TORONTO (CP) - It's not unusual to hear the name Rush spoken in reverential tones alongside the likes of giants like Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath.
Indeed, as one of the most quietly influential bands of the last two decades, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have put an indelibly Canadian stamp on the face of hard rock.
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of Rush, Canada's premier hard rock power trio, and their new three-CD live album (to be released Nov. 10) is a pretty good sample of the material they created in those years, Lee said in an interview.
"To me it's a pretty broad perspective, even though everything was recorded on the (1993) Counterparts and the (1996) Test for Echo tours," says Lee, the group's famously shrill-voiced singer and bassist.
Different Stages Live is the 22nd Rush album, and although it's a celebration of the band's career its release follows the most tragic period in Rush history.
Peart, the group's virtuoso drummer and chief lyricist, lost his 19-year-old daughter Selena Taylor in a car accident last year. This year his wife, Jackie Taylor, died of cancer.
It's still too painful for Lee to want to talk about, especially considering the depth of the friendship that he, Peart and Lifeson have shared over the years.
The band has not announced any intention to call it quits, although their label has asked fans and media alike to give Peart privacy.
"We've weathered a few storms together," Lee says softly.
"I think it's apparent that we have a great respect for each other. The fact that you can watch each other grow, know intimately all the faults that we all possess and still enjoy being in each other's company is a true test of friendship."
The new live album includes a long-lost, full-CD recording of their appearance at London's Hammersmith Odeon during the 1978 A Farewell to Kings tour.
The concert tape, which had been in Lee's basement for 20 years, is a reminder of just how much history the three have shared. From the sci-fi concept album 2112 to the hit-generating Moving Pictures to the sleek Test for Echo, Rush has revamped its sound to reflect the times.
But the respect they've earned as some of the most technically superb musicians in rock music has remained a constant. That too is rooted in their ability to communicate, Lee says.
"Twenty-five years. It's kind of a miracle in a way. It's based on a solid relationship, a great respect for each other and a desire to focus on the music and nothing else - not to allow financial matters or personality disorders to get in the way. That's hard but we've been able to do it.
"I think after a few tours, when we had some adventures together, that we kind of got into each other's heads a bit. It's only through ups and downs that friendships are really cemented."
One other thing has always been a Rush trademark, Lee says - their inability to create a flamboyant public image. Rush will always be known for Lee's voice, Lifeson's furious lead guitar and Peart's uncanny skill with percussion. Always modest and unassuming, the three never trashed a hotel room, or got hooked on drugs or courted scandal.
"We never got too far in that area," Lee says with a laugh. "We failed that subject at rock 'n' roll school and we exceeded at the technical side.
"We were terribly inept at forming some form of acceptable, sexy image of our band. We were musicians, just trying to play and make the coolest music we could dream of making.
"Some people are born to it, we're not. I think we get embarrassed too easily."
Formed: 1969, Toronto
Members: Geddy Lee, bass and vocals. Alex Lifeson, guitar. Neil Peart drums (replaced original drummer John Rutsey in 1974).
Real names: Geddy Lee: Gary Lee Weinrib. Alex Lifeson: Alex Zivojinovich. Neil Peart: Neil Peart.
Albums: RUSH (Moon) 1974, Fly By Night (Mercury) 1975, Caress Of Steel (Mercury) 1975, 2112 (Mercury) 1976, All The World's A Stage (Mercury) 1976, A Farewell To Kings (Mercury) 1977, Hemispheres (Mercury) 1978, Permament Waves (Mercury) 1980, Moving Pictures (Mercury) 1981, Exit...Stage Left (Mercury) 1981, Signals (Mercury) 1982, Grace Under Pressure (Mercury) 1984, Power Windows (Mercury) 1985, Hold Your Fire (Mercury) 1987, A Show Of Hands (Mercury) 1989, Presto (Atlantic) 1989, Chronicles (Atlantic) 1990, Roll The Bones (Atlantic) 1991, Counterparts (Atlantic) 1993, Test For Echo (Atlantic) 1996, Different Stages (Anthem) 1998.
Quote: "When we make a record we have a lot of fun, it could be 25 years ago. The quality of humour has shifted a little, but it's nonetheless just as recurrent. Alex and I still have great fits of laughter when we're working on parts, where we have to stop and go out of the room." - Geddy Lee.