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2112 40th Anniversary Edition

Review by Greg Olma

When Rush finished their Caress Of Steel tour (otherwise known as the “Down the Tubes” tour), the band was at a crossroads.  Their record label wanted something more marketable and radio friendly so they could sell some units, but our Canadian prog heroes decided to double down on their musical experiment from the previous record.  Determined to go out on their own terms, they crafted an album that is very much like Caress Of Steel but with the ideas a bit more realized.  Again, they crafted a side-long piece that was broken up into suites, but this time they were going all in by having it appear on side one.  On the second side, the band decided to give us five more straight-ahead songs that, while adding prog bits here and there, appealed to fans of their Fly By Night record.  At the time, I’m sure this was a risky move due to the commercial failure of the previous album, but this time the gamble paid off.  Due to the more focused nature of the title track, this disc connected with the rock fans and thrust Rush into a whole different level.  Of course, they would see more success in the not so distant future, but this record certainly moved the needle with regard to Rush’s popularity.

Most iconic albums get an anniversary deluxe treatment, and this one is better than the 2012 Deluxe Edition.  That one had a few bonus live track but on this one we get a whole disc of previously unreleased material and a bonus DVD (more about that in the next paragraph).  This is the first of the new Rush anniversary releases, and it is worthy of your hard earned money.  Don’t miss out on this gem, unless of course the band puts out a 50th anniversary edition but I wouldn’t hold my breath as I feel there isn’t anything left in the vaults.

As an added bonus to this great release, they threw in a DVD of “must-have” material as the third disc.  The best part of the DVD is the pro-shot live concert from the 2112 tour, although it is black and white.  This was a house feed at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey when Rush were support for Foghat.  This show has made its rounds in bootleg circles, but it was officially released in the R40 box set.  For those of you who don’t want to shell out the hefty price tag for that release, it is presented here where it fits in nicely.  You also get a video of the “Overture” cover by David Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, and Nick Raskulinecz and some behind the scenes studio footage of Billy Talent recording “A Passage To Bangkok."  The final chapter to this DVD is an interview with Alex Lifeson and Terry Brown discussing the record and trying to remember things about the songs, album and just that time period.  There are some cool little tidbits of information that even die-hard fans might not know.  The DVD is a nice accompanying piece to an already great anniversary set.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1

The record begins with a 20-minute prog epic that encompasses all of side one.  While there are easily recognized suites, this is listed as one track and also is referred to the title track.  Suite one titled “Overture” starts with a spacey synthesizer sound that ushers in this start/stop heavy riffing.  Once this instrumental starts going, it is a heavy prog rock track captures everything Rush was in the mid-70s.  As the suite races towards the finish, it gets a bit frantic and concludes with the sound of explosions.  After a very somber bridge where Geddy Lee sings “And the meek shall inherit the earth," the band launch into a metallic "The Temples of Syrinx," which is quite a short part clocking in just over two minutes.  When performed live, these two suites were always done together whether the band played any of the other parts.  Finishing off this portion is a very light acoustic piece that fits in nicely with the acoustic opening of suite III "Discovery." The sound of nature and running water from a river starts this part which tells the tale of the main character discovering an instrument (which I assume is a guitar).  Suite IV “Presentation” starts with the same acoustic guitars from the previous section but quickly get heavier with a back and forth from the main character and “The Priests." When the main character is “talking”, the music is subtle and almost jazzy but when “The Priests” are answering, the music is bombastic and harsh.  There is a great guitar solo in this part courtesy of Alex Lifeson.  A very dreamy guitar starts off the shortest of all the suites.  "Oracle: The Dream" may start off slow and dreamy but it quickly gets the prog metal treatment with a similar bombastic sound from the previous suite.  Since it is so short, it is over before you know it.  Also, oddly enough, this suite was always omitted until the 1996 tour where they added it back when performing the track.  The sound of running water starts off "Soliloquy" but also goes back to that bombastic sounds of the previous sections.  Lifeson puts in a great performance again with a very emotional solo that fits the main character’s state of mind.  The last suite almost bookends the song by being another instrumental section that builds into a crescendo of all the instruments.  I’m not counting the spoken words “attention all planters of the solar federation” as lyrics.  The track ends with a droning sound as it fades

