Rush’s Clockwork Angels (It Can Get None More Prog!)

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Rush’s 19th Studio Album.  Six years old today.  Art by Hugh Syme.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the release of the final Rush studio album, CLOCKWORK ANGELS.  It can get “nun more” prog.  

[This piece is dedicated to my great and brave friend, Steve Horwitz, fellow Rush-ian]

Rush’s nineteenth studio album, Clockwork Angels, came out on June 12, 2012.  It was the first album to be distributed by heavy-metal label, Roadrunner, and the second to be produced by Nick Raskulinecz.  As mentioned at this beginning of this book, the story of Clockwork Angelsis such an artistic success—as a story, a concert, a novel, a sequel to the novel, a graphic novel, an audio book, and a series of comic books—that it really overshadows not only the actual album but much of Rush’s other art.  It is, of course, the culmination of forty years of care, of love, and of purpose.  However much the Clockwork universe has dwarfed the album itself, it is very much worth considering the original source material.

Clockwork Angelscame out a full six years after Snakes and Arrows, a break between albums even greater than that between Test for Echoand Vapor Trails.  Still, few worried as hints came out frequently about the forthcoming Rush album during that time, and Rush even released versions of the two opening songs as singles, performing them on the Time Machine Tourof 2011.  As few would disagree, the wait for the final product was well worth it.  While Moving Pictures—because of its time and place in history—might always remain the iconic Rush album, Clockwork Angelsis arguably the best, cohesive piece of art the band has ever made. It reveals a maturity in lyrics and music understandably absent in the first few Rush albums, but it also possesses every explosion of energy those albums expressed.

Continue reading “Rush’s Clockwork Angels (It Can Get None More Prog!)”

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”

Rush on the Web: “Rush is a Band” and “Power Windows”

If you’ve had a chance to look at our blog roll, you’ll see a couple of Rush sites.  In particular, I’d like to point out RUSHISABAND and POWERWINDOWS.  Let me just be blunt–I think the world of these sites.  I love the spirit they bring to the internet, and I deeply admire the men (Ed Stenger and Eric Hansen, respectively) who run each.

When we–Carl, Chris, and Kevin–founded progarchy back in 2012, I (Brad) really had three sites in mind to emulate: the Dutch Progressive Rock Page, Rush is a Band, and Power Windows.

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Rush is a Band

Frankly, I wanted to do for Big Big Train what the latter two have done for Rush.

Continue reading “Rush on the Web: “Rush is a Band” and “Power Windows””

SIGNALS (1982): A Song Cycle by Rush

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Rush, SIGNALS, 1982.  A New Wave-Prog Song Cycle.

The last album produced by the then fourth-member of Rush, Terry Brown, Signals (September 9, 1982) marked yet again a major progression in the music of Rush as well as in the lyrics of Neil Peart.  The pressure to produce something similar to the previous year’s Moving Pictures naturally proved immense, as they had never encountered such success.  On the Moving Pictures tour alone, fan attendance doubled at concerts, and almost anyone in the American Midwest could hear one of three tracks from the album almost anytime on FM rock radio.  But the three main members of Rush decided that a second Moving Pictures would be too easy.  They had done that album, accomplished what they had sought to accomplish, and they wanted to take their music in new ways.  In particular, Lee had become more and more interested in keyboards and composing on them.  He never planned to become a “Keith Emerson,” but he loved the challenge the keyboards brought him. [1]  Not surprisingly, especially given Lee’s interest and the learning curve he needed to understand and overcome regarding synthesizers, the keys employed on the album had either 1) a deep, booming bass sound or 2) an airy, soaring feel.  Lee remembers:

I was getting bored writing. I felt like we were falling into a pattern of how we were writing on bass, guitar and drums. Adding the keyboards was fascinating for me and I was learning more about writing music from a different angle.[2]

Further, he claimed, the keyboards allowed Rush to expand beyond the trio without actually adding a new member of the band.[3]  With Signals and the following concerts to support it, Lifeson claimed he felt “almost re-born” with the new sound. [4]

Continue reading “SIGNALS (1982): A Song Cycle by Rush”

Kevin J. Anderson News

Some excellent news from Kevin J. Anderson, co-author of Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives.
Hi Bradley,

Stalag-X  What is Human?

Guess what? The graphic novel, Stalag-X, that I wrote with TV writer-producer Steven L. Sears (remember Xena, Swamp Thing, The A-Team?) is almost here. It’s about human prisoners caught in an alien POW camp during a ruthless future war. Mike Ratera did the art, and the hardcover graphic novel is being published soon by The Vault.

Joe Human is taken to a harsh POW camp on a distant planet where he’ll be examined, tortured, and forced to endure experiments that rip into his very mind as the alien Krael seek to answer the question What is Human?—a question that, in their hellish situation, the human prisoners are finding hard to answer.

 

Steven and I have been working on this graphic novel for years (the saga of getting it into print is almost as long as the story is!), and we’re really excited that it’s finally coming out. It’s worth the wait, I promise! Stalag-X will debut during Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle at the beginning of March. Our original bonus Stalag-X novella, “Not a Prisoner” will be included in this edition.

