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Rush, 2112 (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition).  2CDs, 1DVD, 3LPs, 1 vinyl single, starman turntable mat, three collector buttons, June 1976 handbill, June 1976 ticket stuff, starman sticker, LP-sized photos of the three members of Rush, LP-sized liner notes by Rob Bowman, code for digital download, cd-booklet and liner notes, vinyl single adaptor, and starman sketch.  http://www.rush.com/2112-40th/

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So much stuff, I can barely contain my emotions!

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Is there a greater anthem of individualism and anti-conformity in all rock history than Rush’s 2112?  No folk song of the 1950s or protest song of the 1960s comes close to matching Rush’s power of words and music.  Even more than “Bohemian Rhapsody,” 2112 makes us want to bang our heads and raise our fists.  Sorry, Garth.

ECW16 2113 D1.inddFurther, it has spawned not only a graphic novel, but also an anthologizing of perceptive speculative fiction, 2113, edited so brilliantly by Kevin J. Anderson.

When Rush released 2112 on Blu-ray in 5.1 surround sound in 2012, a lot of long-time Rush fans complained that the release did not match the price.  Though accompanied by a hard-back graphic novel of the story, the extra music was only three live songs, previously unreleased.  Some thought the whole package skimpy.

Yet, we’re Rush fan (fanatics, diehards).  This means, of course, that we’re OCD.  If Rush releases it, we buy it!

Whether by accident or design, Rush has answered the critics in 2012 with some of the best packaging around.  The Rush R40 DVD retrospective came with a hardback 52-page booklet and 10(!) DVDs.  A set to die for.  Then came the actual R40 Live Blu-ray/DVD set.  Not bad, but not great, in terms of packaging.  The cardboard casing is moderately ok, but it won’t last long, even with great care.

So, what would the 40th Anniversary Edition of 2112 look like?  Who knew?  There were two options—the expensive set and the uber-expensive set.  Being a Rush fanatic, I went for uber-expensive.

It finally arrived a week ago.

ru21vnltwt000_000And, Holy Moses!  What a package.  Place within a well- constructed package of heavy cardboard and foam came. . .well. . . far more than I expected.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  Even better than the 10DVD R40.  Stickers, buttons, lithographs, LPs on vinyl, CDs, a DVD, and lots and lots of liner notes.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

First of all, the sound quality is extraordinary.  I’m not sure what Rush did to 2112, but it sounds even better here than it did on the 2012 release.  I’m hearing aspects of the album I’d never heard before, and I’ve been listening to this thing for so long that I thought I had all of its mysteries well covered and lodged in the bizarre patterns and pathways of my 49-year old brain.

Second of all, though, this package comes with a number of the tracks covered by non-Rush folks.  Let me just state upfront—hearing others play Rush songs is simply weird to me.  There is something so unique about the Rush three—individually and collectively—that anyone else playing one of their songs just seems wrong, even when the covered song is well done.  Yes, I often love covers, and I think that covers especially prove the viability of music.  But, this is Rush.  You just can’t improve upon the originals.

So, who plays these covers?  The Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Steven Wilson, Jacob Moon, and Billy Talent.  Admittedly, I’ve only heard two or three tracks by the Foo Fighters, and I’d never heard of Billy Talent (a Canadian band) or Jacob Moon (a Canadian solo act) before.  Wilson, of course, loves to cover songs, and he knows how to cover a track.  He makes it his own while also honoring the original.  That he covers “Twilight Zone” is really wild.  If anything, he makes the song much creepier than Rush ever could or did.  I also like the Alice in Chains cover of “Tears.”  The other covers are fine, but I doubt I will go back to them very often.  Each is a fun novelty, but I’m pretty certain I’ll always go back to the originals.

So, my summation?  If you’re a Rush fan, you’ve probably already purchased this.  If you’re a Rush fan and still deciding?  Decide no more.  The decision is: BUY IT!  NOW!  In this world of sorrows, things just don’t get much better than 2112 and, especially, 2112 done perfectly.

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Bradley J. Birzer is co-founder of progarchy.com and author of Neil Peart: Cultural (RE)Percussions (Wordfire Press, 2015).