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Different Stages

Review by Gary Hill
Due to several personal tragedies in drummer Neil Peart`s life, Rush is currently on hiatus, and their future is uncertain. This album, chronicling the Test For Echo tour (primarily), could well be the band`s last effort. As a tribute to Rush`s live performances, this could certainly stand well. The showings are strong, and there are only two real complaints about this collection. Rush`s live songs tent to be perhaps a bit too close to the studio versions, making one want some different arrangements, etc, to breath new life into the cuts. The other problem is that the majority of this material is available on one or more of Rush`s other live albums (granted in different performances). This makes much of this material rather redundant for the hardcore fan.

Rush is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart. The first two discs of this album were recorded primarily in 1997, while disc three is from 1978.

Also included on this CD is a computer application. This program, although having no real connection to the music contained on the album, is somewhat of a combination of fairly simple interactive graphics and a new age music system. The simplicity of this production is really a bit misleading. With a little bit of time spent playing with this program, it becomes quite addictive and very entertaining.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
A fast rock song in the newer Rush mode, this one is performed quite well.
Very true to the studio version, this is a strong Rush rocker about the problems of a life of fame.
This hearty rock cut from Test For Echo is considerably quirky. The version here feels quite a bit different from the original. The bass solo in this cut is very dramatic.
More of a pop rock texture pervades this track, setting it up in a nice contrast with the musical themes of Driven. This one feels a bit different from the studio version.
A good, fast-driving rocker, this one is performed quite true to the original.
Show Don't Tell
Beginning with intriguing percussion, much of this rocker features a guitar sound reminiscent of older styles of the band. The cut is done quite professionally here.
The Trees
This hard rocking prog number from Hemispheres represents the `70`s era of the band quite well. The cut features contrast of sections varying between beautiful acoustic guitar, lush keyboards and metallic sections. All of these are merged in a quirky progressive arrangement. This one is performed quite true to the original, but still winds up feeling rather fresh.
Nobody's Hero
This cut begins in a more sedate mode, but is a rock song with progish influences. No big variations from the studio rendition, but it`s still quite well performed.
Closer to the Heart
Another from the `70`s prog era of Rush, this has always been a crowd favorite. Indeed, during the softer sections of this number, one can hear the audience singing along. The instrumental break here is a bit different than the original, feeling at times more funky, and at times almost a bit rockabilly.
Performed in its entirety, this prog rock epic is well represented here. The band chose to drop this song down in key from the original rendition. Although it is refreshing to hear the change, I do prefer the original arrangement. The fact that Rush performed this whole piece on the tour (perhaps for the first time) really brought a lot of excitement to its inclusion. Some of that excitement carries through on this recording. The song features many varied musical styles in a sci-fi based tale that is quite dramatic. A lot of interesting guitar work has been added to the Discovery section of this number, really showing off Lifeson`s string-box prowess.
Disc 2
Test For Echo
A solid and faithful rendition of a competent modern Rush number, this cut is one of a couple from TFE that seem to try to meld the newer Rush sound with elements of the older periods of the band.
Analog Kid
Another faithful performance, this time of a fairly stripped down rocker, this cut is quite good.
This is another faithful rendition of a Rush rocker.
Roll The Bones
This strong hard-edged piece, again performed quite true to the original, features a jumpy arrangement and a mid song funky rap break.
Stick It Out
Another faithful rendition of a hard rocking number, this is a strong cut.
The arrangement here has a somewhat different texture from the studio rendition. This is really quite a solid piece based on the more modern Rush stylings.
Leave that Thing Alone
This is quite a faithful rendition of a quirky and very entertaining Rush instrumental, and leads directly into The Rhythm Method.
The Rhythm Method
This drum solo, called "The Rhythm Method", is a shining example of Peart`s command of his drum kit. However, for long-time followers of the band, it may be growing a bit old, as it is (with small changes) the same solo he has been doing for many years.
Natural Science
A prog epic, Natural Science is performed quite well, and is certainly a highlight of the album. This number features many strong elements and changes, and is a very powerful piece.
Spirit of Radio
This is a faithful rendition of a Rush favorite.
Tom Sawyer
Probably Rush`s most popular song, Tom Sawyer is represented faithfully here, and features a slightly reworked ending segment.
This quirky and dramatic instrumental is performed quite well on this disc, and benefits from the addition of a segment of Cygnus X-1.
Disc 3
Bastille Day
A metallic rocker with prog leanings, this is a strong old Rush number.
By-tor And The Snow Dog
Another strong rocker, this extended progressive based metallic piece is well performed.
My favorite Rush song, this one from the prog era is very well performed here, and always a welcome number. This cut features dramatic keyboard based segments acting as counterpoint to metallic sections in a sci-fi prog rock masterpiece.
A Farewell to Kings
This hard-rocking prog cut is faithfully performed.
Something For Nothing
Something For Nothing is a metal piece with prog leanings.
Cygnus X-1
This hard-edged sci-fi cut is a very strong number.
A salute to selfishness, this hard-rocking song is a Rush classic.
Working Man
Rush`s most definite foray into heavy metal, this extended composition is quite powerful.
Fly By Night
A strong rocker, this cut holds up well.
In the Mood
This rock and roll cut feels a bit Zeppelinish.
Cinderella Man
A strong track about a "manic depressive who walks in the rain", this piece points out how someone who many scoff at as being crazy can, in fact, be doing far more good than the "normal" people around him. This is another progish rocker.
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