Was Rush Higher within the ’70s or ’80s?: Roundtable


Which Rush is your favourite Rush? The hippie-haired energy trio who crafted sci-fi narratives and sophisticated prog-rock instrumentals within the mid-to-late ’70s? The group with supremely awkward ’80s haircuts who paired virtuosity with polished FM-radio choruses?

Both reply is legitimate. However the query continues to be divisive. Many followers solely indulge within the band’s proggiest ’70s materials on 2112 and Hemispheres, swearing off their music after the tracks received shorter and the synths received extra intense. Others are allergic to the pre-“Tom Sawyer” period, when Neil Peart‘s lyrics have been at their nerdiest and Geddy Lee nonetheless shrieked at glass-shattering ranges.

So, let’s settle this as soon as and for all — or, actually, simply add to the infinite debate – by tackling that age-old query: “Which Rush period reigns supreme?”

1) Had been Rush higher within the ’70s or ’80s?

Ryan Reed: That is actually robust as a result of we’re basically evaluating two completely different bands with very completely different approaches. Within the ’70s, Rush have been briefly onerous rock earlier than they went full prog, and it took them towards the top of the last decade to search out their footing. (I do know it is blasphemy amongst Rush followers, however A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres each mop the ground with 2112.) However once they reached their prog pinnacle, they ranked alongside style’s greats like Genesis, Sure, King Crimson and Light Large. That artistic spark lasted by way of the early ’80s, together with their transition to shorter, hookier songs on Everlasting Waves and Shifting Photos. Should you break down these 4 albums — Kings and Hemispheres vs. Waves and Photos — it is not possible to select a winner. So you need to take a look at what’s left. Backside line: They launched extra high quality albums within the ’80s — even the stuff from Alex Lifeson‘s “A Flock of Seagulls haircut” period. Grace Beneath Strain, Energy Home windows, Maintain Your Hearth and Presto every provide a profession spotlight or two. It is a numbers recreation. (In the meantime, their 1974 debut is a spinoff dud.)

Ed Stenger, Rushisaband.com: Evaluating Rush from one decade to the following is a very subjective train, so it’s robust for me to say whether or not they have been “higher” within the ‘70s or ‘80s, however I’ll say that they have been positively completely different. I desire the ‘70s period simply because it’s the place I lower my tooth with Rush, so these albums will all the time maintain a particular place for me. The evolution of the band was dramatic from album to album within the ‘70s, particularly between the debut and Fly by Night time, and between Hemispheres and Everlasting Waves. So, within the sense of their development as a band and the event of their sound, the ‘70s have been definitely a extra thrilling and eventful time for Rush. Everlasting Waves was their goodbye to the uber-progressive, side-long epics and paved the best way for the keyboard-laden ‘80s. These ‘80s albums have a extra constant, polished edge to them, however these couldn’t have occurred with out that hyper-evolution that occurred with their ‘70s materials. The ‘70s have been analogous to the band’s adolescence and the ‘80s their younger maturity. Each have been nice eras in their very own proper, however the ‘70s have been positively extra essential for the event of Rush’s musical id and iconic sound.

Matt Wardlaw: The ’70s discovered Rush creating and evolving as a band, with the world listening in on every report. They have been already a complicated unit musically, even with the songs on their debut. However the albums they launched all through the remainder of the last decade noticed them proceed to hone in on their particular person and collective strengths as musicians and as a gaggle. I might give a slight edge to their work within the ’80s, as a result of they actually took benefit of what they’d realized from the time spent within the studio and on the highway within the ’70s. They married that discovered information with the alternatives that expertise introduced within the ’80s and used that mixture of components to end up albums and songs that stay extraordinarily compelling.

Michael Christopher: The Rush of the ’70s, although nonetheless clearly discovering their method at factors, had an power that was plain. That enthusiasm allowed them to do eight-minute-plus songs like “By-Tor and the Snow Canine,” “Xanadu” and the epic title observe to 2112 that by no means actually felt meandering. Only a few bands from that interval might say the identical. And once they weren’t stretching out musically, or the observe didn’t want a lot area to breathe, they supplied a packed-in ferocity that stands up in opposition to a number of the greatest onerous rock of the last decade. There are the apparent examples like “Fly by Night time,” however dig deeper into one thing like “Want Some Love” from the 1974 debut. Whereas possibly not essentially the most lyrically poetic or musically flashy, you’ll uncover simply over two minutes of intense, unbridled enjoyable.

