The Album by Album Challenge: Rush (Part I)

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metallica-rush-logo-heavy-metal-63737Welcome to another “Album by Album Challenge.” For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.

For this challenge I chose to dive into the discography of Rush. Rush is a band with a vast career and a catalog of music that has been thought provoking and melting faces for nearly 40 years. When I first discovered Rush I didn’t quite know what to make of them so sadly their greatness was lost upon me until the release of their 1989 masterpiece Presto. From that point on I was a Rush fan and I grew and progressed through life along with their band. I lost touch with the band for a while only to have my love for them rekindled with the release of their latest album Clockwork Angels. This reconnection prompted me to do this challenge and revisit Rush’s catalog in full, album for album, beginning to end. This challenge without a doubt made me an even bigger fan that I’ve ever been as I discovered some overlooked gems and even some songs that I could live without. I hope all you passionate Rush fans will dig this challenge. Enjoy.

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Rush – Rush
Release Date: March 1, 1974
The Good: Finding My Way, Need Some Love, Take a Friend, Here Again, What You’re Doing, In the Mood, Working Man
The Bad:
The Indifferent: Before & After,

Listening to this album makes it damn near impossible for me to believe that this is the same band that would eventually give us “Tom Sawyer”, “Distant Early Warning”, and even 2112. Ok, so it’s not really the same band as Neil Peart hadn’t joined the band at this point but still, what a different kind of Rush. This album really has the band wearing a lot of their influences on their sleeves. “Finding My Way” (which has to be one of Geddy Lee (and rock’s) greatest moments)and “Here Again just may be two of the greatest Led Zeppelin songs never written while “Take a Friend” actually has this Allman Brothers Band kinda vibe to it. This album is such a solid, classic rock record but as we all know, a huge change is in the wind for these guys. I really did love the hell out of this album and will be revisiting this one without a doubt.

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Rush – Fly By Night
Release Date: February 15, 1975
The Good: Best I Can, Beneath, Between and Behind, By Tor & The Snow Dog, Fly By Night, Making Memories, Rivendell,
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

Night and Day. That’s the best way to describe the difference between the debut album and this one. I mean, one could say that the addition of Neil Peart as drummer and lyricist is the big change but musically these guys totally expanded their horizons. “Making Memories” totally has this kind of Little Feet/early Doobie Brothers vibe, “Fly By Night” is so melodic and just amazing while “By Tor & The Snow Dog” seems to be the song that started the shaping of the band that Rush would become. “Rivendell” reminds me of something you’d hear on an early Rainbow or even Jethro Tull album. Fly By Night is such a versatile album and much more so that I ever remembered it being. This is a truly fantastic album and song for song is an amazing listening experience.

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Rush – Caress of Steal
Release Date: September 24, 1975
The Good: Bastille Day, I Think I’m Going Bald, Lakeside Park, The Necromancer, The Fountain of Lamenth
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

What I love so much about this album is the huge fucking risk that Rush took. At this point Rush was still trying to solidify a fan base so I can totally see how this album threw everyone for a loop. Any fans who may had caught on to Rush because of the accessibility of the first album probably hung on pretty well through “Fly By Night” but with Caress of Steel, this is where Rush fans I’m sure were divided. “Bastille Day”, “Lakeside Park” and even the quirky yet awesome “I Think I’m Going Bald” could totally connect with the more lenient of fans but “The Necromancer” and “The Fountain of Lamenth” is where it all just went cray cray. I loved the risky and experimental nature of these songs and they are also very bold statements. This is a band saying, “We can write and play accessible songs but we also want to reach behind the impossible and make it possible” if that makes sense? Caress of Steel is a great listen and I really dug the hell out of this one. I’d be curious to hear from Rush fans who got into them when the first album came out about how they adjusted or received this mega change in direction and progression.

