Staff/Guest Picks: Favourite Rush Album Of All Time

Rush

With July 1st being our nation’s official birthday here in Canada, we thought we’d try to do something to pay honour to qute arguably the greatest and most famous band that our ten provinces and three territories have given birth to. We asked Hellbound’s regular contributors to write a paragraph or two about their favourite Rush album of all time, the results of which follow below. we also asked some guests, all of which are Rush fans, to chime in with theirs too. All of the albums mentioned are indeed worthy of the nod and worth checking out if you have never heard them before.

Staff Picks

Adrien Begrand

Favourite album: Grace Under Pressure

graceunderpressure-cover-sMore than any other band, it seems, your favourite Rush album is more often than not your very first Rush album. That’s certainly true in my case, and as timing would have it, my first exposure to the great Canadian band happened during a period that many people consider to be their creative nadir. Personally, I beg to differ. Sure, the synthesizer-dominated Grace Under Pressure was a far cry from the band’s towering 1970s discography, the massive Lifeson riffs and astonishing Neil Peart drumming giving way to cleaner tones and minimalist percussion, but listening to it 26 years later it still sounds like the work of a band bursting with ideas.

Ditching longtime collaborator Terry Brown in favour of Supertramp producer Peter Henderson, the band’s approach is much sleeker than on 1982′s stylistic turning point Signals, many of the songs possessing the kind of pop element that “New World Man” hinted at, but now feeling much more fully realized. “Afterimage” and “The Enemy Within” make phenomenal use of Lifeson’s new, Andy Summers-inspired guitar sound, “Between the Wheels” is a deceptively dark mood piece, while hooks and Peart’s thoughtful lyrics mesh beautifully on the popular single “Distant Early Warning”.

Top marks, though, go to “Red Sector A”, Lee singing of his mother’s experience in a concentration camp atop a haunting, thrumming synth arrangement, Peart’s beats mechanical yet fluid (his fills are gorgeous), and Lifeson delivering one of the most expressive, underrated guitar solos of his career. As much as I love Rush’s entire, vast body of work, it’s that 1982-87 era I have the strongest sentimental attachment to, and to this day I consider Grace Under Pressure to be a peak work from a greatly underestimated era for the band.

Tate Bengston

Favourite album: A Farewell to Kings

afarewelltokings-cover-sConsidering the sheer quantity of brilliant albums in Rush’s catalogue, my selection of A Farewell to Kings must be prefaced with the recognition that it shares its position with a pantheon virtually equal in stature. A Farewell to Kings stands preeminent for two reasons.

First, it possesses the best balance between Rush’s progressive and hard rock passions. Each element rises to a higher power. The potential synergy between the two elements explodes with kinetic force.

Second, the album moves with matchless grace. At thirty-seven minutes in length, the album’s conceptual ambition and elaborate instrumentation belies the economy of its form.

A Farewell to Kings delivers a pair of cerebrum-scorching epics, “Xanadu” and “Cygnus X-1,” that elevate Rush’s already-prodigious mastery of the prog epic. Counterbalancing the epic tendencies are four relatively concise songs that demonstrate Rush’s aptitude for melding progressive musicianship with conventional song structures. Three of the four – the title track, “Closer to the Heart,” and “Cinderella Man” – exemplify how to deliver pop hooks with sophistication, class, and nary a hint of pretension.
Far more than a mere successor to the celebrated 2112, A Farewell to Kings is the bold maturation of Rush’s vision.

Cara Cross

Favourite album: Moving Pictures

movingpictures-cover-sI used to think of Rush as a distinctly Canadian annoyance, like the Tragically Hip or the Crash Test Dummies.

I can’t put my finger on why, exactly. Maybe it had something to do with being forced to watch “Stick it Out” and “Nobody’s Hero” in heavy rotation on MuchMusic as a teenager, or the nerds at my school who wore Rush t-shirts. (Sorry.) No matter the reason, I was absolutely convinced I hated their music.

