Vapor Trails

bass guitar, vocals

electric and acoustic guitars, mandola

drums and cymbals

Music by Lee and Lifeson, Lyrics by Peart

Produced by Rush and Paul Northfield

Recorded by Paul Northfield, Geddy Lee, and Alex Lifeson, at Reaction Studios, Toronto, January - November, 2001, assisted by Chris Stringer
Mixed by David Leonard at Metalworks, Mississauga, December 01 - February 02, assisted by Joel Kazmi

Mastered by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk, NYC
Additional mastering and sequencing by Roger Lian at Masterdisk, NYC
Management by Ray Danniels, SRO Management, Toronto
Executive Production by Anthem Entertainment: Liam Birt and Pegi Cecconi
Equipment care and feeding by Lorne (Gump) Wheaton

Art Direction, paintings, and portraits by Hugh Syme

Thanks to everyone at Reaction Studios: Ormond, Claire, Chris, and Jeff, and everyone at SRO: Ray Danniels, Pegi Cecconi, Sheila Posner, Anna LeCoche, Cynthia Barry, Shelley Nott, Steve Hoffman, Bob Farmer, Randy and Frances Rolfe.

As always, we owe our families a huge debt
of love, gratitude, appreciation, and attention.
We also owe them an apology.

For technical help and contributions, our thanks to Jim Burgess and Ed Wilson at Saved By Technology, Andrew MacNaughtan, Barry and b. zee brokerage, Paul Reed Smith, Fender bass guitars, Coll Audio, Tyme Rogers at Tech 21, Mackie Digital Systems, Steve and Mark at Hughes and Kettner amplification, Dean Markley, Sean Browne at Yamaha, Drum Workshop, Avedis Zildjian, Promark, Remo, Roland electronic percussion, and - Ω™

Brought to you by the letter "3"

© 2002 Atlantic Records © 2002 Anthem Entertainment


  • Atlantic/Anthem, May 14, 2002
  • Highest Billboard Chart Position: 6
  • Vapor Trails was released in North America on May 14, 2002, with release elsewhere shortly before or after that date. After the first week, the album climbed to #6 on Billboard's Chart with sales of 111,199, while Soundscan reported it as #3 of the Top 100 albums in sales and #1 among the Top 50 Metal Albums. Sales of the album drop severely the second week, with 41,000 copies sold (#25 overall), prompting a typical Rolling Stone response "Typical of a cult band whose diehards purchased Vapor Trails in droves the first week...Sales down a WHOPPING 63% from the first week". Vapor Trails Billboard Top 100 Ranking History: Week 1: #6; Week 2: 29; Week 3: #43; Week 4: #66; Week 5: #77. In Germany, the album enters the Charts the first week at #20; Week 2: #57; Week 3: #65; Week 4: #85.
  • Click to enlarge Click to enlarge, includes back cover and disk Click to enlarge
  • "One Little Victory", the first single, was released March 29, 2002, debuting at #22 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
  • "Secret Touch", the second single containing both the album version and a radio edit, was released to radio stations June 10, 2002, and reached #26 in Mainstream Rock Airplay after one week ("One Little Victory" still held #9).
  • "Sweet Miracle", the third and final single, was released September 23, 2002.
  • Both the album version and an instrumental edit of "One Little Victory" were included in the in-game soundtrack of Need for Speed - Hot Pursuit 2, released July 9, 2002.
  • Vapor Trails Remixed was released September 30, 2013; click here for the history of the Vapor Trails remaster/Vapor Trails Remixed.
  • Click here for the 'Vapor Trails' Transcript Archive.

