REVIEW: Rush – Roll the Bones (1991, remastered 200 gram vinyl)

RUSH – Roll the Bones (1991 Anthem, 2015 remaster on 200 gram vinyl)

There was a period in the 1980s when, in some circles, Rush had lost the plot.  Writers such as Martin Popoff have been very critical of this era, with its keyboards and shorter songs.  In 1989, Rush began to turn the ship around with Presto.  It and 1991’s Roll the Bones really ushered in the next phase of Rush, combining new and old.  Fans (and Alex Lifeson) were happy that keyboards were toned down, at least in comparison to Hold Your Fire (1986).

The theme of the album is “take a chance”.  Roll the Bones starts with a punch called “Dreamline”.  Geddy Lee’s pulse pushes this into overdrive.  The chorus goes into hyperspace.  It’s hard to think of too many other Rush songs that are so concisely hot.  “Dreamline” has it all:  hooks, licks, force and grace.

Neil Peart is king on “Bravado”*, a sudden change of direction.  His drumming, always hard, is unusually sharp.  Yet it’s a slow song that might be termed a “ballad”.  Whatever — it’s Rush.  It’s incredible.  It’s powerful in an understated, triumphant fashion.  If you know somebody who says they hate Rush, play this.

The title track and first single is a Rush classic, but that rap section sounds dated today.  That was always the danger of such an experiment, but fortunately the song is too strong for it to matter much.  That’s Geddy rapping incidentally, with his voice lowered and effects added.

Side one also has “Face Up”; fast but not particularly memorable.  But it also has “Where’s My Thing?”, a smashing instrumental featuring Geddy and Alex’s flying fingers.  It’s subtitled “Part IV, ‘Gangster of Boats’ Trilogy” as a joke on past pretentiously prog-rock titles they’ve employed.  Rush have always had a sense of humour, and also fun.  “Where’s My Thing” is a fun instrumental, kept short and ever so slightly funky.

The second side of Roll the Bones isn’t as consistent as the first.  “Ghost of a Chance” and “You Bet Your Life” are immediate standouts.  An appropriate spectre-like keyboard part enhances “Ghost of a Chance” and justifies the use of the instrument.  The other three songs (“The Big Wheel, “Neurotica” and “Heresy”) are fine for Rush deep cuts, but may or may not appeal to your specific tastes.

This 200 gram vinyl remaster is exquisite!  Keyboard parts previously unnoticed are now audible, as if brand new.  The drums have the punch missing on the old CD, and the bass hits the guts.  Great dynamics and depth.  If you are in the market for remastered Rush, these 200 gram vinyl reissues are pricey but a nice treat.

3.5/5 stars

*At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.  Chills up the spine.

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42 comments

  1. Always found ” Big Wheel” to be one of those sleeper Rush tracks. Well in my title corner of the world that is!
    I bought one copy of this and thats on cassette! So its been a ton of years since I listened to this one front to back…
    Actually I should review it on memory alone! (Yikes!)
    But back in the fall of 1991 it was good to hear RUSH still doing there thang so to speak considering it was all Use Your Illusions and Axl coming unglued and what not….
    This looks like a decent reissue Mikey!
    Good review and once going on my memory alone your rating for RTB’s is perfecto!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well dude, regarding Big Wheel, that’s awesome…I was hoping I’d hear from people who said “that song or that song was one of my faves…”

      And thanks for the compliments…reviewing Rush is difficult because how do you “critique” Canada’s greatest rock band?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know hard core guys will rip apart mid to early 90s Rush and while I like some more than others I can honestly say RUSH never stuck out a 3/4’s Filler album in 40 years…..
        Maybe all tracks weren’t killer but how the hell do u keep the pace set by the bar u set so high in the 70’s?
        You Just can’t yet they hammered out ClockWork Angels in 2012 which I would put in my top 3 all time Rush opus!

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  2. As I said I have a lot of the older albums on vinyl, but I don’t have anything after Moving Pictures. I might have to start adding these to my Christmas list. Plus 200g vinyl…nice. I didn’t realize they went higher than 180g.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nor did I until recently! There must be an upper limit to how heavy you can press a record before it adds excessive friction due to weight. I assume. I’m no engineer but I would think you could get a little heavier than even 200 grams…Future record manufacturers, you heard it here first.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Cradle robber!

          ;)

          My friend Craig calls me a cradle robber and refers to my wife as “Young Jennifer”. Hey, she just takes really good care of her skin, but I hate when people think she’s my daughter!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Rush is such a technical band. All about that perfect sound.
      I bet they stewed over the sound on those early cd’s.
      I can see them sitting in a room listening to these 200g vinyls and saying “that’s how we wanted it to sound.”

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      1. I think they spent more time spewing over Vapor Trails!

        But yeah I think they would say “This is how we wanted it to come out,” when they hear these. It’s funny how our own standards have changed when it comes to CD. What used to pass without question is now inferior.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Few things there to consider, eh? I have a few albums that I have heard with new ears since ‘upgrading’ my CD to vinyl. Few that spring to mind are The Doors, Led Zep 4 and even more modern releases like Masters Of Reality and my Jane’s Addiction albums sound superior… and that’s not recent reissues, either.

    There’s no doubt that a lot of the late 80s / early 90s CD versions I have just don’t sound very good. I guess they were just firing everything out. Interestingly, my Led Zep 4 and Harvest CDs were the worst up against the vinyl. Again, this is old vinyl.

    I think now, of course, they’re mastering things properly. Leading to a lot of good sounding vinyl. Some of it, from what I understand, sounds better than the original pressing. Especially in the case of those digital age recordings (and 90s vinyl in general – though my 90s pressing of Zuma sounds good to me).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure that some of these new pressings, when done with care and with access to the original tapes, can be done better. There aren’t many plants out there who can do it, but there are a few who have new presses and know how to use them.

      I love the feeling of heavy vinyl. It’s not necessary for great sound, but my god it’s a joy to hold.

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      1. Yeah, though many of the original master tapes are available digitally, there are some folk out there who know how to master for vinyl specifically.

        But yeah, heavy vinyl does feel great.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahh, so this is the LP I guessed was the Arkells!
    Thanks for the tip on tune to play when someone says they hate Rush – I like that idea of a powerful performance with an understated delivery.
    And I imagine Jen is loving the powerful performances coming out of Toronto this week, 15 goals in 2 games?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She was worried last night around 9:00 pm! And I didn’t stick around to finish the game. I pulled my shoulder/neck last night taking out the garbage. She gave me a neck rub during the 2nd and 3rd period. Put me right to sleep. I didn’t wake up until 6am this morning when I went for my morning walk!

      Liked by 1 person

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