My eyes and ears were finally opened three years ago when I went on a weeklong car-camping trip along the Sunshine Coast with a guy who worshipped Geddy Lee. When he fed Moving Pictures into the CD player, I sighed and rolled my eyes. Here we go, another dude who thinks Rush is actually cool, I thought. The album began to play. Oh, how narrow-minded I had been.

My friend thought I was mocking him by singing along to “Tom Sawyer,” rocking out to “YYZ” and grooving to the reggae-like rhythms of “Vital Signs.” But under my façade, I was really and truly digging it. Listening to Moving Pictures that day, I finally came to understand what millions of fans already knew: RUSH rocks. And it’s stuck with me ever since.

Jay H. Gorania

Favourite album: 2112

Rush_2112Determining which Rush album is their greatest achievement is as simple as determining one’s favourite child. Moving Pictures is an obvious choice for many due to its prog rock richness, in addition to its various colours. And they’ve certainly proven themselves formidable when dabbling with or even diving into everything from reggae to ska. But with 2112, the more pronounced Led Zeppelin-styled heavy metal of their initial releases still existed, if only in the shadows, yet they extended their progressive development further into a format that was decidedly more digestible for those who weren’t necessarily interested in complex musicianship or lofty concepts. Their groundbreaking playing and high-brow lyrical thrust wasn’t forsaken, by any means; however it was streamlined in a manner that resonated with casual listeners more immediately than its predecessor, Caress of Steel (1975).

Kyle Harcott

Favourite album: Rush

RushI know, there are the obvious shortcomings. For one: no Neil Peart. Actually, I’ll give you that one. There’s no question that Peart’s contribution to Rush as both master drummer and lyricist is a huge part of their legacy. For two: Rush was still finding what would eventually become their signature sound, better reflected on later discs like Caress of Steel or 2112. But all that aside, Rush remains my favourite of their records, not least because it was the first one I’d heard end-to-end. Also because I heard it when I was fourteen, an age when I was also discovering Black Sabbath, and my dad’s Zeppelin and Blue Cheer records, and basically becoming a serious juvenile devotee of The Riff™.

There’s no denying that Rush is an album chock-a-block with monster riffs and grooves. John Rutsey was no Neil Peart, but he could pull off the poor-man’s-John-Bonham routine fair well enough, and he didn’t need wind chimes, glockenspiels or tubular bells tacked onto his 80-piece kit to do it, either. That’s with all due respect to Master Peart of course, but there is a simple magic at work on this record that got overshadowed on later Rush epics. Alex Lifeson’s playing is full of bluesy soul and force here and his riffs are really the star of the show. Geddy’s signature squeal was never in finer form than here (‘cept maybe on the Bob & Doug McKenzie song, eh?). Every song within is a certifiable CanCon classic, from the opening strains of “Finding My Way” to the crushing coda of “Working Man”, and should be required listening for every burgeoning Can-rock hesher-in-training. Sure, it’s a time-capsule of a band still growing, finding their way, so to speak, but Rush will always be my favourite.

Rob Hughes

Favourite Album: A Farewell to Kings

afarewelltokings-cover-sHaving triumphed with 2112, Rush were thriving and untouchable when it came time to record A Farewell to Kings. The album represented another quantum leap forward as the new-world trio found inspiration in the old-world setting of Rockfield Studios in Wales. Their playing was staggeringly confident, and the songs were more ornate and regal than ever before…and included a genuine hit single to boot! New elements abounded—Lifeson’s classically informed playing, Peart’s orchestra-scale percussion arsenal, and the Moog embellishments that foreshadowed Rush’s keyboard-laden future. The crystalline production captures the explosive dynamics and meticulous soundscapes demanded by the splendour of “Xanadu” and the deep space horror of “Cygnus X-1 (Book I—The Voyage).” Even a workaday track like “Cinderella Man” shimmers and sizzles. Personally, A Farewell to Kings was the record that marked the point where KISS wasn’t going to cut it anymore. When Geddy Lee screamed “Every nerve is torn aparrrrrrrrrt!” at the climax of “Cygnus X-1,” that’s exactly what was happening to my timid 12-year-old self, scared shitless listening to my second Rush album, and spurring me on to pursue that feeling again and again.