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Rush – 2112
Release Date: April 1, 1976
The Good: 2112, The Twilight Zone, Tears, Something for Nothing
The Bad:
The Indifferent: A Passage to Bangkok,

So this album was the one I was the most nervous about diving into as I had never listened to 2112 in it’s entirety front to back. The end result was that I was really pleasantly surprised. In the 2112 suite, I have to say that “Discovery” was my favorite piece. While this “suite” was pretty cool and totally enjoyable to listen to, I totally failed to hear or really understand just why this album gets so much attention and praise. I mean, again, don’t get me wrong, it’s cool but up to this point I thought that Caress of Steel was actually way more interesting. The second, non-conceptual part of 2112 I thought was remarkably strong. I didn’t care so much for “A Passage to Bangkok” but I really enjoyed the other three songs: “The Twilight Zone”, “Tears” and “Something for Nothing.” I found “Tears” to be a really cool, standout song that showcased some kind of Jethro Tull meets Yes influence which I really enjoyed hearing. All in all this was a strong album but nothing that truly blew my mind and had me feeling like I was hearing something all that amazing. Maybe I’m missing something but what I heard was a good album, really not much more.

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Rush – A Farewell to Kings
Release Date: September 1, 1977
The Good: A Farewell to Kings, Closer to the Heart, Cinderella Man, Madrigal, Xanadu, Cygnus X-1
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

A Farewell to Kings. What can I say? Another album that I sadly overlooked over the years only to find that I truly enjoyed this one immensely. Geddy really loves to scream “Yeahuh!” and I love it. The title track of this album is probably one of my new favorite songs. At this point in the game, this is how we will always think of Rush. The complex, intricate, and massive arrangements have now taken front seat leaving the simple Zeppelin rock influence of their first albums songs in the backseat. While they have put those simpler times behind them, they didn’t leave them behind because you can still hear those influences bleeding through their songs. “Xanadu” is the only song on this album that I didn’t love at first listen but after going in for another listen it’s epicness didn’t fall short on me.  What a fucking song.  “Madrigal” is such a cool song and I love how they always, to this point, seem to work in these kinds of melancholy Yes sounding tunes here and there. “Cygnus X-1” is so fucking epic and it’s songs like this that I can hear that totally shaped the future of progressive metal bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X. At this point Rush is creating music that would inspire a whole new genre and movement of music that would influence musicians on nearly every corner of the globe. That’s a pretty heavy thing when you think about it. These 3 unsuspecting dudes from Canada would change the face of music forever.

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Rush – Hemispheres
Release Date: October 29, 1978
The Good: Cygnus X-1 (Book II), Circumstances, The Trees, La Vilia Strangiato
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

Opening an album with the 2nd part of a song that closed out the previous album: mind = blown. I can’t even imagine how fucking insane this would’ve been to hear when it came out. Now this is the kind of shit Phish would do in their live shows so now I’m seeing that kind of thoughtfulness that inspired Phish. “Book II” totally just picks up where “Book I” left off and what an amazing listening experience. I found myself totally engulfed in this track and even went back and played them back to back to get the full experience. “The Trees” is such a magical fucking song and I can totally see why it continued to be a staple of Rush’s live shows especially over the last few years. It’s actually very current in its subject matter and it sounds every bit as good now as it did 35 years ago. “La Vilia Strangiato?” Holy prog my fucking eyes out Batman. Fuck “YYZ.” La Vilia Strangiato is the fucking face wrecking masterpiece. I must’ve listened to this song 3 times back to back just wrap my fucking head around it. How did I ever miss the magic of this fucking song? See folks? It’s shit like this that makes these challenges so much fun. I’m so loving this. This just may be in my top tier of favorite Rush albums. This is some epic shit folks! E-P-I-C!

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Rush – Permanent Waves
Release Date: January 1, 1980
The Good: Spirit of Radio, Freewill, Jacob’s Ladder, Entre Nous, Different Strings, Natural Science
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

Permanent Waves is literally a step in a bold new direction. It was the turn of a new decade and Rush was determined and willing to stay on the cusp of where technology in music was heading. They weren’t doing so to be “cool” or to keep up with trends but to keep themselves relevant as musicians and a creative entity. The minute “Spirit of Radio” kicked in a huge ass smile took over my gigantic head and there I was just air drumming and singing along with this piece of classic Rush. “All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted…” In my opinion, this line right here pretty much sets the tone as to where Rush was heading as a creative entity. At this point Rush was embracing modern music technology just as it was making a huge change in the world. You can hear it in the use of the synthesizers throughout the album on a song like “Jacob’s Ladder” but at the same time, Rush didn’t completely put their classic influences aside as could be heard on “Freewill” and even “Natural Science.” This song right here is a song that I never paid much attention to but man, what a great way to close an album. It’s such an epic song and, once again, there are those YES/Jethro Tull influences peeking their little heads out from behind the curtain. Permanent Waves is just a hint at the shape of things to come. It’s an insanely solid record from front to back and I will totally be revisiting this one again.

