Rush’s 2112 at 40: The Super Deluxe Edition

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/

pr_image-820x502
So much stuff, I can barely contain my emotions!

***

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.

Continue reading “Rush’s 2112 at 40: The Super Deluxe Edition”

2112: The Uncompromising Integrity of Neil Peart’s Individualism

Happy Fortieth Anniversary, 2112!

2112
The fourth studio album by Rush, 2112 (1976).

While Caress of Steel ended on an organic, open and free-spirited note, their fourth album, 2112, began with discordant and spacey computer noises and swatches of sound.  The contrast in mood and sound could not have been greater.  2112 even inverted the structure of Caress, placing the epic side-long track on side one of the album, with the shorter songs on side two.

Again, it’s worth remembering that if they were going to end, they were going to do so on their own terms.  If Rush was going “down the tubes,” they were going to go down with a serious statement and a very, very loud thud.  No whimper.  Only a bang.  “We talked about how we would rather go down fighting rather than try to make the kind of record they wanted us to make,” Lee remembers.  “We made 2112 figuring everyone would hate it, but we were going to go out in a blaze of glory.”[i]  Alex feels the same.  “2112 is all about fighting the man,” he states.  “Fortunately for us, that became a marker. That was also the first time that we really started to sound like ourselves.”[ii]  It is hard to judge whether or not this anti-authoritarian streak in Rush came from the group as a whole or from each of the three individuals who made up the band.  Perhaps the distinction is a false or a super-fine one.

Continue reading “2112: The Uncompromising Integrity of Neil Peart’s Individualism”

2113: Peartian Imaginings

2113
ECW, 2016.

When it comes to edifying entertainment, three things top my personal list of favorites: listening to Rush and other progressive rock; reading the works of Kevin J. Anderson; and delving deeply into the nuances and permutations of various science-fiction mythologies.

But, greedily, I must ask: what if I can have all three at once?

What if science-fiction mastermind Kevin J. Anderson created massive worlds—exploring every great idea and every nook and cranny of an imagined universe—set to the vast sound and lyricscapes of Rush and Neil Peart?

clockwork livesGloriously, Anderson has done just this, authoring and co-authoring a number of short stories, novels, and graphic novels set in the Rush universe.  There’s nothing Anderson has written that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend with great enthusiasm, but he is at his absolute best when working with Neil Peart and with the worlds imagined by Rush as a band.  His Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives certainly represent some of the very best fantasies I have ever read, and I have read quite a few!  As I’ve noted in other reviews, Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives are each complex and compelling Chestertonian and Tolkienian faery tales.

Now, through the excellent and rather perfectionist Canadian press, ECW, Anderson and John McFetridge have edited a wide-ranging collection of stories, 2113, each tale inspired by a various Rush song.  Sometimes the influence is direct and obvious, but, just as often, the influence is indirect and sideways.  Anderson and McFetridge have clearly encouraged a range of expression.  If a theme emerges, it is, naturally, the story of the individual human person, endowed with integrity and will, fighting against the conformism of governments, societies, and corporations.

[Without giving too much away, let me note that Anderson brilliantly connects the world of 2112 to the world of Clockwork Angels in the final paragraph of his own rather Walter-Miller-esque short story, “2113.”]

While most of the tales are new, two come from that time before time, before Peart had joined Rush: Fritz Leiber’s 1967 “Gonna Roll the Bones,” and Richard Foster’s 1973 “A Nice Morning Drive.”  It is not only wise, but handy to have these tales included in this collection.

An “advanced reading copy” arrived at Progarchy HQ yesterday afternoon, and yours truly has been gloriously devouring it.  It is a satisfying, humbling, and inspiring book.

But, then. . . what else would I expect.  Rush?  Science fiction?  Short stories?  Alternate universes?  Neil Peart?  ECW?  Kevin J. Anderson?  Well, of course, it’s perfect.  You definitely need to add this thing of perfection to your own collection.

2113 comes out officially on April 12, 2016, and can be ordered from ECW and from Amazon.

***

Bradley J. Birzer is editor of progarchy.com and author of Neil Peart: Cultural (RE)Percussions (2015).

 

 

2113 Sampler: Kevin J. Anderson

2113 (1)
The sampler is now available.  Pre-order as soon as possible.

