REVIEW: Rush – A Farewell to Kings (2017 super deluxe edition)

RUSH – A Farewell to Kings (2017 Anthem 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition, originally 1977)

And the men who hold high places,
Must be the ones who start,
To mold a new reality,
Closer to the heart,
Closer to the heart.

Today’s rock fans have a new reality of their own:  a market flood of “anniversary” or “deluxe” reissues far and wide.  The floodwaters are murkier when multiple editions of the same reissue are available, or when reissues are deleted in favour of new reissues!

2017 represents 40 years of Rush’s fine sixth album A Farewell to Kings.  An anniversary edition was guaranteed, but choose wisely.  For those who need the brilliant new 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson, you will have to save up for the 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition.  Only that massive box set contains the Blu-ray disc with Wilson’s mix.

To frustrate fans even further, A Farewell to Kings had a 5.1 reissue back in 2011, as part of the Sector 2 box set.  That 5.1 mix (by Andy VanDette) has received heavy scrutiny from audiophiles.  Steven Wilson, however, is well known for his work in the 5.1 field, and his work on the 40th anniversary mix lives up to his reputation.  His crisp mix is deep but unobtrusive.  It is occasionally surprising but always stunning, and over seemingly way too soon.  The separation of instruments is done with care, and without robbing the music of its power.  Rush albums were fairly sparse back then but Wilson managed to make a full-sounding mix out of it.

Powerful is A Farewell to Kings indeed.  Though the title track opens with gentle classical picking, before long you’re in the craggy peaks of Mount Lifeson, with heavy shards of guitar coming down.  Young Geddy’s range and vibrato are remarkable, though for some this is the peak of Geddy’s “nails on a chalkboard” period.

11 minutes of “Xanadu” follows the trail of Kublai Khan.  “For I have dined on honeydew, and drunk the milk of paradise!”  Neil Peart’s lyrics rarely go down typical roads, and “Xanadu” surely must be listed with Rush’s most cherished epics.  Volume swells of guitar soon break into new sections unfolding as the minutes tick by.

“Closer to the Heart” is the most commercial track, never dull, never getting old, never ceasing to amaze.  “Woah-oh!  You can be the captain and I will draw the chart!”  Poetry in motion.  “Closer to the Heart” may be the most timeless of all Rush songs.

“Cinderella Man” and “Madrigal” live in the shadow of “Closer to the Heart”, always there but not always remembered.  (Ironically enough, both these tracks were covered by other artists in the bonus tracks.)  “Madrigal” acts as a calm before the storm:  a cosmic tempest called “Cygnus X-1”.  Another great space epic by Rush cannot be quantified in language.  As it swirls around (even better in 5.1), you’re transported across the universe by the black hole Cygnus X-1.  Peart hammers away as Lifeson and Geddy riff you senseless.


The blacksmith and the artist,
Reflect it in their art,
They forge their creativity,
Closer to the heart,
Yes closer to the heart.

Next, Rush forged their creativity on the road.  They recorded their London show on February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon.  Previously, 11 songs from this show were released as a bonus CD on the live Rush album Different Stages.  This newly mixed version adds intro music, the missing three songs and the drum solo.  (The missing songs were “Lakeside Park”, “Closer to the Heart”, and all 20 minutes of “2112”.)  Because this set has all the songs in the correct order, the old Different Stages version is obsolete.

Opening with “Bastille Day”, the London crowd is into the show from the start.  They cheer for the familiar “Lakeside Park”, which is followed by “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”.  This early Rush material is as squealy as Geddy has ever sounded.  He’s pretty shrill but Rush are tight.  It gets more adventurous when “Xanadu” begins, and from there into “A Farewell to Kings”.  Hearing Rush do all this live helps drive home just how talented they are.  The powerful set rarely lets up, as it relentlessly works its way through early Rush cornerstones.  “Working Man”, “Fly By Night” and “In the Mood” are played in quick succession, but is “2112” that is the real treasure here.  Anthems of the heart and anthems of the mind; classics all.


Philosophers and plowmen,
Each must know his part,
To sow a new mentality,
Closer to the heart,
Yes, closer to the heart.

What about bonus tracks?  You got ’em.  As they did for 2112, Rush invited guests to contribute bonus covers, and each does their part.  Headlining these are progressive metal heroes Dream Theater with their own version of “Xanadu”.  Dream Theater really don’t do anything small, so why not an 11 minute cover?  Mike Mangini is one of the few drummers who could do justice to such a song — well done!  Big Wreck do a surprisingly decent take on “Closer to the Heart”.  Not “surprisingly” because of Big Wreck, but “surprisingly” because you don’t associate Big Wreck with a sound like that.  Ian Thornley ads a little banjo and heavy guitars to “Wreck” it up a bit.  His guitar solo is shredder’s heaven.  The Trews’ take on “Cinderella Man” is pretty authentic.  Did you know singer Colin MacDonald could hit those high notes?  He does!  Alain Johannes goes last with “Madrigal”, rendering it as a somber tribute to the kings.

