All Rush Albums as ranked by 3RDegree’s Robert James Pashman:
Caveat — even not so good “albums” have some, even many great “songs” so take the tendency toward judging Rush (and other bands) by ALBUM with a grain of salt.
1. Moving Pictures 1981
I’ve fought this forever, claiming my fave as Permanent Waves but its appeal is undeniable. Too obvious because it’s their best seller but it’s Rush at its Rushiest and is practically a greatest hits collection on its own. When there’s a Rush best of collection made, it’s often interesting to see what song from Moving Pictures is left off of it. Has probably the best album side ever made by anyone.
2. Permanent Waves 1980
I think this is the archetype for Moving Pictures and has an even better epic song on it than Moving Pictures does (“Natural Science” being better than “The Camera Eye”). Has 2 radio staples (“The Spirit Of Radio” and “Freewill”) and even 2 out-of-character love songs (or relationship songs) that are both home runs (“Entre Nous” and “Different Strings”).
3. Power Windows 1985
This one is chock-full of orchestration, keyboards and even a choir (all on “Marathon”) and has some of the best Peart lyrics ever committed to paper. It was used as a teaching tool in schools even. Some saw this as the apex of the band getting in too deep with keyboards and far away from what made them great, but I see it as the band successfully staying relevant, strongly melodic and not afraid of dressing up the songs any way they saw fit.
4. A Farewell To Kings 1977
Probably the most interesting Rush album as it incorporates keyboards for solos and effect and includes lot of sci-fi overtones. The staple “Closer To The Heart” sneaks its way into the madness too.
5. Hemispheres 1978
More of the same from the previous album but with slightly more “filler” moments and perhaps a bit too much repeating of themes on the side one long epic.
6. 2112 1976
Many would have this higher but that’s probably based on how good side one’s title track epic is. It’s sort of legendary now if you’ve seen the documentary how this is the album that they held up a big middle finger to the music industry and got rewarded for it from fans and never had to answer to the “suits” again. For that alone, it’s totally cool.
7-9. Signals 1982, Grace Under Pressure 1984, Hold Your Fire 1987
I think all of these are pretty equally interesting, incorporating the keyboards of the time and reggae and pop stylings. I think Signals gets a little “samey” synth-wise, whereas GUP and HYF offer more variety but Signals has great lyrics and a few of their best (“Subdivisions”, “Losing It”) and their only Top 40 “hit” (“New World Man”). GUP has a dark feel to it and HYF the excellent underrated “Open Secrets”.
10. Clockwork Angels 2012
A band staying relevant decades into their career. The title track is one of their best songs ever. The album hasn’t a clunker really and it’s got an over-arching theme. It’s their first entire concept album.
11. Counterparts 1993
The best from the 90s. Has their answer to grunge (“Stick It Out”), a too-wordy but excellent emotional masterpiece (“Nobody’s Hero”) and their best instrumental out of the many they put out in the 90s (“Leave That Thing Alone”). Also has one of my favorite dark horse tracks with “Double Agent”.
12-13. Snakes & Arrows 2007, Presto 1989
Two of the best of the “medium quality” Rush albums. S & A‘s “Far Cry”, “Armor & Sword” and “Spindrift” are hard hitting, excellent tracks and Presto‘s “Show Don’t Tell” signified the band with the guitar and the riff in the forefront after many albums with Alex sharing space with keyboards. “The Pass” is one of Rush’s most emotional and melodic tracks with “Available Light” a close second.
14. Vapor Trails 2002
Strange with its orchestrated and overdubbed bass and guitar tracks on almost every track but has the standout “Ghost Rider” and ultra-strange “Freeze”. At this point, we were just happy to have them back.
15. Fly By Night 1975
Lots of interesting proto-prog (as pertaining to Rush only) mixed with single length tracks.
16. Roll The Bones 1991
Some of Rush’s best and worst songs are on this thin-sounding album. It’s probably their most overrated—if only because it did well at the time. “Face Up”, “Neurotica” and 2 others are just horrible. There’s way more interesting things about some of the worst tracks on other albums but these lesser-known RTB tracks are borderline embarrasing.
17. Test For Echo 1996
“Driven”, “Time & Motion” and “Totem” are really interesting but the rest of the album is just meh. Judging from Rush’s set lists, I think they agree with me.
18. Caress Of Steel 1975
They get an “A for effort” here but ultimately failed at the time only to try again and succeed with 2112. This album interests me when I hear it if only because I know it the least and it sounds “new”.
19. Rush 1974
Not bad, just not quite Rush yet.