In Their Own Words

"Peart tied the knot with photographer Carrie Nuttall in a small private ceremony Sept. 9 in Montecito, California, near Santa Barbara. The couple is planning a larger reception for October 8, also in Southern California, the bride's home region. Peart has been on a long hiatus from Rush since the death of his daughter in a car accident in 1997 and the loss of his wife to cancer less than a year later. The drummer is now expected to re-join bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in a Toronto studio early in 2001..." - CDNOW, September 20, 2000.
"Rush is not heading into the studio just yet. we have plans to regroup for writing purposes in January. Hopefully, those sessions will lead to an album being finished sometime late next year or early 2002." - Barnes & Noble Chat, November 13, 2000.
"It is about us coming back together. It is about the psychological health and welfare of all the people who have gone through a very difficult time ... I want it to happen, and I want it to happen in a very positive and natural way." Geddy Lee, Jam! Showbiz, January 12, 2001
"When I did come back and play, it was when I was at the very lowest point. I was so desperate. It was like, What can I do now? But the answer came to me: I'll play the drums." - Neil Peart, Modern Drummer, September 2002
"Although things began rather slowly, as you can well imagine after 6 years between writing sessions, and considering all that we and Neil in particular have been through personally, I'm happy to report that we are now deeply ensconced in the creative mode and a collection of songs is starting to take shape. More importantly there is an optimistic atmosphere and we are once again communicating fresh ideas together as a band. Experimenting as always, but not afraid to get a little physical!! ... And so we will continue on with this process until such time that we all feel confident that the material we have written is "great" enough to be released as the next Rush album. When that will be? I can't say exactly, but with luck on our side we hope to release something early in 2002." - Geddy Lee,, May 30, 2001
"A lot of the songs were just jams, where Geddy and Alex got together in front of a recorder, set up a groove on a rhythm machine, and started playing. And then later, Geddy would go back and sift through those jams and say, 'This eight bars is good,' 'This four bars is good,' or, 'If we took that two bars and repeated it, that would be good.' So they stitched together these things into a structure. At the same time, I was feeding Geddy lyrics so he could sing over the ideas they were coming up with. And then we did what we call 'leap-frogging,' where we individually work on the songs ourselves-the drum parts, guitar parts, and vocal/bass parts-without holding up each other and without getting caught up in too much editorial commentary from each other. We start off with that rough tape Geddy will have created, and then Alex will add guitar parts more to the vision he has for the song. Then I'll take that tape and come up with drum parts that I think will work. Then Geddy will respond to my drum parts and say,'Well, the bass part would be better if it went like this.' Then I'll hear that and it'll give me ideas. So we're constantly improvising and developing the ideas, even though we're never really playing the song together." - Neil Peart, Modern Drummer, September 2002
"Rush has returned to the studio. The rock legends are bunkered down in a Toronto studio, recording the long-awaited follow-up to 1996's Test For Echo. Rush began recording their new album in earnest with producer Paul Northfield in mid-August after spending much of the year in pre-production mode writing and arranging songs and recording home demos. Northfield previously engineering such Rush classics as Signals, Exit Stage Left, Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves and co-produced the last Rush release, Different Stages, a triple-disc live effort released in 1998. The Canadian has also produced I Mother Earth, Moist and Honeymoon Suite and engineered and/or mixed albums for Hole, Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne." - Vancouver Province, September 16, 2001
"Rush has completed recording tracks for their highly anticipated new album. The legendary power trio - Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neal [mispelled by Atlantic Records] Peart - recently wrapped up recording sessions in Toronto, and are now in the midst of mixing. The album - which is being produced by Rush with engineer Paul Northfield (Marilyn Manson, Hole) - is the Canadian band's 17th studio recording, and their first all-new collection in over 5 years. The as-yet-untitled set is currently slated for an early spring release." - Atlantic/Anthem, January 9, 2002
"Not wanting to 'rush' into anything - legendary arena-rockers, Rush, have just put the finishing touches on VAPOR TRAILS, their 17th studio recording. VAPOR TRAILS marks the band's first all-new album since '96, and comes as the follow up to their recent RIAA gold-certified TEST FOR ECHO. The renowned Canadian power trio - Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neal [again mispelled by Atlantic Records!] Peart - recorded the album in Toronto, recruiting engineer Paul Northfield (Marilyn Manson, Hole) to assist in production duties. The massively anticipated album is slated to hit stores in May. Rush - among the world's most popular rock bands for more than a quarter century - have seen 22 of their albums score RIAA certification of gold-or-better, with cumulative worldwide sales of over 35 million." -, March 13, 2002
"Anthem/Universal Music Canada Recording Group Rush has announced details of their eagerly awaited new album, VAPOR TRAILS. The 13-track collection, produced by Rush with engineer Paul Northfield (Marilyn Manson, Hole), is set for release on May 14, 2002 VAPOR TRAILS sees the legendary power trio - Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart - redefining their intensely individualistic music, blending their famously complex dynamics with driving melodic hooks and a passionate, personal lyrical approach. Tracks like the kinetic "How It Is," the emotive "Sweet Miracle," and the propulsive album-opening "One Little Victory" are angular, atmospheric and altogether extraordinary. With the visionary new VAPOR TRAILS, Rush has taken a bold step forward, making it clear that one of rock 'n' roll's all-time great bands are more than just back, they're better than ever. The album will be heralded by the single, "One Little Victory," slated to ship to rock radio outlets nationwide on March 29. The band is currently finalizing plans for a major North American tour. Tentatively set to kick off in late June, the trek will mark Rush's first live performances since July 1997. The tour's first leg will be announced shortly. VAPOR TRAILS is Rush's 17th studio recording, and their first all-new collection in over 5 years. The Canadian trio's 22 albums have virtually all been certified CRIA platinum-or-better, with cumulative worldwide sales of over 35 million. The band were inducted into the Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1994, received the esteemed Order of Canada in 1997 and were given their own star on the Canadian Walk of Fame in 1999." Press Release,, March 15, 2002
"We liked the visual idea of how fleeing a vapor trail is, its there one minute, gone the next. A lot of what's happened in the last five years has brought us around to that way of thinking, and how important it is to cherish every moment we have. And Neil has gone through quite a tragedy, and we all took a very slow recovery from that. And we got down to making this record, it just summed up our feeling of how fleeting life can be." - Alex Lifeson, KLBJ interview, April 10, 2002
"This was an exceedingly difficult record to make. We spent about 14 months on it, and we've never spent that amount of time on a record before." - Geddy Lee, KGON interview, April 10, 2002
"We spent 14 months working so hard on this record. We spent a lot of money making this record. We spent a lot of money on the packaging, making it the best record we could. A lot of time and energy went into it. To have it on the Internet and download a crappy file is heartbreaking for us. Unfortunately, that is the way it is now. True Rush fans will go get the record, because they want to have that connection, and the lyrics." - Alex Lifeson [his reaction to Vapor Trails being leaked to the internet on April 10th, over a month before the official release], Jam! Showbiz, May 5, 2002
"Everything was already written by [September 11, 2001]. The last song that needed to be finished was 'Peaceable Kingdom.' It was already written and slated to be an instrumental song. Paul (co-producer Northfield) said 'You guys are nuts if you make this an instrumental song. You should really come up with some good lyrics for this'. Neil gave it some thought, and what happened on September 11, that was really a direct result of that. I think he wrote the lyrics the following week. I'm glad it wasn't an instrumental. It is my favourite song on the record. It has such a weird character to it. Lyrically I think it is great. The chorus, ('a wave toward the clearing sky ...'), it is so powerful and visual. It is such a great contrast from the heaviness of the rest of the song." - Alex Lifeson, Jam! Showbiz, May 5, 2002