The last of the bonus tracks is a snippet of sound called “Cygnus X-2 Eh”.  This is an extended and isolated track of the ambient space sounds in “Cygnus X-1”.  Steven Wilson speculated it might have been intended for a longer version of the song.


Whoa-oh!
You can be the captain,
And I will draw the chart,
Sailing into destiny,
Closer to the heart.

Box sets like this always come with bonus goodies.  The three CDs are packaged in a standard digipack with extensive liner notes and photos.  Four 180 gram LPs are housed in an upsized version of this, with the same booklet in massive 12″ x 12″ glory.  The LP package alone is 3/4″ thick!

A reproduction of the 1977 tour program is here in full glossy glory.  This contains an essay called “A Condensed Rush Primer” by Neil.  Additionally, all three members have their own autobiographical essay and equipment breakdown.  Alex Lifeson’s is, not surprisingly, pretty funny.  Things like this make a tour program more valuable and as a bonus, this is a great addition to a box set.  Digging further, there are two prints of Hugh Syme pencil sketches.  These works in progress are interesting but it’s unlikely you’ll look at them often.  The turntable mat is also just a novelty.  Perhaps the goofiest inclusion is a little black bag containing a necklace with a Rush “king’s ring” attached to it.  Wear it to work next casual Friday!


Whatever edition of A Farewell to Kings you decide to own (the most logical is the simple 3 CD anniversary set), you can rest assured you are buying one of the finest early Rush albums.  If you have the wherewithall to own the super deluxe with 5.1 Steven Wilson mix, then let the photo gallery below tempt you.

4.5/5 stars

Advertisements

26 comments

  1. Great writeup Mikey!
    Thanks for the pics a s well. When I got this from iTunes i got squat as far as packaging…
    I really hope they do something with Signals at some point. Would love to hear a live era show from that tour…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah true enough. I purchase certain itunes when certain music items are far to expensive..for me it has its benefits as I can get the tunes but miss the whole packaging angle. Nice to see posts like Mikey’s that can show me what I missed hahaha…
        Itunes though at least gives me the option of keeping up…

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I would count on Signals. I mean, they can’t just keep doing 2112 and Moving Pictures over again! But yeah I think after Hemispheres and Permanent Waves, Signals would be the next logical deluxe.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. CD for me! I have all the rare songs on there, on vinyl, but I would like nice clean CD copies.

          Yes that means I’d be buying that whole box set for a few tracks on one CD.

          Like

      1. I know that feel. It can literally change your mood. Some bands more than other on the visual tip. Viewing the 1980 KISS card set with Eric added would make the grand canyon look like a hole.

        Like

  2. “Today’s rock fans have a new reality of their own: a market flood of “anniversary” or “deluxe” reissues far and wide. The floodwaters are murkier when multiple editions of the same reissue are available, or when reissues are deleted in favour of new reissues!”

    And I hate it, hate it, hate it! HATE IT!!!

    I have the vinyl. I have the CDs. That’s OK; CDs are better (really). Fortunately, I had my favourite bands (Tull, Rush, Floyd) on vinyl, so didn’t buy their CDs until proper remastered CDs came out. That’s where it should stop. How many different versions of Floyd CDs are there? What’s the point? And now Rush. The Rush Remasters have no bonus tracks. Presumably there aren’t any. Covers can be interesting, but in a package like this?

    Yes, fans might want some stuff in addition to the regular issues. Why not just offer the extra stuff by itself? Tull did this with Nightcap. That’s the way to go.

    Sometimes the various versions of a re-issue and/or boxed set are set up so that one has to buy all versions in order to get all the songs, since each version leaves off a crucial song. Then a couple of years later everything is available for much less money.

    These guys are where they are because I spent all my pocket money on Rush albums and concerts back in the day. How about some respect for the fans and make additional material available without having to buy the same stuff 3, 4, or 5 times?

    Like

  3. “Rush albums were fairly sparse back then but Wilson managed to make a full-sounding mix out of it.”

    You know what? The sparseness is what I like about Rush albums back then. Even though some recent stuff is musically good, the mixes are muddy and all over the place. Up until Signals the mixes were clear. I want to hear the music, hear each instrument individually, not have some wall of sound.

    Interestingly, two of my all-time favourite albums, A Farewell to Kings and Tull’s Songs From The Wood both came out in 1977 (when the music press were going on about punk and/or disco). Despite the differences, they have a similar sound. They are some of the best-sounding albums of all time. What is the point of a remix?

    I have the box of remastered Floyd and won’t be going for the “immersion editions”. I have all the remastered Rush and Tull CDs. I haven’t picked up any of the re-issues. Most tempting, though, is probably the Songs from the Wood set, not just because it is a great album but because of the concerts on CD and DVD.

    Like

  4. I agree with the above sentiment concerning Signals. One of the more mysterious Rush records as its had little re examining over the years in contrast to some of the others. ( 5 2112′ s?)

    Like

  5. not sure if it’s wise to confess this but I have never before listened to a whole Rush album before and I’m really digging this one. Any suggestions what to listen next from Rush?

    Liked by 1 person

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s