Rob Kachluba

Favourite album: Moving Pictures

movingpictures-cover-sMy fave Rush album would be Moving Pictures just for the fact of the quality of the songwriting. Every song is a perfect balance of Prog /tech and songwriting catchiness, I think this album is Rush’s turning point in their greatness in the rock/metal world.

My all time fave songs by the band are on this album: Limelight, Tom Sawyer and my absolute fave song from Rush, Red Barchetta. I just love the rolling riff and Geddy’s phrasing on the vocals.

Albert Mansour

Favourite album: 2112

Rush_2112I  pick the 1976 album 2112 just because of the memories. I have fond memories of buying this album back at Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto at the age of 12 years old, just a couple of months after the Montreal Olympic games. This album stands out the most in my mind. At the beginning spinning this album I really didn’t like it just because I was more into harder rock bands like Black Sabbath, Budgie, Led Zeppelin and many others. But listening to 2112 about a half dozen times the album started to grow on me. I still love it today.

Sean Palmerston

Favourite album: Fly By Night

Rush-FbNEver since I came up with the idea to try and pull off all of this crazy Rush-centric writing for Canada Day I have been wracking my own brain trying to figure out which is my own personal favourite album by the band. I’ve been listening to Rush almost non-stop for most of the past two months – much to the chagrin of my family and co-workers – revisiting albums that I haven’t listened to in a while to see what sits the best with me right now. Much to my surprise, Fly By Night takes the cake in the here and now. I keep going back to the album day after day. For me it is the most consistent set of songs, the album that I like to listen to from beginning to end without interruption.

Fly By Night reminds me a lot of being fourteen years old and living with my older brother and his family on CFB Borden (near Barrie, ON) in the summer of 1986. He had this album in his collection and I used to crank it up when he and his wife went off to work. There are just so many good songs on the record – Anthem, the title track, Best I Can, By-Tor and the Snow Dog. It was the first album with Neil Peart, the first album to show their progressive side and it has a cool-ass front cover. What more could you ask for?

Jonathan Smith

Favourite Album: Counterparts

counterparts-cover-sMy favourite Rush album is 1993′s Counterparts. My affection for the album is partly nostalgic. I have many memories of driving around Prince Edward Island in the borrowed family car, blaring a worn copy of the cassette over and over again. The album’s quality, however, stems from the songs themselves. Even though by this point in their career Rush had largely dropped the epic-length songs and progressive excesses that defined so much of their late 70s and early 80s days, Counterparts offered radio-friendly musical complexity mixed with a particularly strong (even for Rush) social conscious.

Opener “Animate” remains one of my favourite Rush songs, with Neil Peart’s drums propelling the song along at a perfect driving beat. “Nobody’s Hero” is a catchy and singable track that directly addresses alternative sexualities and the AIDS crisis. “Alien Shore” continues the album’s theme of pondering the nature of gender differences (perhaps reflected in the cover art?), and “Cold Fire” is an outright rocker that contains some of the most thoughtful lyrics about the trials and tribulations of getting laid (or not) that I’ve ever heard. “Everyday Glory” is almost painfully earnest in its call for individuals to come together in opposition to the darkness of the world, but then again, that’s Rush. The only track I’m not terribly fond of is “Spit It Out,” but even its lyrics jive with the album’s emphasis on the individual’s social awareness and personal knowledge. It’s Rush at their humanist best, and it remains a great Canadian rock album to boot.

Kevin Stewart-Panko

Favourite album: Presto

presto-cover-sActually, it’s probably any one of their albums in the ten years from 1975-85, but getting my dumb ass to narrow it down is pretty much asking the impossible. Plus, all kinds of other motherfuckers are going to pick Moving Pictures, Signals, A Farewell To Kings or 2112 and ramble on about them. So that’s my completely irresponsible selection.

