Rush

TrackAlbum    
SubdivisionsSignals
La Villa StrangiatoHemispheres
Heart Full Of SoulFeedback
XanaduA Farewell To Kings
Distant Early WarningGrace Under Pressure
LimelightMoving Pictures
The Spirit Of RadioPermanent Waves
21122112
In The EndFly By Night
The GardenClockwork Angels

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Contributor: Neil Waite

The day after a concert I tell everyone about it, boring people by describing the atmosphere, talking about the set list, eulogising over the guitar solos and telling them why they should have gone. So why do I keep quiet after a concert by Rush? Because people say: ‘Rush? Never heard of them?’ or ‘Oh yes, think I’ve heard one of their songs on the radio’ or ‘Oh I don’t like them – can’t stand the singer’s voice’. I hear this from my adult peers now as I did from school friends all those years ago.

Two types of contraband that passed around the playground at school were cigarettes and Rush albums. The first Rush song I heard was Xanadu played by Tommy Vance on the Friday Rock Show. I found its symphonic build-up amazing but wasn’t sure about the vocals. Yet I was tempted into those playground dealings and borrowed A Farewell To Kings and 2112. A Farewell To Kings had a fascinating cover – a bombsite with a dead king sprawled on a throne. But what was this on the back of 2112? The band in kimonos? I wasn’t sure about that, as the bands I was into wore ripped jeans and Dr Martens. So I put the kimono record on first.

It blew me away. The sound, the technical skill, the melodies! Was all their material this amazing? I found that most of it was. I confess I abandoned them during their synth phase, thinking they’d sold out. But I rejoined them when they returned to their guitars, as you rejoin an FM programme after losing the signal in a tunnel.

If Rush are a ‘Rock’ band then they must be one of the best Rock bands of all time. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart seem to be the nicest guys in music – watch their documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage and you see such a warm relationship between the three of them. As musicians they are up there with the best of them: Keith Moon, John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton et al.

So I have to choose a top 10 from 20 studio albums, 9 live albums and 78 singles… Signals was the beginning of their move from guitar to synth, when I entered that tunnel, but even so Subdivisions is my No.1. It comments on societal pressure to adopt a certain lifestyle, but what’s best is the amazing melody and the humanity of Geddy’s singing. This is one of their staple live songs – they opened with it on the recent ‘Clockwork Angels’ tour.

Hemispheres was known as their ‘technical’ album – witness La Villa Strangiato, an instrumental, clocking in at 9.37 with 12 movements. The subtitle, ‘An Exercise in Self-Indulgence’, sums it up, but it’s a brilliant exercise.

Initially I resisted buying Feedback because I just didn’t want to hear Rush do covers of my favourite classics. But Heart Full Of Soul is incredible. While it’s playing I’ll tell you it’s better than the original – only while it’s playing mind! Check out the live performance on their R30 DVD.

I still love Xanadu and thirty years have taught me to love Geddy’s high-pitched but sincere tones. Distant Early Warning is a great composition with an irresistible chorus.

Moving Pictures introduced Rush to a wider audience – every song could have been a single. I tossed a coin between Limelight and YYZ, and Limelight, with its lyrics discussing the alienation brought by celebrity, won.

Predictable I know, but sometimes predictable is the way to go. The Spirit Of Radio has to be in there – the one you hear on the radio, as they must have intended. Sadly there’s a radio edit, of all things, which cuts short the virtuoso intro – and how exactly does Alex Lifeson play that?

2112 – if the kimonos bother you, plug in your earphones and turn the volume up. The wooshing intro to Overture is the start of a thrilling ride of complex guitar riffs and technically brilliant drum-work.

My last two tracks are 37 years apart. In the End starts mellow, slows almost to a stop and then kicks in with a power riff in a new key. The live version on All The World’s A Stage is also great with Geddy mysteriously saying ‘One, two, buckle my shoe’ just before the riff comes in.

Lastly the current Clockwork Angels album is awesome. The Garden is the last and best track, just beautiful.

So that’s Rush – the amazing kimono band. Next time I see them maybe I will tell everyone about it.

 

Rush official website

Rush biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #284

6 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    May 24, 2014

    Fly By Night was the song in which I learned how to play two parts on guitar… So, wot no? Great list and a great band.

  2. Jerry Tenenbaum
    May 24, 2014

    Rush formed only blocks from where I grew up and I was just starting university when they happened. They did not get much attention in those early years because how could anything so local be good? Attention was given as always to those from the important music centres and it was only later that we began to understand that Toronto WAS one of those centres of excellence. It is a footnote in music history that only very few recognized in those early years what we had in Toronto and in Canada. Indeed, before Canada embraced Rush, they are said to have had their greatest following from what I hear and read in Texas. I agree absolutely with you that as a trio this was an inventive group of musicians. They grew on me over time. As for Geddy Lee, his vocals defined the sound of Rush and one cannot say enough about Neil Peart. My sons understood well before I did and as usual, they taught me something more about music and they continue to do so.

    • David Lewis
      May 24, 2014

      Re Neil Peart: there’s a joke which asks how many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb? 10. 1 to do it and the other nine to discuss how Neil Peart would have done it.

  3. Calvin Rydbom
    May 24, 2014

    It’s sort of a given around my stomping ground that Rush broke in the US because of the then legendary WMMS Radio station breaking them (They also tend to take credit for Springsteen). My sister was a huge fan, me not so much. What does stick with me is Geddy Lee’s I think one venture into solo work singing lead vocals on Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Take Off To The Great White North cause as Lee said “Ten Bucks is Ten Bucks”.

  4. Simon Sadler
    May 24, 2014

    One thing people often dismiss Rush as, is pompous and po-faced. You only have to see then live, or read their sleeve notes, to know they have a keen sense of humour. Music critics have given them a bad rap over the years because they don’t do the whole rock and roll lifestyle thing, never have. Good to see In The End in your selection, it’s a very underrated song and pretty much the last farewell of the pre-Peart era. I often wonder what Rush would have become if Peart had never joined.

  5. Andrew Varndell
    May 27, 2014

    An excellent piece, Mr Waite. Doubtless, had you been given the challenge of finding a Top 13 for Rush, you would have included “Nobody’s Hero”, “Middletown Dreams” and, “Bravado” which may just be my favourite Rush track of all eternal time. Long live the Kimono Band. Great stuff, Sir.

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