Hi there everyone! Brent here. I've decided to write a regular column on the stuff that I love. All of it is a bit on the geeky side in one way or another and sometimes it will be about stuff I talk about on the regular podcast but don't have a chance to dive into deeper.
For this first piece, I want to talk about one of my all-time favourite bands, Rush.
I'm kind of a weird fan in terms of when I got into the band. I came on board in the early 90's with the Counterparts album. While I had kind of heard them here and there over the years, it wasn't until Counterparts that I became hooked.
The thing about Rush is they were just so good. Lyrics were pretty in-depth with a number of layers to them. Neil Peart, their main lyricist and the man who sat behind Rush's drum kit since 1974, took over the lyric writing with the band's second album, evolved as he went along.
The songs went from kind of standard rock material to a little bit headier. There were clear references to Ayn Rand, Lord of the Rings as well as musical sci-fi and fantasy realms of Neil's own creation.
They were smart but not snobby. Neil felt like that older friend or uncle who knew more than you and had read better books than you but didn't hold it over your head. The kind of guy who would say "Hey, if you like that, try reading these."
As the years would go by, these lyrics would become more personal and less fantasy but they were still well crafted and engaging.
As the years would go by, these lyrics would become more personal and less fantasy but they were still well crafted and engaging. One of my personal favourites is from "Limelight" off of the Moving Pictures album:
Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can't pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend
As I would discover later in life, this was Neil summing up his thoughts on fame in the most honest way possible but still incredibly poetic. Ever since I've read the story behind these lyrics, I look at all of my interactions with celebrities in a different way.
Not that the music was any slouch either. On their own, each member of Rush is at the top of their instrument. Alex Liefson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart have been ranked as among the best by their peers and fans alike but as a trio, they were incredible.
Their music matched the lyrics, complex but accessible. It could fill stadiums with sound but in the case of songs like "The Pass," it could still feel very intimate.
Rush wasn't against changing up things. There was their prog-rock albums, straight-ahead rock albums, the synthesizer period, they would go out and explore things and then bring back what worked for the next album.
So now that I've hopefully got you interested, where do you start? The discography can seem intense and a little foreboding from the outside, I know it was for me at first, but there are a couple of albums from each era. For me, there are a couple of easy access points.
Start with 1976's 2112, an amazing prog-rock masterpiece with one of the best intro riffs in rock history. It has everything you've ever heard about Rush rolled into one album.
Follow that with 1981's Moving Pictures. The big prog-rock productions aren't found here but it gives you a great taste for what Rush could do with all of their tools at that point and it has a bit of everything. The more personal lyrics of "Limelight" appear right beside the sci-fi goodness of "Red Barchetta."
The third album I'd go with is 2012's Clockwork Angels. While it is a concept album, the music is a little looser than other projects. It's pretty much the culmination of the band up until that point and as it will serve as their final studio album, it's a fantastic note to go out on.
As you may know, Neil Peart passed away recently after a long bout with brain cancer. For those of who were fans, it was a bit of a blow. Other than Bowie, there really hasn't been a musician passing that knocked me as hard as this one. I'm pretty lucky, through some contacts, I managed to wrangle some really good seats for the first of their last two shows in Toronto.
At the time it was known that this was probably the last tour but there was still some hope that we would get some one-off shows.
Alas, that was not to be but I'm glad I got to go to that show. The band went through songs from their entire discography backwards. At the end of the show, the band was back to playing in a facsimile of a high school gym. The show just seemed perfect.
If I've managed to grab your attention, here is a solid playlist with a song or two from every Rush studio album. Give it a listen.