 

 

Jason Wellwood

Favourite Album: Moving Pictures

movingpictures-cover-sNo matter what I say on this topic, I’m going to be slapped. Physically or metaphorically, it’s going to happen because…I’m just not a big Rush fan and never have been. I have nothing against the band, but they’ve never really excited me. I have seen them live though, I saw them play at Ontario place, on a whim, with a couple of friends who are HUGE Rush fans. In any case, my favourite Rush album is actually the only Rush album I own and pull out to listen to from time to time: Moving Pictures from 1981. Originally, I picked up the album because I was familiar with the first track on the record (see ‘Favourite Song’) but it soon became ‘Witch Hunt’ that I was coming back for over and over again. It’s an epic track without having to be 10 minutes long. Yes, this is one of Rush’s most radio friendly albums (3 of the 7 tracks are constantly on the air and YYZ is easily recognizable to Canadians) but it’s also a great gateway. In fact, listening to it again has spurred me to try and become a Rush fan once and for all.

Laura Wiebe Taylor

Favourite album: 2112

Rush_2112Rush is not a band I dive into very often but they’re very much a part of my personal musical history. Revisiting my Rush collection this month for the first time in a long while I was surprised to find myself particularly drawn to Roll the Bones and Counterparts. Well, maybe it’s not all that surprising since it was the early 90s when I rediscovered the band for myself and 94 (or so) on the Counterparts tour when I finally got to see them live, and the songs from these albums are deeply inscribed in the nostalgic part of my brain. Still, it’s actually a much earlier record that I end up returning to time after time. I guess science fiction fandom and childhood memories trump teenage nostalgia because it’s Rush’s 2112 that always stands out as my favourite. The science fiction concept driving the first chunk of the record is a big part of what keeps bringing me back, I admit. I’m not really a lyrics person, but sometimes a story (especially sf) can draw me in. Besides the futuristic framework, “2112” offers a heartfelt argument for the power of music and, by extension, a defence of the arts, making it even harder to resist. Of course, and maybe more importantly, the album as a whole is a classic in the musical sense as well. Not yet into their rock radio period (which also means the record hasn’t been crushed by radio overplay), here Rush demonstrate a wide range of dynamics and contrasts, abrupt but seamless shifts in direction, complex wankery but also some really simple and even lovely diversions. You can tell they’re still fairly young with a little angsty edge – showcased as much in “A Passage to Bangkok” or the energetic closer “Something for Nothing” as in the harsher moments of the title track. I do appreciate a more mature, polished Rush, but there’s something vibrant and vital about 2112 that disappeared as the band eased into the following decades.

Natalie Zed

Favourite album: A Farewell to Kings

afarewelltokings-cover-sCome on. “Xanadu” is an extended Samuel Taylor Coleridge reference. “Closer to the Heart” always touches mine. “Cygnus X-1” plays with all the strange, comforting imagery that draws me to science fiction. This album is perfectly aligned with nearly everything about my personality that makes me a shameless nerd; I am built to love it.

 

 

Guest Pieces

Chris Bruni

Favourite album: A Farewell To Kings and Signals (tie)

