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Progressive Rock Book Reviews

Rush

Traveling Music: My Life and Times in Music written by Neil Peart

Review by Steve Alspach

For someone who is content to avoid the spotlight, Neil Peart picked a lousy occupation, drumming for one of the most popular bands in the world. He sure doesn't mind talking about himself, either, but unlike most, he resorts to the printed word to do so. "Traveling Music," his third book, is an intriguing mix of autobiography, travelogue, and insights about one of his many passions, music.

Like his previous book, "Ghost Rider," travel plays a big part in this book. This time around Peart leaves from his southern California home to Big Bend National Park, but the journey plays as a backdrop to the main theme, that being the music that he brought along and the thoughts and memories it evoked. It's a varied mix that he took with him, from Isaac Hayes to Sinatra to the Tragically Hip and Massive Attack to Ben Folds and Jeff Buckley to Linkin Park, and many stops in between. (Peart, curiously, also spends considerable time discussing the bicycle ride that he took in Africa (wasn't that covered in "The Masked Rider"? That doesn't really seem to fit with the rest of the book.)

Peart also takes an honest look at his growing up in and around St. Catherines, Ontario. He discusses his awkward teen years with a fair bit of candor and humor, and his pre-Rush days, playing for a number of different bands and trying to make it for himself in London, England. "A story could be written just around the music I've listened to on this trip." A story could be told as well about the colorful characters and friends who've crossed his path in life.

Peart discusses Rush here and there - he could have spent more time talking about how he joined the band - and offers various interesting anecdotes, most notably how the band was to have been dropped by Mercury Records after the "Caress of Steel" album but survived due to an accidental oversight. Other stories involve his dealings with fans, whom Peart is more than content to keep at arm's length, with a succinct directness. "I never imagined trying to approach my heroes…It was about the music and the image and the magic of it all, not about trying to invade their lives."

So many of us who enjoy music have a myriad of stories to tell, and Peart is really no different from the rest of us. He relates seeing the old Shindig and Hullabaloo shows on TV, going to his first concerts, and that moment as a young boy of seeing that special someone who captivates you to the point where you say "I want to do that."

Neil Peart is someone who is rather guarded regarding his personal life (and he really can't be blamed for that), but in the end, "Traveling Music" is a book that offers us a glimpse into a person who has had the fortune of traveling around the world, enjoyed great artistic success, and has earned the adulation of fans and musical peers, and who also made his way through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood with a fair share of mishaps, disappointments, stories to tell, and all with a love of music to carry him through it all. In that way, he's one of us.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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