I had already started a Rush marathon just hours before the news hit that Neil Peart had passed away from brain cancer. Why did I choose Rush at that exact moment? It’s not proof, but it’s certainly makes me wonder about premonitions.
I’ve been on a Rush binge ever since. I have been listening to nothing but Rush with only two exceptions. I listened to one album by another artist that I wanted to review, and I listened to something else (Hollywood Vampires) in the car. I didn’t have any Rush on the car flash drive.
In that time (a week) I’ve listened to every Rush studio album, some of them more than once. (Even the early Rush without Neil.) When I cycled through all the studio stuff I moved onto live albums, which I am still enjoying. The first four Rush live albums (All the World’s a Stage, Exit…Stage Left, A Show of Hands, and Different Stages) really form a cohesive story. You can listen and hear the band grow, evolve, change, and adapt.
Most of the live albums past that point weren’t on my computer yet (something I am remedying now) but I still had plenty more live stuff to enjoy from a variety of sources. A Farewell to Kings has two discs worth of live Rush added. (I have the deluxe Hemispheres with another live album coming in the mail.) There is also Grace Under Pressure Live from the Rush Replay X3 box set. A live bootleg called Red Stars of the Solar Federation from 1981. A couple radio broadcasts from 1974 and 1975.
What I’ve gained from all this Rush immersion is not only new appreciation, but old memories re-emerging. Although 70s Rush is absolutely essential music, it was 80s Rush that hooked me in and still thrills me today. Albums like Moving Pictures and Signals were played multiple times during my marathon. Hold Your Fire and Grace Under Pressure were enjoyed more than once. I grew up in the 80s when Rush were in constant rotation on MuchMusic. Songs like “Subdivisions”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Distant Early Warning”, “Lock and Key”, and “Time Stand Still”. Although not an 80s album, Counterparts is very special to me as well. It was my first Rush studio album. I think it’s magnificent and contains many triumphs within. It’s the culmination of all the evolution that happened from Presto onwards. Its followup, Test for Echo, unfortunately remains a low point in the discography. I remember feeling the same in 1996 when it came it. It just wouldn’t click with me and still won’t.
As brilliant Neil Peart was, my appreciation is balanced. It’s about Rush. The lyrics would not have the same impact without the voice. The voice would be naked and bare without the guitar. All three guys stand out when you listen to all the Rush like this. There are spotlight moments for Neil, Geddy and Alex as individuals but that’s not what this marathon reinforces. Rush is a band — an exceptionally great band, where the players can shine more than other bands because there are only three of them.
Only three dudes? I know, even this guy can’t believe it!
“There’s no way! There’s no way this is three dudes!”
I have plenty more live Rush albums to spin, so the marathon carries on. I’m grateful we have so much Rush. Some bands don’t deserve to release so many live albums and box sets. Rush do. They’re allowed for two reasons. One is a rich history with many nooks and crannies to explore. The other is sheer quality. They never put out something they weren’t proud of.
Thank you for the music — I ain’t finished yet!