#17 - Rush

Rush Album Countdown: #17 – #15

In anticipation of the May 1 release of Rush’s 18th full-length studio album, Snakes & Arrows, I’ll be reviewing the first 17 in order of greatness. I’m skipping compilations and live albums, mainly because none of Rush’s compilations or live albums are all that essential. And I’m lazy. That can’t be stressed enough.

I originally wanted to dedicate a post to each album, but I think that would rightly be seen as a transparent attempt to drag this thing out needlessly. So I’ll start with 3 at a time, and we’ll see how that goes.


Rush - Rush (1974) album cover#17 – Rush (1974)

No surprise here. While by no means a bad album, Rush represents a group that obviously hadn’t found their own style yet. Most reviews of this album point out how influenced it is by Led Zeppelin and Cream. Honestly I can’t hear the Zep influences, but the Cream style is very evident. I wonder what might have come of the band had John Rutsey stayed on as drummer. I imagine they probably would’ve established a decent regional fan base before fading away around 1977 or so. While Rutsey wasn’t bad, he simply lacked the urgency and precision that Neil Peart brought to Rush’s sound.

In addition to some sloppy playing on everyone’s part, Rush suffers most from really pedestrian lyrics. As for memorable songs – I know “Working Man” and “Finding My Way” get the longhair and denim jacket set psyched at concerts, but for my money the only ones worth salvaging here are “Here Again,” “What You’re Doing” (the best rocker on the album) and “Before and After” (or at least the first few minutes of it).

Rush - Hold Your Fire album cover#16 – Hold Your Fire (1987)

The abundance of cheesy late-’80s synths are my least favorite aspect of this album. But for reasons I can’t even really put my finger on, Hold Your Fire has just never struck a chord with me. There are some excellent songs and performances to be sure – “Force Ten” is a classic, and I have always liked “Mission” and “Turn the Page.” But for critics who accuse Rush of being too cold and clinical, this record is Exhibit A in their case. I think there are a lot of good aspects here, and I’d be interested to hear them re-record this with a harder and more streamlined style. That’s all I can really say about this one.

Rush - Roll the Bones album cover#15 – Roll the Bones (1991)

At the time Roll the Bones was released, I was pretty happy with it. Rush seemed to be making an effort to break out of the sonic doldrums of the late ’80s. But in retrospect, this sounds pretty toothless. Rupert Hine, who I think was a breath of fresh air for Presto, probably hung around one album too long. When this album is good, it’s really good — “Dreamline” is as engaging and energetic as anything Rush had put out in years. I’m also a big fan of “Bravado” and “Ghost of a Chance.”

Then there is the title track — four minutes of a pretty good song interrupted by perhaps the most cringe-inducing moment in Rush album history: The Rap. Ugh.

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  • http://thomnottom.com Thom

    Dear god, is there someway to filter out the Rush posts on this here blog? One post a day could just kill me. :mrgreen:

    Alright, my favorite album would be Images and Words, although their best track is that “Lonely Hearts” song they did in the 80s…

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com mizerychik

    You’ve already listed it ;)

    Okay, I might reevaluate my stance on GUP. I’ll listen to it tonight and let you know what I think.

  • Chris

    I would say two perfect ones, but that’s for later.

    Give me a hint on Jeff’s favorite will ya? :mrgreen:

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com mizerychik

    You should ask Jeff which Rush album is his favorite :lol:

    I think you might cry.

    I don’t think there are any truly awful Rush albums, but there are a lot where I wish I could cut them down the middle and mush them up with other albums. Which is why in my perfect world, I could get rid of Countdown and Chemistry, and pull in Afterimage and Between the Wheels. Replace Superconductor and Hand Over Fist with Bravado and Dreamline.

    To me, there’s only one perfect Rush album. But I’m picky. :mrgreen:

  • Chris

    That gets canceled out by The Weapon.