 

Paying It Forward: Prepping for This Year’s Superstars Writing Seminar

In 2010, Rebecca and I got together with fellow bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Eric Flint to launch a career-oriented writing seminar. The Superstars Writing Seminars have grown each year, and hosting it is a huge job.

This year’s Superstars is Jan 31–Feb 3 in Colorado Springs, and it’s our biggest one ever. Right now, Rebecca and I are scrambling to finish our PowerPoint presentations. For weeks we’ve been working with our assistants Chris, Diane, and Marie—and lots of other volunteers—to gather and organize boxes and boxes of materials for Superstars (enough to fill the basement and several offices). Next time you see Chris, Marie, Diane, Nancy, Ike, or any of our staff, tell them how awesome they are.

People are already here for the seminar, and we can’t wait. I’ll fill you in later, but if you want to find out more, check out our Superstars website superstarswriting.com.


I’ll write you again once the Superstars whirlwind is over. Keep reading!

KJA

Continue reading “Kevin J. Anderson News”

Farewell to Kings (and Faith): Neil Peart, 1977

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the release of A FAREWELL TO KINGS.

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40th Anniversary Edition

What followed, 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, though, had far more in common with 1976’s 2112 than it would with 1980’s Permanent Waves.  Not appearing on the market until September 1, 1977, A Farewell to Kings ended the new album every six months schedule Rush has followed thus far.  A brilliant album in and of itself, A Farewell to Kings still belongs to Rush 2.1 as I have defined it.  So does the follow-up album, Hemispheres.  Certainly, Rush tried many new things—in terms of album structure, lyrical depth and story telling, and musical complexity—than it had on the first several albums.  “We had written material that was a little beyond us, considering our level of musicianship at the time,” Lee later admitted.[i]  But the progress is in continuity, a major reform rather than a revolution.  “Our progress has always been sincere—not in an arrogant way, but for our own pleasure,” Peart stated in 1982.  “We’ve always incorporated music from people we liked, so it has made us stylistically schizoid.”[ii]

While there are no side length tracks on A Farewell to Kings, the album revolves around its two major songs, “Xanadu” at 11 minutes in length and “Cygnus X-1” at almost ten and 1/2 minutes.  Thematically, Peart continues to embrace both the fantastic—“Xanadu” based on the iconic romantic English poem, “Kubla Kahn,” by Samuel Coleridge—and science-fiction, “Cygnus X-1.”  At the time, Peart lauded fantasy writing in lyrics.  “It’s a way to put a message across without being oppressive.”[iii]

Continue reading “Farewell to Kings (and Faith): Neil Peart, 1977”

Rush Living In The Limelight

Few bands have released as much video documentation of their live performances as Rush. Some are definitely better than others, so, in chronological order, here’s a handy Buyer’s Guide to Rush on DVD and Blu-Ray:

Released in 2001, Chronicles is just a collection of music videos Rush made for Hemispheres through Hold Your Fire. It was originally released on VHS, and the picture quality is correspondingly poor. Anyway, it has been rendered obsolete due to YouTube. Highlight: “The Big Money” video, with primitive computer graphics that were amazing for the time, and Alex Lifeson looking like he just stepped off the set of Miami Vice. Easter eggs: if you hit the skip forward button after the last video, you can access two more “hidden” videos for “The Enemy Within” and “Afterimage”.

Replay x3 (2006) is a very nice collection of two shows that were originally on VHS (Exit Stage Left and A Show Of Hands), plus a previously unreleased video of a concert from their Grace Under Pressure tour. [Update: Rush fan Kevin Williams pointed out to me (see comment below) that the Grace Under Pressure concert was available on VHS via special order.] In these days of HD Blu-Ray, the picture and sound quality leave something to be desired, but that’s more than made up for by the passion of Rush playing at the peak of their power. A CD of the Grace Under Pressure show is included, as well as reproductions of the three tour programs.

Rush In Rio (2003) is a video of a concert in Rio de Janeiro. The audience of 40,000 people almost drown out the music, their nonstop roar is so deafening. As a result, the band sounds like they are playing in a tunnel. However, there is undeniable energy in their performance. This tour was in support of Vapor Trails, the album that signaled the renaissance of Rush as a working unit after Neil’s personal tragedies. Most Rush fans thought they would never see Neil, Geddy, and Alex perform again, so the ecstatic reception given them by Brazil is understandable. Easter eggs: A. On Main Menu, press 2; when you see the picture for the drum solo, press Menu; back at Main Menu, press 1; when you see the picture for YYZ, press Menu; at Main Menu, press 2; when you see the drum solo picture, press Menu; now the Main Menu shows “Special Bonus: Anthem 1975”. B. In the documentary, when Alex mentions By-Tor, press enter, and the By-Tor Movie will play.

R30 (2005) is from a performance in Frankfurt, Germany, and it’s excellent. The sound is a 5.1 mix, and the setlist is terrific. The 2DVD/2CD package also includes a ton of special features that span Rush’s entire career: interviews, Juno Hall of Fame induction, and live performances going way back to 1970s television shows. Easter eggs: A. In disc 2, press the right arrow several times, you will see an option, “Rush hits St. John’s”, which is a bunch of fan interviews. B. In disc 2 in the interviews menu, navigate to the lower right corner. Press the right arrow several times, and the figure in shadow will light up in yellow. This lets you access “Alex’s Interview for Artist of the Decade” (which is hilarious, BTW).