Kevin J. Anderson is a wonder.  When it comes to the mythology of Rush–whether it’s 2112 or CLOCKWORK ANGELS–Anderson might very well be the uncredited fourth member of the band.  In everything this Hugo-Nominated author does, he conquers and with absolute brilliance.

To preorder, go here: http://ecwpress.com/collections/science-fiction/products/2113

 

If I Can Only Pick Ten, Well Then …

 

rushat40

Ok, so I’m sitting at work today just minding my own business and getting things done when an email comes in from WordPress. It asks me to approve a couple of pingbacks to a piece I had written about the incredible Rush album, Moving Pictures. Well, the next thing you know, I’m seeing several posts about Rush’s top 10 albums, as well as a few regarding top prog albums or top long-form prog pieces. So now, instead of working, I’m spending at least an hour reading Progarchy posts instead of working. You guys are destroyers of discipline!!!
😉
Although I’m usually not one for lists that require ranking, the invitation to rank the top 10 Rush albums has proven to be irresistible to me. So, without further ado, here we go:

1) Moving Pictures: I’ve written extensively about this one, so I’ll just add the link here.

2) Grace Under Pressure: When this album came out, I was a few months shy of 20 years old, and in the Navy. At the time, I was stationed in Newport News, VA, as the submarine upon which I would serve, the USS Olympia, SSN 717 (Este Paratus) was under construction in the docks at Newport News Shipbuilding. While an attack submarine and not a ballistic missile sub, the Olympia would be configured to carry Tomahawk land attack missiles with nuclear warheads. The Cold War was heating up, and our main adversaries, the Soviet Union, had three submarines for every one of ours. And my job, as a sonar technician, was going to be to find theirs before they found us. In short, there was a certain “heaviness” in my life at the time. That made the timing of this album absolutely perfect. Lyrically, this is the heaviest album Rush has ever done. The pressures of life, both great and small, weave their way through this album. Indeed, like many of my shipmates, I felt like “the world weighs on my shoulders” at that time. This album resonated. It also has some outstanding music on it, and like Moving Pictures, it has an almost perfect balance between guitars and keyboards.

3) 2112: The theme of resonating continues here. There are a number Rush albums other than those listed that I like better than this from a musical perspective. But this one resonates on a different level and thus gets a high ranking on this list. As I recounted here, around the same time I first heard this album, I had numerous conversations with my maternal grandmother, who along with the rest my mother’s immediate family, was a refugee from what was then communist East Germany. The individual vs. the state, freedom vs. tyranny, individualism vs. collectivism – all those themes of the conversations with my grandmother were echoed in the lyrics of the title suite. This was the first time I had really contemplated lyrics that were about larger things in the world. And because of this, I always paid more attention to Rush lyrics than I would with other bands, always looking for deeper meaning and larger truths. This carried over to side 2 of the album, as the messages contained within Lessons and Something for Nothing led me to realize that while I was fortunate enough to have been born in a relatively free country, it was my own responsibility to make the most, and best, of that freedom.

4) Clockwork Angels: I am simply gobsmacked that a band that has been around as long as Rush can be this creative this late in their career. My first true prog love, Yes, was a great band for a while, but they haven’t been creatively great in decades, instead mostly living off of past glories (although what incredible glories they were). Rush on the other hand, despite having some incredibly glorious moments in their own musical past, has never rested on them. Instead, they pushed themselves forward and continued to create great music, and really hit a home run here. I love the lyrics in this album, which open themselves to a number of interpretations. Whereas Brad has found themes of small-r republican liberty and individualism within them, I have found a lot of Stoic wisdom weaving its way through Neil’s words, particularly in the latter half of the album as the protagonist starts to have one epiphany after another. I have little doubt that Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius would readily understand messages contained within The Garden. Throw in some great guitar work, the excellent bass work, and the always stellar drums, and you’ve got a recipe for greatness, age of the cooks be damned.

5) Power Windows: Controversial to some because of the keyboards, but not to these ears. This is a great collection of songs. With all of the malfeasance in the financial markets and corruption of the political system, The Big Money seems even more relevant today than when it was released. Middletown Dreams is a great meditation on the quiet desperation of some ordinary lives. I loved Marathon when this album was first released and the wisdom contained in the lyrics has only become more evident as I have piled on the years. And Grand Designs is a great critique of lowest common denominator pop culture and the struggle to maintain integrity within. There is some great playing on this album, such as Geddy Lee’s bass during Marathon and some blistering guitar work by Alex Lifeson on The Big Money. This album has definitely earned its place in the top 5.