"Earthshine was the first song that we wrote. At the time we both felt that we weren't going to be too precious about it, it was part of that early period that we went through with the writing, about 5 months into the project I guess? Six months? We reviewed the song and decided to completely rewrite it. There were some lyrical changes, but 100% of the music was thrown into the garbage, and we started over again with it. Which was really a testament to working this way without a deadline, and how important it was not to have a deadline with this record." - Alex Lifeson, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"Yeah, [Earthshine] was just not right in its original incarnation. The lyrics were very interesting, and very evocative, but I didn't feel in the end-and Alex agreed-that the music really equaled what was there lyrically. We were selling the lyrics short. So we had this jam music that we really were excited about, especially this riff, this main riff, that is the verses for Earthshine, and I rebuilt the song vocally aroung that riff. Then we proceed to just carry on with it, and before we knew it we had a whole knew song that was really exciting." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"I think [Sweet Miracle] was the second song we wrote for this album. This came from the very earliest parts of the writing sessions, and it just happended. The lyrics I felt were very moving, and the melody just came out of me." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"It's funny, we didn't realize we were doing [another part of "Fear"] until Neil put together the list at the end of the record and tagged on that it was part four...It was a song that dealt with fear but the connection with the other three songs was an afterthought. Those original three songs dealt with fear and how it takes hold of your life. And this does as well. It's a different take on it so it's quite appropriate that it's part of that group." - Geddy Lee, Aquarian Weekly, May 15, 2002
"[Nocturne] was one of the later songs that we wrote for the record after the break that we had. There was a group of about 5 or 6 songs that came from a two week period of just what I would consider the best jams Alex and I have ever had. I really love this song, I love the drum pattern, especially the way it starts. Its kind of about the questions you can subconsciously answer in your dreams without realizing it." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"There's somehting about the energy of this record, and the passion of it that reminds me of two other records. One is 2112. Obviously the music is quite, quite different, but the intensity is reminiscient to me of that record. And also Permanent Waves. There's an optimism that exists on Permanent Waves, and a freshness, a liveliness of playing that has a lot in common with this record." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 15, 2002
"[One Little Victory] was kind of a triumphant song for us, in the lyrics and the message that the song is about. There was something about that song that seemed just so darned approprate for opening the record, and also being the first release for us in such a long time. That song started as a collection of jams that Alex had done late at night, just a collection of guitar riffs all linked together in a really kind of a typically-Alex-nonsensical way. I came in the next day after he'd done these things, and just kind of scratched my head but really liked a lot of it. At the same time, there were some lyrics there that Neil had written, which were one of the few lyrics that immediately I just loved, I didn't want to touch a word, it was all great. And so I played with it for a couple of days, started using the digital equipment to manipulate the riffs and add my bass to it, and start writing some vocal melodies. And before I know it I had a song, or what seemed like a song. And then I ran it by Mr. Lerxst here, and he seemed to really dig it. So that kind of became a song and it didn't change much after that." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"'One Little Victory.' I'd been working on that tune and came up with that double bass part. I thought it worked perfectly for the end of the song. But Geddy said, 'That's a great part. You ought to open the song with it. That would just kill.' Frankly, I wouldn't have done it that way-I don't think I would have been so assertive-but Geddy suggested it and I said, 'Okay, I'll try it.'" - Neil Peart, Modern Drummer, September 2002
"I think 'Secret Touch' is my favorite song on the record, and I love playing it live. It's got a great intensity about it." - Geddy Lee, Contents Under Pressure
"We wanted the record to be a little more organic, a little more representive of us as a three piece, and more direct. I think we've been working towards this for awhile now. The last few records we've been using the keyboards less and less. They were becoming quite secondary and background instruments. But we took it upon ourselves to create other sounds with the guitar, I tried to do more textural things, and Ged used his voice a lot to create the same sort of things that keyboards would have done in the past. I think it was a lot more satisfying, it was really a nice creative way to make some sounds and tonal shadings that were more dimensional and more organic." - Alex Lifeson, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"I didn't feel like doing [guitar solos]. I got a little bit of pressure from Geddy, he thought that I should probably do more than I chose to do. But it seemed to me to be more interesting to do instrumental passages that we all kind of soloed at the same time. I didn't want there to be a focus on a guitar solo in a song that had this kind of emotional content that a lot of these songs had, it just didn't seem right to me." - Alex Lifeson, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"In a way [not having guitar solos] gave us an opportunity to stretch out and jam as a band, and a lot of the middle section of our songs are quite complex and go through lots of different changes on this record. So we're all kind of soloing together in a way, and I think it created a kind of modern and unique approach to the middle sections of songs. It also gave me an opportunity to layer some vocals in some very unusual ways in the middle of some of these songs." - Geddy Lee, "Rockline", May 13, 2002
"For me, [the cover] represents the burning fire of life. It is a beautiful painting, and off of [the ball of fire] comes sparks and trails and whispers... Those are very symbolic to me, they represent memory, spirit, all sorts of things that are connected to life...." - Geddy Lee, "...And the things that we leave behind." - Alex Lifeson, "Rockline", May 15, 2002
"Initially the idea was to build on the concept of vapour trails and everything from the serious to the seriously silly was explored, not least the idea of a dragon. That was quikly rejected: 'It kind of tipped the scale way too much into the era of rock music that is 'Wakemanesque', that grand and terribly British folklore kind of thing,' says Hugh. Instead, Neil agreed with Hugh that a comet would work, so the cover artist set about putting together a conceptual piece, in oil on canvas. 'It was a real quick and dirty rendering,' says Hugh, but when Neil and the others saw it, they loved the image. 'What was a study became the original for the cover!'" - Chemistry
December 2002: Rush is listed in FMQB's 2002 Year End Charts, a ranking of the top 100 singles based on total number of spins in their respective radio formats for the entire year, as follows: in the Mainstream Rock catagory, "One Little Victory" ranked 13th with 14,291 spins while "Secret Touch" ranked 55th with 3,860 spins; in the Active Rock catagory, "One Little Victory" ranked 60th with 5,268 spins.
Although listed as the #19 top grossing tour of 2002 by Pollstar Online, Rolling Stone magazine reported Rush came in at #21 in tours from 2002, stating the tour net $13.4 million. "Rush released their first new album in six years, Vapor Trails, and followed it up with a tour that brought the Canadian power trio an $18 million guarantee. The band's devoted following helped the outing gross $27 million in sixty-two cities. But that's a lot of moving around -- compare it to Billy Joel and Elton John's tour, which grossed $65 million for thirty-four shows in fourteen cities -- so a good chunk of that got eaten up on the road." - RollingStone, April 3, 2003
"The first version of 'Earthshine' sounds nothing like the one on the ['Vapor Trails'] album. We threw all the music away; we thought the lyrics were great and it was the first thing we wrote musically and we liked it for a week and then the doubts crept in. There are usually one or two songs that you're struggling with tooth and nail. 'Tom Sawyer' was one of those songs, and right up until the end it was a struggle. Everything we did on that song was just like pulling teeth. Alex went through a hundred different sounds for the guitar solo. There's always one song that haunts you and drives you crazy." - Geddy Lee, Classic Rock, October 2004
"In the glimmer along the peaks, I saw a dusting of white around the highest summit, Telescope Peak, where I hoped to hike the following day. Telescope Peak was an important place in Ghost Rider'and in my life, really. In October 1999, when I had been rambling aimlessly around the West for the better part of a year, trying to find some way to face the world again, I hiked to that 11,049-foot summit. The next day, I rode on to Los Angeles, where I met Carrie, and my whole life changed completely (and needless to say, positively). An irresistible metaphor seemed to arise there-that I had climbed to the highest point in Death Valley from the lowest, then descended to travel onward and find Life again. In the book Ghost Rider I had used Telescope Peak as an important symbol, and had written some lyrics called 'Telescope Peak,' too, around the refrain of 'the last lonely day.' Those lyrics hadn't found a musical home with my collaborators, Alex and Geddy, during the songwriting sessions for our Vapor Trails album in 2001, but fair enough-those guys shared enough of my grief, in life and in art. In any case, the best lines from 'Telescope Peak' were recycled into other songs, like 'Ghost Rider' and 'How It Is,' so nothing was lost...Early next morning I rode about sixty miles across the valley and up Iigrant Canyon Road, aiming for a hike in the Panamint Mountains. I was still thinking of going for the 'big one,' Telescope Peak, as I wanted to close that circle of more than nine years ago-revisit the place that had also inspired another line in 'Telescope Peak' that ended up in 'Ghost Rider:' 'From the lowest low to the highest high.'" - Neil Peart, News Weather & Sports, December 2008