Farewell to SignalsSince Rush’s career is defined by several different eras, it would seem like the easy way out to of course pick an album from every era of the band. So in retrospect, my favourite Rush album it would be A Farewell To Kings AND Signals simultaneously in one and the same breath. A Farewell To Kings is the album that I think defines Rush’s epic prog-oriented storytelling musical style while at the same time showcasing a very special song-quality aspect to their music that can become easy to embrace. I personally think this came to fruition with A Farewell To Kings which is their most complete and epic album of the ‘70s era. Signals on the other hand was the beginning of a new era for the band in the early ‘80s, just as Moving Pictures (which many of course consider to be the Rush masterwork) became not only the band’s breakthrough album, but the album which bridged the gap between the more progressive era (ending with Permanent Waves) and the ‘80s Rush era where the band began experimenting more with new sounds and techniques by adapting to the technological advancements in recording and creating music at the time. By adding more synth layers (which still embellished that cool prog-like psych-vibe, at least on “Signals” and its Grace Under Pressure follow-up anyway) and new interesting rhythms to their sound, Signals is the pinnacle of ‘80s Rush, not only in the songwriting and experimental department (where the two elements fused together seamlessly), but the almost-detached otherworldly like atmosphere and aura Signals presented; kinda like the feeling like you are the king of the world in some mighty realm and watching over a pondering urban kingdom trapped under a glass dome.

Chris Bruni is the owner of Profound Lore Records.

Nathan Carson

Favourite album: Exit… Stage Left

Exit... Stage LeftLet’s be honest–as fantastic as Rush is, it usually has some piece of dead weight on each album. That bit of debris always gets in the way of even its best works being in that canon of “perfect” five star albums that we expect from The Beatles or Black Sabbath. So when I’m driving like the wind, straining the limits of man and machine in my red Bar-er-Saab, I put in the cassette of 1981 concert album Exit… Stage Left. It’s such a perfect compilation of hits from my personal favorite Rush era—2112 through Moving Pictures.

Spirit of Radio kicks things off, and you just know that the fans in that arena were fucking ecstatic. I don’t know that the band has a more exciting single. A thrilling Red Barchetta follows, leading into a rendition of YYZ that includes a nicely abridged Neil Peart drum solo before crashing into ominous climax. When Closer to the Heart follows, the crowd chants in participation, reminding the listener just how inspirational and unifying those concerts are. The band digs deep into is back catalog to unearth Beneath, Between, and Behind, and closes out side one (this is a cassette remember) with Jacob’s Ladder. The fact that Jacob’s Ladder, Xanadu, and La Villa Strangiato all appear on this record pretty much says it all. It’s epic music played by the best musicians in the world—live. The closest this tape gets to filler is The Trees, and that’s like the Canadian national anthem right? So I just recall Jimi’s Star Spangled Banner and try not to be too lofty. I can’t help my feelings if I like the way I’m made, eh?

Nathan Carson is the owner of Nanotear Booking, plays in the band Witch Mountain and also writes about music on a freelance basis for various US magazines.

Andrew Carter

Favourite album: Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under PressureGrace Under Pressure remains the single most underrated album in the Rush catalog, and over the years there’s no Rush album I’ve played more. Subsequently, the band has disclosed that the creation, recording and production of Grace Under Pressure were all particularly difficult, with Alex working especially hard to reassert his presence over the increasing use of keyboards. Another critical element was the difficult and painful decision to record their first album since the 1974 debut without long-time producer Terry Brown on board, but ironically the band ended up having to self-produce after Brown’s chosen successor bailed at the last minute. So, it’s no big surprise to find unusually bleak lyrical themes and content in every song, with the Cold War (“Distant Early Warning”), paranoia (“The Enemy Within” and “Red Lenses”), grief (“Afterimage”), stress (“Between The Wheels” and “The Body Electric”), and The Holocaust (“Red Sector A”) accompanying the requisite alienated youth anthem (“Kid Gloves”). To me, Grace Under Pressure is to Rush what Rocks is to Aerosmith — the album may not contain one of Rush’s ten biggest “hits”, but from start to finish the album is an extraordinarily cohesive, flowing example of the Gestalt theory where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In retrospect, it’s not a stretch to state that Rush got painted into a dark corner as the Signals era ended, and their response was appropriately dark, heavy and resilient.

Andrew Carter is an entertainment attorney and a former editor of Terrorizer Magazine. He will be crossing one of his “must do’s” off his list when he flies from Los Angeles to Toronto to see Rush play the Air Canada Centre on July 17th.

