The Rush Project - February's Playlist

The Rush Project - February's Playlist

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According to my Last.fm stats, Rush is now my 4th most played artist, up from 5th place last month. As I mentioned last month, I’ve been listening to the following albums.

Hold Your Fire

Other than Time Stand Still, I wasn’t familiar with anything on Hold Your Fire. After listening to the album about four times, I wrote this:

Overall, this is pretty bland album unless you really dig keyboard-heavy pop-like crap. If you do, you probably already own this dog. My feelings on this album run parallel to my feelings about Power Windows. It’s uninspired and slogs happily along, oblivious to listener’s screams of boredom and fatigue.

After listening to this album several more times, this could not be more wrong. Hold Your Fire may not be a great album, but it’s a damned good one. If you give it time to grow on you, there’s a lot to love here. Unfortunately, most people won’t give it more than three listens, and it requires more than that. I listened to it at least ten times over the past month.

Lyrically, from a subject matter standpoint, this might be my favorite album. Peart hits human nature head-on and unapologetically. These are lyrics of fact and logic, observance and warning. These were written by a person who has spent a lot of time meditating and reflecting on human nature.

The album opens with Force Ten, and surprise!, the guitar is quite prominent. This album is something of a slow turn back to guitar oriented songs. While the keyboards are still there, sometimes in your face, the guitar is no longer buried.

Time Stands Still is the song most people will recognized. Every time Geddy sings

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger

it cuts me to the bone. It’s a powerful chorus and Aimee Mann’s simple refrain puts it over the top.

Second Nature, with a somewhat clean piano, suits Geddy’s voice very well. If the bridge and chorus don’t move you on some level, then you’re probably dead inside. Sorry for your loss.

Lock and Key is absolutely fantastic, solidly mixing the keyboards and guitar. The lyrics are something I think we could all learn a thing or two from with regards to human nature and our legislative onslaught against fundamental freedoms:

It’s not a matter of mercy
It’s not a matter of laws
Plenty of people will kill you
For some fanatical cause

It’s not a matter of conscience
A search for probable cause
It’s just a matter of instinct
A matter of fatal flaws

Turn The Page is the kind of song that sticks in your brain and refuses to die. Fortunately, it’s a great song. The bridge and chorus paint a fantastic picture of each person’s daily trip through time.

Tai Shan would be an easy song to ignore, but it’s actually a beautiful song. The bass and percussion are so simple and work so well. Alex’s guitar work is easy to overlook, but that guy is killing it.

I stood at the top of the mountain
And China sang to me
In the peaceful haze of harvest time
A song of eternity
That is frigging beautiful.

Released October 6th, 1987, Hold Your Fire hit #13 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Gold. This was Rush’s first album to not break the top 10 since Hemispheres in 1978. It was also their first to not tap platinum since 1975’s Caress of Steel.

Presto

I wasn’t overly impressed with this one during my first few listens. My first draft for Presto reads:

This album feels like an identity crisis. It’s superior to Hold Your Fire, but that’s hardly high praise. I don’t think there’s one song that really stands out. There are parts of songs that are incredible, but no single song really grabbed me. However, this album is far more guitar-driven than the previous four. The keyboards are used to accentuate and add flavor rather than drive and define. And Alex shines through in fine form.

Other than the comments regarding Alex, everything I wrote is bullshit. Presto is now one of my favorite Rush albums.

Geddy lays some serious bass and even carries lead on a few songs. He’s expanding into more dynamic vocals as well. This album might be their most vocally mature to date.

Peart, as always, kills on the drums and percussion. Lyrically, he kicks it. It took me a while to arrive at this conclusion though. Given only a few listens, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s more cut-and-paste. Subsequent listens reveal the depth of truth. As with most albums, and especially Hold Your Fire, Peart is really driving home some points here. And he does so exquisitely.

Alex is back with a vengeance. He’s all over the place and he’s welcome to it because holy shit it’s good to have him back. He shines more here than on Hold Your Fire. Although the keyboards are present, the band has returned to letting Alex shine.

I’d previously heard Show Don’t Tell and The Pass but was otherwise unfamiliar with anything else on the album.

Chain Lightning took a bit to grown on me, but this is damned good song. Geddy lays some seriously damaging bass, Peart is deadly tight, and Alex, wow, there’s some magic here. The guitar solo almost doesn’t feel like it fits, but otherwise this is great one. I do not understand the That’s nice at the end of the song. It seems so random and out of place. Kind of like lightning, but less fantastic.

