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.
#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).
#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.
#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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