Just today, our own progarchist and professional classicist and philosopher, Chris Morrissey, challenged us to name our top ten Rush albums. Not alphabetically, but actually in the order we love them.
So, I feel up to the challenge.
As I hope I’ve been clear in my writings here and elsewhere—I love Rush, and I have without interruption since I first heard MOVING PICTURES back when I was in detention in 7th grade! Yes, that was the spring of 1981, only a month after the album came out.
I can never offer enough thanks to my fellow junior high detainees, Brad and Troy, for introducing me to this band. At the time, they were shocked I knew everything about Genesis and nothing about Rush. Thank God for their evangelism.
Now, thirty-three years later, I would give much to call Neil Peart my older brother. That said, I can state unequivocally that in my own life, Peart’s lyrics have shaped me as much as any other great artist and thinker. Really, he’s up there with St. Augustine for me. As a Catholic boy (well, middle-aged, graying, Catholic man), this is saying a lot!
Of course, such a list is subjective, and I might be tempted to follow up tomorrow with a slightly different list. Regardless, here it is: as of June 30, 2014.
Grace Under Pressure. Coming out in 1984, this album has ever since defined the meaning of excellence and seriousness for me. I love the music, the flow, and, especially, the lyrics. Not only have the lyrics prompted innumerable great conversations with friends, but I proudly wrote my major liberal-arts core paper (sophomore year in college, 1987-1988) using nothing but the lyrics from this album. I argued that Neil Peart was a modern stoic, a philosopher of antiquity born in the modern world. I earned an A!
Moving Pictures (1981). I’m sure this isn’t controversial, except that most Rush fans would probably rate it number one. It means a great deal to me, and it has formed me—for better or worse—in my own understanding of integrity.
Clockwork Angels (2012). What a feast for the mind and the ears. The flow of the album is gorgeous as are the lyrics. Really, a great story—more of a fairy tale than anything else. The story is essentially the story of Hemispheres, but it’s told with much greater finesse. That it came at 38 years into their career is astounding, and it proves that the desire of each member of Rush to improve himself and his skills has not been a pipe dream. Highlight, the single most un-Rush like song, is “The Garden,” a statement of republican liberty and individualism. And, “Wish Them Well,” is the closest Rush will ever get to hippie/Beatle lyrics. Let the air drumming commence!
Power Windows (1985). As someone who loves both prog and New Wave, I heartily approve of Power Windows. Lifeson’s guitar has much more in common with The Fixx than it does with Rush’s output in the 1970s, but it demonstrates and reveals a real willingness to explore new areas of music. It’s fusion of New Wave and Prog was rivaled only by Yes’s Drama. And, the lyrics. . . sheesh. Neil is at his best.
Signals (1982). I know a lot of old-time Rush fans think little of this album, as they see it as a betrayal of the “true Rush.” But, schnikees has it meant a great deal to me. The lyrics, especially, have given me great comfort. Even this spring as I had make a major life decision, Peart’s words, “there are those who sell their dreams for small desires.” The entire first side is masterful musically as well. I don’t think side two is as strong, but it’s still quite good.
Caress of Steel (1975). Man, is this album wacky or what? And, in large part, I love it for being so weird. Musically, it’s unlike almost anything else out there—by Rush or anyone else. There’s as much acid folk on this album as there is hard rock and prog. But, really, By-tor? Snowdog? The Necromancer? I have no idea what Geddy, Alex, and Neil were thinking or smoking when they made this, but, wow, does it all work.
Vapor Trails (2002). This album is nothing if not a pure statement of life. “I’m alive,” Neil screams in every beat and every lyric of this album, especially after the horrific tragedies he suffered. And, he most certainly is a live. From the opening drums to the massive swirl of guitars and Geddy’s vocals throughout, this is a work of artistic brilliance, meaning, and drive. I never tire of this album.
Snakes and Arrows (2007). Again, this is part of Rush 2.0, the band that remade itself after Neil’s double tragedies. Everything in Snakes and Arrows is perfect. Again, the flow of the album just works brilliantly. And, the fusions and various styles are just fascinating. Neil’s lyrics are a bit angrier than usual, but still quite a effective.
A Farewell to Kings (1977). What’s not to love? The entire album reeks of integrity. Kevin McCormick, on this site, has explained in loving and intricate detail the musical importance of the album in ways I never good. But from the first notes of the guitar to the dire plight of Cygnus, I’m in!
2112 (1976). As Drew commented on Chris’s original challenge, 2112 is a tough one to rank because side one is so radically different from side two. I agree. But, side one is so incredible that it makes up for any flaws in the album. Who can’t just start head-banging when the Overture begins? Who doesn’t want to just hate the priests? And, who isn’t disheartened when the Solar Federation reassumes control. Sigh. . . sci-fi loveliness.
Long to longish progarchist posts on Rush
Hold your Fire -Rush’s finest? by Tad Wert (*progarchy’s single most popular post ever)
Erik Heter on Moving Pictures as Synergy
Discovering Rush on their 40th anniversary by Eric Perry
The first Rush album reviewed by Craig Breaden
A review of A Farewell to Kings by Kevin McCormick
A review of Power Windows by Brad Birzer
Kevin Williams on Clockwork Angels Tour
Brad Birzer on Clockwork Angels Tour
Erik Heter on Clockwork Angels Tour Concert in Texas
A review of Vapor Trails Remixed by Birzer
A review of Grace Under Pressure by Birzer
And, 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