Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 184: Rush

Typically, when I drive to work, I spend that 35 minutes listening to news radio. Not terribly exciting, but it puts me in 'work' mode.

On the way home, I play music for the CD Odyssey to put myself in 'play' mode.

Lately, when I leave a little early, I try to sneak a track or two before the 7 AM news. I did that today, and as a result got through the latest album in one day.

Disc 184 is...Rush - Self-Titled
Artist: Rush

Year of Release: 1974

What’s Up With The Cover?: Rush explodes on the scene! Not literally of course - that would be gross and hard to clean up. They explode artistically - in fuschia.

How I Came To Know It: This is just me drilling through the Rush collection. I came to this one fairly late, because I was put off knowing that this album is before Neil Peart joined the band. I've had it for a few years now.

How It Stacks Up: Given my worries about a Peartless Rush album, this record was a pleasant surprise. It isn't the greatest, but I'd put it around 14th out of 18 - so not the bottom.

Rating: 3 stars.

As I've noted twice now, when Rush got their start their drummer wasn't the incomparable Neil Peart we know today - it was a guy named John Rutsey. Rutsey may not be Neil Peart but he lays down some sweet drumming on this record.

You might wonder based on this one record why Geddy and Alex would replace him, but based the recent documentary, "Beyond the Lighted Stage" suggests that Rutsey wanted to stick to more traditional hard rock sounds and Geddy and Alex wanted to branch out and be more expiremental - and boy did they ("Bytor and the Snow Dog" anyone?).

This album is very much in the 70s hard rock vibe, and has a sound very strongly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. However, it avoids just being a knock off and the seeds of Rush's sound are evident throughout.

When I first heard this record I was blown away by the musicianship of all three players. In later work, Rush' complicated songs make you almost take their playing for granted. On this record, it is front and centre - particularly Alex Lifeson, who as the guitar player benefits from straight ahead rock that showcases his talents.

My favourites include the opening track, "Finding My Way" the Sabbath-like "What You're Doing" and the seven minute juggernaut in honour of blue collar workers, "Working Man".

What is missing on this record is Peart's lyrics. The best lines here are OK, but the bad ones are truly terrible. There is a song about how nice it is to have friends - the groove is very catchy, but the chorus:

"Take yourself a friend
Keep him with you 'til the end
Whether woman or man
It makes you feel so good."

Or "In the Mood" which advises:

"Hey baby it's a quarter to eight
I feel I'm in the mood!"
Hey baby the hour is late
I feel I've got to move."

Ah...first of all, quarter to eight is not late. Second of all, these lyrics suck. The song itself sounds a lot like a KISS song - it even has cowbell. This combination of goofy rock music and schmaltzy lyrics are not necessarily a bad thing, but you need Paul Stanley to pull it off. Geddy is just too...serious about the whole thing.

Thankfully, Rush found Neil Peart to write their songs after this record, and the rest is history. Having said that - it would be a mistake to sell this record short. The greater focus on the music that results makes for some very enjoyable rock music, and I often take this one down off the shelf and play it.

As for the forgotten Rush member, John Rutsey - he holds his own with two modern day masters. I feel bad for John, and watching "Beyond the Lighted Stage" you can see that Geddy and Alex felt bad about the whole thing as well. As Tom Cruise teaches us in Cocktail, "everything ends badly - or it wouldn't end." The end for Rutsey came in 2008, when he died of complications from his diabetes at the age of 54.

He had to leave the band for it to become truly great, but I still appreciate what he did. He will always be part of Rush's legacy, and I hope he was proud of his work on this record.

Best tracks: Finding My Way, What You're Doing, Working Man.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

"In the Mood" is the only song I know off this album, but I do admire its cheesiness. I wouldn't kick it out of the bed for eating crackers.