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Rush

Gold

Review by Gary Hill

In many ways this double disc compilation is too similar to Chronicles. While that disc seems to focus on the more obvious choices, this allows some of the less well-known pieces to make the cut. I would have to say there are a couple tracks included here that might make this the better choice for a Rush comp than that other set. Still, arguments could be made for either – and the ideal choice would be to buy all the original albums. Since I’ve already reviewed many of these tracks the song descriptions that follow are copied from (or modified) from those reviews 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
Disc 1
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.

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.

 

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.
Xanadu

If there’s a reason to get this set over Chronicles, this is it. Of course, I’m a bit biased as this is my all time favorite Rush song. This starts off extremely mellow on keyboards with some minor rhythmic structures. Eventually they make their way into a climbing hard edged guitar pattern while other elements swirl in the mix. This is eventually ended and then we get the next segment of the piece, a riff that seems like it will never end. Down the road a bit more we are given another transitionary movement. They move out after a time into the song proper. This is a dramatic epic that has elements of fantasy and science fiction in the story line. It’s a killer piece of music and an epic piece – both in story scope and musical structure. You just don’t get much better than this when it comes to Rush.

Bastille Day
This telling of the story of the storming of the Bastille in the French Revolution was a Rush standard for many years. The cut is a stripped down, metallic number performed quite effectively.
By-Tor and the Snow Dog

The first real sign of what was to come with this band, “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” includes both epic aspirations in terms of musical prowess and arrangement and also fantasy-styled lyrics. In some ways it doesn’t differ all that much from the rest of the material here. That is apparent on the verse and chorus section. However, the extended duel between the two entities mentioned in the title creates a whole new world for Rush. This segment is a battle between the guitar and the bass (each representing one of the players). It should also be noted that throughout the cut Geddy Lee’s bass work serves to raise this one to new levels, but during this proggy hard rocking jam section the whole effect is purely amazing.

Anthem
Fast and crunchy, this is a killer tune, with a theme that is derived from Ayn Rand’s philosophical views. An interesting side note is that Rand’s book by the same title is not the source of this, but instead serves as the story line for the epic “2112.” This song, though, drops back to a more stripped down mode for the vocal segment, but the instrumental sections are pure hard-edged early Rush masterpieces. This also includes a smoking guitar solo segment. In fact, it’s amazing how much they manage to pack into four and a half minutes.
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.
Overture

The first segment of “2112,” “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".

The Temples of Syrinx
Screaming in, the first true verse of “2112,” introduces the villains (hiss) of the piece, the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. This a strong cruncher.
La Villa Strangiato

Starting with a mellow acoustic guitar solo, Lifeson shows off his ability to play flamenco before keyboards take it to begin a build up. Peart eventually joins, playing louder as it carries forward. Then the guitar tears in, and the band launch into a series of variation on a theme. This fast paced instrumental covers a lot of musical territory and each member of the group put in an awe-inspiring performance. They drop it back, raise it up and overall continue to astound and explore an ever-expanding musical landscape. Lifeson puts in some ver intriguing sound on this one, and Peart is impeccable as always. This is another that is seamless and organic, while still incredibly dynamic. Seldom will you find a piece of music with as many moods and textures as this one. Geddy Lee throws in an awesome, but brief bass solo, too.

Fly By Night
The title track from Rush's second disc 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.
Finding My Way

The Zeppelin influences of early Rush are all over this hard rocking number. It’s one of two on the set to feature original Rush drummer John Rutsey. This is a cool tune and has a few hints of what was to come in the band. Overall it’s a straightforward cruncher, though.

Working Man
This is the earliest track from the band that really got any recognition. If “Finding My Way” had a lot of Zeppelinisms, this one is even more so. 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 last piece on show here featuring John Rutsey.
Disc 2
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.”

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.
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.

 

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.

Mystic Rhythms

Based heavily on Neil Peart’s percussion, but shouldn’t it be given the title?, this track is a modern Rush keyboard dominated balladic piece. It’s got a strong song structure and just plain holds up extremely well, though. I like this one a lot.

The Analog Kid
Coming from Signals, this is actually one of the highlights of that disc. It really feels like it belongs on an earlier disc. Indeed the verse is quirky and edgy and has a serious crunchy guitar sound, making me think it would have been a nice fit on Hemispheres. The chorus on the other hand is a lush keyboard oriented motif. Overall this is a cool, if a bit understated tune.
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.

Marathon

Another track from Power Windows, this has more of that guitar oriented texture that many miss on a lot of the commercial era of the band. It’s actually one of the stronger cuts from that period of time and the theme of being in it for the long haul rather than burning up in a blaze of glory is nice. There are some strong musical and lyrical elements here, all working together to make this a great piece of music.

The Body Electric
Percussion starts off. Then Geddy Lee’s bass joins. Wait a minute – he’s playing funky? Yep. This has a definite funky feeling to it. With a keyboard dominated musical texture this has its moments. It’s a step up from the track that preceded it. I like the lyrics a lot. I’m just not overly crazy about this. Of course, the chorus is killer, though. There is a smoking instrumental section, though.
Mission

Coming from Hold Your Fire, this starts off with a purely electro ballad approach. This section is the strongest part of the cut as the faster paced movement that takes over from there is about as generic and boring as anything the group ever produced. They bring back the mellower section here and there throughout – and it always shines above the music around. The main draw to this portion of the track is Geddy Lee’s evocative vocal delivery. There are some shining stars during the instrumental section later. These come from some cool guitar work from Alex Lifeson and some intriguing electronic percussion from Neil Peart.

 

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.
Red Sector A

With the apocalyptical feeling the lyrics have this has somehow always felt to me like it was related to “Red Barchetta” to me. In many ways it feels musically related, too. I have to say that perhaps the lyrics here deal with the concentration camps of World War II. This cut is another highlight of the CD.

 

New World Man

If “Subdivisions” was a big sign, “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.

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.

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.
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