It was a debate for me if I should make my first blog about "Aqualung" or an album from my favorite band, Rush. It made sense to go with my first album as my first post, so that means Rush had to come second. Now, if you knew me in high school, I sincerely apologize for how much I talked about Rush. I know I pissed off countless friends and probably even some strangers with how much I brought Rush into a conversation. While they are still my favorite band today (and always will be). This album was the one that got me interested in Rush. When I say it got me interested in Rush, I mean I now own every single one of their studio and live albums on both vinyl and CD, own several shirts, posters, DVD's, and I am a part of at least four Rush fan groups on Facebook so that I can talk about the world's greatest band with others who share my insanity. So "interested" may be a bit of an understatement. My true Rush infamy came when they announced their R40 tour and I found out they were coming to the United Center in June of 2015. After that point, there was no turning back. If you were near me, you were going to be sucked into Rush conversation some way or another and I didn't care if you wanted to hear it. My friend, his sister, and myself went to the show with extremely close seats thanks to my generous parents getting me a ticket for my birthday. Still to this day, it is the best show I've ever seen. Even 40 years later, Rush was on top of their game.
When I was younger, I knew of Rush, but never really knew anything about them besides their hits like "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio," and I knew the members' names and that was about it. I remember one day I was at my grandparents house spending the weekend and something inside of me told me to look into Rush more. I guess I thought "well I like their hits so I'll probably like their other stuff, right?" So I grabbed my old iPod Touch, opened up the iTunes store, and searched for Rush. Much to my surprise, Rush had released an album just a few years prior called "Clockwork Angels." Next thing I know, I clicked buy and was listening to this completely unknown album from a band I knew little about. As unbelievable as it may seem, the first time I listened to the album, I specifically remember thinking "Neil Peart's drumming really isn't that impressive on this album." I can't believe that thought ever came through my head. (Neil, I know you're probably reading this, and I would just like to apologize for my past ignorance). If I ever say that now, I want someone to shoot me because something has gone horribly wrong. Over time, however, the album grew on me more and more and I slowly began to realize how incredible their musicianship really is. Geddy Lee is the most ripping bass player on the face of the planet, Alex Lifeson is easily the most underrated guitarist alive and plays parts that I doubt guitarists of similar genres could touch, and Neil Peart is a god, plain and simple, and I will back up those statements until the end of time.
Although there was speculation in the past year, it seems likely that "Clockwork Angels" is Rush's last album. While it upsets me that I won't get any new music from my favorite band, this is a perfect album to end a career on. This is one of Rush's most underrated albums. On ultimateclassicrock.com, "Clockwork Angels" is ranked number 11 out of the 19 original Rush albums (2004's "Feedback" is omitted because it is a covers-only album). I easily put "Clockwork Angels" in my top five Rush albums. Now part of it is because this is the album that started my borderline unhealthy Rush obsession, but also it is one of their most consistent albums. Every song is perfect. The vocals, bass, drums, guitar, production, EVERYTHING is perfect. There aren't many bands that deliver one of their best albums at the end of their career, but Rush did.
Each instrument is displayed in its own unique way. This album has the best bass tone I've ever heard. Later in his career, Geddy Lee switched over to Fender Jazz basses, and the tone is captured perfectly. Just listen to his bass line on "The Anarchist." You can clearly hear the bass throughout the whole song, and he's playing these incredible line with only his fingers. And don't forget, he's singing vocal parts with no relation to the bass line simultaneously, and he's doing it like nothing. Neil's drums sound absolutely massive on "Clockwork Angels", and, even with what I said in the past, he is sounding better than ever. Listen to his drumming on "Headlong Flight". In classic Neil Peart fashion, he's switching up time signatures left and right, playing with impeccable timing, and just beating the hell out of his drum set. Neil knows exactly when to go all out and when to scale back. To really hear that, you have to listen to the album a few times through. It took me several listens in order to really hear what he was doing. Overall, his playing is a little more scaled back, but he will throw in some little fills you may not catch on the first time. And this album contains some of Alex's best guitar work. His playing on the title track blows me away every time I hear it. He puts so much depth and emotion into that song. Listen to his solo. When you hear it, you will probably think "well that's not too complicated." Afterwards, watch it. He seems to be playing completely random notes with no regard to the time signature but it fits in perfectly. I've tried learning how to play famous Rush guitar solos and given up quickly because it's impossible to do it as well as him.
I truly can't imagine my life without this album. Along with "Aqualung," this is the most important album in my life. Because of it, I became truly obsessed with my first band and in turn branched off and began obsessing with other bands (I'm looking at you, Metallica). I struggled putting Rush's musicianship into words in this blog. I think you just have to watch and learn for yourself. Say what you want about their sound or style, but you can't help but be impressed when you see these guys live. Although their career is over, Rush influenced so many other musicians and so many people. And even if you aren't yet convinced that they are great, don't worry. I've got 19 more Rush albums to review.