Once upon a time there was a cool, but doomed, Rush fansite. This site had countless downloads for free, and was shut down in short order. While it was up, I grabbed all the studio rarities that they had, and one official live track I was missing. This compilation is made from all of it.
The rarities begin at the start, with the only two tracks featuring John Rutsey on drums. They are significant ones. “Not Fade Away” and “Can’t Fight It” were their very first single on Moon records in 1973. It’s early Rush, more rock n’ roll, and way more high pitched. These are very basic recordings, copied from vinyl. “Not Fade Away” is the old Buddy Holly classic, but harder and with Geddy Lee walkin’ that bassline. “Can’t Fight It” is an original, co-written by Lee and Rutsey. It’s a simple but busy rocker. Alex cuts loose some solos, Rutsey goes bananas on the kit, and Geddy holds it all down with a little bit of flash. One listen to this and you’d know Rush were going places. There’s an electricity on the single that carried over to the first album. They were kids but they could play.
An edit of “Bravado” from Roll the Bones sounds like a CD single was the source. What a song. Is it a ballad? Who cares. It burns. Neil kills it with a drum roll beyond perfect, right at the start of the fade-out, which is why you need the full-length original. It also contains one of the most poignant Neil Peart lyrics: “And when the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.”
Next is the three part interview “It’s a Rap”, from the Roll the Bones era. Alex’s portion comes from a 7″ single, Geddy’s from a rare European CD single, and Neil’s from the more common one.* Neil’s is probably the most interesting. He discusses the controversial rap section from the “Roll the Bones” single, which was his idea. Robbie Robertson and John Clease were two people they thought of to deliver the rap, before Geddy did it himself. Speaking of Geddy, his interview has the best quote: “I don’t know how we got this image. Maybe we wore too many robes in the 70s.”
The “pre-release” tracks here from Counterparts are slightly different in the mix. The differences are very subtle. Some more prominent keyboard here, a less double-tracked vocal there. “Ghost of a Chance” has unique Lifeson fills in the last part of the song. These tracks will be fun for any fan of Counterparts (a great album). Some of the best songs have these “pre-release” tracks. From “Animate” through “Double Agent”and finally “Everyday Glory”, these are awesome tunes. “Cold Fire” absolutely smokes. Unfortunately these tracks are not as clear as others, as they came (as I recall) originally from a rare promo cassette.
An edit of “Virtuality” from the (honestly dreadful) Test for Echo album is a drag. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead but “Net boy, net girl” is not one of Neil Peart’s best lyrics. In the 90s there was a trend of internet-themed songs, and none of them were really any good. Moving onto “Nobody’s Hero”, which is a “master edit” (not sure what that is). It’s only short by about 20 seconds at the end as it fades early.
The only live track on here, “Force Ten”, comes from the very rare and expensive Japanese import for Different Stages. It could possibly be the only Japanese bonus track that Rush have. Much like the album itself, this track is awesome and harder hitting than its studio counterpart.
Disc 2 opens with a radio edit of “Test for Echo”, one of the best tunes from that album. Really cool is an instrumental mix of “One Little Victory”, though it’s so fuckin’ overdriven. Vapor Trails reduced to mp3 (especially back then) is a harsh sound. This is very brickwalled. But as an instrumental, it’s worth suffering through. Compare that to the crisp “Show Don’t Tell” (promo edit) that follows. Now you have depth and texture.
Vintage vibes return on an old “Spirit of Radio” edit — two of them actually. One is 2:59, the other 3:23. They crackle of old vinyl. Consider that the original is almost five minutes! Radio edits are what they are — chopped to cram more songs in between commercial breaks. “Shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah.”
Some high-tech songs shake it up a bit. “Big Money” and “Red Sector A” are edited and truncated (“Big Money” for a music video). “Red Sector A” is missing a whole minute of music from the middle, which you definitely miss. The edit is just yucky, as is the one at the start of “Secret Touch” from Vapor Trails. I’m realizing that, on its own, I can listen to Vapor Trails. But I cannot listen to them one song at a time on a mix CD like this. That overdriven mix is too drastic for a compilation. (This is why Rush remixed tracks for their own Retrospective 3 album.)
“Time and Motion” is a “work in progress” pre-release, and it’s harder to listen to than the album version from Test For Echo. More enjoyable is an edit of “The Pass” (Presto). This brilliant, minimalist Rush tune was the start of a new kind of sound for them. An awkward edit of “Tom Sawyer” cuts the song down to 3:32, a real shame. Here’s thing: “Tom Sawyer” was Rush tightening things up; making them concise. There was no fat to trim on that song. Everything that was there belonged. This edit is a butcher job, cuts all over the place, an absolute travesty.
Next we arrive at the remixes. The “Punchit Scratchit” and “Rock Slamfist” mixes of “Tom Sawyer” come from a promo single for the Small Soldiers soundtrack. They’re pretty terrible. Nobody needed to overdub somebody going “rock! rock!” over it. There’s a neat loop repeated in both mixes, but most fans will call these tracks “abominations”. Don’t forget that these were done for a kid’s movie.
Saving one of the best for last, it’s “The Weapon” featuring Joe Flaherty as “Count Floyd”! Fans of SCTV know who that is. The 7″ single this originated from goes for about 45 bucks on Discogs. Definitely an item reserved for those with an all-expenses paid Rush card! It really is a treasure though, considering the importance of SCTV to Rush over the years. Joe Flaherty on a Rush single — yes, I want that.
The compilation ends on an up note, with an edit of “Time Stand Still”; though a bit choppy. It stands as a reminder that Rush are not serviced well by single edits. Indeed, any edit on this set is noticeably inferior to its album counterpart. These particular Rush songs were honed in the studio to the necessary elements already. Further thinning did not need to happen and only hinders enjoyment.
But, they’re rare, is the thing. And collectors live for anything different from the album versions. It’s part of our disease. I won’t say “go and track down these promo singles”. No, don’t do that. That’s expensive. I just hope you found this information interesting. There are definitely treasures worth spending money on, among these downloads. But sellers know that, and charge according to what they feel they can soak you for. It’s unfortunate but owning this stuff physically is hard to prioritise, and for that reason, most of us will have to settle for downloads and bootlegs.
* Neil’s interview is the only one that I own physically on CD single.