One of my favorite bands growing up in the 70’s was the Canadian power-rock trio, Rush. I even remember asking my parents to buy me the 2112 album for Christmas (afraid they were going to turn me down because of the pentagram logo on the album cover). I think Rush is one of those bands that one either loves or hates. In my experience, I haven’t found too many people who were lukewarm about them. Rush is a great tribute to band stability and cohesiveness as the band lineup — consisting of Geddy Lee (vocals and bass), Alex Lifeson (guitar), and Neal Peart (drums) — has remained the same since their second album (Fly By Night) back in 1975. Each member of the band is a virtuoso at their respective instrument: Lee is a master bassist, Lifeson is one of the most versatile guitarists around and Peart is arguably the best drummer in rock.
Another one of the band’s strengths is their adaptability. Throughout the 70’s, Rush clearly exhibited the bluesy-rock of the 60’s as many compared them to a Canadian style Led Zeppelin. As the 70’s progressed, they entered into the progressive rock scene with long, multi-part concept songs like Bytor and the Snowdog from Fly By Night and The Necromancer from Caress of Steel. However, their best foray into the genre was the title track to their iconic 2112 album. The song 2112 takes up the whole first side of the record (yes, this is back in the day of vinyl LP records) and tells the story of a young man who finds a guitar in a cave — a relic of a long vanished age. The elders of his society ban the instrument as it would interfere with their ability to maintain control over the public.
As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s, Rush put out, in my opinion, their two best albums — Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures. Not only did both albums achieve critical and popular success, but they displayed Rush at their absolute best. The songs from these albums are still played today on classic rock stations. Songs such as Spirit of the Radio and Freewill from Permanent Waves and Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ and Limelight from Moving Pictures. Their music style adapted again as synthesizers began to be used heavily in music during the 80’s. Albums such as Signals, Grace Under Pressure, and Power Windows display a heavy dose of synth-based rock music that was popular during that period. As the landscape of rock music changed, so did Rush. The albums from the early 90’s such as Roll the Bones and Counterparts show the band returning to their harder rock roots. Finally, in 2012, the band released their 20th studio album titled Clockwork Angels.
Despite their changing and adapting musical style, one thing has remained constant: The lyrical genius of Neal Peart. When Peart joined the band, he assumed principle lyric writing duties, and every Rush songs bears his influence. From the fantasy/sci-fi lyrics of their progressive rock era to his more socially conscious lyrics in their later years, Peart’s lyrics engage mind, emotion and soul. Another thing that has remained constant is that there are few bands that can touch Rush when it comes to the prolonged jam. I highly recommend two songs that showcase their musical prowess — La Villa Strangiato from the album Hemispheres and YYZ from Moving Pictures.
Sales wise, Rush has achieved a good deal of success in North America. Their most popular studio albums continue to be 2112 and Moving Pictures; both achieving multiple platinum status. Aside from those two albums, they collected eight other platinum albums and six gold albums. Rush trails only The Beatles and Led Zeppelin for the rock band with the most consecutive gold or platinum albums. Despite their commercial success, Rush has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (even though they have been given virtually every award and recognition in Canada). This obviously rankles many of the band’s fans (including myself).
I must say that I have very fond memories of the band growing up. Rush is one of the few musical artists that I continually turn to time and time again. Their music, in my opinion, is timeless. Songs like Fly By Night, Spirit of the Radio, and Tom Sawyer are always welcome in my music rotation (and usually get cranked up a notch or two). Here’s hoping the band sticks together long enough to record another 20 albums!
Libertas Aut Mors!