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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rush

Permanent Waves

Review by Greg Olma

Back in 1980, Rush was at a crossroads. Having done the concept prog thing to the limit with Hemispheres, Alex, Geddy, and Neil needed to either stay the course or move in a different direction. Well, like any group who are not quite sure what to do, Rush tested the waters by going down the middle. Gone were the album side prog epics. Gone were Greek mythology and Ayn Rand inspired lyrics. Replacing those were shorter compositions that dealt with more human emotions. Hindsight being what it is, we can see that this was a progression (no pun intended) that Rush had to make but back in 1980, the hardcore fans were a bit upset. I remember some of my friend’s older brothers writing them off. But for every hardcore fan that jumped ship, 5 new ones were picked up.

After 26 years, I’m not quite sure it is the classic I thought it was back in 1980 but the years have been kind to it. It still sounds fresh, which is amazing that it was recorded before technology really kicked in. I still think there are enough prog elements that should keep older fans happy with some “updating” for the new fans. If you are a new young fan, I would start with Moving Pictures but next on the list, I would recommend this. I wouldn’t want to scare you away with something like 2112 or Caress Of Steel. Those are for the seasoned Rush fan.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Spirit of Radio
If you have never heard this tune, you have been living in a cave with Osama Bin Laden. Since it came out, it has been a staple on classic rock radio. I hear it at least once a week and I don’t listen to the radio that often. The track starts off with a very upbeat guitar lead. There are parts where it gets a little heavier but by and large this is “poppy” Rush. I can only imagine the cries of treason from the hardcore fans.
Freewill
The production smoothes this track out a bit. If you give it some rough edges, then it would have fit on Hemispheres. It’s not that far away from “Circumstances.” The keyboards give it an even sound. The guitar solo is also really good. It is almost chaotic and yet still fits within the context of the song. Geddy also pulls out the high vocals before the last chorus. This might have been a tip of the hat to those old fans letting them know that they know we are still out there.
Jacob's Ladder
This track starts off with an almost military drum sound. A lot of this song sounds like it could have come off of side one of Hemispheres. There are some new elements thrown in but it has that feel that the hardcore fans wanted. There a couple of different parts to this song which makes this one of the two real prog pieces on the album. I’m not quite sure if it is good or not. I remember it being much better but now that I listen to it, there are parts that seem to go on longer than they need to be.
Entre Nous
Like “The Spirit Of Radio,” this is another “poppy” track. I like this one better for two reasons. One, I have only heard this one 300 times as opposed to the 4 million times I heard “Spirit.” And two, this cut doesn’t try as hard. It is a just an easy going rock tune. There are no different parts, there is no big message. It’s just a good solid cut that really gets overlooked in the Rush catalogue.
Different Strings
I may be in the minority here but I think this is one of the best ballads Rush have ever done. It’s an acoustic track that adds in some piano for that extra touch. Alex Lifeson ends this short little track with some cool lead playing. It is the only track off of this album that was never played live. It’s a shame because this dark moody piece deserves more recognition.
Natural Science
Just when all the prog fans thought it was a lost cause, Rush whipped out this 9 minute plus prog workout. Even with the other strong material on offer, this is the best track on the CD. It starts off with an acoustic guitar and vocals that sound like they were recorded near some secluded stream. The echo on the vocals is a perfect fit. Once the band kicks it in at around the 2 minute mark, there is no holding them back. There are different sections but it all fits together seamlessly. Rush certainly “left the best for last.” If only they opened the record with this, maybe all the prog snobs would have given this record a chance.
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