6) Hemispheres: This is the most overtly prog album Rush ever did, at least in the 70’s sense of the word. The title suite that encompasses the side 1 of the original LP was a thing of beauty, with excellence in all phases: guitar, bass, drums, and lyrics. In the overarching theme of Hemispheres, Peart provides more wisdom to latch onto and live by. The Trees is a great metaphor for the perils of enforced equality. And La Villa Strangiato is one of the most fascinatingly complex instrumentals ever done by any rock band.

7) Permanent Waves: Like Moving Pictures, this is a transitional album, as the transition of Rush from the 70’s to the 80’s really took two steps. The first step was here, as they pared down some of the excess of the previous three albums. The most well-known song is, of course, The Spirit of Radio, about the tension between art and commerce and maintaining one’s integrity through the same.  Several other great tracks are here too. The thunderstorm imagery invoked by Jacob’s Ladder is a thing of lyrical beauty, while Free Will, Different Strings, and Entre Nous are all excellent in their own right. But it is the mini-epic Natural Science that really puts this album over the top for me. I was finally able to witness the performance of this song live on the Snakes and Arrows tour, and it was one of those moments I will never forget.

8) Vapor Trails: This album just screams TRIUMPH!!! After the well-documented tragedies, travels, and searching for answers, Rush returned from a near death of their own with a spectacular album. One Little Victory taught us to take joy in even the smallest victories, while the title song reminds us of our transitory nature. Ghost Rider takes us on the road with Neil, while Secret Touch implores us to have the fortitude to endure. The underrated gem and favorite track for me on this album is Earthshine, with it’s amazement at nature’s beauty. This is a statement album by Rush, and that statement was, emphatically, “we are BACK!”

9) A Farewell to Kings: The title track, Cinderella Man, Cygnus X-1 and Madrigal are all excellent tracks in their own right. But the two tracks that really make this albums are the anthem Closer to the Heart and the epic Xanadu. These became two of my favorite Rush tracks upon initially hearing them and they remain so to this day. That being said, the one downside of this album for me is the production, which was a bit harsh and dry. Particularly with Xanadu, I’ve always preferred the live version from Exit Stage Left over the studio version.

10) Signals: This is a difficult album for some, mainly due to the fact that it is probably the most keyboard dominated Rush album, and thus Lifeson’s guitar often gets lost in the mix. That’s still not enough to knock it out of my top 10, as the songs are still just too good. Subdivisions is another Rush anthem, one full of great insights and even more wisdom. For guitar excellence, The Analog Kid and New World Man are two tracks where it didn’t get lost in the mix. And while few others would mention it, the heart of my inner space geek is warmed to no end by Countdown, which ultimately celebrates humanity’s ability to create and do great things.

Looking at the other lists of best Rush albums here, it’s evident that each of us differs somewhat from one another in our preferences. And I myself will agonize over some of the albums left off the list.  I’ve listed ten albums above which I consider to be truly great albums, and I’ve had to wonder if I should have had others on the list. But how many bands ever release ten great albums? Neither The Beatles, nor prog-gods Yes, nor 70’s icons Led Zeppelin can claim to have ten great albums in their catalog (Zeppelin didn’t even get ten studio albums total, unless you count the posthumous Coda). In comparison, some of the albums that didn’t make my list (or that of others) are truly great albums. And therein lies yet another testament to the true greatness, the unparalleled excellence that is Rush.

All of 2014: Rush @ 40

 

rush at 40.001 - Version 2

Long to longish progarchist posts on Rush
Hold your Fire -Rush’s finest? by Tad Wert (*progarchy’s single most popular post ever)

https://progarchy.com/2014/04/24/rushs-finest-album-hold-your-fire-until-youve-read-my-analysis/

***

Erik Heter on Moving Pictures as Synergy

https://progarchy.com/2014/04/27/synergistic-perfection-first-and-lasting-impressions-of-moving-pictures/

***

Discovering Rush on their 40th anniversary by Eric Perry

https://progarchy.com/2014/04/25/discovering-rush-the-40-year-old-virgin/

***

The first Rush album reviewed by Craig Breaden

https://progarchy.com/2014/02/22/rushs-first/

***

A review of A Farewell to Kings by Kevin McCormick

https://progarchy.com/2013/01/21/rush-a-farewell-to-hemispheres-part-i/

***

A review of Power Windows by Brad Birzer

https://progarchy.com/2013/12/14/power-windows-rush-and-excellence-against-conformity/

