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Various Artists

Working Man

Review by Gary Hill

One of the early Magna Carta tribute CD's, this one is definitely not one of their finest. It does have some strong points, though, and the main area in which it is lacking is vocals. Still, this should be a good addition to a Rush collection, or collections of the artists making the presentations. Besides, Rush's sound is really a unique one, and infused at every point with the band's personality, making them one of the tougher acts to pay homage to.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Working Man
The first cut on the CD is brought in by Sebastian Bach, Jake E. Lee, Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Brendt Allman and is a fairly faithful rendition, but a bit more polished then the original. Only Bach's vocals seem not to work quite as well as one would hope. Jake E. Lee creates a solo that at once emulates the original and creates a fresh texture and even gets a bit Hendrixish. The instrumental section to this one takes on a life of its own.
By-Tor and the Snow Dog
The same group of musicians is joined here by James LaBrie in the place of Bach. Opting to only do the last part of the tune, they put in quite an interesting rendition. They play it fairly faithful, but find opportunities for creativity. Once again, the vocals seem a bit lacking, but are definitely an improvement over those on the previous track.
Analog Kid
A harder edged take on the Rush piece, the vocals here are definitely in a deeper register than Lee's, but quite effective. The guitar solo seriously shreds. The band on this cut is composed of Jack Russell, Michael Romeo, Mike Pinella, Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Brendt Allman.
The Trees
This time Portnoy, Allman and Sheehan are joined by Allman's Shadow Gallery cohorts Chris Ingles, Gary Wehrkamp and Mike Baker. This rendition is quite strong, but again the vocals are a sticking point, feeling a bit whiny at points.
La Villa Strangiato
Portnoy, Allman and Sheehan are still the holdovers on this one. Their fellow musicians on this thrill ride are Steve Morse, James Murphy and David Townson. It seems like I would never hear myself saying that anyone's bass work would outdo Geddy Lee's, but here come those words. Billy Sheehan is simply awesome on this one. This instrumental is very effective and fairly faithful, but with a modernized sound. The result is one of the highlights of the album.
The Mission
Never one of my favorite Rush songs, the crew here turns it into quite a generic piece, stripping all the individuality from it. The only redeeming aspects are the vocal performance and instrumental break. The musicians here are Eric Martin, Brad Kaiser and Robert Berry.
Anthem
This early Rush rocker is presented in fine fashion here. It hardly seems possible, but Mark Slaughter's vocals feel even higher than those on the original recording. He is supported by George Lynch Deen Castronovo, James Murphy and Stuart Hamm.
Jacob's Ladder
The line up that gave us the title cut is back with the addition of Matt Guillory. This comes across a bit more straightforward than Rush's version, but is not bad at all. Bach's seems to have the vocal flavor down a bit better here, but his performance is still a bit lacking.
Closer to the Heart
Fates Warning presents their take on this one, a quite faithful and potent rendition. The vocals are very close to Geddy Lee's, feeling just a little off. The band put in a little snippet of 2112 to end the tune. This is one of the high points of the album.
Natural Science
The musicians this time out are Devin Townsend, Matt Guillory, Deen Castronovo, James Murphy, Stuart Hamm and David Townson. The intro to this one losses much of the magic and charisma of the original, and the vocals don't work all that well. The two stand out aspects of the cut are the drum work and keyboard lines. The band plays it fairly faithful, but at points take it just a bit too metallic to do justice to the number.
YYZ
This is a fairly straightforward and faithful take on this Rush instrumental. The only real surprise here is one jam that the band seems to add a renewed energy to the texture. The grouping here is Murphy, Guillory, Castronovo and Hamm.
Red Barchetta
This is another considerably faithful take on a Rush classic. The only significant differences are a bit more metallic take on the guitar and a vocal presence that again feels a bit lacking at times. This is another one that occasionally chooses more metallic leanings over style. The guitar solo is quite cool, though. The band here is LaBrie, Steve Morse, Richard Chycki, Sean Malone, Sean Reinert, James Murphy and David Townson.
Freewill
Gregoor Van Der Loo, Marcel Coenen, Trent Gardner, Jeff Brockman and Carl Cadden-James put in one of the more credible takes on the disc. The result is one of the best songs on the CD, and a great way to end.
 
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