Vapor Trails Remaster/Remix News

May 14, 2002: Vapor Trails is released.

"'Geddy went away to do the mastering. I went away on a golfing trip as soon as we finished (last February),' Lifeson says. 'It had been 14 months (making the record), and in the past, we spent four to six months making a record ... I just had to go. I felt badly, because everything was dumped on Geddy, to do the mastering and make all those decisions.' Even as he was hitting the links, Lifeson was on the phone four or five times a day with Lee, who was forced to deal with unexpected glitches that didn't emerge until late in the recording process. 'We found problems that we didn't hear in mixing that were apparent in mastering. To get the kind of levels (we wanted), we had digital distortion. We remixed a couple of songs half-way through the mastering, through the remix, back to mastering,' says Lifeson. 'The poor guy (Lee) was doing this on his own. It really shook him up...He said: 'I don't know what to think. I think it's awful.'" -Jam Showbiz, Lifeson on the making of Rush's 'Vapor Trails', May 7, 2002
"I now have a 2001 Audi A6 4.2...It has their upgraded Bose system. It's a great system. I'm in that car listening all the time, listening to mixes. I base all of my decisions on what I hear in that car." - Alex Lifeson,, May 2002

August 2002: The first rumblings of the mastering problems and being a victim of the "loudness wars".

"This is easily my favorite collection of Rush songs in years, maybe decades. It's incredible work and I earnestly hope it reflects a new and sustainable direction for this great band. However there was one fact that the reviewers had all left out: this CD sounds like dogshit. Perhaps you think I'm being a little strong. I think not. This is without prefix or suffix the worst sounding Rush CD ever made. In fact it is so bad that I cannot listen to more than a few songs before I just have to turn it off. What's the cause of this sonic catastrophe? There's no secret here: loudness. Vapor Trails is just the latest CD to fall victim to the current craze of LOUDER IS BETTER production. Rush is not alone. Most of the current crop of rock CDs have been punished by the LOUDER IS BETTER process..." - Rip Rowan, "Over The Limit",, August 31, 2002

July 2004: Atlantic announces it will reissue the first five Atlantic era Rush studio albums (Presto through Vapor Trails).

August 31, 2004: Without explanation Vapor Trails is not included among the Atlantic reissues.

March 2005: Atlantic adds a preorder link for the Vapor Trails remaster on its website, and an anonymous source close to the band confirms to Power Windows that "its release is imminent".

May 16, 2005: Atlantic Records once again delays the release of the Vapor Trails Remaster. An anonymous source close to the band confirms to Power Windows that the album has been remastered, and that Atlantic decided to delay releasing the remaster until the next Rush release, as there are apparently plenty of the original in stock. Those who preordered the remaster from the Atlantic website received the following email:

"Thank you for ordering from Atlantic Records Online store. Unfortunately, Vapor Trails-Remastered, is no longer available for sale and has been canceled from your order. Be assured that you were not billed for the order as it never shipped to you. It is our policy not to bill for items until they have shipped. Again, our sincere apologies and thank you for your understanding. We hope that you visit us again." - Atlantic Records via Email, May 16, 2005

January 2006: The first admission from the Rush camp that there is a problem with the mastering:

"I didn't hear it until it was all said and done, at which point the record company was over the moon with it, saying it was fantastic, let's get it out there...To me it's guilty as charged. All you can say is decisions were made at the time, everybody was just really tired and we did what we felt was right, and then given a month or two's hindsight we found it was wrong." - Paul Northfield (Producer of Vapor Trails), Chemistry (published January 2006)

April 2007: The first comment from a band member that they are displeased with the sound of Vapor Trails:

"For me it's really a sonic issue: it was mastered much too hot; it's too loud and it eats away at us and we want to address that - and maybe for no other reason than it would just make us sleep peacefully at night." - Alex Lifeson, Metal Edge Magazine, April 2007

May 1, 2007: As "the next Rush release" (Snakes & Arrows) is here with no news of a Vapor Trails remaster, an anonymous source close to the band tells Power Windows "it won't be re-released for a while"...

December 2008: "One Little Victory" and "Earthshine" are remixed for Retrospective III; Alex Lifeson first discusses the possibility of a complete Vapor Trails "remix" as opposed to a simple "remaster" (i.e. going back to the original master tapes):

"You know, Rich Chycki just remixed a couple of the songs for the retrospective that's coming out, and he did such a great job that we're so tempted to just remix that album, because we've never been pleased with the mix, and particularly the mastering on it. It's a dangerous precedent that you set by doing that, because you want to go back and re-do a bunch of things. We were never happy with that one. There are a lot of reasons for that. We're to blame for a lot of that. The way we recorded it was very impulsive. We didn't spend a lot of time on getting sounds, and we used a lot of the stuff that we did in the writing phase, rather than re-recording things. So, to maintain the pure energy of what those ideas were, we gave up a bit on the sonic end. But, Rich just has this way of mixing and hearing this band that translates so well into our heads. He did a great job. He remixed 'One Little Victory,' and 'Earthshine'. They sound so big and powerful and heavy and thick and round. Whereas, the original recordings are very compressed, and a little bright and scratchy. So, we listened to those and we thought 'well, look, what is the point in remixing it really? We would just be doing it for, ok why not - let's do it!' So, we're sort of toying with the idea, when we have some spare time, of just remixing that whole album, just for our own peace of mind...That record was a very emotional record for us, and it was very fragile. From the heavy stuff to the more melodic stuff, it was a very fragile representation of the band, in the way it was recorded. In mastering, unfortunately, it was a contest, and it was mastered too high, and it crackles, and it spits, and it just crushes everything. All the dynamics get lost, especially anything that had an acoustic guitar in it. Anyways, it's something that we're thinking about. We're kind of busy right now, we have our hands full. But it's certainly something that, once we have some spare time, we could get Rich working on. He and I are doing a lot of stuff together these days." - Alex Lifeson, Modern Guitars, December 2008

