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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rush

Presto

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve made no secret that for me the best period of Rush’ musical legacy was the more progressive rock oriented time. Well, even in the most deep midst of their short accessible period we can still find songs that work pretty well. For me the weakest disc from the band was always Signals. This, though, was a close second. It still suffers from mediocrity, but there are a few shining moments here and there. Taken as a whole it’s a little too mellow and generic, but it still is a solid listening experience that’s quite enjoyable.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound..

Track by Track Review
Show Don't Tell
This is an energetic rocker that pretty well shows of the Rush trappings of the time period they were in. Its main focus is on the keyboard arrangement. That said everyone puts in some great performances. The chorus is catchy and we get some cool guitar during the bridge section.

Chain Lightning
Here we have one of the most unusual Rush songs of all time. On the one hand the main song structure is an almost funky, straightforward rocker. It has a lot in common with the poppier side of Rush, but also has a lot in common with AOR and other more mainstream sounds. The other side of this blade, though, is the instrumental break which is one of the more purely progressive rock jams we’d heard from the group in a long time. While I wouldn’t consider this track a highlight (or even exceptionally strong), this juxtaposition does make it “interesting.”

The Pass
A mellower number this isn’t exceptional in terms of style. Yet, there is a certain charm to it and the chorus works pretty well.
War Paint
This is more or less a powered up anthemic ballad. It’s another that’s good, but doesn’t really stand out. There is a tasty, albeit rock and roll styled, guitar solo.

Scars
Now this is perhaps even less “Rush like” than anything else on the disc. It’s also one of the coolest tracks here. There’s a definite jazzy texture to it – fusion-styled. It’s still pretty mellow, but it works quite well. Peart’s percussion, while not his typical style (this is quite tribal), is very prominent here. This thing is almost funky and yet Lifeson throws out some space crunch guitar here and there. This is actually one of the highlights of the disc.
Presto
Here is one that’s more interesting. It is probably the most in keeping with other Rush music than anything we’ve heard to this point. It’s still more in the shorter, more accessible line of thinking. Yet, it also has some sounds that call to mind the earlier periods. In fact on the guitar ballad portion I can hear some of “Natural Science.” This is quite sedate, but it’s also quite cool. There’s a tasty guitar solo and the arrangement gets quite potent at times.

Superconductor
This is one of the harder rocking cuts on show here. It’s not overly exceptional, but it’s good enough. It’s also a much needed piece of power on a rather subdued disc.

Anagram
There is almost a punk rock nature to some of this. It’s still quite along the lines of “generic Rush,” though and really doesn’t stand out at all. This is a throwaway track.
Red Tide
From the seas of mediocrity rises one of the shining stars of the disc. This has an almost symphonic feeling to the introduction. They move out to a more potent ballad-like sound but then power it up here and there. Some of the instrumental passages on this are among the most prog-like music we get from this period of Rush. This is more dynamic than a lot of the other stuff here. It also just plain works better. I like this track a lot.
Hand Over Fist
This is pretty typical of the type of music the band were doing at the time. Still, it’s got a lot of energy. It also includes some fairly crunchy moments. This is actually one of the strongest tracks on Presto and another that holds up pretty well.
Available Light
Keyboard heavy on the verses, this is a powered up ballad on the chorus. It’s got a rather jazzy, bluesy groove to it. It might not seem like it, but this is another highlight of the disc. I actually like this track a lot and it makes for a satisfying closer. There is also a tasty guitar solo here.
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