Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Classic Albums Review: Rush "Presto / Roll the Bones"
2017 is sure shaping up to be a good year for rock and metal music. I have reviewed a fair amount of impressive releases with plenty more to come. Even with all these new albums coming out, I always find myself listening to Rush.
As of recent I have been listening to Presto and Roll the Bones. In my opinion, these two albums are extremely important in the band’s history and begin the transition from their heavily electronic synthesizer sound to the more traditional power trio formula focusing primarily on drums, bass and guitar. Although the band still uses synthesizers on these two albums, you start to notice them moving away from the sound on Power Windows and Hold Your Fire. Also, I felt Neil’s lyrics started to take on a slightly different tone compared to their previous albums. The words from the songs can really relate to what people go through when dealing with a difficult and demanding society. Neil has always had that ability to write such meaningful lyrics, however, I notice the songs from Presto and Roll the Bones are extremely relatable.
We start with, Presto, the band’s thirteenth studio album which was released in 1989. The band recorded the album at the legendary recording studio, Le Studio, in Morin-Heights, Quebec. Rush definitely moved away from the previous releases with regard to the heavy emphasis on synthesizers, but if you listen carefully there are still a decent amount of synth arrangements. Overall the music on this album is dynamic yet does not lose listeners with constant complexity. The foundations for most of the songs are very well thought out and the attention given to the verse and chorus sections instantly catches your attention. I believe the words leave an everlasting impact, while the musicianship reminds you how much talent Geddy, Alex and Neil have to offer.
The album’s opening song, “Show Don’t Tell,” contains some of my favorite lyrics and also demonstrates the band’s instrumental genius. Some lines that stand out are, “How many times do you hear it, It goes on all day long, Everyone knows everything, And no one's ever wrong…Until later.” I find that statement is very telling about certain people and provides great advice for those who live in their own little isolated bubbles. The second track, “Chain Lightening,” is another work of musical brilliance with probably one of my favorite chorus sections. I always feel a positive vibe when listening to the song, especially when Alex breaks into the radiant sounding solo.
Out of all the songs on the album, “The Pass,” is probably my favorite. The song talks about dealing with the serious topic of depression and feeling isolated. Neil writes the lyrics as a way to motivate people out of the darkness by not losing hope when feeling down. Geddy also provides some memorable bass lines to accompany his confident vocal delivery. The next song, “War Paint,” contains a very catchy chorus that easily gets stuck in your head. Also, Neil’s playing really drives the song by providing such a bold rhythmic supporting force to the verses.
I will mention a few more tracks that I think standout the most on Presto, because if I go through each track off the album, this might turn into more of an essay than an article. The title track off the album features Alex’s brilliant dynamic guitar playing skills and I believe the phrasing of each note during his solo is flawless. “Anagram (For Mongo),” offers listeners a very soothing keyboard section to compliment Geddy’s vocals, while “Hand Over Fist” unleashes a very strong sounding main riff from Alex with Geddy and Neil providing solid support.
Moving on now to Rush’s fourteenth release, Roll the Bones, we find ourselves with the band using the same recording studio and even using the same producer, Rupert Hine. Released in 1991, the album is known most for the title track which features a rap section during the song. Overall, I consider the album to be a continuation from Presto with a few slight differences. On this album the band wrote an impressive yet very modest instrumental song called, “Where’s My Thing (Part IV, “Gangster of Boats” Trilogy).” Unlike, “La Villa Strangiato,” the instrumental on Roll the Bones does not contain as many complex time signatures and the length of the song is shorter. Still, the musicianship is mesmerizing and the overall piece sounds exciting from beginning to end.
Similar to Presto, I notice that the first three songs on Roll the Bones instantly establishes the album by coming up with extremely memorable tracks that demonstrate powerful lyrics and great musicianship. “Dreamline,” “Bravado” and “Roll the Bones,” were probably the best choices when figuring out which three songs should start off the album. I personally enjoy, “Bravado,” the most and I am always blown away by the song’s deep lyrical content. The lines, “We will pay the price, But we will not count the cost,” sort of makes you stop and think about the world around you. In my opinion, there are few bands that can come up with something as meaningful and thought provoking as Rush.
Other tracks I wish to highlight off the album would be, “The Big Wheel,” “Heresy,” and “Ghost of a Chance.” The main riff in, “The Big Wheel,” packs such an aggressive punch and then transitions into a very vibrant and inspiring chorus. I would say I prefer the first half of the album to the second half, but it is really close. Rush simply knows how to produce great full-length albums with great engaging songs from start to finish. That is why they are the masters!
To conclude this article, I recommend anyone who has not yet checked out these albums do so right away, because you are sure missing out on some amazing music. For all those Rush fanatics reading this article, please tell your thoughts on these two releases in the comments section and maybe even share some memories when the albums came out. The best part about being a Rush fan is that you can meet people who are just as passionate about the music as you. Plus, we can agree that no matter what the trend in music is at the time, we will always have those timeless recordings from one of rock’s greatest bands (In my opinion, they are the greatest band)!