Sunday Old School: Rush
A few weeks ago, Sunday Old School took a look at Swedish progressive metal outfit Opeth, which was followed by suggestions to cover other prog metal bands such as Dream Theater. We’ll definitely touch on them and other big name prog metal bands soon, but before that happens, perhaps it would be wise to examine the band that influenced almost every progressive rock band going today. Unfortunately, we don’t cover Pink Floyd, so this week we’ll be looking at Rush instead. Rush was formed in 1968 by schoolmates Alex Lifeson (born Alexandar Zivojinovich) and John Rutsey, who played guitar and drums respectively, along with singing bass player Jeff Jones, who was replaced by Geddy Lee, another former schoolmate of Lifesons, soon afterwards. They performed regularly in their local scene before releasing their first single, a cover of the Buddy Holly track, "Not Fade Away," which performed poorly. After struggling to impress record companies, they decided to release their self-titled debut album themselves in 1974, which once again had lacklustre sales at first, until a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio got hold of the record and began playing the song, "Working Man" on a regular basis. The song struck a chord with working class rock fans and soon "Rush" was re-released in the United States through Mercury Records.
Due to problems with diabetes, Rutsey decided to leave the band for the sake of his health, eventually being replaced by Hamilton native, Neil Peart, whose first concert with the band was opening for Uriah Heep to an audience of 11,000. Peart also took over the role as chief lyricist and the next year, Rush released their second album, "Fly By Night," which was better received than their previous effort and peaked on the Billboard 200 at 113. They followed this with, "Caress Of Steel," which featured only five tracks and was a commercial and critical disappointment. Although the record company urged Rush to record more radio friendly music, they instead got to work on their most ambitious record at that point, which was released in April 1976 as, "2112." The album contained a twenty minute long title track split into seven parts and became their first Platinum album in Canada, eventually going on to be Triple Platinum in the United States. The success of, "2112," allowed the group to release their first live album, "All The World’s A Stage" a few months later.
Following their new found interest in such prog bands as Yes and King Crimson, Rush expanded their sound to feature a much more progressive element and relocated to Wales to record their next album, "A Farewell To Kings" at Rockfield Studios. The album received mixed reviews and before long, they had recorded and released their sixth album, "Hemispheres," which was also met with polarizing views. They continued to experiment with their sound on their next release, "Permanent Waves," which was met with much better reviews, not least in part to the now classic song, "Spirit Of Radio" and became the first Rush album to enter the top five in the United States. Their popularity grew even more the next year, when Rush released "Moving Pictures" in 1981. Opening with arguably their most well known song, "Tom Sawyer" and featuring the radio friendly, "Limelight," as well as "YYZ," probably one of the best rock instrumentals on all time, "Moving Pictures" was a complete triumph, peaking at number three in the United States and receiving glowing reviews from around the world.
They then released "Signals" in 1982, which featured several popular singles, including their only top 40 single in America, "New World Man," but was met with a mixed reception critically. This was to be the last album they’d record with Terry Brown, who had produced all of their albums previously and was growing uncomfortable with the amount of synthesizers the band were using. Most of the eighties were spent experimenting with this synthesized sound, resulting in three more albums in this vein ("Grace Under Pressure," "Power Windows" and "Hold Your Fire") before a live album named, "A Show Of Hands" was released in 1989, which was loved by fans but lukewarm critically. Rush soon began getting rid of the synthesizers with "Presto" (also released in 1989) whilst continuing to experiment with other genres such as hip-hop, most notably on their next album, "Roll The Bones." Guitars became a greater presence once more on their only other studio albums on the 90s, "Counterparts" (1993) and "Test For Echo" (1996,) which also showed elements of jazz creeping into the group’s work.
After touring in support of "Test For Echo," the band, and Neil Peart in particular, were struck by tragedy when Peart’s daughter Selena died in an automobile accident, followed by his wife Jacqueline’s passing ten months later from cancer. Peart essentially retired from the band and undertook a journey across North America on his motorcycle, which he documented in a book named, "Ghost Rider: Travels On the Healing Road." In the meantime, Rush released a triple live album entitled, "Different Stages" in 1998. In 2001, Peart decided he was ready to get back into music and they group recorded and released their first album in six years, "Vapor Trails." The tour for the record was huge and resulted in the band taking a few years off to recover before releasing their next album, "Snakes and Arrows" in 2007, which became a commercial success, peaking at number three on the Billboard charts, as well as receiving some strong reviews. They once again took a break after touring in support of the album, but reconvened in 2010 to begin writing new music. That summer, they released a digital single named, "Caravan," which featured another new song, "BU2B" as its B-side. It was announced that both of these songs would appear on their next album, which was soon revealed to be called, "Clockwork Angels." Although this was two years ago, the album is now finally on the verge of release, with an international release date of June 12th confirmed and is already drumming up strong interest thanks in part to the new single, "Headlong Flight." How well "Clockwork Angels" performs remains to be seen, but regardless, Rush have an unquestionable legacy of great songs, mind blowing instrumentation and a fan base as dedicated as any band could hope for, which is a good thing considering some of their ticket prices!
Rush - "Working Man"
Rush - "2112"
Rush - "Spirit Of Radio"
Rush - "Tom Sawyer"
Rush - "Headlong Flight"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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