Tom Sawyer

#808: Remembering Neil – Ten of his Best

Forever I’ll be grateful for Neil Peart.  If there was ever one shining example of a rock star you’d want to emulate, it was Neil Peart.  He was a giant.  Musically he was untouchable.  Considering Rush have 19 studio albums and other odds and ends in their discography, it’s a daunting task to make a list of the best.

Probably half the list fell together immediately.  The other half was agonizing.  Focusing on songs, not necessarily solos, made it a simpler task.  Any one of Neil’s big live solos are essential listening anyway.  “The Rhythm Method” on Different Stages comes highly recommended.

At one point I had nine tracks and needed one more.  I asked Facebook for help.  Facebook responded with so many great runners-up that I have to list them.

  • “War Paint” (T-Rev)
  • “The Pass” (Leo)
  • “Afterimage” (Leo)
  • “The Body Electric” (Jamie)
  • “Xanadu” (Jamie)
  • “Mystic Rhythms” (Jamie)
  • “Animate” (Jamie)
  • “Between the Wheels” (HMO)
  • All of Hemispheres (Uncle Meat)
  • “Natural Science” (Scotty G)

A good showing for Presto tunes there, notably.  T-Rev always loved that album.  Ultimately I used none of these suggestions and completed the list below.  A list that I believe are the 10 best songs to represent Neil Peart.

All of these songs (above and below) will enrich your lives.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Neil Peart OC (Order of Canada), one of our proudest native sons.


Novelty #11: 

The Hockey Theme

I use the term “novelty” with a caveat: really, only because the song is 70 seconds long.  Neil’s arrangement of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme written by Dolores Claman deserves note as one of very few tracks credited to him as a solo artist.  This track shows off his roots and his ability to make anything sound heavy!  Yet dig in and listen to his meticulously arranged drum part.  He put just as much creativity into this as he did any of Rush’s originals.


#10:

“One Little Victory”

A victory indeed!  Neil suffered immeasurable tragedy in the late 1990s when he lost both his wife and daughter.  He disappeared on a motorcycle, remaining out of sight for five years, the wind on his back as he sought healing.  His return was “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails with a crescendo of power drumming.  It’s Rush saying, “He’s back, baby.  The Professor is back!”


#9:

“Bravado”

This track from Roll the Bones is a personal favourite.  Well, they all are, but this one is for just one moment in time. At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.

And if the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.


#8:

“Red Sector A”

80s Rush rules! Neil was using more and more electronic percussion, but to no less lethal effect. Give this number from Grace Under Pressure a spin.  The programmed pulse of synth topped by the crashing clank of Neil’s electronic drums give this track a digital, otherworldly feeling.  By this time, Peart’s cymbal work was just as interesting as what he was doing elsewhere on the kit.  Listen to him ride that beat and accent it with the perfect touch.


#7:

“The Spirit of Radio”

This enduring track from Permanent Waves is a lyrical and rhythmic triumph.  It’s easy for cynics to mock descriptive phrases like “Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy.”  But there is no denying the truth that is “Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength, bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”  Music.


#6:

“Cygnus X-1”

A Farewell to Kings was Rush during their progressive peak, a stream of albums with side-long concepts.  “Cygnus X-1” utilises such Peart favourites as bells.  And it’s 11 minutes about a black hole.


#5:

“Cotton Tail”

In 1994, Neil Peart organized the Buddy Rich tribute album Burning For Buddy, uniting the Buddy Rich Big Band with drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Matt Sorum, Simon Phillips, and of course Neil with his debut in the jazz section.  His groove on “Cotton Tail” is unlike anything he’s done in Rush. It’s unreal that he could master both rock and jazz like this.


#4:

“Vital Signs”

80s Rush rules!  Introducing reggae vibes seems natural in hindsight given Neil’s willingness to explore new rhythms.  Peart’s creativity knew no bounds.  His delicate touch on the Police-like “Vital Signs” (from Moving Pictures) is so good that it should probably be higher on this list.  But there are some key tracks still to come.


#3:

“YYZ”

Rush’s most famous instrumental.  This number showcases all three of Rush’s members.  Of course Neil Peart’s drums are in integral part of it all.  And there’s a reason they call him “The Professor”.  According to minds more musical than mine, “The piece’s introduction, played in a time signature of 10/8, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements.”


