Review of ART OF RUSH, HUGH SYME: SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE, written by Stephen Humphries (2112 Books, 2015), with a brief essay by Neil Peart.
In a week, my family and I move back to Michigan. It’s been an incredible year in Colorado, and we’ll be very sad to leave this rather textured slice of heaven. The year went by all too quickly. As you can imagine, the house is in chaos, and, at many levels, so is my life. Books here, cds there, my brain across the street, six kids and one cat feeling the “unsettlement” of the moment.
This is a long and convoluted way of writing. . . .
I should’ve reviewed THE ART OF RUSH a month ago. It’s written by a truly gifted music journalist and critic, Stephen Humphries (a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan). I have nothing but respect for Humphries, and the more I read him, the more I like him. He’s opened my eyes to my own biases against certain artists, and he’s more than once made me rethink some dogma I’d already decided and locked away, presumably (at least at the moment of decision) forever. THE ART OF RUSH, amazingly enough, is his first book, though he’s been publishing articles and reviews for almost two decades.
And, of course, it’s designed and illustrated by one of the most gifts men in the visual arts today, Hugh Syme.
I certainly don’t want to get into an us vs. them situation, but let’s say that where Roger Dean is beautiful, Syme is diverse and eclectic. Dean has spent a lifetime exploring consistency in his art, while Syme has worked with and in every artistic endeavor and genre imaginable. Dean is classic, and Syme is romantic. Dean is a perfectionist, and Syme is an explorer.
Everyone recognizes a Roger Dean painting anywhere–whether it’s residing on a Yes album or stolen by a major Hollywood producer. Probably only James Marsh (Talk Talk) is as distinctive as Dean, though Dean is better known.
THE ART OF RUSH shows exactly why Syme is not as distinctive as a Dean or a Marsh. He’s too (damn!) interesting to be distinctive. Whether it’s a font, an image, or an idea, Syme tries anything. And, crazily enough, it always works!
As is well known, Syme’s first cover for Rush was 1975’s CARESS OF STEEL. Peart liked and appreciated Syme so much, Syme has designed very album (inside and out) since. This means he’s been a part of Rush only a year less than Peart himself. And, the two men get along famously. Syme possesses the wonderful and uncanny ability to make the ideas of Peart–a radical individualist, perfectionist, and explorer in his own right–visual and successfully so.
The book, produced by 2112 Books, comes in three versions: tall, grande, and venti. Just joking–with apologies to Starbucks. No, it did come in three versions when released in May, but the Rush Backstage website only lists the cheapest one now. A $99/272 page hardback, coffee table style. Believe me, it’s well worth the $99.
I could be wrong, but I think it’s ONLY available at the Rush Backstage website. Amazon.com comes up with nothing when I searched for it there.
THE ART OF RUSH is as beautifully crafted (and as heavy!) as you’d expect from Syme. The binding, the pages, the design. . . all perfect. Peart provides a short but kind introduction, and Humphries provides all the words thereafter.
My version also came with an LP size card-stock poster celebrating forty years of Rush. Whether this is normal or not, I’m not sure. But, I am sure that the ART OF RUSH is a glorious thing to own and to linger over. It is a piece of perfection, in and of itself.