2) Had been the addition of keyboards and the transfer to shorter, punchier songs an excellent or dangerous factor?

Reed: Good on all counts. Each band, notably a “progressive” band, must evolve. Rush have been already experimenting with synthesizers within the late ’70s, so it isn’t like they abruptly added a harp participant the next decade — they only used the instrument extra as a foundational compositional instrument, relatively than a decorative one. And it isn’t like they misplaced their chops: Geddy Lee and Neil Peart remained the sharpest rock rhythm part on the planet. That occurred to dovetail with their shift towards tighter, shorter songs. After the elaborately constructed Hemispheres, they could not presumably get any proggier, so that they began writing precise choruses. Can anybody be sad with a shift towards “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio”?

Stenger: Though I nonetheless desire the guitar-heavy, “proggy” Rush of the ‘70s, the transfer to shorter, punchier songs within the ‘80s was finally an excellent factor for Rush as a result of it allowed them to remain related as a band and to proceed their evolution. There’s little doubt that they misplaced some followers alongside the best way with the addition of keyboards and their distancing from progginess, however — extra importantly — they gained many new followers by making those self same modifications. So, their fan base developed proper together with their sound — not like lots of their ‘70s rocker friends, most of whom by no means modified a lot and finally grew to become irrelevant, banished to enjoying reveals at rib fests, state gala’s and on cruise ships to their growing old and ever-shrinking fan base. Rush really went the wrong way, frequently replenishing their viewers with youthful followers whereas retaining most of their old-school followers. Once they lastly retired final decade, they went out on the peak of their relevance and recognition on account of their willingness to actually progress over the a long time relatively than stagnate of their ‘70s roots. Satirically, their previous couple of albums noticed them return extra to that guitar-driven sound, however with a markedly extra polished end result on account of their prior explorations of different genres and devices within the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Wardlaw: I believe it was an excellent factor and a pure development. Musical historical past has proven us that musicians are all the time going to play with the brand new toys which are round. On this case, as keyboards and synths grew to become extra of a factor within the ’80s, Rush embraced that pattern and put it into play with the music that they have been creating. The truth that the songs have been additionally shorter, I believe, was no less than partially due to the heavy highway work as much as that time. That they had a greater deal with on how the person items of the machine labored and have been capable of concisely channel the very best components.

Christopher: It was a nice factor. Not like quite a lot of artists within the ’80s, Rush added keyboards not as a necessity to maintain up with the shifting occasions however as a result of they have been naturally creating and located an avenue to counterpoint their music. It’s the principle cause why these years are regarded again on so fondly — as a result of it doesn’t come off as dated or momentary, however relatively intrinsic to the general trajectory of the band’s evolution. And the truth that they grew to become proggier whereas shortening the songs is a feat in itself that is still mind-boggling in the very best method attainable.

3) What’s essentially the most underrated Rush album from every of those 20 years?

Reed: For the ’70s, it is positively Caress of Metal. Okay, any album that features “I Assume I am Going Bald” cannot be a masterpiece, however critics — and even, now and again, the band members themselves — have dismissed the album as some type of bloated artifact from the glory days of prog. There are some heavyweight moments right here, notably the majestic “Lakeside Park” and “Bastille Day.” For the ’80s, it is onerous to decide on between Maintain Your Hearth and Presto, however I am going with the latter. Arriving in 1989, simply earlier than the band’s soggy stretch of the early ’90s, Presto pivoted away from synths again to a guitar-heavy sound. However even at its riff-iest (“Present Do not Inform”), the album nonetheless affords a soothing knowledge – like on the poignant “The Cross,” on which Neil Peart tackles teenage suicide.

Stenger: Caress of Metal is with out query Rush’s most underrated album of the ‘70s. As whimsical because it was, the songwriting was strong; there are some nice melodies in “Fountain of Lamneth,” regardless of it being a bit disjointed. “The Necromancer” is a enjoyable, Tolkien-esque romp, and “Bastille Day” is up there as one in all their strongest album openers from that period — to not point out “Lakeside Park.” Most significantly, the “errors” made on that album paved the best way for 2112 and every thing past. Rush’s most underrated ‘80s album might be Maintain Your Hearth. It’s typically listed amongst followers’ “least favourite” Rush albums, doubtless on account of its “poppy” sound and overuse of synths; it’s most likely the height of Rush’s synth period. Regardless of that, the songwriting is sound, with “Time Stand Nonetheless” being one in all Rush’s strongest tracks from that period – or any period. “Drive Ten” and “Mission” additionally stand out and stack up properly in opposition to Rush’s many different ‘80s-era compositions.

