Monday, October 15, 2007

Rush Geek Week (Part John-O The Second)

I’ve contributed but one post to this Rush Geek Week business, so here’s another one - my rankings for the eight Rush studio albums that did not make my top ten. So without further ado...

18. Rush
Placing this one here is a no-brainer. It’s not exactly bad...but it’s as close as Rush can come. Sonically it’s utterly unremarkable (they stole the riff for “What You’re Doing” from Zep’s “Heartbreaker,” right?) except for the fact that Alex is out front in a more vital way than he is on the other records; and lyrically it’s completely unremarkable. Without “Finding My Way,” this record might actually suck. (Yes, I discount “Working Man” because it is the most overplayed, overrated Rush song ever. I like it, don’t get me wrong - I just don’t know if I ever need to hear it again.)
Best song: “Finding My Way”

17. Caress Of Steel
A no-brainer for me at second-to-last because I just don’t dig their prog stuff as much as the actual songs. Some might say “Lakeside Park” is silly and sappy, but I like it. And “Bastille Day” is not only the best song on this album, it’s also the best song on the first four albums.
Best song: “Bastille Day”

16. Test For Echo
I like most of these songs, especially “Resist,” “Dog Years,” and “Totem,” I just don’t think they’re all that good. And for some reason, as an album, it just doesn’t work for me. The theme of resisting the superficial trappings of the increasingly fast-paced modern world seems like a good idea to work with, but it feels dated, somehow, in these songs. It’s dark and brooding in places (“Test For Echo” and “Time And Motion”) and upbeat and almost poppy in other places (“Half The World” and “Totem”). Again, not exactly bad...just a little sub-par.
Best song: “Resist"

15. Snakes & Arrows
Speaking of dark and brooding, this one’s got that in spades. This record hasn’t exactly set with me yet, so it’s possible that the test of time might change my mind on it, but this position seems about right for now. Starts just fine with “Far Cry,” but then gets bogged down with “Armor And Sword” and (spin)drifts somewhat passively before reigniting near the end with “Faithless” and finishing strong with “We Hold On.” The album art is pretty cool, though.
Best song: “Far Cry”

14. Grace Under Pressure
Part two of the early-eighties crap-fest, but I don’t like this one as much as Signals. Bears the dubious distinction of containing what I think are two of the worst Rush songs ever (“Kid Gloves” and “Red Lenses”), but also contains one of my favorites (“Red Sector A” - which lately got added to their live set, pleasing me to no end). “Afterimage” is also really good, as is “Distant Early Warning.” Has the same flat, tired sound as Signals, just doesn’t speak to me as much.
Best song: “Red Sector A”

13. 2112
After I wrote my top ten post the other day, I gave this one a spin at work to get re-acquainted with it, and it still really doesn’t speak to me. “A Passage To Bangkok” just sounds bad compared to the live version on Exit...Stage Left. This album had to come along when it did, or Rush might have ceased to exist as we know them - but it would have sounded a lot better if it could have come out when Hemispheres did.
Best song: “2112”

12. Hemispheres
Though much of the album is the second part of the prog orgy “Cygnus X-1,” we’ve also got “The Trees” and “La Villa Strangiato,” which are both delightful. I think this album actually sounds a little bit better than A Farewell To Kings, but I like the songs on the earlier album better. Probably the best of the four prog albums.
Best song: “The Trees”

11. Roll The Bones
The title track has so many interesting musical layers that I get lost in it no matter how many times I hear it; it’s groovy, it’s funky, it’s space-age, it’s electronic, and it’s got great guitar work - not to mention that rap in the middle. And it’s got the best best best chorus of any song in their catalogue, answering more of those mystical questions in a perfectly rendered take on Ayn Rand: “Why are we here? Because we’re here. Roll the bones.” And yet...not the best song on the album. We’ll get to that in a moment. The only thing that kept this record out of my top ten is that it containts “Neurotica” and “The Big Wheel,” which would join those two songs from Grace on a “Bottom Ten” list of their songs, though neither song on this album is as bad as either song on the earlier album. The other eight songs are all excellent - had this been an eight-song album (or maybe nine, with another instrumental as good as “Where’s My Thing?” stuck in there between “Ghost Of A Chance” and “You Bet Your Life”), it might have been #1 on my list. Yes, Presto is a better album (even if you take “The Big Wheel” and “Neurotica” off of Bones), but as good as it is, Presto does not contain “Dreamline,” which is not only the best song on this album, but top five of all time. It’s got a structured three-part keyboard melody that Alex noodles along on underneath, powerful, explosive drumming, a laser-beam guitar riff to open, and a blistering solo that Geddy noodles along to underneath. A carefully controlled, perfectly balanced composition that filters mortality and immortality through the lens of those dreams we keep telling ourselves will come true one day.
Best song: “Dreamline”

1 comment:

Michael Maier said...

Forgot to thank you for posting this. I really enjoyed my own foray into figuring out stuff about my fave Rush CDs.