February 2011: The complete Vapor Trails remix reissue is announced:

"Rush are planning to totally remix their 2002 album Vapor Trails. Talking exclusively to Classic Rock, guitarist Alex Lifeson revealed: 'We were never happy with the production. Perhaps we should have taken more time over the record. But now we've got the chance to improve things. There will be no re-recording, just a remix'." -, February 3, 2011
"A while back, I re-mixed One Little Victory and Earthshine from Rush's 2002 release Vapor Trails to be included on their 2009 release Retrospective 3. The re-mixes were very well-received so the band has decided to let me move ahead and re-mix the remainder of the CD. To put rumors to rest, there was no re-recording or performance correction done on the first two tracks and that will continue for the remainder of the CD. The reason 'new' details may seem to have appeared in those songs is due to the fact that I listened to the multitracks and interpreted the mix structure without first analyzing the original [deliberately] - so tracks either muted or turned down in the original mixes may shine through differently (the acoustic guitars in Earthshine might be a good example of this). As well, the same technical tweaks will continue for the remaining songs and I still will not have a buss limiter on the mix set to stun. In any case, both the band and I are really excited to re-visit Vapor Trails and hope you'll all enjoy the re-mix." - Rhichard Chycki,, February 4, 2011

February 2011: Alex discusses the remix at length with

"Well, we've been toying with that idea for quite a few years now. And there was initially no interest from the record company in rereleasing it. It's a little bit of a dance that we would have needed to do without their support in terms of releasing it and getting the releases for it.
The thing about that, I mean, you walk a very narrow line... That album's almost ten years old. It's a very, very important record for us. There's a lot of emotion on that. We were coming back after a very difficult period in the band's history and certainly in Neil's life. So for us, there's a great deal invested in that record and it's very, very special. And in a lot of ways, I wouldn't want to change anything, because it was recorded in such a way that we captured the very essence of what we were doing at that time. You know, you could say that that album is sixty percent demos, because really that's kind of what it was. Most of that record was what we wrote. We didn't rerecord it. It was the most basic essence of the idea. And that's what was really special. But sometimes when you do that, you're not really aware or conscious of production merits, sounds, spending time creating sounds and, you know, developing that end of it. So consequently, the record suffered a little bit from production or lack of production. And when it went to mastering, it was mastered very hot and all we hear is the little bits of distortion here and there, and these compromises that were made on production.
It's always bothered us, so we thought [we would consider it after hearing] a couple of songs that Rich Chycki remixed. They were really a lot closer to the way we always would have liked to have heard that record, you know? And we talked about it and so we decided, 'Let's just - you know what, if it's just for the three of us - let's just remix the record so we're happy with it. At least we know that we've done it, that we've got that out of our system. We'll pay for it. It's no big deal. Let's just do it.'
You could say that of any record. Go back and remix Caress of Steel or something, but I don't know. Something about Vapor Trails... We just don't feel like we serviced the record properly and we want to give it another breath. And I know it upsets a lot of fans. It goes both ways: I hear from a lot of fans who think it's just a great a idea and they can't wait to hear it, and others who say, 'Why are you touching this record? You should not touch this record.'" - Alex Lifeson,, February 18, 2011

May 2012: Ten years after the original release, it is again discussed with no release in sight:

"We've been talking about [the Vapor Trails remix] for years but every time we try to make a move on it something else comes up and because it's a back burner issue it gets left. We were very close a while back and Rich was going to start remixing it when we finished this record but other things were slotted in but we'll get to it one of these days." - Alex Lifeson, Metal Express Radio, May 21, 2012
"[Remixing Vapor Trails and including it in a deluxe edition of Clockwork Angels] was an idea but it's now been shifted down. Rather than remix the entire album we might now take a bunch of different songs from albums and get different people to remix them for fun, rather than just do Vapor Trails. It's an idea in flux." - Geddy Lee, Prog #26, June 2012
"We've already remixed a few songs. The idea was to do it as a tagalong with this record, maybe. That was one of the options that we talked about. But the schedule just keeps getting in the way of something like that. Because it's not really a priority. We'd like to do it, I think, for all the right reasons. We're not happy with the mastering. We felt that the production could've been a bit better, and we'd like to have another crack at it. But the longer we get away from it, the less appealing the idea is. Maybe it's best to leave it as it is. There's something that's very compelling about that record. It's the least-produced record that we've ever done. But in a way that's the right thing, for the moment. It was a very, very difficult time, and that record should sound and feel very different from anything else that we've done." - Alex Lifeson,, June 18, 2012
" is a war. Vapor Trails [2002], for example, was mastered so hot, it really wrecked the album. I can't listen to that record. It's so flat and has so much distortion that we really want to remix that record. It was out of our hands when it was mastered, and the mastering engineer did a poor job. He's the first one to admit it. He really pushed it." - Alex Lifeson, Stereophile, September 2012

May 2013: The album is "mastered for iTunes", by Andy VanDette:

"These are the original mixes, but with a much different treatment. For what it is worth........A typical album takes me about 8 hours to master. I spent 4 days on VT, trying to find a way to emphasize the positive, and downplay the negative, with a 'car test' every morning on my way in to the studio. I knew this album in particular would receive tremendous scrutiny.  Being a musician, growing up on the other side of Niagara Falls from the band, Rush had a huge influence on me. I hope I have done their catalog justice. Check it out. I hope you will agree that VT sounds much less 'overblown'. I tried to design it to be more open and dynamic. I hope you enjoy it." - Andy VanDette, Chief Mastering Engineer, Masterdisk NYC via email May 21, 2013