Wardlaw: It is onerous to have a look at any of the ’70s albums as being underrated. However 1975’s Caress of Metal might be the closest from their work in that decade. The group made their official transfer right into a extra progressive space, and it did not carry out in addition to the earlier two albums — and in that sense, it did not get pleasure from as a lot of the “limelight” as different albums within the catalog. In the case of the ’80s, it appears like 1987’s Maintain Your Hearth will get a bit misplaced. That is unlucky, as a result of it finds the band in a great place, opening on an brisk word with “Drive Ten.” At a time when some ’70s legacy bands have been struggling to remain above the water, releasing albums that actually felt torpid or awkwardly positioned, Rush have been staring straight into the “eye of the storm” and pushing ahead with a few of their strongest work.

Christopher: The self-titled debut album will get handed over fairly a bit both as a result of it stands out musically just like the proverbial sore thumb from the remainder of their catalog, or as a result of it’s the one LP to not characteristic Neil Peart. These causes is likely to be truthful, however Rush is criminally underrated as a standalone work. Amid the overused — although totally comprehensible — comparisons to Led Zeppelin, “Discovering My Approach” is an excellent opener, and “What You’re Doing” has a riff that’s borderline stoner-rock. In the meantime, why does 1989’s Presto get missed a lot? The album is notably transitory, transferring out of the reliance on keyboards and leaning extra on guitar-oriented compositions, but that doesn’t negate some standout and simply plain attention-grabbing moments. Wanting on the greater image, the detest of Presto is comprehensible as a result of followers had gotten used to at least one method the band sounded, and the brand new strategy didn’t return or transfer ahead however type of veered. Nonetheless, “Superconductor” flat-out rocks, and deeper cuts like “Chain Lightning” have an early ’90s sheen that by some means manages to sound contemporary even at this time.

4) Had been Rush higher reside within the ’70s or ’80s – and even the 90s or later? Should you might time journey to anyone tour, which wouldn’t it be?

Reed: Rush have been the uncommon prog band that harnessed extra management over its devices as time went on. I would not argue somebody who chosen the ’90s or past for this reply. However I would need to go together with the ’80s for a pair causes: Lee’s voice had matured past its preliminary untamed shriek right into a extra expressive, nuanced gadget. And by this level, they’d a extra diversified catalog to attract from, that means I might hear extra streamlined songs like “Pink Barchetta” alongside a number of the earlier prog items. I would most likely time journey to the Shifting Photos tour, for no different cause than it is (most likely) my favourite Rush album.

Stenger: I’ve seen each tour since Energy Home windows, however I by no means was fortunate sufficient to see Rush reside within the ‘70s. So for that period, I can solely go by outdated live performance footage and secondhand experiences. That stated, I can truthfully say that they grew to become progressively higher every tour, and the R40 Reside tour was hands-down their greatest. Once they started the “night with Rush” format within the late ‘90s (the place they performed shut to 3 hours with no opener) is once they actually took issues up a notch with followers getting a “two for one” cope with each present. Additionally they began incorporating extra in-concert movies and stage props round that point, which simply added to an already implausible live performance expertise. So, simply these info alone make the reveals from the final 20 years actually stand out in high quality. Additionally, even with how good they have been on their devices to start with, their technical prowess and talent simply saved getting higher with each tour. They definitely went out on a excessive word. All that stated, if I might time journey again to see anyone tour, it will positively be 2112; it will have been a extremely distinctive expertise to see them at that uncooked stage of their profession once they have been nearly to interrupt vast open. I nonetheless envy of us who noticed them again then.

