SIGNALS (1982): A Song Cycle by Rush

signals
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]

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RUSH: A Farewell to Hemispheres, Part I

by Kevin McCormick

Rush appears to be a band without a retirement plan.  This past year saw the release of the highly acclaimed studio album Clockwork Angels, the subsequent world tour promoting the album and the fourth remastered re-release of the 35-year old classic album 2112.   With the re-release of that epic work and the renewed attention it has garnered, it is worth noting that the recording and the subsequent live shows were really, as the liner notes say, “The end of the beginning, a milestone to mark the close of chapter one in the annals of Rush.”

From Rushvault.
From Rushvault.

Neil Peart hardly could have known how accurate that statement would be.  Today the band is approaching its 40th year since its first full-length album.  Most artists of their age lucky enough to be still performing spend most of their time coasting on the tails of decades-old hits and playing as shadows of their former glory.  Rush seems to continually push itself into new territory creating an ever-changing sound yet with ever constant sensibility.  Something about Rush feels contemporary but remains rooted in the sound of three guys from Toronto four decades past.

Rock artists worked more quickly back then. By 1976, a banner year for Rush, the band had produced four studio albums.  Having resurrected themselves from the brink of extinction (or at least from being dropped by their label) with the inexplicable popularity of their futuristic totalitarian opera “2112,” the band toured extensively throughout the US and Canada.  Their “brief” stretch promoting the new album ran from February to August and included opening for Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith.  Somehow the band found time to put together a double-live album of those recent shows and, with but a week in-between, again headed out on the road from August and into the new year promoting that record, All the World’s a Stage. By the time they wrapped up in England in June of 1977, Rush had been touring for nearly two years without a lengthy break and receiving accolades not only for their recorded work but for the power, skill and intensity they brought to the stage.

Continue reading “RUSH: A Farewell to Hemispheres, Part I”