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Rush

Retrospective Volume 2 (1981-1987)

Review by Gary Hill

Along with its companions these represent a few of the many Rush compilations out there. The one key factor that makes them stand out is the focus on a particular era of the band, rather than a career spanning approach. This, along with the single disc status, might make them the best choices for the more casual listener. This one focuses more on the 1980’s period of the band. It should be mentioned that, like the rest of these compilation reviews, since these songs were individually reviewed in other articles I’ve done I’ve used those track by track slices 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 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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