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Rush

The Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987

Review by Gary Hill

This Rush compilation is certainly redundant as everything on it shows up on Chronicles or Gold (or both). That said, for those looking for a first introduction to the band with a single disc (those are both double CD sets), this might well be the choice. It’s got some great music and does a good job of representing the various eras of the band. It should be noted that since all these songs have been reviewed by me elsewhere, I’ve used those reviews here in the track by track for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Working Man

This is the earliest track from the band that really got any recognition. The track really shows of the band’s early fascination with the music of Led Zeppelin and Cream. It’s very heavy (especially by the standards of the time) and musically is a bit like Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Lyrically this is a story of a typical “working man.” It’s got a killer extended jam in the center and Lee’s bass really gets a workout on it. We also get some extremely tasty guitar work from Alex Lifeson. This is also the only piece on show here featuring original Rush drummer  John Rutsey.

Fly By Night

The title track comes in as a somewhat lighter jam that still showcases a rather straight-ahead rock sound. If the chorus of this one wasn’t so catchy it would really be a throwaway piece.

2112 Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx

On this compilation they’ve combined the first two sections of the 2112 epic into one track. On the original they were tracked as two individual pieces, but run together anyway, so it’s not a big change. 

The first segment, “Overture,” begins with spacey sounds of whooshing keys, which eventually give way to a crunchy melody. This segment goes through quite a few changes before ending to give way to the next movement. During those changes it shifts to a crunchy, oh so tasty riff and contains some of Alex Lifeson's most awesome guitar stylings. This ends with explosions and a gentle Geddy vocal of "and the meek shall inherit the Earth.” Screaming in, “The Temples Of Syrinx,” the first true verse of the epic introduces the villains (hiss) of the piece, the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. This a strong cruncher.

Closer To The Heart

This starts off with an intricate acoustic guitar motif. It never really moves into the majestic sort of powerhouse approach that made up the core of that piece, though. Instead it stays fairly closer to a ballad approach. They still manage to create plenty of progressive rock power and include some more anthemic treatments. This is another great tune and another fine showing of the band’s more prog rock oriented sound.

The Trees
Starting on acoustic guitar, the first verse is sung in this style. Birds come over top of the end of this verse, then a brief pause gives way to a more metallic reworking of the first verse's themes. They work this in several directions as the song carries forward. They it drops to a mellow segment dominated by keys and percussion. This moves to a gradual build up to a classic Rush jam. Lifeson gets in a very tasteful solo before the main themes return, the group jamming on and reinventing this for a time, then jumping back into the verse.
The Spirit Of Radio
With a scorching guitar line opening it up, this is a great track. It really does seem like it would have been quite at home on the previous disc Hemispheres – at least as one of the non-epic offerings. It still manages to be catchy and rather “pop,” though.


 

Freewill
This was one of the first tracks from the band to show off the more “pop” oriented direction that was to dominate the next portion of their career. We still get some classic “Rushisms” and the arrangement has its share of quirky sections, though. It’s one that holds up quite well. While it has a bit of that Hemispheres sound it’s perhaps closer to the musical textures that would make up the band’s next release – Moving Pictures. All members of the band get a chance to shine on this.
Limelight
Here’s another of the group’s hits. It’s another most people should have heard at one time or another. It’s perhaps the biggest sign of things to come in that it has less of that old-school Rush sound on it of all the Moving Pictures music. Still, it’s a pretty cool track nonetheless. The guitar solo section on this one is extremely tasty.


 

Tom Sawyer
For those who don’t really know Rush all that well, this is the one song that will come to mind when they here the name. It’s crunchy and catchy. It represents the more pop oriented sound of the band while still maintaining some of the edge and power that the earlier works had. While in some ways I really want to dislike this track, you just can’t. Overplayed and the start of the change away from the music I really loved, this still works incredibly well.
Red Barchetta

The science fiction oriented themes here are quite cool. The idea of taking a sports car out for a spin in a post combustion engine world, where cars are outlawed is somehow romantic and powerful. The track has a mainstream feel, but still reaches back quite well to the more prog oriented era of the group. It’s another that I think would have been quite at home on Hemispheres. This has quite a tasty instrumental section.


 

New World Man

If “Subdivisions” was a big sign that something was seriously wrong with the Rush, “New World Man” was a full on DefCon alert. This is a much more mellow and pop oriented texture. The reggae rhythms are all over this. Perhaps this track more closely resembles the music that would come next from the group than anything else on Signals. It’s an alright song, but really doesn’t hold up well in retrospective.

Subdivisions
What Moving Pictures promised in terms of a more stripped back, keyboard dominated Rush sound is delivered here. There is a definite reggae feeling to this. It was the first huge sign to me that something was seriously wrong with the Rush that I had learned to love. That said, this is still a good song and I really love the processed “Subdivisions” part. Indeed, the whole chorus with the killer bass line is strong.
Distant Early Warning

A keyboard based intro has a science fiction like feel to it, They quickly shift things out to a rather reggae based stripped down sound for the verses. The bridge segment still has enough keyboards to keep it interesting. That keyboard arrangement and Geddy Lee’s vocals are the two things that really hold this track together. The chorus rocks out harder and works remarkably well. The instrumental segment on this ups the ante and the more powerful take on the song proper that follows it delivers.

The Big Money
This was the first single from Rush’s Power Windows and for me it seemed to represent a tying together of their older, harder rocking sound with their more pop rock elements. It’s got a good bit of crunch to it and works fairly well, Still, there’s plenty of the more modern trappings, too. While I wouldn’t really think of it as close to the top of the Rush pool of music, it’s definitely a highlight for that period of the band. It’s got some killer funky bass work from Geddy Lee in places. Yes, I said “funky.”
Force Ten
Another that rises above its origins, this track has a killer chorus and some intriguing instrumental elements. It’s very much a standard of the music Rush was producing at the time, but works quite well.

 

Time Stand Still
While the main concept isn’t all that different from the number that preceded it, this track just doesn’t work as well. The duet vocal element is a nice touch, though – and Geddy Lee does gives us some of his most emotional vocal work on record. This just doesn’t really hold up exceptionally well.
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