Today we tackle something a little bit different with our Starter Kit. Rather than covering a particular genre or subgenre of music, I am here to discuss what is arguably the greatest prog band of all time, and definitely one of the best bands of all time. That band, as made evident by the title, is Rush. With a career spanning over 40 years, 20 studio albums, and some of rock’s most memorable anthems, the band have been absolutely killing it since their inception, and until recently only had a leave of absence due to personal tragedies in drummer Neil Peart’s family. Their sheer musical prowess cannot simply be expressed based on one thing; instead, it is due to a number of factors that really set them apart.
They are, and always have been, a three piece. They only had one lineup change after their first record and have remained with the same 3 members since. They each are talented beyond belief at their instruments, but are self-taught. They were able to change with the times and adapt to current popular sounds in music without abandoning their core sound. They are one of the only bands in the world that sound extremely unique in the sense that, to even untrained ears, you’ll inevitably know it’s a Rush song from the start. There are far too many things to name off, but the band is something special, and has been since they released their self-titled debut in 1974.
After the final stop on their US tour, the band are going to wind down, focus on family, and have stated those types of tours are over for the band. Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist/vocalist Alex Lifeson have both stated the want to continue making music, and possibly play one-off shows here and there, which is always a pleasure to hear. However, the band could stop tomorrow and all would be well. This article is not simply a means for you to introduce yourself; it’s a way for you to marry yourself to this band’s collection of astounding records and discover every little intricacy that makes them such. Now, we have four great albums we have to get to, so let’s begin!
Only three albums deep, the band decided to take a risk and defy their label to write six songs for their next record, with the first song occupying an entire side of the record and sitting at over 20 minutes in length. One continuous piece of music, the opener was a landmark for progressive rock music. While many bands had explored concept albums and long songs in the past, nobody had done what Rush had. Still the longest song in their discography, it was responsible for drawing major attention to the band. The shorter songs that follow also have their places as fan favorites, but combined they are still shorter than the title track. This is the album that I started with when discovering their discography, and I think it’s as good a starting point as any. It still retains the hard rock feel from their first two records, while combining the progressive rock elements from their third album Caress Of Steel. This album is where the band truly found their core sound, and over the next few albums they would continue writing epic prog rock songs that were filled with lyrical symbolism and flawless instrumentation.
Permanent Waves, however, is a different beast altogether. At the turn of the decade, new wave music was beginning to take hold in the states. Rush had decided to abandon long, progressive epics and mix their sound up a bit. Containing one of their biggest singles in opener “The Spirit Of Radio”, the band blends new-wave with progressive rock in a way that had never been done before, and has arguably never been done better except by the band themselves. Most people point to the album preceding this as an essential point, and while that is true, this album marks a sonic shift that is important to the band’s history. For the next few albums, they would continue to explore this sound, to much success. The band would then begin selling out arenas the world over on the heels of their updated-signature sound.
After the band experimented with synths and new wave-influenced music, the band chose to return to their roots as a prog rock band. After a couple albums, the band got it 100% right with Counterparts. The opening song “Animate” has become a live staple, and the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone” has become another one of the band’s stellar instrumentals. Neil blends his electronic drums perfectly with his acoustic ones, and the band really seemed to rock out harder than they ever had. This album also carried very strong modern undertones, containing some alternative rock influence, and also proving once again that, even in their 40s, they still know how to write encapsulating music. The album often gets left out of the conversation when discussing the band’s greatest albums, but it is a top-notch performance that does not deserve to be overlooked anymore. Most notable is the thickened production that the band got by using legendary producer Peter Collins, who added his modern touch to make the band’s heaviest release by far. Lastly, Neil’s lyrics really took off on this record, containing some very strong explorations into the thoughts of man and society’s expectations of them, and are the album that contains some of the most socially-aware lyrics in their career.
Finally, we arrive at their latest record. Many would have counted the band out, but those people have obviously not truly listened to Rush’s full selection of albums. From super heavy, driven songs such as “Headlong Flight” to the nostalgic guitar work in the album’s title track, this album is the culmination of an entire career. It encapsulates every little thing the band have done since they began, and takes elements from their past and infuses them with today’s modern progressive rock to create one incredible record that sounds phenomenal. This album is not the place you should begin your journey when delving into Rush, but it’s definitely one of the most important stops on your trip. For a band that hasn’t seemed to age at all in 40 years, you’d think they’d eventually start to run out of steam. Fortunately for everyone, we’d be dead wrong to think that.
Below are five more albums you should definitely check out by Rush. What’s your favorite album? Let us know!
Caress Of Steel 
Moving Pictures 
Power Windows 
Test For Echo