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Rush – Moving Pictures
Release Date: February 12, 1981
The Good: Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, Limelight, The Camera Eye, Witch Hunt, Vital Signs
The Bad:
The Indifferent:

“All the world’s indeed a stage and we’re all merely players, performers and portrayers.” It’s so surreally foretelling that Rush’s song “Limelight” would appear on what would be the very album that would pretty much define Rush as a band from here on out. Up to this point Rush was a band dipping in and out of the progressive natures and obscure conceptual themes only to get to this album which would be very much an album focused on individual songs. Each song is as strong and mind blowing as the other. It’s almost like they took the concept of working on concepts (funny) and put that same level of focus into one song. The only thing is that they did this for every one of the 7 songs on this album. “YYZ” is the instrumental that would forever be Rush’s call to arms and it’s one of those songs that I never get tired of hearing. Rush has a way of making an instrumental song sound every bit as exciting and dynamic as any of their songs with vocals. “YYZ” carries a really powerful melody and it’s infectious. “Witch Hunt” was the only song that I really didn’t remember but after hearing it on this challenge, holy doom/black metal Rush Batman. Seriously. This song is so fucking dark and bad ass. I could totally hear some black metal band like Behemoth or even Watain covering this. Once again, it’s Rush showing just how influential and genre bending they can be. There are so many albums that get overpraised by other bands that I don’t always agree with. In the case of Moving Pictures, it is a truly great album that I feel is more than worth of all the praise it gets.

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Rush – Signals
Release Date: September 9, 1982
The Good: Subdivisions, The Analog Kid, New World Man, Digital Man, The Weapon
The Bad:
The Indifferent: Losing It, Countdown

“Subdivisions.” Man, what a song. “Be cool or be cast out… conform or be cast out…” This is the song that seeded my deep connection with Rush after first hearing it in 1990 and even all these years later that song is as impactful as it was then. Signals is an album that I remembered not liking too much but time has been really good to this one. The variety of styles and influences really create a deep and dynamic listening experience. “New World Man” possesses this Police kind of quality to it. This isn’t a bad thing because instead of trying to immolate the Police, they merely borrowed from their styling and turned it into something all their own. “The Analog Kid” is pretty much one of my new favorite songs and “Digital Man” is another one of those “why didn’t I ever listen to this song?” songs. All in all, Signals is a good album but I didn’t find myself enjoying this one nearly as much as Moving Pictures. This album just seemed to be a bit less dynamic and seemed to have a pretty steady flow to it. Again, that’s not to say that it was bad but I just didn’t find this one much of an exciting listen.

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Rush – Grace Under Pressure
Release Date: April 12, 1984
The Good: Distant Early Warning, Red Sector A, The Enemy Within, The Body Electric, Kid Gloves, Red Lenses, Between the Wheels
The Bad:
The Indifferent: Afterimage

“Distant Early Warning” was the first Rush song I ever heard. It was on one of those K-Tel Masters of Metal compilations (White Hot) back in 1985 and I feel in love with that song right away. I ran out and bought this album and I just totally didn’t get it. Nearly 30 years later I’m listening to this album and the connection has been made. Even after becoming a full on Rush fan in 1989/90 I never really dipped into this album. I’ve heard this album referred to by many as one of Rush’s darkest album and I have to say that to this point, they’re about right. This is a really dark album and even as much as I love this album I can see how that connection was totally missed by my younger self. This is not a casual album by any means but it’s an album that those who are well versed in Rush can totally connect with and attest to its coolness. “Distant Early Warning” is still every bit as awesome as it ever was but songs like “Red Sector A”, “The Body Electric”, and “Red Lenses” are all songs that have now solidified their places in the top tier of some of my all-time favorite Rush songs. This is such a great album and thanks to doing this challenge I am discovering its greatness for the first time. I’d love to hear them resurrect some of these great songs in their live sets. Now I’m going to go seeking out some live bootlegs to hear some of these awesome tracks done live.

Click HERE FOR PART II

About Don de Leaumont

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats and dog. He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, “No fucking way.”

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