Lately I've been listening to Rush
all day while I work. I have every album
(not counting live, compilation albums and their last album) saved as mp3s from when I left Washington on my road trip across America
September 2000. It took me about a week to save 100+ music CDs to mp3s so I could listen to music from my laptop which was connected to my SUV stereo.
From 1987 I was pretty bored with Rush but I continued to buy their albums anyway out of loyalty and curiosity. I was into their early stuff but not the later stuff. I found their later stuff timid and boring unlike their early stuff which exploded and was full of energy and magic. The spark that I liked was gone.
But I'm gaining a new appreciation for their later work. It's "easy listening" for work. The early stuff is too distracting and too noisy for when I'm trying to concentrate. I was never one to pay attention to lyrics much. I was more into the early rush for the music and the energy it filled me with. The later Rush seemed to focus on meaningful lyrics and less on kick-ass music. It was more cerebral and less emotional.
As I sit here listening to the lyrics for the first time of their older stuff, I'm realizing that they had a lot of interesting things to say. I'm surprised to find myself starting to like the later Rush!
I was into Rush long before I knew who they were. At about age 12 I heard "Fly by night
" about 1976 on the radio and loved it. The next song I heard was "Closer to the heart
" about 1977 and I loved that too but I made no connection. I saw kids wearing Rush t-shirts but I still made no connection to the music I loved.
I used to record music to tape cassettes off the radio then one day in 1979 (age 16) I recorded most of a live concert and yet I still didn't know who they were. Some of the songs I recorded were Xanadu
In 1980 the album Permanent Waves
came out and the songs Freewill and The Spirit of Radio hit it big. I heard the DJ say that the band was Rush and I finally made that connection. I rushed over to the music store and bought the album and thought it was brilliant from beginning to end. My dad had an awesome stereo so when my parents weren't home I would put the record on the turn table and crank up the volume to shake the walls.
I loved to shake the house with the song Natural Science from Permanent Waves. It represents the quintessential Rush song. It starts out quiet and slow then slowly builds until it explodes! This song is over 9 minutes long and most of it is hard rocking! It's like sex. You have the foreplay in the beginning, the build up then the intense intercourse followed by the orgasm then you can can relax.
I loved that formula! So many songs follow that like Cygnus-X1, A Farewall to Kings, Xanadu and so on. But after Red Barchetta on Moving Pictures in 1981 that formula was gone. For me, that's where the magic was.
It was then my goal to buy all of the Rush albums. Below is a list of the albums in the order I bought them along with the year they came out, what format I bought them on (Record, Cassette, CD, Download) and how I felt about them.
1980 Permanent Waves (1980 Record) - Brilliant!
1980 Fly By Night (1975 Record) - Awesome! It has the song Fly by Night, that I loved back in 1976
1980 A Farewell to King (1977 Record) - Good Stuff! Deep! SciFi! Part 1 of 2
1980 Hemispheres (1978 Record) - Good but not into the Greek Mythology. Part 2 of 2
1981 Rush (1974 Record) - Crude. It had the Geddy Lee shriek but the music wasn't unique and the lyrics were horrible. John Rutsey was the drummer so I blamed it on him.
1981 Caress of Steel (1975 Record) - Again Crude. Bad lyrics and a fantasy slant which I'm not into. Two back to back albums I didn't like. I was losing faith in Rush then Moving Pictures came out.
1981 Moving Pictures (1981 Record) - This album restored my faith in Rush with songs like Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta and the long instrumental YYZ. In my opinion, this is when Rush peaked.
1982 Signals (1982 Cassette) - By this time Rush had "jumped the shark
" and would never recover. This was the first album I purchased on cassette tape and I actually wore it out by listening to it too much. The sound quality got so bad that I went out and bought it again. I still loved the entire album especially the songs New World Man, Subdivisions, Analog Kid and The Weapon but it seemed to lack some of the magic of Moving Pictures. The Geddy Lee shriek was gone. He was no longer screaming lyrics. He was now just singing the lyrics like any other singer. A disappointment but yet their music still moved me.
1984 Grace Under Pressure (1984 cassette) - The albums start to blend together now. This was a lot like Signals but slightly different. I still enjoyed this album a lot but I felt like the magic was gone. They were still good ... just not great. This album was kind of creepy for me. It had an eerie message that made me feel paranoid. It didn't fill me with energy the way Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Fly by Night did.
1985 Power Windows (1985 casette) - Now I was certain Rush would never return to the previous glory. I liked it when Rush was more conceptual but now they were just telling stories. I liked the energy from the Geddy Lee shriek but I'm guessing as he aged he decided to save his voice. They were getting older and it showed. I saw Rush in concert once and it was when they were touring for this album. I had good seats in the 11th row and my ears rang for a week. I'm sure I lost some hearing from that concert. When I came out, I was half-deaf for a few hours.
1987 Hold Your Fire (1987 CD) - Forgettable. Yawn. More of the same. I miss the old Rush. But I decided to continue to buy every Rush album that came out for many reasons. (1) Loyalty (2) Curiosity. They were continuing evolve. This is a band that likes to experiment and I can respect that. I didn't listen to this album much.
1989 Presto (1989 CD) - same as above. Rush made the change from Mercury to Atlantic records on this album. I begin to wonder what comes first ... the music or the lyrics? Do they write music then add lyrics or write lyrics then write music to fit the lyrics? In the early years I think the music inspired the lyrics but in these later years I think the lyrics came first and the music was a second thought.
1991 Roll the Bones (1991 CD) - still no magic. I barely listened to this album.
1993 Counterparts (1993 CD) - as always there were some good songs but nothing great. Nothing that moved me.
1996 Test for Echo (1996 CD) - same as above. They used to put out an album every year, then it was every 2 years and now every 3 years.
2002 Vapor Trails (2002 CD) - 6 years have passed since their last album. Obviously they have better things to be doing.
Feedback (2004) - I never knew this album existed until today. It seems that I have another album to buy!
It is interesting how over time the platform has changed. I started with records, then cassette tapes then CDs then creating mp3s from my CDS then downloading mp3s from Napster then using the legal Napster and iTunes. I wonder how will I purchase their album Feedback.
I also wonder how many more albums they will put out. Geddy Lee was born July 29, 1953 which makes him 52 now. It seemed like the time between albums was getting longer ... 1, 2, 3 and 6 years apart but there was only a 2 year wait for this last album. Maybe they are on the come back for one last blast. I honestly expect at least 3 more albums out of Rush. I think they will be rocking at age 70!
Long Live Rush!