Bob Mersereau

Favourite Album: Moving Pictures

movingpictures-cover-sIn my 2007 book, The Top 100 Canadian Albums, Rush’s Moving Pictures was the hands-down favourite with the jury of 700 music-employed people in Canada. Three of the group’s discs made the list, with Moving Pictures finishing at #9 overall. Let’s put that in perspective: It’s higher than any albums by The Guess Who, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Bryan Adams, Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLaughlin, k.d. lang, a whole bunch of heroes.

I have to go with the crowd on this one. This 1981 release is Rush’s peak period of creativity. Never ones to settle into complacency, the members had embraced the sea-change in rock in the late 70′s, brought on by punk and new wave, by moving past the power trio, and exploring new sounds. Each one of them brought in new instruments to add to the mix, from synths to pedal-fired percussion, and adapting them to the group’s core virtuosity. Plus, they did it without sounding stupid, which was pretty damn hard to do with synthesizers at that time. Listen to “Limelight” and see if the synth doesn’t sound right at home, and I’d argue, not dated at all.
And there’s nothing cooler than the start of “Tom Sawyer”. Compare it to the other post-Prog stars of the day, what Yes and Asia and Tull and Genesis and the lot of British stars were doing, or even Zeppelin’s last couple of albums, with Page trying to figure out what possibly could come next for them. It’s no surprise the group continues to capture new generations. The so-called Rush Renaissance is merely a natural progression for this most progressive group.

Bob Mersereau is a CBC Television producer and music columnist, and the author of The Top 100 Canadian Albums, and the upcoming Top 100 Canadian Singles, to be published Sept. 30, 2010.

Lou Molinaro

Favourite album: Rush

RushCertain musical moments never get old. In fact, after years, they just become magical. I was 11 years old in 1975 when I bought a used version of Rush’s first record. There was a place across the road from Star Records in Oshawa called the Friendly Flea Market. It was a typical sort of used store that sold junk. As a young catholic boy, my school mates and I would always attend this place because it had used girly mags. The shop keep knew that we were young, but he did not care if we looked at the mags. He only insisted that if we looked, we had to buy them. So, it was an educational attempt about learning the female anatomy.

Along with all the junk, this guy used to have about 6 boxes filled with records. Not many, but still enough to catch my attention.
One particular day, I saw the first Rush record in this used pile. I recognized this band because I remembered seeing 11 x 17 posters of Rush with Special Guests Mendelson Joe as the opener. Rush was playing the IROQUOIS PARK ARENA in Whitby. It was a show from 1974. For whatever reason, this poster had such an impact on me that I took one off the downtown Oshawa poles to keep. To this day, I still have it.

When I saw the Rush record in this used pile at the Friendly Flea Market, I bought it….for 1 dollar….
Here is the scoop…it was on Moon Records, and the front cover had the RUSH insignia in RED…not pink….and it was in perfect condition!!!!!

Prototypically, I think that the 1st Rush record has been a big brother to so many other bands who have wanted to emulate the sounds from that 1974 recording.

Lou Molinaro is co-owner and club booker for This Ain’t Hollywood in Hamilton, Ontario. He also hosts Lou’s Control every Wednesday afternoon from 1 till 5:30 PM on INDI 101.

Judy Staley

Favorite Rush Album: Hemispheres

IPermanent Wavest’s funny, because every time I’m asked this question, my answer is the same. “I can’t really narrow it down to one favorite– but I can give you my top 5.” It’s just that it’s so difficult to pick only one when each of their albums has so much to offer. My top five are (in no particular order,) Caress of Steel, 2112, Permanent Waves, Counterparts and Vapor Trails. Caress of Steel and 2112 because those were the two I “cut my teeth” on as a 12 year old kid turning into a fan. My neighbour loaned them both to me and I have been hooked ever since. Vapor Trails, while heavy, somewhat sad and maybe not sonically their best, it’s one of my favorites because it was truly a miracle that album ever even happened. It signified for me, a rebirth, a starting over and a moving forward. When things happen in your life that leave you feeling helpless and feeling like giving in, Vapor Trails is an album that you can put on and even though it’s not necessarily a “feel good” album, it certainly gives you hope and the drive to keep going. If Neil could do it given the unbelievable circumstances he was able to endure — then so could I. Counterparts is my favorite album sonically. The song writing, the lyrics, the way it’s mixed, it’s perfect in every way. Each song has so much going on and you can hear it all, blended perfectly.