Wardlaw: I really feel like Rush performed a few of their greatest live shows within the final half of their profession, with the Time Machine tour of 2010-2011 being one explicit excessive level. From a set-list standpoint, that trek and the next Clockwork Angels and R40 excursions confirmed their eager deal with staging a brand new and completely different expertise for the followers, highlighting materials that hadn’t been performed beforehand or had not often featured. So many teams slip into the part of  “best hits” excursions time and again to experience out the rest of their profession. Rush, as they did with so lots of their profession strikes, dealt with issues otherwise — and the followers received to see some actually particular reveals and moments consequently. So far as the time-travel facet? It will be tempting to journey again to most of the excursions within the ’80s. However personally, I would have to decide on the Counterparts tour — I’ve quite a lot of remorse for lacking that one. Whereas it is documented partly on the Completely different Phases launch, I’ve hope that they’re going to launch a full present from that tour one in all today.

Christopher: There won’t have been a greater Rush tour song-wise than their last one, R40 Reside in 2015. Not often does a band get to exit after that many a long time and blow their audiences away with each the content material of the set lists and musicianship behind it. Every other tour could be doubtlessly slowed down by the work that was being promoted on the time. Going again in time, I’d need another probability to see them within the spring or summer time of 2015.

5) How would you sum up Rush within the ’90s and ’00s? And the way do these a long time evaluate to the ’70s and ’80s?

Reed: Certainly one of my mates, a fellow music journalist and Rush fan whose opinions I dearly respect, considers the ’90s one of many band’s excessive factors. What a dummy. There are strong songs right here and there on their three LPs of the period, however there are additionally some cringe-worthy moments. (Lee’s “rapping” on “Roll the Bones” is sufficient to discredit your entire decade.) Fortunately, the band rebounded for its last stretch, saving some profession highlights for 2007’s Snakes & Arrows and 2012’s Clockwork Angels. For me, the ’00s have been closest in spirit to the early ’80s in balancing melodic verse-chorus songs with their traditional virtuosity.

Stenger: Rush’s profession within the ‘90s and ‘00s was a bit tumultuous and disjointed by way of no fault of their very own, actually. The ‘90s have been, for my part, the least attention-grabbing part of the band. The three releases of that interval (Roll the Bones, Counterparts, Check for Echo) have been strong rock albums, however noticeably missing in comparison with their different materials each earlier than and after. The ‘70s and ‘80s have been a prolific and eventful time for Rush, however they stagnated a little bit comparability within the ‘90s. That was most likely on account of them simply maturing as human beings and settling right into a groove as musicians. Regardless that they’d tragic causes for his or her lengthy hiatus within the late ’90s and early ’00s, I believe that point away was good for Rush musically. That rebirth of the band within the early ‘00s sparked a renewed creativity. Vapor Trails was uncooked and had its points, however the songwriting was robust and you could possibly see the band returning to its guitar-heavy roots. That album was vital for them to shake the rust off and finally introduced us two masterpieces in Snakes & Arrows and, particularly, Clockwork Angels.

Wardlaw: When grunge and different musical types emerged within the ’90s, it ended up being a career-killer for some teams. Rush responded by making Counterparts, a harder-edged report that pulled in some sonic influences from that point. That was the final time of their profession the place it felt like they have been attempting to slot in with present developments — and one might argue that they have been all the time making music on their very own phrases, not worrying about becoming into the panorama of what was perceived to be related. They made quite a lot of nice music in these last years and a long time: Clockwork Angels, particularly, deserves extra acclaim than it receives. Whether or not or not they knew at the moment that it will be the ultimate Rush studio album they’d make collectively, it finally ends their run on a extremely excessive word. How do these previous couple of a long time stack up with what they did within the ’70s and ’80s? I do not suppose there’s a lot to check — it is all one lengthy and actually fascinating highway that we have been fortunate sufficient to journey as followers. In every period, they have been experimenting and pushing their artistic boundaries farther and farther out. I do not suppose they ever stopped looking for new paths as a gaggle, and that is admirable.

Christopher: Desperately looking for the very best of each worlds is the correct strategy to describe ’90s and ’00s Rush. There was this deeply ingrained fan base that cherished both the ’70s, the ’80s or each equally, and the band’s personal intent to please each whereas staying true to their want as musicians to develop. It will be unfair to place it in black-and-white phrases, given the band’s want to construct upon the previous right into a sound that will fulfill themselves and their viewers. Finally, Rush achieved the usually not possible act of progressing with out disappointing — another reason why they continue to be legends.

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