Rush Reviews:

Read my reviews of albums released by Rush:

1974: Rush (???)

I have never listened to the one and only non-Neil Peart Rush album. Read my reviews of albums of 1974.

Rush albums released in 1975:

Fly by Night (???)

Nor have I heard their first couple albums with Peart.

Caress of Steel (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1975.

1976: 2112 (9/10)

Sometime between 2005 and 2016 I wrote the following:

Though I’ve never heard any of their earlier records this is, by all accounts, the record that made Rush Rush. In the ’70s Rush was either the heaviest prog rock band or the most progressive hard rock/metal band. Either way, they basically invented progressive metal (at least the idea of it, if not the sound).

And this is the fundamental document.

Until they started trying new things with Permanent Waves, the subsequent Rush albums of this era were all made in the shadow of this record. They may have gotten better at songwriting, but they never really achieved something like this again.

I mostly agree with this though it’s the title track that is the reason one listens to this record. The rest of the album is very much “early Rush” and sounds more like very competent hard rock (with ballads!) than prog.

Read my reviews of 1976 albums.

1977: A Farewell to Kings (8/10)

I believe there is a critical consensus that this is a step back from 2112, and it’s a consensus that I probably agreed with when I was younger (see above) but now I find kind of baffling.

2112 is known for its title track, which basically set up the template for an amalgam of hard rock and prog that would eventually become progressive metal, but the rest of the album is basically just generic hard rock – albeit very well played hard rock, and featuring the odd thing that is not generic. On this record, the two styles are far better integrated.

The title track does sort of set up their new formula, for good or ill, but it is an effective version of the prog mini suite.

You could say that “Xanadu” sort of repeats the pattern, albeit at twice the length, but I think it’s one of their better efforts at combining the form of a prog epic (the mini moog and percussion are very proggy) with their harder rock sound. Also, though Peart is highly overrated as a lyricist, his lyrics here are at least different (albeit brief).

“Closer to the Heart” was probably Rush’s biggest song before they actually had hit singles. It’s so over-played that I’ve come to find it kind of annoying over time. But it’s probably the best shorter song they’ve written but to this point.

Rush gets attacked for being Randian libertarians, something that at least Peart claims is a popular confusion based on his desire not to get sued for stealing her idea for “2112.” But “Cinderella Man” (lyrics by Lee, not Peart) sure seems like it’s from the same fount of inspiration. I’d like the song better if I didn’t find the lyrics problematic. Because the music is classic Rush.

I have long had a love-hate relationship with Rush ballads. I often find that the lyrics are not great (or sometimes awful) and Lee is not a great ballad singer as I find him kind of maudlin a lot of the time (I’d much rather listen to him sing up-tempo music). But Rush often includes some of their most interesting music in their ballads (the best example being “Entre Nous,” which has just a crazy ending). “Madrigal” is pretty rote, though.

I would be humming and hawing over whether or not this record was one of Rush’s best from the ’70s (perhaps their best) if it weren’t for the last track. “Cygnus X-1” is everything great about a prog sci fi epic. After the rather cheesy intro, it opens with one of the great moments in the Rush canon, with Lee playing this bass line that refuses to stay in one time signature. What follows is just an onslaught of everything that makes Rush great; complicated music played fast and well,too proggy to be hard rock but too hard to be most prog. One of my favourite Rush songs.

Though it might sound like I’ve been damning this thing with faint praise, I’d rather listen to it than just about any other Rush album from the ’70s.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1977.

1978: Hemispheres (7/10)

I find the title track, apparently “Book II” of “Cygnus X-1” to be significantly weaker than the first part. It’s more pomo but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It feels even more like a bunch of assembled unrelated parts than the first piece and, beyond the quotes, I’m not sure how it’s related. It’s one of their weaker big tracks.

The album is mostly ballad-free, though, which is a positive, in my book.

“Circumstances” is one of those shorter tracks that Rush seemed to just knock out in the ’70s. If I don’t think about it too much I really like it.

Peart can claim now that he honoured Ayn Rand on 2112 just to avoid getting sued all he wants but that seems like revisionist history, especially when you listen to the lyrics of “The Trees,” which seem to confirm Peart’s (and the band’s) super naïve, simplistic politics. Humans are trees, Neil, sure. When you tax someone richer than someone else it’s like you cut off their limbs. That’s a fair analogy. Completely fair. Fuck this song.

The highlight for me is “La Villa Strangiato,” one of their best instrumentals and a great example of why Rush were sometimes great. I can’t really think of another band in 1978 who could play something like this. The highlight of the record and one of the highlight’s of their music in the 1970s.

Read my reviews of music from 1978.

1980: Permanent Waves (8/10)

This is the beginning of Rush’s bizarre pivot from prog to new wave and synthpop (“synth rock”?). People probably didn’t realize it at the time, as all of Rush’s trademarks are still here, including one song that is nearly 8 minutes long and one that is over 9.

Though I struggle with some of Peart’s lyrics as an adult – though he has distanced himself from libertarianism in recent years – there are a lot of my favourite Rush tracks here. But there are also two ballads, which feels like a lot for Rush. I will note, however, that one of those ballads has my favourite moment in a Rush ballad, when Lifeson strays into fairly strange territory for him at the end of “Different Strings” – it’s an ending so cool it deserves a better song.

The impressive thing about Rush at the time and on this record is how they were able to change their sound gradually, but enough so that they wouldn’t sound like dinosaurs in a few years. Basically no other progressive rock bands were able to do that while maintaining their musical bonafides.

Read my reviews of 1980 albums.

1981: Moving Pictures (9/10)

Virtually every other prog rock band that sought to make their music more commercial in the ’80s went with a pop approach, they completely dropped the complicated music, or they added vocal hooks, or they brought on some hot producer. Everyone but Rush.

Here, Rush has reined in their impulses to record side-long suites and write knotty riffs (well, mostly). Even the longest track here is accessible and not particularly daunting for a hard rock listener.

The fact that Rush was able to make their music so much more accessible (on this record and on the previous one) without losing much of what made them a great prog band is pretty incredible.

It’s rare to complement a prog rock band for showing restraint, but they do so here. And it’s probably their most consistent set of songs.

It may not be my favourite Rush album, but it’s their best.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1981.

1982: Signals (7*/10)

Somehow I don’t have a review of this, the first of Rush’s albums to truly depart from prog rock much of the time. I liked it so much I never listened to any future ’80s Rush albums and wouldn’t have listened to any future Rush albums if my friend hadn’t leant me Vapor Trails. So clearly you can trust the rating.

Read my reviews of music from 1982.

1984: Grace Under Pressure (???)

The first of many Rush albums I refused to listen to due to how much I liked Signals. Read my reviews of 1984 albums.

1985: Power Windows (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 1985.

1987: Hold Your Fire (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1987.

1989: Presto (???)

Read my reviews of 1989 albums.

1991: Roll the Bones (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 1991.

1993: Counterparts (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1993.

1996: Test for Echo (???)

Read my reviews of 1996 albums.

2002: Vapor Trails (7/10)

I had low expectations when I first listened to this, so I was inclined to like it a lot, despite the rather awful production. (I see they’ve released a remixed version…that tells you everything you need to know.)

This is a pretty straightforward but still loud Rush. It’s everything I think you’d like from aging rock stars – they don’t appear to have lost their muscle. It’s nice they were able to start off century on a strong note.
But I’m never inclined to listen to this. So it’s fine.

Read my reviews of albums released in 2002.

2007: Snakes & Arrows (???)

Read my reviews of music from 2007.

2012: Clockwork Angels (???)

Read my reviews of 2012 albums.