But I guess if you put a gun to my head and made me choose just one album, it would have to be Permanent Waves. I was about 14 years old at the time and at a very impressionable age, musically speaking. The lyrics to Spirit of Radio and Freewill in particular hit me in a profound way. Most kids at school were listening to whatever the radio threw at them, but finding a band like Rush and particularly focusing on the music and the lyrics of songs like Natural Science and Jacobs Ladder– that album just “made sense” and spoke to me in a way not many other bands’ music could. Another reason it probably qualifies as my “favorite”– To me, this album is “Rush” — it’s when they found their niche. If someone who had never heard the band wanted me to pick out the quintessential Rush album, Permanent Waves is what I would offer them.

Judy Staley is the executive director of Rush Con, which is happening in Toronto this July (see the banner on the right side of the page for more info)

Darryl Sterdan

2112 PicturesThe best Rush album? That’s a tough one — based on impact, consistency and sheer hits per pound, it’s probably gotta be Moving Pictures. But my favourite Rush album (and song)? That’s easy: 2112. Some of that is admittedly based on old-man nostalgia: I saw them play the 20-minute title cut in its entirety back in 1976 (and yes, Geddy was wearing a sarong). And some of it is sheer drummer envy: I spent many an hour in the basement trying to master the cascading concert tom-tom fills Neil Peart tosses off so casually in The Temple of Syrinx.

But mostly, I love it because of all their epic tracks, 2112 is simultaneously the cheesiest, the heaviest and the one that hangs together best. Sure, you can snigger at the hoary concept (guy with guitar goes up against evil music-hating overlords), the silly sound effects and the SF trappings (“Attention all planets of the Solar Federation! We have assumed control!”). But Alex Lifeson’s craggy chunks of old-school guitar riffage and blistering solos (especially the one at the end of Presentation) are no laughing matter. And Geddy Lee’s high-angle wailing has seldom been so unhinged and intense. They would go on to make far more complex, ambitious, subtle and fully realized works, but for my money, they would never again rock quite like this. (The rest of the disc is no slouch either, thanks to the druggy travelogue A Passage to Bangkok, the hazy Twilight Zone, the Zeppish Lessons and the Something for Nothing; the only fly in the ointment is the drippy ballad Tears.) Put on your sarong, crank it up, and you’ll understand why the Starman forever adorns Peart’s bass drums.

Darryl Sterdan is the main music critic for the Sun Media Chain in Canada. You can read his album reviews in the Sunday Sun nationwide.

Undercover Steve

Favourite album: Hemispheres

HemispheresFor years I’ve always referred to Hemispheres as my “Eve’s Apple” record. That is how I’ve always described my musical life before and after I first heard that record. I was about 12 when I picked it up on a cassette laying around my dad’s basement. Up until that time I was into Kiss and Black Sabbath for the most part. But as soon as I heard it, it was like when Eve ate the apple, I just suddenly became aware. Aware of musical instruments having particular identities, especially the drums. It was that moment that I also knew I wanted to be a drummer. But combine that with lyrics about Greek Mythology, arguing trees, and Bugs Bunny riffs and I was immediately changed forever. Any real Rush fan my age knows of all the trial and tribulation that came from your peers, let alone the social masses outside. It took a special fortitude and dedication to music as the art that it can be to stay true to these ideals. So much so that Ive always used Rush as my litmus test to the worth of a band. So simple really…Be Able To Play Your Shit Live!!!

I will be buried with this album….