***

Kevin Williams on Clockwork Angels Tour

https://progarchy.com/2013/11/24/rushs-clockwork-angels-tour-straddles-the-80s-and-the-now/

***

Brad Birzer on Clockwork Angels Tour

https://progarchy.com/2013/11/27/rush-2-0-clockwork-angels-tour-2013-review/

***

Erik Heter on Clockwork Angels Tour Concert in Texas

https://progarchy.com/2013/04/24/you-can-do-a-lot-in-a-lifetime-if-you-dont-burn-out-too-fast-rush-april-23-2013-at-the-frank-erwin-center-austin-texas/

***

A review of Vapor Trails Remixed by Birzer

https://progarchy.com/2013/10/05/resignated-joy-rush-and-vapor-trails-2013/

***

A review of Grace Under Pressure by Birzer

https://progarchy.com/2013/02/21/wind-blown-notes-rush-and-grace-under-pressure/

 

rush snakesAnd, our favorite Rush sites

(please support these incredible sites and the fine humans who run them!)

***

Power Windows: http://www.2112.net/powerwindows/main/Home.htm

***

Rush Vault: http://rushvault.com/

***

Rush is a Band: http://www.rushisaband.com/

***

Cygnus X-1: http://www.cygnus-x1.net/links/rush/index.php

Hugh Howey’s Wool

ImageI just finished my Christmas reading, Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus, having bought it on special for $1.99 (for my Kindle) based on one of those Amazon emails:  “CBreaden, here are books we think you might enjoy!”  Always a leap of faith, going with this kind of marketing, but in a heat-haze brought on by recently finishing Joe Abercrombie’s Heroes and having nothing at hand I wanted to read, I took that leap.

About halfway through the collection of five novellas, I realized I needed to alert the prog world to it, thus uncovering my not-so-hidden geek love (limited as it may be) for sci-fi and prog rock’s connection to it.  I think like a lot of us I first fell under this spell with Rush’s 2112, which I didn’t hear until several years after its release but, when I did, quickly turned to Ayn Rand’s Anthem for the text on which Neil Peart based some of his story.  Rand’s most succinct novel, and to me her most powerful, coupled with Rush’s record, raised a fairly high bar.  Alternate worlds are frequently the stuff of prog, but only on occasion are they expertly wrought in song.

Wool immediately struck me as one successor to Rand’s Anthem, but with a less severe political bent, characters more like the regular people you and I know, and little reliance on metaphor.  What it has in common is a lean narrative and concise style, although the five novellas collected together in the omnibus are far longer than Anthem.  The similarities don’t end there:  like Anthem, Wool has at its center a people being kept from the truth.  It tells the story from the perspective of several characters among a large population who have for hundreds of years inhabited an underground “silo,” which as readers we understand to be an enormously deep, hugely broad, completely self-sufficient bomb shelter.  The only connection to the world beyond the silo is a series of screens that project images of the outside.  These images are produced by cameras mounted to the exterior above-ground portion of the silo, the lenses of which need regular cleaning due to the howling nuclear-desolate wastewinds whipping the landscape.  This task is given to individuals who commit crimes in the silo, which include having dangerous ideas like wanting to know what the outside is like or how we came to be in this blasted silo anyhow.  Okay, so maybe there is some metaphor.

What strikes me about Wool and Anthem, and the reason I bring Wool to Progarchy with a big recommendation to read it, is the imagination of an alternate world, not just by the author, but by his characters.  What happened outside the silo? What are our origins? Is what we see on the screens real? (Plato, anyone?) Howey’s characters are not unsubtle, one-dimensional creatures.  They struggle with these questions with both trepidation and reluctance for committing a crime, and for the mind-bending possibility embedded in “what if?”  This also strikes me as core to the experimentation necessary to successful, progressive music.

– Craig Breaden, December 27, 2012

P.S. Howey has been writing like a madman.  Initially, he self-marketed Wool, beginning in late 2011, almost entirely as an e-book on Amazon.  He’s now been picked up by print publishers, but continues to offer his books online for cheap.  He’s already two volumes in to the prequel to Wool.  Check his site here: http://www.hughhowey.com/. Buy his books here: http://www.amazon.com/Hugh-Howey/e/B002RX4S5Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1