I remember the first time I saw Rush (How could I forget?); it was back in late '73 - Saturday, October 27th as a matter of face - when Rush were (the) opening act for The New York Dolls at the long lamented Victory Burlesque Theatre on Spadina.
The tab for the evening was a mere four bucks (don't forget we're talking about four years ago) and, to put it mildly, it was worth every penny of it. The Dolls were great, but that's a story for another time, another place. What we're interested in here is the opening act that - at the time of the Victory performance - hadn't even had an album release.
In simple terms, Rush came out and shredded every ear in sight by whipping out number after number in true Heavy Metal tradition. Even now those opening chords of "Finding My Way," as produced by Alex Lifeson, are still etched into my brain, refusing to leave.
Then, as if their October Onslaught wasn't enough punishment, the debut Rush album was released on their own label (Moon Records - the first pressing of which is now a collectors' item since subsequent pressings have been on Mercury) a few months later in 1974.
Rush (1974): To say it's a killer is the understatement of the year. Rush is still my favorite Rush album - it's virtually perfect and continues to burn rubber every time I sandwich it between my De-Stat disc and Dual pickup. I'm listening to it right now as a matter of fact and even though it's 2:45 in the morning, I've got it cranked up full.
The great thing about the first LP was that, for the first time in history, a Canadian rock album sounded like a N.Y. Record Plant production. I just couldn't believe what I was listening to - and this was back in 1974 fercrissakes! Thanks to Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll, bands like Rush and Moxy (remember them?) are sounding more and more like English and American voltage monsters all the time.
Once you get past the shitty packaging on the outside and get down to the contents within, there's no escape. "Finding My Way" is the first Rush song and the first Rush classic to boot. Hell, ALL the numbers on Rush are classics - this album doesn't make a mistake and your ears don't let you forget it for a second. Power, power, power, that's what this LP's all about. It wails like a child trapped in an abandoned refrigerator - and is twice as much fun.
If you're not any bit in the least interested in either Rush or (in particular) Heavy Metal, you owe it to yourself to grab a hold of this album. Its non-stop splatter music and you don't even notice the silence between the tracks.
Fly By Night (1975): Released in January of '75, Fly By Night continues Rush's Heavy Metal Holding Pattern - a pattern well established on their first LP. "Anthem" cracks open side one and, besides being the first of Neil Peart's allusions to Ayn Rand (So when're you guys gonna dedicate an album to either Howard Roark or Dominique Francon?), this four minute and ten second disbuster shatters glass and concrete at right angles from thirty feet. (Get that one, Neil?) The next two numbers are like killers: "Best I Can" and "Beneath, Between & Behind" - both of which are Grade A, M Squad pulse-pounders, guaranteed to clean the sludge out of your speakers at a second's notice. Beautiful.
The next number, "By-Tor & The Snow Dog," is a significant one in the career of Rush. You see, "By-Tor" is Rush's first foray into, ah - how shall I put it - conceptual material. Closing off side one of Fly By Night, "By-Tor" is a nine minute mini-opus about two dogs who slug it out in Metro - while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. "By-Tor" is an 'Ermine' dog from Hell (obviously the Devil himself) while "The Snow Dog" is the Christ-like white dog who opposes "By-Tor". Does the Hell Hound take over the world? Nah, Snow Mutt beats him in a four-part instrumental 'battle'.
"By-Tor & The Snow Dog" is a combination of Diamond Dogs and The Incredible Journey via Animal Farm all transposed to Canada in the process.
Ayn Rand it's not. Stan Lee, maybe - but not Ayn Rand.
Side two offers up no great shakes. The title tracks, although catchy enough, is strictly HM Dwight Twilley Band. The rest of the remaining three songs on the side are faceless pods.
Caress of Steel (1975): Released July '75, this one's dedicated to the memory of Rod Serling (There's a good joke in there somewhere, if only somebody'd take the time to find it) - another influence that crops up from time to time in Rush's work. Geddy Lee claims that this is his favorite Rush LP - well, it's my second favorite.
"Bastille Day" opens up COS and, like the past two Rush album openers, it's a sure-fire TKO to the eardrums. As a whole, however, COS is a laid back effort, conceptually about Moorcock worlds of magic and ye olde tymes. Tres old world renaissance, Rush's third album pretty well perfectly combines both worlds of HM Madness and light, sensitive probings. I don't listen to it that much (to be perfectly honest), but it's nice to know that it's there when I need it. Caress of Steel (the title sounds like a Gene Simmons solo album) is almost a perfect counterpoint to Rush. One thing worth watching for is the way Lou's "Sweet Jane" gets rewritten into "The Necromancer." If you think George Harrison did a number with "My Sweet Lord," listen to the 'Return Of The Prince' segment of "Necromancer" and sing along.
2112 (1976): I hate this one. Non-Rush fans have told me how much they like 2112, so maybe that's the point. Me? I think it's wretched. Nothing short of a Diamond Dogs retread, I swear that the idea of a lost electric guitar found in the future was thought up by Pete Townshend a couple of years ago but I'll be damned if I can find the quote where he said it. Someday - but I know he said it.
Anyway, Mercury really glossed out fancy for the promo and package of this one: Full color treatments, an almost laminated sleeve and fully laminated ad posters (So howcum The Dolls never got this kind of treatment?)
Anyway, I'm not impressed at all by this one. I could've written better - and have! 2112 is a glossy piece of garbage that fails because it's so Goddamned juvenile it has to be heard to be believed. Concept albums require mature thought processes and finished products. 2112 has neither. Don't ask me for specifics 'cause I'm not going to give you any - they're not worth my time.
Let's just say that the boys bit off more than they could chew and leave it at that, O.K.?
All The World's A Stage (1976): This is the two record live set culled from their three sold out nights at Massey Hall. I personally haven't got a copy (Rush's promo company refuses to give me one, so screw them. If that's the way they handle promotion, Geddy, Neil and Alex have my deepest sympathy. Also, where was Rush's promo when they sold out those three nights? Why wasn't there one hell of a media push afterwards? Weren't Rush the first rock band to sell out Massey Hall three nights in a row? Why wasn't this fact plastered across the newspapers?), but from what fragments I've heard on the radio, it's a hot cooker. Sure, it's no Kiss, Alive!, but it walks all over that stiff liver by Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same (Yeah, boring).
What's next for Rush in 1977? No matter what you think of Rush, though, in the long run you've got to give them credit for pushing ever forwards - even if their collective vision does get conceptually fogged every now and then. You gotta face facts: They're big (all their albums are gold, in case you didn't know) and getting bigger with every step.
Until their next studio album, however (and, please boys - lay off the mystic concepts for a while, huh?), how's about a Battle of the Bands between Rush, Moxy and Goddo?