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  RUSH
'2112' (LP) and 'All The World's A Stage' (2LP)
(Universal)


Joe Geesin

joe geesin


rush

Rush are one of the biggest, foremost and successful progressive rock bands and also one of Canada's biggest musical exports.

The trio of Geddy Lee (bass, keyboards, vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitars) and Neil Peart (drums) are renowned for their technical virtuosity, complex compositions, concept albums and lyrics that embrace science fiction, philosophy, fantasy and history as well as high vocals. Over 40 million album sales, 24 gold and 14 platinum awards and countless sell-out tours say it all.

Formed in the late sixties, Rush signed to Mercury in the mid 70s and these two albums were originally released in 1976. '2112', Rush's fourth studio album, was their breakthrough, while 'All The World's A Stage' was a landmark live album. These two LPs are part of Universal's vinyl reissue campaign, which began with their second album 'Fly By Night' and sees the Mercury albums issued on 200g vinyl and with high quality digital versions to match (look out for those blu-ray pure audio 5.1 versions and downloads) – an audiophile's dream.

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The band's roots date back to 1968 and schoolmates Lee and Lifeson. After some changes, the line-up in 1971 saw drummer John Rutsey complete the trio. Playing the local club and college circuit, they recorded a cover of Buddy Holly's 'Not Fade Away' for single release but it didn't sell well.

The band released their eponymous debut in 1974, on their own Moon label. Much more Led Zeppelin oriented, it sold well locally and when its success started to build (on stage and in record sales) the band were picked up by Mercury who re-released the album.

Shortly before the US tour, Rutsey was forced to leave due to health issues (and a dislike of touring) and was replaced by Neil Peart; Peart immediately took over much of the lyric writing (providing the literary and fantasy angles), allowing Lee and Lifeson to focus on the instrumental side.

Also released in 1975, 'Caress Of Steel' cemented Rush's more progressive angle of hard rock (although the blues rock roots can still be heard) with longer songs split into segments, and the album featured the epic 'The Necromancer' and 'The Fountain Of Lamneth', the latter running to twenty minutes. The album faired less than the predecessor, is oft overlooked and is considered one of the band's more obscure releases.

Which brings us to '2112', the band's fourth album, epic in every dimension and a worthy breakthrough. After the comparable failure of the previous album, the record label pressured the band for something more approachable, accessible, but the band stuck to what they do best and pulled a right stormer out of the hat.

rush

Originally released in March 1976, the album (featuring the subsequently trademark Starman on the cover) opens with the twenty minute, side one spanning title track. The sci-fi effects (thanks to the ARP Odyssey Synth) match the concept well (a galaxy-wide war). The feel throughout is absorbing – a song easy to lose yourself in, both musically and lyrically. Complex rhythms and guitar work make for a great prog track that (whole or in part) a live staple and fan favourite.

Side two of the album, not part of the concept, features five tracks. Tears features keyboard player Hugh Syme, who would play on several later Rush albums. He also contributes (including strings and flute) to 'A Passage To Bangkok' and 'The Twilight Zone' (the latter about the TV show of the same name).

Basically, whether taken as a prog or a hard rock album, it will be on anyone and everyone's albums you must hear. And rightly so. The thick vinyl, high resolution mastering, the rich sound, this stands well along-side the 5.1 surround sound DVD issued a couple of years ago. Classic in every sense.

The live album, 'All The World's A Stage', was originally issued the same year and was recorded on the 2112 tour. Taken from a couple of consecutive shows in Toronto, June 1976, this is not only a fair representation of period Rush, but as a substantial best-of from the first four albums, it is also considered as the first chapter in Rush's history. It also started a trend of releasing a live album after every four studio albums (a trend not broken until 2003).

As live albums go, it's a solid and sound performance and the set-list a good spread too, giving fans a bit of everything. 'Bastille' is a blistering opener and the classic 'Anthem' follows. 'Fly By Night' and 'Something For Nothing' round off side one well.

Side two opens with the single 'Lakeside Park' – a solid number if a little ploddy, not one Rush have looked back too favourably on, and is followed by a fifteen minute '2112'; slightly abridged ("Sacre Bleu", I hear you justifiably cry) but still a fantastic performance. It's the kind of track that could be easily extended to fill a concert.

A twelve minute 'By-Tor & The Snow Dog' opens side three; again musically and lyrically a story that Rush are renowned for, and includes some extended jamming over the original. 'In The End' is a seven minute full on classic.

Side four closes the set with a fifteen minute 'Working Man'/'Finding My Way' (incorporating the obligatory technical drum solo) and a great 'What You're Doing'.

The production is, like the performance and recording quality, a little rough 'n' ready: a far cry from the studio recordings or, indeed, live recordings of a few years later, but a fair representation of the band at the time.

The band went on to record many more classic prog albums from 'A Farewell To Kings' to 'Hemispheres' and the live set's 'Exit Stage Left' and 'A Show Of Hands' (the latter I was in the crowd for), but chapter one is rounded up well here.

Two classic albums and wonderfully presented, and with codes to download the high resolution remasters digitally, respect is justifiably given, and part of a mouth-watering series.


2112

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All The World's A Stage

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