Snakes and Arrows Live (2008) is a 3-disc set that was filmed in Holland. The performance is top-notch – the boys have two albums under their belts since the return of Neil, and they are firing on all cylinders. This set also includes one of the funniest special features Rush ever made: the mini-movie “What’s That Smell”, featuring Harry Satchel (aka Geddy Lee). Watching Geddy trying to stay serious while Alex is goofing off around him is worth the price of the whole thing.

Time Machine (2011) is a one-disc set of a performance in Cleveland, Ohio. No album was released between this tour and Snakes and Arrows, but interestingly they perform “BU2B” and “Caravan” from the not-yet-released Clockwork Angels. The mini-movie for this tour is another hysterical production: The ‘Real’ History of Rush, which takes place in an alternate universe where Alex is an obese sausage lover, Geddy is a cook in a diner, and Neil is a cop. The band playing “The Spirit of Radio” is a polka trio called Rash. Lots of puns and silly sausage jokes ensue.

Clockwork Angels Tour (2013) is definitely one of their best. While the first set features some rarely played songs like “The Body Electric”, it’s the second set where things really take off. Augmented by an eight-piece string section, Rush performs the entire Clockwork Angels album. After that, they continue to deliver with excellent renditions of YYZ, The Spirit of Radio, and Tom Sawyer. 

And so we come to the end of the line – R40 Live (2015). A very special set that covers practically all phases of Rush’s career. On every tour, they included creative props on their stage (dryers, chicken roasters, giant tube amps), but this tour is brilliant: start with all the trappings of an arena production, and gradually pare it down until it’s just a couple of amps on chairs in a school auditorium. You have to admire a band that goes out on their own terms with such style.

Bonus! Rush Beyond The Lighted Stage (2010) is a documentary of the band, made with their full coöperation, and it is a sheer delight. Lots of footage from vintage performances, interviews with everyone connected with the band, and tributes from other musicians. What comes through clearly is the deep bond the three men have with each other, and the humor that has kept them grounded for 40 years. The Dinner with the Band at a Hunting Lodge segment is uproariously funny and not to be missed.

If I had to recommend one set to someone who is unfamiliar with Rush and is wondering what all the fuss is about, I would go with R30. It’s a great performance, and the extras provide a nice history of the band. If I had to recommend one set based on performance and setlist, I would go with Snakes and Arrows Live. But if you’ve read this far, you probably have them all, right?

 

Top 10 Metal Albums of 2017

As the resident metalhead among the Progarchy editors, I offer not only my Top 10 (Prog) Albums of 2017, but also my TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS of 2017 (below). Ever since I first discovered Rush, my favorite genre is prog metal, and you’ll observe the tilt in taste in that direction below. If you like prog, then you will enjoy all the complex and satisfying metal that has made my list below.

Witherfall Nocturnes and Requiems has perfect metal vocals combined with breathtaking musicianship (the blistering guitar work and intricate drumming are astonishing), making this a truly superb album achievement.

Every few albums, Rush would include a pure instrumental showcase, but what if they had ditched Le Studio and took off to Scandinavia to record an entire album of instrumentals? That’s what sleepmakeswaves Made of Breath Only sounds like to my ears, and it puts a smile on my face every time I hear this amazing album.

Odd Logic Effigy gives you everything you want in an advanced prog metal album, woven here into an especially satisfying, coherent musical whole, and it is truly a shame that this band is not better known, because their art is magnificent.

Soen Lykaia is a distinctively original metal album that combines all the sounds you love from intricate metal into a highly unique whole, marked with upper-echelon musicianship.

Lucid Dreaming The Chronicles Part II is an incredible heavy metal concept album with populist vocals that sound like the cast of a Broadway musical, in service of the dramatization of The Chronicles of Prydain. (Dream Theater totally blew it with The Astonishing pile of crap, but Lucid Dreaming shows what a stage musical metal concept album should really be like instead.)

Leprous Malina is a mysterious and infectious slab of metal that I can thank Progarchy editor Carl for turning me on to, and its richly dark textures get better and better with each listen. Thanks, Carl!

Continue reading “Top 10 Metal Albums of 2017”

Album Review: Rush – A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary — Drew’s Reviews

Everyone’s favorite Drew reviews the Rush reissue of A FAREWELL TO KINGS at his own excellent website.

Kevin McCormick will be writing something similar for progarchy very, very soon!  To read Kevin’s original review, click here.  It remains, to this day, one of progarchy’s most highly read pieces.  And, for good reason.


So sad, the Rush fan. Getting the band back together nowhere in sight, instead relegated to album anniversary issues as time doesn’t stand still. It’s all we have to look forward to anymore now that retirement seems reality as nary a peep on the home front of anything forth pending. Make that anything new. […]

via Album Review: Rush – A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary — Drew’s Reviews