The Pass is a sweet little gem. The chorus comes alive with the refrain:

Turn around and turn around and turn around
Turn around and walk the razor’s edge

I don’t particularly care for Superconductor, but my brain loves to repeat the chorus over and over and over.

Red Tide, an ode to the coming environmental holocaust, haunts me.

Hand Over Fist is a vicious little pill. This is a great example of what makes Rush so infectious. They’re firing on all cylinders. The chorus is so simple and holds more truth than any Sunday sermon:

Hand over fist
Paper around the stone
Scissors cut the paper
Cut the paper to the bone

Hand over fist
Paper around the stone
Scissors cut the paper
And the rock must stand alone

Hand over hand
Doesn’t seem so much
Hand over hand
Is the strength of the common touch

Do not make the mistake that I made. Do not put this song on repeat and let it go for 8-10 plays uninterrupted. Your brain will punish you by looping the chorus indefinitely. Learn from me, my friends. Do not do this.

Available Light is stunning. Geddy really knocks this out of the park. The clean piano works very well with his voice, and I’m surprised they haven’t used this combo more often. Goddamn this is a good song.

Released November 17th, 1989, Presto hit #16 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Gold, continuing the disappointment of Hold Your Fire. What the hell is wrong with people. This album is genius.

Roll the Bones

And now we find ourselves solidly and firmly out of the ’80s, thank all that’s holy. Roll The Bones continues the guitar-centric path found on Presto, and it quickly becomes apparent that Rush has (maybe, please god, let it be true) left the keyboard-laden songs firmly in the past.

I was familiar with Dreamline and Roll The Bones. They’re both good songs, with Dreamline the better of the two. Because, seriously, the spontaneous rap they dropped in the middle of Roll The Bones is a huge turd in the punchbowl. I’m considering editing my own version to completely omit the rap. It’s a great song marred by a gigantic who the hell knows why they did that.

Face Up catches you off guard. The guitars are solid, but the keyboards are like little angels from the past, tapping your shoulder and reminding you that hell is only a quick turn to the left. The chorus doesn’t really work for me, but the bridge is solidly brilliant.

Where’s My Thing?, an instrumental, is immediately enjoyable. The arrangement is quite brilliant. This was the first song that grabbed me and I love it more every time I hear it.

The Big Wheel is huge. Alex fries this one and Geddy lays the bottom down in a way that would make Freddy Mercury giddy. The chorus is splendid.

Playing for time
Don’t want to wait for heaven
Looking for love
For an angel to forgive my sins
Playing with fire
Chasing something new to believe in
Looking for love
The way the big wheel spins
The way the big wheel spins

Isn’t that all of us? We’re all doing that, all the time, we’re all doing that. Every day is a spin of the wheel. Every day we’re looking for love, looking for acceptance, looking for some kind of absolution. No matter how small. Please, just let me find that angel.

Ghost of a Chance is a nice little rocker. Simple, flowing, uncomplicated. It rocks along until, suddenly, the whole song feels like it’s turned into a ghost. It’s freakish how they pull this off because, before you know it, you’re rocking along again.

Neurotica is a weird one. Part of me wants to not like it, but truthfully it’s a damned work of art. The “oh oh oh” chorus doesn’t fit what I’ve come to expect (although after the ’80s, I should know better than to expect anything). Chorus notwithstanding, this a solid song that simply won’t be denied. Also: Alex rocks the hell out of this thing.

This album will probably never be in my Top-5-Anything list, but there are very few songs that I’ll be skipping when they show up. This is a great album.

Released August 30th, 1991, Roll The Bones went to #3 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Platinum, breaking the slump of the previous two albums. But seriously, people? This one and not Presto? You’re killing me.

Moving On

Here’s what, as I type this, is currently loading to my iPhone for next month.

I’ve got to say, as rough as January was, I’ve been pleasantly surprised this month, leaving me somewhat torn about leaving the ’80s behind. Yeah, I bitched and moaned and whined like a little kid, but it’s been worth the trip. I’m happy to leave the ’80s, but I’m also sad to see them go. Stretching and struggling is often a requirement of growth, and I can see now that the last two months have been instrumental in expanding my boundaries.

Still … so long, ’80s. Suck it. I’m seriously looking forward to the ’90s.

Onward and upward. Let’s get this party started.