So the saga of the live double album continues. And in the true tradition of the Cult's 'On Your Feet Or On Your Knees', Kiss' 'Alive!' and Bob Seger's 'Live Bullet', Rush are up there with the best of them.
A three man Canadian band, 'All The World's A Stage' is Rush's fifth album, said to signify 'the end of the beginning, a milestone to mark the close of' chapter one, in the annals of' Rush'.
And 'Milestone' is right. Recorded over three nights at Toronto's Massey Hall, the LP literally seethes with mature heavy rock power, a live album to end all live albums.
Already Rush's biggest-selling record so far in America, 'All The World's A Stage' contains some of the best tracks from past band LPs, all performed immaculately, energetically and aggressively.
Rush have taken the traditional three man heavy metal line up and made it into something infinitely interesting. Musicianship is of a high standard although something a little mechanical-the sound is at once brutal and then supremely subtle. But what really raises the band above the ordinary is the fact that they pursue themes usually left untouched by all but the most pretentious of outfits approaching them from fresh, highly original and exciting angles.
I'm talking about Tolkienesque fantasy, Moorcock-like sword and sorcery and historical and science-fiction tales, all handled, on one form or another, by the group.
Take this album's opening track, 'Bastille Day'. The music is 'metal riffarama', but the lyrics are rather less basic-
'And we're marching to Bastille Day,
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize,
Sing o' choirs of cacophony,
The king has kneeled, to let his kingdom rise.'
Makes a change from 'oooh babe, I'm gonna leave you' doesn't it?
Side one continues with 'Anthem'-
'Anthem of the heart and mind,
A funeral dirge for eyes gone blind.
We marvel after those who sought,
New wonders in the world they wrought'
-and concludes with the impeccable 'Fly By Night', the head-shaking 'In The Mood' and the rousing 'Something For Nothing'.
Side two opens with the relatively peaceful. 'Lakeside Park', which acts as a low-key introduction to '2112', a 15 minute tour de force.
'2112' is the title of the band's last studio album. A conceptual effort, the extended rock extravaganza tells the tale of life in the 22nd century, when the world is under the thumb of a group of harsh rulers called the Priests Of The Temple Of Syrinx. The song itself, via several powerful passages, chronicles one man's fight against the Priest's evil domination.
On 'All The World's A Stage', the band construct and perform the many-faceted story supremely well, considering their inherent limitations as a three piece outfit. The use of tapes heightens '2112's' dramatic quality especially at the end when a voice booms, 'Attention all planets of the solar federation - we have assumed control', and then echoes away into the distance while the crowd cheers.
Side three is even better, detailing the bloody battle between 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog'. This, another epic Rush tale, has come on by leaps and bounds since it first appeared on the 'Fly By Night' album.
Guitarist Alex Lifeson plays the Snow Dog. He has to defend the 'Overworld' against the might of By-Tor ('Knight of darkness, centurion of evil, the Devil's prince') whose part is taken by bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee. After a frenetic introduction there ensues a guitar-bass battle - and after much howling and growling, Snow Dog emerges the victor, By-Tor being banished back to his shadowy domain. Great.
Side four is straight ahead rock 'n' roll, which balances things out quite nicely, Three tracks only, all from the band's first album - 'Working Man', leading into 'Finding My Way' and the encore 'What You're Doing'. Less structured than the other three sides, here we have room for some reeling guitar improvisation and soaring, spontaneous Plant-like screams from Geddy Lee. Direct, hard-hitting and powerful to the Nth degree. Rush are probably the best undiscovered band in Britain at the moment. I strongly recommend you to check them out, now!