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Rush

Test For Echo

Review by Gary Hill

I remember when this CD came out I, as one of the old-school Rush fans, was so hungry for a sign that they may be ready to re-enter the days of epics and such, thought that I heard elements of the proggier period of the band everywhere on this album. Well, listening now with more of a clear perspective I’d have to say that there are points where I was right. The opening portions of the CD and some bits here and there are certainly in that general vein. There are also some hints of more neo-prog music, making this one closer to a true progressive rock disc (you’ll note we tend to put Rush – no matter the disc – under prog based on the strength of that prog period of the group). The truth of the matter is, this was a step up for the group in terms of quality for sure. It was one of the more consistent and varied CD’s we’d gotten from them in a while. It still holds up quite well, too and should be one that manages to please both the older Rush fans and the ones they made in their hit single period.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Test For Echo
A picked guitar line starts this off giving us a texture that’s a little bit old school Rush mixed with a lot of new. After a fairly mellow verse (OK, technically it’s lyrically a chorus, but with the music that will accompany the verses later in the track) they power out into a fast paced jam that’s quite cool. Rather than keep it in this motif, though, they drop it back for the verse. The faster jam returns later for the chorus and it really has quite a bit of that old school, proggier Rush in the mix. They alternate between these two musical concepts as they carry forward. There’s a jam later that’s got both a lot of old school Rush and a good chunk of Led Zeppelin in it.

Driven
The smoking, rubbery riff that leads us out here is extremely cool. One would expect it to lead out into an even more ferocious soundscape. Instead after a verse they drop it back to a short balladic interlude and then move into a reworked version of this riff. This is an interesting song because it has plenty of Hemispheres era Rush and also because it doesn’t do the expected. The instrumental section on this one is quite tasty, pulling the main riff into a mellower sound for a short time. When they launch back out into the song proper we get a new section that’s nearly one hundred percent A Farewell To Kings era. They move back to the earlier section as they carry on. We get some nearly metallic textures on the outro.
Half The World
This has a mellower motif and is in a style that’s closer to the music that Rush had been producing around this time. Still, there’s more of an edge to the guitar sound than we had been used to hearing from them.
The Color of Right
There’s not a lot separating this track from a lot of the Rush music we were used to hearing by this point. If anything it was perhaps a bit more pop rock oriented than much of the band’s catalog. I’m not overly crazy about this one. I’d have to say it’s one of the weak points of quite a strong disc. There is one cool slow ascending riff section later in the track
Time and Motion
Now, this one is really one of the highlights of the disc. It’s got a swirling, chugging sort of riff that feels a lot like something from the classic prog era of the band. It’s a fast paced jam that has a quirky nature to it. I liked this one a lot the first time I heard it and it still holds up every bit as well.
Totem
In some ways this is like “The Color Of Right” in that it’s rather generic in terms of the Rush that had been heard for a while. That said, the chorus is extremely potent and powerful and the lyrical themes are thought provoking, too. There is also a tasty guitar solo section. It goes to show that the standard Rush tune of the era still had some mileage left in it.
Dog Years
This one’s rather unusual. It’s got an almost punky feeling to it. It’s raw in many ways, but yet there are some intriguing musical excursions here and a catchy chorus.
Virtuality
Here’s another example of how the standard Rush song still had some life in it. There are moments here, though that really call back to the old-school Rush. The lyrics are all about the internet age.  The chorus is one of the catchiest from the band in recent memory.

Resist
In many ways this is one of the most prog oriented tracks on the disc. Still, it’s not in the same way that older Rush was progressive rock. In many ways this is closer o the balladic, melodic progressive rock that is part of the neo-prog movement. I love the lyrical themes on this one and it’s actually one of the strongest cuts on show here. It’s neither old school Rush or what we were used to from modern Rush (at least to any huge degree). That said, it does come closer to the latter than the former.
Limbo
With some bits that make this perfect for playing at a Halloween party (“whatever happened to my Transylvanian twist” spoken by a “count Dracula” sort of voice for one) this instrumental does a great job of combining the modern Rush sound with a more pure neo-prog element. This is one of the tracks on the disc that I’d have no problem blatantly calling “progressive rock.” I’d also have no problem calling it “fun.”

Carve Away The Stone
They bring us back to more traditional modern era Rush with this track. It’s a good piece, but I wouldn’t consider it a highlight of the disc. That said the guitar solo section on this is quite tasty. I personally think, though, that if the last two tracks had been reversed in position it would have made for a stronger closing salvo.

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