July 2013: Neil Peart indicates the band have been reviewing a new remix:

"The band had recently been overseeing a remixed version of our Vapor Trails album, from 2002, as we had never been happy with how it turned out." - Neil Peart, "One Fine Day", News Weather & Sports, July 2013

August 1, 2013: Rush finally announce the October 1 release of Vapor Trails Remixed, remixed by David Botrill:

"Vapor Trails was an album made under difficult and emotional circumstances - sort of like Rush learning how to be Rush again - and as a result, mistakes were made that we have longed to correct. David Bottrill's remixes have finally brought some justice and clarity to this deserving body of our work...Every song has been given a new life, from the fire of 'One Little Victory,' 'Secret Touch,' and 'Ceiling Unlimited' to the melodic musicality of 'Sweet Miracle' and 'How It Is'...these songs have been redeemed. Thank you David!" - Geddy Lee,, August 1, 2013
Vapor Trails Remixed

September 30, 2013: Vapor Trails Remixed is released:

"When I approach any mix, I will reference any rough or previous mix lightly, to find balance or tones that the client might like. But in this case, I was aware that the band weren't happy with the final mixes they had, so I just approached it fresh with little referencing to the originals. My philosophy was that they didn't like what they had, so I would just work with the material they gave me and do what I thought would work best for each song. The first mix took the longest to complete, but that was only a couple of days. Once we were into the groove, the band usually only had little tweaks or suggestions and went mostly with what I presented them with.  There was very little direction prior to starting. I did a test mix for them as did some other engineers and producers. They liked most of them, but I think that they had wanted to try to work with me for some time, so perhaps that swayed their opinion towards my mix as opposed to others. Andy Curran, who works with the band, is also a friend of mine and I think he was pulling for me to do the remix as well - and this may have had an influence.  Nothing new was added. The band weren't present for the mixes as they were mostly on tour, so there would have been no opportunity to do any further recording...[Regarding the "new" guitar solo heard in "Ceiling Unlimited"] It sounded good to me. As I said, I just worked with the material they gave me. I didn't really check the originals to see what they used or didn't use. I liked that solo and put it in. I don't think many people have complained about that one so far. When a record is made, often times there are things that are recorded that are left out of the final mix. I had no attachment to the older mixes or what was left in or out. I just put in all the mixes what I thought worked the best. I don't think I left much out from the tracks they gave me. There was no really grand plan for the mixes. I just tried to make the songs all shine as much as I could. There was some talk in the fan press that the tracks were distorted in the recording process or that there have been new recordings done. Neither is true. The source recordings are top quality and we didn't add anything new from those early recordings." - David Botrill,, October 7, 2013


Behind The Fire - The Making Of Vapor Trails

by Neil Peart

Vapor Trails Tourbook, click to enlarge

"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion; you must set yourself on fire."

I found those words on the wall of a bar in Montana, attributed to somebody named Reggie Leach. It seemed an unlikely place to find inspiration, but I carried it away with me, and thought of it more than once during the making of this latest Rush album.

On a cold Monday morning in January of 2001, Geddy, Alex, and I gathered at a small studio in Toronto to start work again. It had been almost five years since Test For Echo, but after twenty-seven years and sixteen studio albums together, we were hopeful that the chemistry among us could be awakened once more, the fire rekindled. Deep down we were a little apprehensive-would we really be able to put together enough songs that we liked to fill a new album?

Always a burning question, and more so this time, when so much life had flowed beneath our bridges. Also, in the past few years both Geddy and Alex had produced their own projects, for themselves and for others, and each of them was used to being the Supreme Boss of Everything. For many reasons, the process of meshing again had to be gradual, exploratory, and careful.

We laid out no parameters, no goals, no limitations, only that we would take a relaxed, civilized approach to this project. No hurry, no pressure, no marathon stints in the studio (at first anyway); we would simply keep working, day after day, trying to strike sparks from each other and feed the slow-burning fire of collaboration and mutual inspiration.

Per our usual pattern, Geddy and Alex started working together on musical ideas in the studio's control room, while I retreated into another little room with pen, paper, and computer to start trying to assemble lyrics. I began by going through my "scrapyard" of jotted notes and phrases I had collected, looking for connections to stitch together, while Geddy and Alex began by simply playing, setting up a rhythm machine and jamming along with guitar and bass.

After a couple of weeks I had put down a few lyrics to pass over to them, but it seemed they weren't ready to get serious yet-they just wanted to "play." Sometimes I would take a break from wordsmithing and go down the hall to have a bash at my drums in the main recording room, and I would pass the control room where the two of them were working. Usually I heard them riffing away, exploring some interesting directions and recording everything, but there weren't any songs yet.

We would talk at the beginning or end of the day, and I knew the two of them were starting to get excited about their explorations, but didn't want to stop for the relatively tedious job of listening through all those raw ideas and choosing the best ones to assemble into a coherent structure.

For myself, once I had a half dozen lyrics finished I began to feel a little unsure how to proceed. I wanted to know which ones might be "working" for them, to receive some feedback, and some influence, from where they were going musically. So I stopped lyric-writing for awhile, and started writing a book instead. (As one does.)

Eventually Geddy began to sift through the vast number of jams they had created, finding a verse here, a chorus there, and piecing them together. Often a pattern had only ever been played once in passing, but through the use of computer tools it could be repeated or reworked into a part. Since all the writing, arranging, and recording was done on computer, a lot of time was spent staring at monitors, but most of the time technology was our friend, and helped us to combine spontaneity and craftwork. Talk was the necessary interface, of course, and once Geddy and Alex had agreed on basic structures, Geddy would go through the lyrics to see what might suit the music and "sing well," then come to me to discuss any improvements, additions, or deletions I could make from my end.

Gradually the songs began to come together, "Out Of The Cradle" among the first, along with "Vapor Trail," "The Stars Look Down," and "Earthshine." That last is notable for being the only Rush song I can recall that was later completely rewritten, keeping the same lyrics but replacing every single musical part. "Cradle" also underwent some serious surgery as time passed, and that was the kind of relaxed approach we were taking, allowing us to reexamine songs with the luxury of perspective, and repair or replace any parts that didn't survive that test of time. Sometimes a developing song seemed to lose momentum, or our faith (the critical force), and was abandoned, but that had always been our version of "natural selection."

