Rush, "Vapor Trails" (Atlantic)
Long dismissed as irrelevant in mainstream music, Rush continues to plunge ahead. After a five-year absence to allow drummer and lyricist Neil Peart to recover from the deaths of his wife and daughter, the power trio releases yet another gem. But heed this warning: "Vapor Trails" (in stores Tuesday) does not continue in the same vein as the fresh "One Little Victory," released last month as the first single. The band not only has created a new sound, but has managed to blend a little bit of '70s, '80s and '90s Rush into the 13-song effort. The melodic jam-tempos of "Secret Touch" and "Peaceable Kingdom," the dreamy, almost whimsical "Ghost Rider" and the reflective approach to "Sweet Miracle" explore adventurous territory, proving the band has a new directive. Indeed, Rush devotees may scratch their heads, but by the third listen the fire will be brighter than ever.