A Passage To Bangkok
This ode to marijuana starts off with a heavy riff but morphs into a 70s hard rock track.  Rush have often showed their Led Zeppelin influence in their earlier records, and this is a prime example.  The guitar solo is also one of the better ones on the record.
The Twilight Zone
Here is a deep cut off the record, and it is one of my favorite early Rush tunes.  Inspired by the T.V. show of the same name, this one is a moody piece that has “studio” track written all over it.  That is probably why, it was very rarely played live.  The chorus has a whimsical feel, but when it comes to the chorus, the haunting melody of Geddy Lee’s vocals takes over.  There is another perfect solo from Alex Lifeson at the end of this track.
This song starts off with some fairly light guitar strumming but it does gets heavy for the chorus.  There is a good extended guitar solo at the end, but all in all, it is one of the more forgettable Rush tracks.  Oddly, this is the only song in the Rush catalogue that has both music and lyrics written solely by Alex Lifeson.
Rush are not known for ballads and this one comes really close to almost being cheesy.  I have read that “The Twilight Zone” was the last material written for the album but this one seems like it was just something to fill up space on the record.  It’s not a bad song but it is very mellow and sort of breaks up the hard hitting nature of the rest of the material.
Something For Nothing
Staying true to form, this track starts off with a soft intro but builds into a true 70s rocker.  There is a very heavy vibe about it and it rivals the other heavy prog metal moments on this disc.  This song also has a great message of being the master of your own success (this theme was revisited again on “Freewill”).  I also feel that the lyrics speak to the main character of the 2112 saga which kind of brings things full circle.
Disc 2
Solar Federation
This is just the voice isolation from the part VII “Grand Finale” of “2112”.  It is an oddity for those that want everything.  It is very short, so it doesn’t hurt to just hit play on disc two  and just go through the 19 seconds.
Overture – David Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, and Nick Raskulinecz
I always find it difficult to listen to a cover of an iconic song, especially when they make changes to the tune.  All three musician are very capable of doing a straight remake, but they took a chance and added some different pieces to make it their own.  The very beginning is very different, and they add this weird guitar part at the two-minute-and-45-second mark which threw me off the first time I heard it.  After some repeated plays, I have grown to like it, but nothing compares to the original.
A Passage To Bangkok – Billy Talent
Billy Talent is the name of a Canadian group that do justice to this track.  The lead singer does a great job of singing like Geddy Lee but obviously doesn’t sound exactly like him.  The band play this as close to the original as possible, including the guitar solo.  The only thing that is missing is the Asian themed part right after the solo.
The Twilight Zone – Steven Wilson
Porcupine Tree leader Steve Wilson does a nice job of this often overlooked track off 2112.  He does play a little with the arrangement, but it is pretty clear he was going for the moody vibe of the track.  While there are parts that sound different, the overall effect of this remake is very good.
Tears – Alice In Chains
William DuVall does a very impressive job on his vocals here.  A sleeper track on the album, Alice in Chains does add some little elements that give it a bit of a grunge sound.  I have to give credit to the band for picking a song that is not very known and doing it justice.
Something For Nothing – Jacob Moon
Another Canadian artist goes a totally different direction with his cover of “Something For Nothing."  Quite honestly, I didn’t know what song it was until I heard the chorus.  It is different than the original, and I feel that he was not even trying to recreate it.  It sounds like he used the skeleton of the tune and then reworked the arrangement for his voice and style.  Once you get past the fact that it is very different, it is very good.
2112 – Live at Massey Hall 1976 Outtake
This sounds slightly different to the version that was presented on All The World’s A Stage.  Recorded during the same time frame and at the same venue, it is slightly different, mostly in Geddy Lee’s vocals.  There are little inflections in his performance that differ from that quintessential live album version.
Something For Nothing - Live at Massey Hall 1976 Outtake
Here is another outtake from those All The World’s A Stage shows at Massey Hall in 1976.  This one is also different than the one we know from that record.  This one sounds great and proves just how consistently good the band was back in the day.
The Twilight Zone - Live 1977 Contraband
Sonically this is awful, but I love that they included it here as it was a track that was very rarely played it live.  It is clearly a bootleg recording but again, having a rare piece of Rush history is always welcome.
2112 1976 Radio Ad
This takes me back to the 70s when radio stations used to play ads for albums.  It is very cool that they added this to the end.  You might not play it often but if you are an older fan, it will take you back to the glory days of radio and vinyl (or 8-tracks). 
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