Once I had the reassurance of knowing that some of the lyrics were working, and had a feel for the musical context, I carried on with the lyric writing. And switching to my "drummer" hat, now that I had some song sketches to work on I started spending a few nights a week creating and refining drum parts, playing along to the still-evolving arrangements of music and vocals as my guide. Alex was my personal producer and recording engineer, as he had been for this phase of many past albums.

More songs came together too, like "Secret Touch," "Sweet Miracle," and "How It Is," and as often happens, once we had a few songs finished that we liked, the newer ones started to get weirder. Daring grows out of confidence (or what the ancient Greeks called "hubris," I guess), and from this combination came "One Little Victory," "Ceiling Unlimited," and "Nocturne."

By that time we had been working on our own for about six months, and felt we had enough material to benefit from an "objective ear," a coproducer. Paul Northfield had worked with us as recording engineer on albums going back to Moving Pictures and Signals in the early eighties, and on several live records over the years (as well as my Buddy Rich tributes), but this was the first time we had worked with him in a more creative capacity. We wanted someone who knew us and our music well enough to make a shortcut straight into the composing and arranging area, for there were still more songs to be written and organized, and make a transition from there straight to recording.

That was an important difference in the way we made this record, compared to any in the past. We used to spend a period of time working on the songwriting, arranging, and our individual parts, then do some last-minute preproduction work with a coproducer before moving to a big-time studio to start the "official" recording. The pressure this imposed on us could be productive, and in particular I found that it could often drive me to a level of performance I hadn't reached before, but this time we wanted to do it differently-more gradually, with more time for revision and renovations.

Some of the songs had been worked on over a period of months by that time, and were ready to record, while others were still under development, and a few hadn't even been written yet. So for the first time we were able to simultaneously work on writing new songs, arranging older ones, and recording finished performances on the ones we were "satisfied" with. Geddy had been able to record the vocals on his own, and Alex the guitars, experimenting and layering to their hearts' content, and some of those performances would remain irreplaceably right. In each case we were "leap-frogging" ahead, improving our individual parts and discussing changes, then responding to the work the others had done on their own. After so many years of playing together we intuitively understood each other musically, and even if we worked in isolation, we were working together.

Paul's influence was strong through this phase, for he could help us judge the performances as "finished" or "not yet," and he saw possibilities that sometimes escaped us (urging "Ghost Rider" from the verge of abandonment to its glorious realization, for example). He also encouraged our "eccentricities" in the later-emerging songs like "Freeze" and "Peaceable Kingdom."

By then certain common musical themes had emerged, like a "veiled complexity" in the parts and arrangements (the drum parts for "Freeze" and "Peaceable Kingdom" took me days to work out and refine, for example). Alex's particular agenda steered us away from the use of keyboards or guitar solos, and Geddy experimented with multi-tracked backing vocals as textural alternatives. Lyrically, no overall concept emerged, but I can trace some interesting sources for particular lines, like Walt Whitman in "Out Of The Cradle" and Thomas Wolfe in "How It Is" ("foot upon the stair, shoulder to the wheel") and "Ceiling Unlimited" (Wolfe's title Of Time And The River and looking at a map of the Mississippi Delta suggested the "winding like an ancient river" lines). "Ceiling Unlimited" also offers a playful take on Oscar Wilde's reversal of the Victorian lament, "drink is the curse of the working class," while Joseph Conrad's Victory gave the "secret touch on the heart" line. "There is never love without pain" echoed from my own experience and the novel Sister Of My Heart, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and W.H. Auden and Edward Abbey (Black Sun) influenced certain lines in "Vapor Trail."

An article in the magazine "Utne Reader" called "What Do Dreams Want?" contributed to my ideas in "Nocturne" (as well as the enigmatic mantra, "the way out is the way in," for "Secret Touch"), and I was also struck by a psychologist's approach to analysis and dream interpretation, "without memory or desire."

The nineteenth-century Quaker folk artist, Edward Hicks, painted no less than sixty versions of the same biblical scene, "Peaceable Kingdom," and the tarot card "The Tower" seemed a chilling reflection of the events of September 11, 2001. A series of works by Canadian painter Paterson Ewen helped to inspire "Earthshine," and the title of a novel by A. J. Cronin, The Stars Look Down (which I've yet to read), seemed to express a fitting view of an uncaring universe.

In the self-contained universe of our work, everything had been going very smoothly, and it was only when we moved into the final mixing stage that we got bogged down. It seemed that all of us, Paul included, had become too deeply immersed in the material, and we could no longer step back and hear the songs whole. After a few unsatisfying attempts, we called in a specialist, David Leonard, and he was able to sift through the parts and make them bright and new again, to find the hidden dynamics and textures and bring out the subtleties of the music and the performances.

And so it was that we suddenly found we had been working on this project for over a year. It was not because we had any special difficulties, or because it was at all "overwrought," for many of the final takes of the songs had been captured fresh and spontaneous, more than they had ever been in the past. Far from being stale or over-rehearsed, often they had only been played that way once. The difference this time was that instead of working to schedules and deadlines, we simply carried on writing songs and recording them until we felt the collection of music was complete. (Someone wise once said, "no work of art is ever finished, it is only abandoned.")

While putting so much time and care into every detail of the content and performance of the songs, we hadn't paid any attention to their length, and now we began to worry if all thirteen songs would even fit on a CD, which can only hold 74 minutes. There was some talk of saving a couple of songs for a compilation or something, but Rush has never left any "previously unreleased tracks" for anybody to capitalize on, and we weren't about to start now. All of these songs had taken a lot of time and effort, and we simply couldn't imagine leaving any of them behind. Fortunately they added up to just under 67 minutes, so we were spared any painful choices.

Then there was the album title-never an easy decision. A unifying theme sometimes appears in the collected songs and suggests an overall title, like Counterparts or Power Windows; other times a particular song seems emblematic, like "Test For Echo" or "Roll The Bones." Neither approach seemed right this time, so we went with the song title we liked the best, "Vapor Trail," and made it plural to refer to all the songs. Then I went to work on cover ideas with our longtime art director, Hugh Syme.

The last big challenge we faced, as always, was the running order of the songs, and we fiddled with that right up until the last minute. However, we never doubted which song would open the album, for "One Little Victory" made such an uncompromising announcement, "They're ba-a-a-ack!"

