soundstreamsunday: “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush

permanent-waves_coca-colaFrom Rush’s transitional Permanent Waves, “Jacob’s Ladder” is a psychedelic march, carrying up its spiral staircase Neil Peart’s cosmic Coleridge musings.  It thunders across the eastern deserts evoked by its title, a biblical steampunk, all dust and whirlwind and prophetic dreams set against Rush’s tightening musical clockwork.  The song’s three sections flow together, distinct but seamless, no verses or choruses, only a gradual rising heavenward.  Early on Alex Lifeson blasts an economical, freakout solo across a moorish scale, heavy as an elephant swaying across a mountain pass, and from that point forward commands cycling chord changes and arpeggiated stutters, underpinned by a bolero rhythm favored by the band around this time.  Geddy Lee’s bass and keyboard work hits a balance that Rush would capitalize on with Moving Pictures, while Peart’s drumming, as usual, defies adequate description (although “badass” will do), ever shifting, restless and precise.  It is a descendant of their epic “Xanadu” and a forebear of “YYZ,” and while stoner-era Rush was cobwebbing at this point, “Jacob’s Ladder” made a case for the band’s continued long-form potency and its ability to take heavy music to places no one else, not anyone, was going.

soundstreamsunday archive and playlist

Editor’s note:

And, for your pleasure, a convenient list of other progarchy articles on Rush:

Rush–Snakes and Arrows (2007)–Review by Brad Birzer 

Rush – ABC 1974 – Live – 1974 (released 2015) – Review by Craig Breaden

Rush – A Farewell to Kings – 1977 – Review by Kevin McCormick

Rush – Clockwork Angels Tour (Live) – 2013 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – Grace Under Pressure – 1984 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – Power Windows – 1985 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – R40 “Completist” live concerts box set – 2014 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – R40 Live – 2015 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – Rush – 1974 – Reviewed by Craig Breaden

Rush – Test For Echo – 1996 – Review by Brad Birzer

Rush – Vapor Trails Remixed – 2013 – Review by Brad Birzer

Clockwork Angels – Concert review by Brad Birzer (2012)

Kevin J. Anderson – Clockwork Angels – The Comic Scripts – 2014 – Review by Brad Birzer

The Art of Rush – Hugh Syme, written by Stephen Humphries – 2015 – Book Review by Brad Birzer

Neil Peart: The Most Endangered Species – Essay by Brad Birzer (discussion of “Natural Science”)

The Saving Grace of Neil Peart – Essay by Brad Birzer

Brad Birzer’s Top 10 Rush Albums

3 thoughts on “soundstreamsunday: “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush

  1. peter wolf

    Waves within you have summed it up quite well a brilliant album one of their best. It’s difficult to decide if i had a choice to pick one of their albums i’d have to go with Moving Pictures & Power Windows although i have never seen them live i have a number of their concerts on bluray & the great thing is to have 2112 on bluray & Moving Pictures on same the anniversary editions are spectacular, but there is one album that rarely get’s a mention although it does sound a little like The Police, Hold Your Fire. Did you ever get to see them live?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Peter, thanks for your thoughts. I saw them live twice, in their late 80s/early 90s synth-y period. Even so, both shows rocked, and lived up to their reputation as a powerful force on stage. I would have liked to have seen them on their Clockwork Angels or R40 Tour, even though Geddy’s voice is getting to a point where I don’t enjoy listening to it when I hear recent live material. I don’t listen to their 2000s work as much as their earlier stuff, but I really respect what they did during this time. I often think it would have been cool for them to go nostalgic, just once (I mean, they did this on Feedback, right?), and do a record of long-form songs containing the kinds of dynamics they were working with on Farewell to Kings or 2112. Still, acknowledging they are artists and looking back is not really their thing, it’s hard to imagine a more fully realized sound than Rush’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To chime in here,with Peter and Craig here,I went to my very FIRST “Rush” Concert,DURING their Hold Your Fire tour back in 1987!!! Most AMAZING SHOW EVER!!! From then on out,I have seen them live with EVERY SINGLE ALBUM they came out with since,and went on tour with!!! (including their “final”…..but I don’t like to SAY it’s their final) where they FINALLY did “Losing It” LIVE,with the AWESOME “Ben Mink” LIVE on the electric-violin!!! OMG,THAT was just PURE AWESOMENESS to view that song live!!! 🙂 Anyhoo………..Jacob’s Ladder was ALSO performed during their set,and LET ME TELL YOU…………..these guys were JUST as PRECISE and HEAD-ON with their synchronicity during this song,as they were when they RECORDED IT back in 1979!!! Memories were definitely made during THAT night of watching them run through their 40+ years of being together!!! ❤

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