clockwork angels

REVIEW: Rush – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD single)

RUSH – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD Anthem single)

“Parts one and two of Clockwork Angels, a work in progress”.

That’s pretty monumental.  Rush were releasing two key tracks from their forthcoming studio album, a full concept album this time, well in advance.  Two years in advance.  Notably, this was a full concept album start to finish.  In the 70s, Rush were more known for half concept, half non-conceptual records.  The bands that Rush inspired like Queensryche and Dream Theater had done full concepts.  Now the original masters were taking a shot.

On the final album, “Caravan” is track one and “BU2B” is track two.  On this single the order is swapped.  “BU2B” (“Brought Up to Believe”) opens, although its intro changes on the album version.  “BU2B” absolutely slams.  “I was brought up to believe that the universe has a plan…”  Perhaps it opens this single because it sums up the overall album concept.  In a fictional world run precisely by a “Watchmaker”, a rebellious protagonist feels pulled in a direction different from that assigned to his life.  Questioning his reality, he embarks on his own adventures despite his mandated mundane role in society.  Musically, after the metallic riff has done its business, Neil Peart takes the spotlight a moment as the song shifts.  Geddy lays down the heavy bottom end while Alex strikes hither and yon with lightning-like licks.  Clearly a classic in the making.

“Caravan”, the final album opener, sounds pretty much the same as the record.  It establishes the setting, “in a world lit only by fire…”  The riff is a major feature, a deliberate, descending rock monster that feels just right in the guts.  The lyrics paint a picture of a steampunk world, half explored, with alchemy and ancient knowledge.

Clockwork Angels wound up as one of the greatest final albums by any band anywhere any time.  This single is a nice add-on, a reminder of the long careful gestation period that created a masterpiece.

4.5/5 stars

Operation: Concept Albums – an epic Nigel Tufnel Top Ten

Concept albums!  A marathon session with a five person panel. The best concept albums in the history of music (the earliest dating back to 1918). Genre busting lists. A rush of inspiring music, from hip to elders.

Aaron kept tabs on the titles and I’ll post them when I get a chance.  There was one album that was a clear winner, and one subject that crossed over multiple albums.  You’ll just have to watch to see for yourself.*

There was some preamble chat about the latest episode of WandaVision, and a bit on Desmond Child.  We hit the lists at 0:21:30 of the stream.

Thanks for checking it out!  Tune in next week for Top Bootlegs with Harrison Kopp, John T. Snow, Buried On Mars and maybe more.  Cheers!

* If you don’t want to see for yourself, you can try to read Aaron’s hand-written notes below!

#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

A sequel to Getting More Tale #509:  Rant Random



GETTING MORE TALE#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

Saturday, March 3 2018 was a gorgeous afternoon.  Because I had been on the radio from 12:30 to 2:30 am, I didn’t get out that morning.  I usually like to run my errands before noon on the weekends if possible, when things are less busy.  I needed my beauty sleep that day.  That’s how I keep my youthful looks after all.

With the windows down, I hit “play” on Rush’s Clockwork Angels and headed out.  The sound of “The Wreckers” filled my speakers.  Stop #1 was McDonalds.  The parking lot was pretty full so I knew they’d be busy, but what I saw upon entry really pissed me off.

You know those kiosk terminals you can order from now?  My McDonalds has four.  And all four were being taken up by a single family.  A mom, a dad, and two young children were all ordering separately…and slowly.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  What do I push now?” said the young girl, as her mom was ordering for herself.  “Here sweety,” she said as she paused her own order to help the child.  On the other side, dad was doing the same for the son, who couldn’t figure out how to order.  Then, they all passed around a debit card so they could each pay.  I stood there at the front of a loose “line”, watching this unfold in agonisingly slow detail.

As soon as the little girl finished on her terminal, I jumped on, to emphasise my pissed-off-ness.

