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Rush

Retrospective Volume 1 (1974-1980)

Review by Gary Hill

There are quite a few Rush compilations out there. Perhaps what makes this one – and its companion sets – most interesting is the fact that like Spirit of Radio they are single discs, but unlike that set they are more focused on specific periods of time. Since there are such huge differences in sound from one era of the band to another this might make these more valuable to fans who like one section of the bands catalog much better than another. This one focuses more on the earlier period of the group. Like the rest of these comp reviews, since I’ve already reviewed all the songs elsewhere I’ve copied and pasted those reviews here 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
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.
Something For Nothing
The closer to 2112, this starts with a fairly mellow riff that makes up the verse of the song. This is oh so tasty and full of tentative energy. As the verse ends the cut jumps up toward the metallic fury that was hinted at in a short burst earlier. This is a killer fast paced rocker that is extremely strong.


 

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.
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.

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 to Rush's second album 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.
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