Top 100 Hard Rock Groups
By James West, The-Rocker.com
“What in the world? Why… they sound like a bunch of crazy chipmunks!” exclaimed my dear old auntie Charlene after I slipped a copy of “All The Worlds A Stage” into her 8-track player and cranked the volume to her surprise! She had one of those cool HEAVY DUTY wooden console combo record players/8-track players/Radio tuners in the huge console box with
built-in speakers. Just lift the plywood lid and pick your poison. Somehow my Rush surprise didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of her 8-tracks from Charlie Pride, Marty Robbins, and the Statler Brothers. But Charlene was a hip-old chic who didn’t seem to mind letting her 14 year-old nephew play his newest discoveries while visiting her home in the boonies of Arkansas. Where she lived it put the Hill in Hillbilly if you know what I mean! But somehow those Rush chipmunks fit right in with the redneck groove.
I had picked up the 2112 album a year earlier and was completely stunned by what I was hearing. The vocals obviously took a while to get used to. Geddy Lee wasn’t exactly Stephen Tyler or Freddie Mercury if you know what I mean. But that was the good part about Rush, they sounded
COMPLETELY different from anything else out there, and the same still rings true today.
The Sound of a New World Man!
Alex Lifeson’s guitar tone on 2112 sounded a bit like Zeppelin but a little more layered and polished. Geddy’s bass was brought up loud in the mix unlike the other bands I was into like Kiss and Aerosmith. Neil Peart sounded like a lighter John Bonham but with more diverse sounds and tempos. I never heard Yes until after I picked up Rush, but I’m sure some of the Rush sound must have been influenced by Yes as well.
After picking up All The Worlds A Stage on 8-track after 2112, I then went backward and picked up Archives, which had the first three Rush albums all together in one package. The first Rush album sounded like a Zep clone and kicked some serious ass with songs like What You’re Doing and Working Man! Fly By Night still had influence from Zeppelin but started adding more complex rhythms from new drummer Neil Peart. There are some great rock songs on Fly By Night like Best I Can and Beneath, Between, and Behind! Caress of Steel though was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first two albums, but I did like Lakeside Park.
One of my favorite Rush albums is A Farewell To Kings, released in 1977. By then I had gotten used to Geddy’s voice, and he seemed to sing a lot better on every album thereafter. Side two of Kings demonstrates the essence and beauty of Rush, with the one-two punch of Closer To The Heart and Cinderella Man, then followed by the out of this world Cygnus X-1! There was nothing this band from Canada couldn’t play and play well!
Hemispheres is a little hard to follow, but it is very complex and even the band admit they had pushed the progressive envelope as far as they could with that album. But even if you get it for just The Trees you will be more than satisfied!
The Masterpiece of Moving Pictures!
1980 found Rush delivering Permanent Waves with gems like The Spirit of Radio, Freewill, and Jacob’s Ladder on side one. This was another great album, but it was really just the warmup to their “Piece De Resistance”- Moving Pictures in 1981! (My number 19 of The Top 100 Greatest Hard Rock Albums of All Time). From Tom Sawyer through Vital Signs this colossal offering is a must-listen and must-have for every Rock fan out there, with one condition…. You MUST wear headphones through your entire journey! This was the
future of how Hard Rock should sound- It’s better than Beethoven baby! When CD’s came out and I bought my first Sansui CD player system at a military exchange store in Japan I played Moving Pictures for over 2 hours straight while sampling the difference between 601’s and 901’s in the Bose speaker showroom. I was in complete heaven, but I don’t think the store clerks cared for me camping out for that long! Lol
The influence of New Wave and keyboards mostly dominated the Rush sound for the next few years and albums, and they never quite reached the pinnacle of Moving Pictures after that. But, there still are some great albums like Counterparts, Test For Echo, and Vapor Trails, which
includes another one of my favorite Rush songs, Earthshine. I even named my landscape photography gallery and website after the song, which you can check out at www.earthshinegallery.com
A Farewell To Kings of Rock!
The four photos below were taken by The Rocker Chic during Rush's R40 Farewell Concert!
After 40 years of creating incredible music, Rush concluded touring with their R40 tour, and myself and The Rocker Chic were fortunate enough to catch them live in all their final glory before they caught the ‘Passage to Bangkok’ in their ‘Red Barchetta’ to drink with their uncles by the fire and the ‘Limelight’.
As with every Rush concert performed for forty years prior, the fans at Rush concerts are the most unique breed of rock fan to be found. Danette and I were simply amazed by the audience of intellectual Hard Rock Nerds in attendance. Literally every soul at the concert knew every word, every guitar lick, every drum beat, and every bass line that was being played and what was coming next. I have never witnessed an event so “in-sync” with fan and band. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever felt at a live venue. All of this human synchronicity and togetherness to celebrate one of the most incredible bands we have had the privilege of witnessing in our lifetimes. The life-force that is RUSH has made this Earth Shine for this rock and roll nerd for most of his life and I am forever grateful! Thank you Geddy, Alex, and Neil for a Beacon in the Night…