Parents:  It’s really nice that you used a Saturday at lunch hour rush to teach your children (separately) how to order from a McDonalds terminal, but don’t you think there are better lessons to learn?  Such as how to take turns and share something?

Back to the car with the food, and back to Clockwork Angels with windows down.  Next up:  first single, “Headlong Flight”.  I drove over to Tim Horton’s to get Jennifer a coffee.  Yes, they serve coffee at McDonalds (and some would say better coffee) but I had to make a special stop because Mrs. LeBrain does not drink anything but Horton’s.  And it was a nice day, and a great album to hear with the windows down.

My second complaint of the day, and a frequent one:  if you’re in the drive-through at Tim Horton’s, and it’s busy, don’t leave an entire car length between you and the car in front of you.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being next in line, but not being able to get close enough to the speaker to order.  If the guy in front had just moved ahead a few feet (he had plenty of room) this wouldn’t be an issue.

So I rolled down the windows a little further and let the parking lot hear some “Wish You Well” from Clockwork Angels.  That’s Geddy Lee and he’s a national treasure, people.

Coffee in hand, I headed back home with Geddy, Neil and Alex.  Not a bad album to go out on, by the way.  If you have to retire it’s nice to be able to go out on a high note like Rush did.  It felt like a very Canadian afternoon — out celebrating a warm day in March; always a joy when it happens.  It’s great to be Canadian, where the biggest complaint you have is about the line at Tim Horton’s.  Keeping our minor peeves in perspective, let’s be glad to be Canadian.

Part 157: The Year in Review / Top 5

RECORD STORE TALES Part 157:   The Year in Review

So here we are, the tail end of 2012.  While I’m sure you’re just starting to get your drink on, we here at LeBrain’s Blog are tirelessly bringing you the rock even into the wee final hours.  This is the time, traditionally, when we look at the past year!

We used to do Top Five of the Year lists at the record store, when we used to have our newsletter.  Unfortunately I don’t have copies of any of those newsletters, not a one, which is a real shame since I poured my heart and soul into them as much as anybody else at the store.  It would have been fun to look back 15 years and see what my top five of 1997 was.  I do know for certain two albums that were on it:  Accident of Birth by Bruce Dickinson, and The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters!  The rest have been lost to the dusts of time.

Hey, if any of you guys are still speaking to me and have copies of the newsletter, lemme know eh? ;)

Back to the present for a moment:

What can I say about 2012?  Before I even thought about doing my own blog, events were in motion that pushed me in that direction.   My good buddy Craig Fee invited me down to 107.5 Dave FM for an entire week — Stump LeBrain Week!  I spent a week on the air, with listeners trying to stump me.  There were even a couple LeBrain Weeks and an entire month of LeBrainuary, where every single day’s 4 O’clock 4 Play quizzes were mined from my own brain’s knowledge.  It was a blast, and left me hungry for more.

I’d always been writing Record Store Tales.  The oldest ones were at least a decade old on my hard drive, but I had no idea what to do with them.  I’d also been writing reviews — well over 800 of them on file before I launched — that very few people had seen.  Craig said to me, “LeBrain, you need to get blogging this stuff.  Write something every day.  If you build it, they will come.”

So that’s what I did, and I thank you for reading.

Back to the Record Store Tales:

I published Part 1 on March 9 2012, the beginning of the story, called Run to the Hills.  It was about the very first time I heard Iron Maiden, a date I’ll never forget.  And thus LeBrain’s Blog and Record Store Tales were launched.

Some highlights from the early months that you may have missed if you’re fairly new here:

So, if you have nothing better to do on this New Year’s Eve, there’s a good waste of time for ya.

And now that we’re done with the preamble…let’s get down to business.


5. TENACIOUS D – Rize of the Fenix

KG and JB cannot be stopped.  This album is the “Deth Starr” of rock, The D aim “To Be The Best”!   Read LeBrain’s review of Rize of the Fenix here, including all bonus tracks.

4. THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes

I will never stop loving this band.  Welcome back.  Read LeBrain’s review of Hot Cakes here.

3.  RUSH – Clockwork Angels

My favourite Rush album since Counterparts, at least. Read LeBrain’s review of Clockwork Angels here.

2. VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth

I’d never been more worried that a band would fuck up their big comeback.  Thankfully, Van Halen did not.  Read LeBrain’s review of A Different Kind of Truth here.

And finally…

1. KISS – Monster

You know this was gonna happen.  Aside from the fact that I’m the biggest Kiss fan around, it’s a fucking great record.  Read LeBrain’s review of Monster here.

Runner up:  Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – TAAB2 Thick As A Brick 2.


BOOK REVIEW: Kevin J. Anderson – Clockwork Angels

KEVIN J. ANDERSON – Clockwork Angels  (2012 ECW)

From a story and lyrics by Neil Peart

It was bound to happen eventually.  Somebody had to write a Rush concept album into book form.  I’m sure a lot of highschool kids in the 1970’s wrote their own short story versions of 2112.  Now in 2012, Kevin J. Anderson (the Dune spinoffs) has teamed up with Neil Peart to novelize Rush’s latest album, Clockwork Angels. The end result, according to Aaron, is a near total ripoff of Harlan Ellison’s Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman, but Rushified.  I’m sure both Peart and Anderson are familiar with the previous work, so their plaigarism is not forgiveable.

I found Clockwork Angels, the album, to have a sparse story that begged to be opened up in more detail.  There’s text in the CD packaging to help illustrate the story a bit more, but that only scratches the surface.  I had a hard time visualizing the world that these characters inhabited.

Like many novels of this ilk, the world of Clockwork Angels is Earth-like in some respects.  There’s a massive, unexplored eastern sea, a far away land called Atlantis, and a vast deserted land of wonders unimagined beyond that, all waiting for our hero Owen Hardy to explore.

Owen Hardy, an apple orchard manager from Barrel Arbor, Albion, is a dreamer.  (Hmmm…ever heard that setup before, in Rush songs past?)  He dreams of the faraway lands that he’s only read about in his mother’s books.  Their world is run by their loving Watchmaker, an ancient old man who has mastered the power of “coldfire” and alchemy.  Using his mastery of these arts, he has created a clockwork society:  everything has its place, and every place has its thing.  Everything runs precisely, on time, and every person fulfills his or her role in society.  It is a place where everyone is content.  Everyone but the dreamer.

One night Owen Hardy suddenly departs Barrel Arbor for the wonders of the capitol Crown City, home of the Watchmaker and his Clockwork Angels.  The Angels are glowing coldfire-powered mechanical beings that inspire awe in the citizens lucky enough to have a ticket to see them.  Owen wishes to see them for himself, but the Angels would never be enough for this young dreamer.  Along the way Hardy meets colourful characters from airship pilots to carnies to the notorious pirates, the Wreckers.

Owen gets tangled up with a character called the Anarchist.  The Anarchist lies at the opposite extreme from the Watchmaker.  Where the Watchmaker believes in rigid order to achieve happiness (called “The Stability”), the Anarchist believes that true happiness can only come with the freedom to do whatever you want and go wherever you please.  But both the Anarchist and Watchmaker have designs on young Mr. Hardy, an exceptional man because dreamers are rare.

Through it all, Hardy journeys to lands far away, glimpses parallel universes and discovered his own inner strength.  All the while, Kevin J. Anderson sprinkles his journey with Rush references.  “Tough times demand tough hearts”.  Lyrics from songs past and present find their way into the text, and unfortunately I found this touch to be distracting.  I get it – a nod and a wink to the Rush fans who will buy the novel – but as a Rush fan, these references stick out like a glowing beacon of coldfire.  (Coldfire’s another one, by the way.)  This is a minor complaint; the novel soon took on a life of its own and was impossible to put down.