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com mizerychik

    Dude. COUNTDOWN

    That’s an automatic 15 yards.

  • Chris

    I don’t know you anymore. :cry:

    Well you’re going to enjoy the rest of the list, that’s for sure. I haven’t got it all planned out, but I expect Kings and Signals will rank highly. :cool:

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com mizerychik

    See, I love Between the Wheels and Afterimage and Red Sector A, but I never remember them, which makes me want to rank it really low. It is dark, but that had nothing to do with it at 15 – I forgot the album entirely when I was trying to rank them and ended up having to look it up, since I couldn’t get to 17 on memory alone and I assumed you didn’t mean Feedback. I couldn’t name all of the tracks on it. That’s bad, and shows how much I don’t listen to GUP. If I were going to bump it higher, it would probably take out another album you love :wink: I could mush Signals and GUP into one good album, and be happy with that.

    As an album I don’t find AFTK dark or aggressive, with Xanadu and Cygnus X-1 (two of the best Rush songs) being the exceptions. It’s just kind of… I don’t know. I’m not 14, living in my parents basement, playing D&D by myself because I have no friends, and that’s how I see the album. It’s dated and uber geeky and the title track might be one of their 5 worst songs. It suffers because it has only 6 songs, especially when I will only listen to the album version of 2 of them.

  • Chris

    P/G at #15/16???? Blasphemy! :shock:

    Forget a moment about the atrocious video for Distant Early Warning – that album is as dark and aggressive as, say, A Farewell to Kings. I can understand people not digging songs like Kid Gloves or Red Lenses (I happen to like them), but P/G soars on the strength of Between the Wheels, Afterimage and Red Sector A alone.

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com mizerychik

    What You’re Doing is hands down the best pre-Peart Rush. I love the version of it on Chronicles, where it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom. Definitely one of the biggest “this should always be played live” songs in their catalog.

    I’d put Hold Your Fire in my top five, if only for the greatest back to back song transition they’ve ever done: Prime Mover -> Lock and Key. It’s so perfect arena over the top synthy, before they head into the dark days of adult contemporary that starts at the end of HYF.

    And I’d throw Roll The Bones easily to the bottom of the Rush heap. Between the rapping skeleton and Face Up, which is the most horrifyingly catchy song ever… it’s like Sexyback levels of so catchy and awful that you want to smash the CD to bits with a hammer and carve the part of your brain that remembers the tune out with an icepick. Dreamline, Bravado, and Ghost of a Chance are very nice, though. It would have been better had they combined RTB and Presto into one good album, instead of two meh to shitty ones.

    I’d say my 17-15 would probably be RTB, Rush, and Grace Under Pressure, with 15-16 being relatively fluid spots. Is it worse to remember an album as being mostly insipid filler, or to not remember an album at all?

  • http://mizerychick.livejournal.com/ mizerychik

    What You’re Doing is hands down the best pre-Peart Rush. I love the version of it on Chronicles, where it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom. Definitely one of the biggest “this should always be played live” songs in their catalog.

    I’d put Hold Your Fire in my top five, if only for the greatest back to back song transition they’ve ever done: Prime Mover -> Lock and Key. It’s so perfect arena over the top synthy, before they head into the dark days of adult contemporary that starts at the end of HYF.

    And I’d throw Roll The Bones easily to the bottom of the Rush heap. Between the rapping skeleton and Face Up, which is the most horrifyingly catchy song ever… it’s like Sexyback levels of so catchy and awful that you want to smash the CD to bits with a hammer and carve the part of your brain that remembers the tune out with an icepick. Dreamline, Bravado, and Ghost of a Chance are very nice, though. It would have been better had they combined RTB and Presto into one good album, instead of two meh to shitty ones.

    I’d say my 17-15 would probably be RTB, Rush, and Grace Under Pressure, with 15-16 being relatively fluid spots. Is it worse to remember an album as being mostly insipid filler, or to not remember an album at all?