|Inspired by the upcoming release of the Tribeca Film Festival award winning documentary "Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage", I've decided to clue folks in on the Rush albums that they should know and own. A heartfelt thank you to Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen for making this film about a band that has been numero uno for me since age 15.
The albums below offer up Rush at their best, at many different points throughout their career.
At the pinnacle of their prog power. It's as though they finally realized that no one else could touch them in terms of complexity, power, heaviness, lightness, and just plain craziness. Their best album. No holds barred on this one. They were supremely confident in the studio by this time.
They continued to push the boundaries of what was considered radio friendly rock. This stuff is still absolutely progressive by most standards. The only song that's even somewhat straightforward is Limelight. My one wish is that this album could have had a slightly different mastering job, to let it breathe a little more. The highs sound slightly muted to me, and Neil's kit sounds a bit thin.
A Farewell To Kings
Rush really came into their own on this album. A lot of people say they did this on 2112, but I feel that Kings is the first album on which they were fully confident in their playing, in the songs, and in their abilities to translate their sound onto an album. This album contains two prog masterpieces: Xanadu and Cygnus X-1. The best sounding record up to that point in their career.
People finally took notice after 2112 was released. Rush certainly gained ground with the previous two albums, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel, but 2112 was more cohesive. The songs were better and so was the production. A lot of people look to 2112 as the jumping off point for Rush, and probably rightly so. The title track is one of a kind and something of an anthem.
This is a pretty amazing departure from Hemispheres, the album that came before it. The production and the songwriting is vastly different and it is noticeable immediately. The sound is polished and certainly more commercial, with the first two cuts amongst their most popular radio hits. But this is Rush after all, and the fact that Permanent Waves is more polished does not mean it is less than challenging to the listener. In a career defined by unconventionality, Jacob's Ladder and Natural Science are two of the bands more unconventional songs.
The 80's were almost over. Rush had been exploring synths and electronic drums for several years and had come back around to a slightly more guitar oriented sound. Presto really captures them at a unique juncture, still coming down from that electronic 80's fervor and pushing forward into the unknown 90's. Presto was their darkest album to date. I love the sound they got on this album.
Of all the sharp left-turns that Rush has taken over the years, Signals was the most dramatic. Alex Lifeson's guitar is practically buried and replaced with Geddy Lee's synthesizer work. This was a hard rock band, and a band considered to be among the earlier pioneers of metal. They had now ditched the guitar in favor of the synth. But they pulled it off and Signals is one of many high points in their career.
Rush was back with a vengeance on Vapor Trails. Their previous studio release had been a fairly mellow excercise. Many years had passed and one may have thought that they were mellowing. Vapor Trails was a statement that they had not slowed down or scaled back. They had not been this heavy and aggressive since Moving Pictures.
Rush was back in the groove for Counterparts. On the album prior they were trying to find their 90's feet. On Counterparts they came together for a heavier, darker album. Every song on the album is strong.
Exit Stage Left
This is Rush live at the height of their powers, coming off of five masterpiece albums in a row. For anyone who had not seen them in concert, this was a wake-up call.
A fantastic package of live Rush. Spanning their career from '74 to '98, with one disc including an entire live performance from 1978 at London's Hammersmith Odeon. This collection is killer.