#2:

“Subdivisions”

This track from Signals exemplifies Neil’s philosophy of drums as an active part of the composition of a song.  Every beat matters; everything the stick hits is a hook.  Never before have the drums been so integral a part of what makes a song truly great.


#1:

“Tom Sawyer”

The quintessential Neil Peart song.  Iconic, untouchable.  Barenaked Ladies even quoted his famous drum part in their song “Grade Nine”. When people think of Rush 100 years from now, it’ll be the image of them jamming “Tom Sawyer” at Le Studio, with Neil framed by that big window and snowy landscape behind.

 

 


Epilogue:  Meanwhile, in England…

Sarge from the piercing shop Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth tells us “I have been listening to Rush…ALL DAY.  Really loud.  He added, “I did 40-odd piercings today with that soundtrack!!”  Absolutely brilliant.

Part 205: Dad Rock

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and always a salute to the ones that are gone too soon!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 205:  Dad Rock

When Ashleigh started at our store she became the resident hippie.  Everybody loved Ash, she was one of the best.  I teased her a bit about hippie things, and called her Crunchy Granola. This was all done (and hopefully taken) in fun, because she is really a great person.  If you needed to know anything about Simon & Garfunkel, the Dead, Ani DiFranco or Dave Matthews Band, she was the one to ask.  She knew it all.

There was a generational thing between us, and I remember this was obvious when we were setting up a Father’s Day display.  We were looking for CDs and movies that “typical dads” would like for Father’s Day gifts.  I would say things like “Dads like World War II movies,” while she said, “Dads like Kim Mitchell.”

“What?” I said incredulously.  “Dads do not like Kim Mitchell.  My dad thinks Kim Mitchell is a girl.”

Ash gave me a patient look.  “Dads do like Kim Mitchell.  That’s what dads listen to now.”

“Cool people listen to Kim Mitchell,” I responded quietly.

I slowly absorbed all this new information.  Dads liked Kim Mitchell?  But Kim Mitchell was one of my highschool idols.  My dad  had no interest in doing his “Rock N Roll Duty”.  This must have meant that people of the Kim generation were dads themselves now…and had kids as old as Ash!  Jesus!

Kim’s dad is in this video!

A little later on, Ash start socializing with this guy named Andy.  At first I was skeptical of Andy because of his large gauge piercings and dreadlocks.  He didn’t talk much.

Turns out Andy was just shy.  Ash approached me one day.

“Andy thinks you’re cool.  He wants you to make a mix tape for him.  Would you be willing to do that?”

Taken aback, I said “Seriously?  Sure!  He thinks I’m cool?  What kind of music does he want on here?”

Ash paused.  She took a deep breath.

“Dad rock.  Stuff like Kim Mitchell and Van Halen and David Lee Roth.”

Once again, I paused to absorb all this new information.  Ash was with a guy who liked “dad rock”.  This was awesome.  I started laughing.  I gasped for breath, as my face turned red.

“Oh…my…God!  Andy likes Kim Mitchell!  You’re going to have to listen to Kim Mitchell with him aren’t you?”

“Possibly,” she mumbled.

“This is awesome.  This is awesome.  This is awesome.  I can’t wait to get started.  Seriously, I already have ideas.  Right on.  This is going to be an awesome mix tape.”

Good as my word, eventually I furnished a custom mix tape, with liner notes and carefully selected music to entertain and hopefully enlighten.  I wish I had kept a copy.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.  So in lieu of the actual track list, here’s the mix tape I would make today given the exact same circumstances.  Let me know what you think!

Side One:

Van Halen – Eruption, Runnin’ With the Devil

Kim Mitchell – Kids In Action

Max Webster – Hangover

Talas – NV43345

David Lee Roth – Shy Boy

Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

Max Webster/Rush – Battle Scar

Rush – Tom Sawyer

Dream Theater – Pull Me Under

Side Two:

Rush – 2112 (Side One)

Kim Mitchell – Lager and Ale

Van Halen – Hot For Teacher

Rush – Subdivisions

Max Webster – Toronto Tontos

Kim Mitchell – Sudbury Saturday Night

This is not the last of Andy’s exploration of the greatest music of all time either…stay tuned for…

Part 206! Rock Video Night!