Box Of Tricks

By Jerry Ewing, Classic Rock presents PROG, December 2011, transcribed by pwrwindows

Time Machine
ABC 1974

You know the old adage about London buses or Kate Bush? You wait for years for one and then loads turn up at once (albums, in Kate's case). Seems it's a bit that way with Canadian prog metal titans Rush. First of all, there we were sat excitedly awaiting the arrival of Time Machine, the live document of the bands most recent tour which duly arrived (unfortunately too late to make to make last issue) as both a nicely packaged two disc CD as well as DVD. Hot on its heels, however, was ABC 1974, the first legitimate (although by no means official) release for the band's very first North American radio broadcast. And then just as we sat down to digest those, all three volumes of Sectors, the band's Mercury/Universal catalogue, arrives. Rushtastic, one might say. Or is it?

Well, no arguments with Time Machine. That much is certain. It's a crisp-sounding live recording taken from a show in Cleveland, primarily as a thank you to the city for being the first place in America to get behind the band and offer them the airplay that helped break Rush outside of their native Canada. Rush live albums do seem to be ten-a-penny these days, but Time Machine offers a nice blend of old and new-not least containing the whole of the band's performance of 1981's Moving Pictures. I recall seeing some grumbles about the band's live performances on this most recent tour online, but had no such qualms about their O2 show. Watching the crystal clear live DVD merely reinforces that viewpoint. Rush are still one of the greatest musical outfits to have ever graced this planet and both audio and visual Time Machine releases do them proud.

ABC 1974 has long been available in bootleg form under the guise of The Fifth Order Of Angels, but now Left Field Media have managed to acquire the rights from radio station WMMS, who were the ones who originally broadcast the August 1974 concert. The sound quality is great considering how old it now is, and new drummer Neil Peart, who had replaced john Rutsey just two months previously even gets his own solo - although it's not much compared to Time Machines Moto Perpetuo. And while the tracks from the band's debut sound great, one can see why the likes of Fancy Dancer and Garden Road were rarely heard of again. The addition of three tracks from 1975's Fly By Night tour add a little something extra.

Which leaves us with Sectors: three volumes of back catalogue housed in "flight cases". In the face of the recent Pink Floyd Immersion extravaganzas, one can't help feeling Rush have missed a trick here. They look good, but despite being nicely recreated vinyl replicas and coming with booklets packed with photos, lyrics and juicy album information, only one album in each box - Fly By Night, A Farewell To Kings and Signals - is in 5.1, the rest just normal stereo. At 3O apiece, that's 90 for the set. Does that constitute value for money?