One of the best features of Clockwork Angels are the glorious illustrations by Rush cover artists Hugh Syme.  From steampunk airships to the glowing Seven Cities of Gold, Syme’s art helps the reader visualize this fascinating world that Peart and Anderson have created.  Clearly, Syme was in sync with the authors when he created these paintings.

While I enjoyed Clockwork Angels thoroughly, and this enjoyment only enhanced my appreciation of the album, its template is far from original.  The archetypes are familiar, as was the plot.  Having said that, Anderson and Peart successfully conjured up a vivid landscape, interesting characters, and a rollicking good story.

3.5/5 stars

Under piercing stars
I stand watching the steam-liners roll by

Part 74.5: The Best Part of Sausagefest (Clockwork Autographs)

Meat gave this to me.

“You’re the collector, not me,” he said.

That’s really not a good excuse to give away an autographed Rush disc, man.  But, as Burgess Meredith said so wisely in Clash of the Titans, “A divine gift should never be questioned, simply accepted.”  And are Rush not gods of rock?

Thank you Meat Man.

REVIEW: Rush – Clockwork Angels

RUSH – Clockwork Angels (2012)

When the first single from Clockwork Angels was released in 2010 (!!!) I wasn’t too into the new songs.  “BU2B”/”Caravan” were heavy and stomping but to me, not memorable.

Then the band went on tour and finished the album and that’s why you’re reading this today.

Alex, Tom, Meat, Geddy

Alex, Tom, Meat, Geddy

Like all Rush albums, Clockwork Angels is a grower.  I feel a bit like a jackass for even trying to review it after only listening to it thrice.  However, they were good listens:  Twice at home and once in the car.  Surprisingly, because Rush aren’t always this way, Clockwork Angels sounded best in the car.

To me, this album combines the “classic” 1970’s progressive sound of Rush with the classic-nouveau of 1993’s Counterparts.  At times it sounds like the band are ripping themselves off, but who cares?  This is the Rush album that many fans have been wishing for, before they went to bed each night.

Now, this is a concept album, but I don’t pretend to have penetrated the lyrics yet.  They are striking, and yet on the surface straightforward, the story easy enough to follow.  I am sure I will get more out of it I go deeper.  For example I found a reference in the text portion of the story to Neil’s late drum instructor, so who knows what is in there?

All I can tell you for certainty is that there is a fantastic world of steam powered airships that take our protagonist on a odyssey across a strange and familiar land.  There is some sort of Watchmaker that seems to run the show with clockwork precision.  I know I have heard the word “watchmaker” as a metaphor for God in the past so I wonder if Neil had that analogy in mind.

There are a lot of bright spots to this album and not a lot of lows:  I count “The Anarchist” as having some of the best Rush riffage of all time, for catchiness and simultaneous complexity.  I think “The Wreckers” would make a most excellent third single.  “Headlong Flight” is one of the best songs, and probably the most traditionally Rush sounding, with tempos careening to and fro.  “Halo Effect” has a shimmery guitar part that reminds me of Snakes and Arrows.

Even “Caravan” and “BU2B” sound fresh to me.  I am certain they are freshly mixed, so hang on to your old single, collectors!

Most importantly, you can hear the sheer joy in the playing.  Geddy, Alex and Neil sound like they are playing for nothing more and nothing less than their own enjoyment.  It’s a truly inspiring sound and I think the album will continue to grow on me, as it stays in my car deck all week….

I even rank Hugh Syme’s artwork as among his best.  Each page leaps with messages hidden and obvious, a symbology with multiple meanings.  Although truthfully, I can’t stand the front cover.  I don’t think it captures the many colours and textures within.

As with everything released these days, there are multiple versions:

  1. Stardard digipack CD
  2. Classic Rock Fan Pack (no bonus tracks though, just the magazine)
  3. And, of course…2 LP, 180 gram vinyl.  Sweet.

5/5 stars