Check out the radio program MY SHOW with Undercover Steve online at http://myshow667.podomatic.com/

Jeff Wagner

Favourite Album: Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures“Everybody gotta deviate from the norm…” Rush talked it and walked it all over Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures straddles many lines at the same time. It balances instrumental prowess with Rush’s evolution toward a more compact writing approach. Its production was one of incredible depth and shape. It embraced the emerging technology of the early 1980s, yet never feels anything but warm, earthy and organic. Each of the seven songs stands on its own, complementary to one another yet memorable for their own reasons: “Tom Sawyer” for its mystical, obscure charm (an unlikely hit); “Red Barchetta” for its vivid storytelling; “YYZ” for its display of telepathic musical chemistry; “Limelight” for being at once poignant and accessible; “The Camera Eye” for being Rush’s final foray into extended composition; “Witch Hunt” for its dark, brooding, cautionary dramatics; “Vital Signs” for foreshadowing the Rush to come.

Moving Pictures is the culmination of everything Rush (and producer Terry Brown) had worked up to by 1981. As good as successive albums Signals and Grace Under Pressure may be, they sacrifice something in their embracement of the stripped-down squeaky-clean digital era. Moving Pictures sacrifices nothing. Neither overly excessive nor frustratingly simplistic, it is, in a word, perfect.

Jeff Wagner is the author of “Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal”, set for release on Bazillion Points later this summer. He is also a former editor-in-chief of Metal Maniacs.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.

  • Boris

    No ‘Caress of Steel’!!! No ‘Caress of Steel’??? That album continues to be overlooked… but these are great essays, thanks for this!!!

  • http://www.lainad.typepad.com Lainad

    This list is not only covers a good portion of Rush’s albums (I think -need to check Wikipedia) but informative and well-written by all.

    Happy Canada Day to everyone (I especially liked Grace Under Pressure). Sean as usual, you did a kick-ass job on this.

  • http://diffmusic.blogspot.com/ Rob Hughes

    This is incredible. Thanks, Sean!

  • http://www.thisainthollywood.ca Lou Molinaro

    Hey Hellbound Crew…

    Great job on your Canada Day RUSH Homage!

    I am looking forward to the July 17th show….

    Happy Canada Day to all of you RUSH-IANS!!!!

  • By-Tor

    I got you all beat, because I own Archives, which is 3 Rush vinyl albums in one: Rush, Fly by Night, and Caress of Steel. So by choosing “Archives” as my favorite, Prince By-Tor is victorious!

  • Smash

    Great work, all of you. Some truly alternate-universe & thoughtful stuff here.

  • http://www.hellbound.ca ChaoticTate

    Nice! Sean, your bit on Fly By Night has inspired me to break this very fine album out again. I remember playing this album for a friend of mine who hated Rush and he remarked “Woah…THAT’S Rush?!” to which I responded “Yeah, that’s Rush!”

  • http://www.hellbound.ca ChaoticTate

    Oh, and nice to see all the love for Grace Under Pressure. Great album!

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  • P Smith

    My ranking of Rush’s albums depends mostly on Neil Peart’s lyrics. All of Rush’s albums are musically outstanding, not a weak one except for the production quality of Vapor Trails (remember, kids: never hire an engineer to produce an album).

    The albums which are my favourites are those where Peart’s lyrics are great on every song: Signals, Vapor Trails and Snakes and Arrows. On most of Rush’s albums, there’s one or two (or three) weaker lyrics, and occasionally something truly wretched (e.g. “Turn The Page”).

    Peart’s lyrics have always been strongest when he becomes emotionally involved in the topic – 1976-1984, 1993-2010; not to be unkind, but his personal misfortunes seem to have made him much more open and emotional, and it’s reflected in his newer lyrics. Peart’s weakest lyrics are when those where Peart is distant from his topics, a lot of “he” and “she” in the lyrics (e.g. Power Windows, Presto).

  • Andrew Weiss

    Where is Power Windows!!!