Neil Peart’s Painful Victory: Vapor Trails

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Happy 16th birthday to Vapor Trails

It would not be an exaggeration to argue that meeting Carrie Nuttall served as one of the most important moments in Peart’s life and in precipitating Rush 3.0.  In her, Peart found a reason to live fully, a reason to rediscover excellence, and a reason to return to his life in Rush.  It was through their mutual friend, Andrew McNaughton (now deceased), that the two met.

In those days, Andrew and I often talked on the phone from wherever I wandered, and shared our sorrows and anxieties. Typically, Andrew was determined to find a “match” for this crusty old widower. When my motorcycle had carried me back across the continent yet again, to pause in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Andrew sent me a few test Polaroids of a photo assistant he had been working with-a pretty dark-haired girl named Carrie. Again, I was reluctant, gruffly telling him, “not interested”—but finally I made my meandering way west again, and stopped for a while in Los Angeles.[i]

When she met Peart, she knew next to nothing about the band.[ii]  She told him, however, that she would love to see him perform again, especially considering his reputation as a drummer and his own love of music.  For Peart, all of this proved almost Faerie-like.

Andrew introduced me to Carrie, my real angel of redemption; in less than a month we were deeply in love, and in less than a year we were married in a fairy-tale wedding near Santa Barbara. Carrie: Beautiful, smart, cultivated, artistic, affectionate; Deep green eyes, long dark hair, radiant smile; Tall, slender, shapely, nicely put together; Half English, half Swedish, all American, all mine. The answer to a prayer I hadn’t dared to voice, or even dream. Carrie.  Soulmate, a lover, a wife, a new journey to embark upon, the greatest adventure. [iii]

Though still in pain—a pain that would (and will) never fully cease—when he met her, he found her instantly attractive intellectually as well as personally.  They bonded almost immediately in friendship.  She considered him a modern-day Conquistador, armed in black leather and mounted on a powerful red horse, forever seeking the road and adventure.  But, his days of restless exploration had come to an end, and the Ghost Rider faded into memory.  On September 9, 2000, just three days short of his forty-eighth birthday, Peart married Nuttall in Montecito, California.[iv]

Continue reading “Neil Peart’s Painful Victory: Vapor Trails”

Rush’s GRACE UNDER PRESSURE at 34

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Arrival: April 12, 1984

My favorite Rush album has been, at least going back to April 1984, Grace Under Pressure.  I realize that among Rush fans and among prog fans, this might serve as a contentious choice.  My praise of GUP is not in any way meant to denigrate any other Rush albums.  Frankly, I love them all.  Rush has offered us an outrageous wealth of blessings, and I won’t even pretend objectivity.

I love Rush.  I love Grace Under Pressure.

I still remember opening Grace Under Pressure for the first time.  Gently knifing the cellophane so as not to crease the cardboard, slowly pulling out the vinyl wrapped in a paper sleeve, the hues of gray, pink, blue, and granite and that egg caught in a vicegrip, the distinctive smell of a brand new album. . . . the crackle as the needle hit . . . .

I was sixteen.

Continue reading “Rush’s GRACE UNDER PRESSURE at 34”

It’s a Far Cry: The Genius of Rush, Snakes, and Arrows

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Snakes and Arrows, 2007.

Snakes and Arrows, Rush’s 18th studio album, came out on May 1, 2007.  It was the last Rush album to be distributed by Atlantic, but the first to be produced by Nick Raskulinecz.  Snake and Arrows was profoundly progressive, but it was also one of Rush’s blues-iest album, almost certainly influenced by their EP, Feedback, a 30th anniversary tribute to the bands the three members loved in the 1960s.  And yet, even the blues on the album is mischievous, an inversion or twisting of blues, propelling the flow into more classical progressive directions.

The album also sees the return of Peart, the cultural critic and observer.  The first track, “Far Cry,” begins with the harrowing “Pariah dogs and wandering madmen,” a commentary about the evil in society and those who would sell their own souls and become evil to destroy the other evil.  Each, tellingly, is a fundamentalist, “speaking in tongues.”  The track begins, musically, with a psychedelic blues feel.  This was not the world we thought we would inherit, Peart laments.

It’s a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit

It’s a far cry from the way we thought we’d share it

You can almost feel the current flowing

You can almost see the circuits blowing

Even when we feel we might actually make something right, the world spins and we find ourselves rolled over.

Continue reading “It’s a Far Cry: The Genius of Rush, Snakes, and Arrows”

A Must Read – Brad Birzer’s “Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions”

Cultural RePercussions 2 (1)In an effort to avoid lame homecoming activities and pathetically drunk alumni hitting on poor freshmen ladies, I decided to spend last night curled up on my bed listening to Rush (Caress of Steel through Signals) while reading Brad Birzer’s new book on Neil Peart. I’m not going to offer a full review because I don’t think I could do it justice, but I highly recommend it to all of you. It helped me greatly understand both Neil Peart the man and the musician.

After reading Dr. Brad’s book, it is clear that there is a lot Mr. Peart and I disagree about, particularly when it comes to religion. However, I deeply admire him much in the same way I admire other anti-religious or anti-Christian greats of the western tradition. Despite his aversion to Christianity, Peart doesn’t come out and attack Christians for their beliefs. He is very much live and let live, and I can completely support that.

The structure of the book is chronological, beginning with Peart’s beginnings with the band and ending at the present. Brad includes in depth analysis of Rush’s lyrics, Neil Peart’s written prose, and looks at his personal life in order to understand the band’s music. Brad rounds out his look at the intellectual study of Neil Peart with generous interview references from all three band members, as well as personal interviews with masters of current prog, such as Andy Tillison. While Brad didn’t get the opportunity to conduct any new interviews with Peart himself, he makes up for that loss by looking at essentially every pertinent interview, book, and magazine article available.

In short, Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions is a must read for fans of Rush, Neil Peart, progressive rock, literature, the western tradition, and cultural criticism. Brad paints Peart as the great western man of our time, continuing the culture of the past, all the while doing it with the enthusiasm that only Dr. Brad Birzer can provide. It really is an outstanding book, well worth your time.

Order Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions from Amazon, here.

ARC of NEIL PEART Bio is Now Available with Humble Bundle Press

For two weeks only, you can get an advanced review copy of NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.

Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.
Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.

NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS is now available in early form. As an e-book, a part of the Humble Bundle. For two weeks only!

$15 and you get tons of books, including an advanced review copy of the Peart bio.

The final paperback and ebook (all formats) version will be out September 15.

$5.99/ebook
$14.99/paperback