me. I wrongly associated them with the other “classic rock” of the time, which means shit like Styx, Eagles and whatever nonsense from that era you can think of. It wasn’t until I heard the self-titled debut from 1974 that I realized the original rock gods started as a very free wielding, soaring type of classic rock that even fans of heavier music could get behind. Take a song like “Before & After,” which starts off gently enough before the bluster and energy ramps up is a perfect example of the type of musical capabilities the trip exhibited from an early point in their career. That means, this thing called RUSH was just getting started.
For my money and insight, by 1976 the band was on the cusp of a major, major breakthrough of acclaim, led by the first of five ridiculously solid albums, titled “2112,” began to showcase the true progressive rock the band was attempting to perfect. From the first track of 2112, the very long “2112:Overture,” which has a longer title I’m not going to include, shines with intensity as q voice shreds the front end while Peart decimates the background mix.
What stands out to me about this record, and the next few especially, is the exacting nature of the music. Rush as a trio is capable of some of the most interesting yet precise music of all time, yet the band never seems to get lost in the complicated nature of prog rock that so many others do. Pushing it even further, the band can rock and pummel at one moment and then go back and make a progressive sounding pop song in the way of “A Passage to Bangkok.” All of this is to say that by the time 1977’s “A Farewell to Kings” came out, the band was both highly acclaimed and unrelentingly popular, thanks to the hard work and execution of the trio.
From there, it’s hit after hit, and while I’m running out of space and time, think of the catalog of songs. “Closer to the Heart” is mesmerizing in its poignant haziness, while cuts from other records, like the classic stadium rock of “The Spirit of Radio” from 1980’s “Permanent Waves,” are still recognized for their brilliance by ever engaged music fans far and wide. There’s simply not a bad song among the bunch, which brings us to the landmark album known as “Moving Pictures.”
The record as a whole is marvelous, but a cornerstone of a great album is, you guessed it, great songs. The reason for that little game of a sentence is to demonstrate that while the band had been naturally maturing over the course of their career, there hadn’t been any album that had jerked me awake like the 40 minutes of triumph presented in “Moving Pictures.”
From the start of “MP,” you feel (or at least I did when exposed to the record) moved not only by the dynamic opening of the seminal classic “Tom Sawyer,” with its futuristic guitar and synth work, but other classics like the monolithic vibe of “YYZ” and maybe my favorite Rush song ever, “Limelight.”
The song speaks to me, one because its a brilliant fucking song, but also how personal and forward it is. While the music was composed by Peart and Lifeson jointly, the lyrics spoke directly to how Peart, and by extension of being the lead vocalist, Lee felt about the band's recognition in the world at large. Peart, who actually wrote the lyrics, had become increasingly aware that he couldn’t just be a normal dude anymore as the band's popularity took off. It sucks to feel that way for sure, but good god damn is “Limelight” a masterpiece.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this somewhat researched but more heartfelt article. In conclusion, Rush made me feel like I hadn’t in many years, and for that, I salute them. RIP to Neil Peart, may you be drumming for the cosmos.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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