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Rush - Caress Of Steel CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.54 | 1205 ratings

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4 stars I feel like this album is somewhat overlooked in the Rush pantheon, despite its importance to the band's development. After all, this is the album, "By-Tor" aside, where they embrace prog rock and also the last Rush album that would not feature keyboards until "Vapor Trails." However, the album is largely ignored in the grand scheme of things, even by the band itself (I am baffled as to why "Bastille Day" isn't a concert and radio staple). This can work to a potential fan's advantage, however, in that there is a whole album of great Rush music to discover that hasn't been tainted by radio overexposure.

As previously mentioned, this is the album where Rush clearly threw their hat into the prog ring, considering that the album only has five songs, including the 12-minute "Necromancer" and the sidelong, 20-minute "Fountains of Lamneth". However, the band still clearly owed allegiance to the Cream/Zeppelin style they had cultivated throughout their two previous efforts, as the first three songs (and the heavy sound and lack of keyboards on the epics) make clear. This is most obvious on the awesome opener "Bastille Day", which features a great Geddy vocal and some of the awesome ensemble playing the band is known for. "Lakeside Park" is also a pretty good rock ballad (NOT power ballad, though), with some fairly restrained singing and an awfully pretty melody. I'm actually impressed that they managed to do a song like this without any use of keyboards. Unfortunately, "I Think I'm Going Bald" strikes a bit of a sour note--Peart clearly wasn't sure if he wanted to do a comedic song or a serious rumination on aging, so the lyrics sit somewhat awkwardly in the middle. The song still rocks quite a bit, though, so I don't hate it or anything.

The epics, while still a bit primitive, are quite interesting. OK, so the deep-voiced narrator on "The Necromancer" is kind of hokey and doesn't actually help the song in any way (and the lyrics aren't too hot either), the parts where the band plays are ace. And then there's the big cookie, Rush's first sidelong piece, the 20-minute "Fountains of Lamneth," which I honestly find to be fantastic and an underrated gem of 70s prog. Sure, the sections don't flow together that well (lots of fade-ins and fade-outs), but it never really becomes a distraction. I also really like Neil's lyrics for the piece, even if they might seem like cliche fantasy and aren't exactly "high art," they work perfectly for the piece. The very beginning and end feature some shockingly beautiful, almost vulnerable singing from The Gedster, and the main theme ("Yet my eyes are drawn towards the mountain in the east...") is one of Rush's greatest ever. There are plenty of other great moments throughout the rest of the song, too, particularly the fun drum solo "Diadects and Narpets" and that cool riff that comes in at 13 minutes in. Great, great piece and one which I wish had gotten more live airings.

In total, an unjustly forgotten album that might have a few flaws--as previously mentioned, the epics don't flow quite as well as I would like and "I Think I'm Going Bald" doesn't fully work, and it's also a bit strange how the band suddenly morphs from a hard rock band to a prog band 3 songs in, but "Caress of Steel" is still an album that I find myself frequently returning to. All three band members sound fantastic, as expected, but they're also really starting to gel as songwriters here. It might not equal the greatness of 2112, but that masterpiece would not exist without Caress of Steel.

hughes | 4/5 |


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