Knowing that our music is nothing if not idiosyncratic, and doesn't really cater to popular "taste," we also envisioned advertising slogans along the lines of, "If you hated them before, you'll really hate them now!" Or, "And now-more of everything you always hated about Rush!"

But of course, like everyone, we do hope people will enjoy our work, and that our shared enthusiasm, energy, and love for what we do communicates itself to the listener. When you set yourself on fire and aim for the sky, you hope to leave behind some sparks of heat and light.

Like a vapor trail.

GEDDY LEE · bass guitar, vocals, synthesizers
ALEX LIFESON · guitars
NEIL PEART · drums, cymbals, electronic percussion

Management by Ray Danniels, SRO Management Inc., Toronto
Tour Manager - Liam Birt
Production Manager - Craig (C.B.) Blazier
Production Assistant - Karin Blazier
Concert Sound Engineer - Brad Madix
Lighting Director - Howard Ungerleider
Keyboard Technician - Tony Geranios
Bass Technician - Russ Ryan
Drum Technician - Lorne Wheaton
Guitar Technician - Rick Britton
Stage Monitor Engineer - Brent Carpenter
Carpenter - George Steinert
Security Director - Michael Mosbach
Personal Assistant - Peter Rollo
Band Nutritionist - Bruce French
Concert Sound by MD Clair Bros. - Jo Ravitch, Brian Evans, Kevin Kapler
Lighting by Premier Global - Rich Vineyard, Shane Gowler, Keith Hoagland, Jamie Gossenkemper
Moving Lights Programming - Matt Druzbik
Rear Screen Projection created by Spin Productions - Norman Stangl
Live 3D Animation by Derivative - Greg Hermanovic
Derivative VJ - James Ellis
Video by BBC - David Davidian, Bob Larkin, Adrian Brister, James George
Lasers by Production Design - Chris Blair
Pyrotechnics provided by Pyrotek Special Effects - John Arrowsmith
Concert Rigging - Ken Mitchell, Brian Collins
Trucking - Ego Trips
Drivers - Arthur (Mac) McLear, Dave Cook, Jon Cordes, Michael Gibney,
Ron Kilburn, David Burnette, Tom Mikita, Bob Reetz, John Petrus
Flight Crew - Frank McGrath, Gil Faria, Don West
Tour Merchandise - The McLoughlin Family
Booking Agencies - Artist Group International, NYC, The Agency Group, London, S.L. Feldman & Associates, Toronto
Tour Accountants - Drysdale & Drysdale -- John Whitehead, Liam Birt
CCE Tour Director - Ian Jeffrey
Art Direction, Design and Digital Illustrations - Hugh Syme
Photography - Andrew MacNaughtan
Additional Photography - Carrie Nuttall -- page 19
Tour Promoter - Clear Channel Entertainment -- Arthur Fogel, Steve Howard, Gerry Barad

visit our site at

Alex Lifeson

Vapor Trails Tourbook, click to enlarge

Big Al uses: Hughes & Kettner Tri-Amp and Zentera amplification
Paul Reed Smith guitars
Gibson guitars
Fender guitars
Ovation guitars
Too many guitars
TC Electronics G Force effects processor
TC Electronics 1210 Spatial Expander
Behringer Virtualizer Pro
Behringer MX 602 Mixers
Digital Audio GCX audio switchers
Custom Audio Midi Footswitching
Shure Wireless Systems
Sampson Wireless Systems
Palmer PDI 03/05
Dean Markley strings
The Omega Stand, of course

Neil Peart

Vapor Trails Tourbook, click to enlarge

The drums are made by DW, with a custom red sparkle finish - sam as the last tour. (DW offered to build me a new set, but these ones still sounded great, so I decided to keep them.)

The bass drum is 22", the toms are 8", 10", 12", 13", 15" (two), 16", and 18". The current favorite snare drum is a 5" x 14" DW Craviatto, and I'm also using a 13" DW piccolo snare, miscellaneous LP cowbells, and DW pedals and hardware.

Out back, and hidden all around, are Roland V-drums and trigger pads, accompanying the Kat mallet controller and Shark pedals, all feeding into Roland TD-10 modules with expansion cards, Roland 5080 sampler, line mixer, and midi converters.

(I have no idea what any of that means.)

Drum heads are remo white-coated Ambassadors, and cymbals are Avedis Zildjian - 8" splash, 2-10" splashes, 13" high-hats, 14" X-hats, 2-16" crashes, 18" crash. 20" crash, 22" ride, 20" Low China, and an 18" Chinese Wuhan.

(That sort of thing I understand better - you just hit them with sticks. Promark 747 "Signature" ones, in this case.)

Someone has also written at the end of this list that I have "a really great drum tech." That would be Lorne Wheaton, better know as "Gump." Or is that "Grump?" Time will tell...

Geddy Lee

Vapor Trails Tourbook, click to enlarge

Hi There, This is the space where I'm supposed to list my, er ... equipment ... It's not very long, but it's terribly exciting to look at ... I'm talking about my equipment of course, so get your mind out of the gutter and get ready for the ultra compelling 2002


1 Fender Jazz Bass circa 1972 / 4 Fender Jazz Basses circa 1996
Avalon U5 Tube Direct box - for that "clean" sound / SansAmp R.B.I. Bass preamp by Tech 21 - for that "dirty" sound
Palmer-PDI-O5 Speaker Simulator - for that "big bottom" / Trace Elliot QUATRA-VR power amps
Roland XV-6090 Sampler / Synthesizers / Roland and Korg midi foot pedals / Roland D-50 Synthesizer / 3 Maytag dryers (coin operated) ... for that "clean, clean" feeling.
All this gear is superbly maintained by the inimitable Mr. Russ Ryan (bass department) ab\nd the mysterious Jack Secret a.k.a. Tony Geranios (keyboard department) with the complex array of synthesizer and drum programming, sequencing and sonic sampling organized by Jim Burgess of Saved By Technology ... (or is that Waiting for Technology? ... I get those 2 mixed up!) and Eric Bedard.
Well that's about it! ... Riveting stuff eh? ... I know, I know ... you're sad it's over ... I'm sad it's over ... but that's life folks!
See you ... G.L.

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