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Rush - Presto CD (album) cover

PRESTO

Rush

 

Heavy Prog

3.16 | 798 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

patrickq
4 stars The last hurrah, so to speak, of mid-period Rush, and the other bookend of the era, Moving Pictures one of Rush's best efforts. Presto is one good four- to five-minute song after another - - and several songs are more than just "good." No sidelong epic suites, no 10-minute mini-epics, nary a song even six minutes long. There's also no "Spirit of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," or other all-time classic Rush songs, although "Show Don't Tell" comes closest.

The performances and production are excellent, but that's to be expected on a Rush album. What sets Presto apart are the compositions. Unyolked, perhaps, from the demands of an overarching album concept, the band creates eleven distinct songs. As is the case with most Rush albums, the overall sound and mood on are pretty consistent on Presto.

Among Presto's best songs is "Available Light," which is another stab at the theme of "Time Stand Still," and a more satisfying one. "Show Don't Tell" and "War Paint" (the narrative structure of which reminds me of Genesis's "The Cinema Show") also stand out.

It's clear from listening to Presto that Rush had made peace with the idea that they wouldn't be able to reproduce these songs on the concert stage. They had been playing to tapes for years, but never before (or after) Presto did Rush seem unconcerned with making songs that could be convincingly performed live by a power trio with one vocalist. Instead, it seems, they focused on making a studio album.

There is nonetheless a power-trio feel throughout much of Presto; the keyboard parts seem secondary, while bassist Geddy Lee plays more chordal parts. There are also more guitar solos with only bass and drums as backing. (Parenthetically, I'll remark that some of Alex Lifeson's solos are in the same league as Dave Gilmour's: soaring and momentous without being busy.) But more notable than changes in instrumentation is the proliferation of vocal parts all over Presto. The quantity and overlapping character of the backing vocals on closing sections of a few songs, like "Available Light" and "War Paint," even approaches that of a contemporaneous Chicago song. Nearly every song has substantial harmony vocals on at least some parts. One other very unusual aspect: producer Rupert Hine, who along with Lee provides backing vocals, has a distinctive voice, and thus occasionally we have vocals on a Rush song not sung by Geddy Lee (the aforementioned "Time Stand Still" being another example).

Presto is still a Rush album, though, and some songs suffer from drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's moralizing, "The Pass" being the clearest example. There's also some unnecessarily ostentatious virtuosity, such as the bass part on "Scars."

Ultimately Presto is second only to Moving Pictures in the Rush catalogue. These are two very different albums; Moving Pictures is much easier to define as a "progressive" album; Presto is really art-rock or art-pop (however those are differentiated). If I were to rate this as a "prog" album, two stars might be appropriate - - in other words, this semiprogressive offering would only be for diehard Rush fans. But there are hundreds and hundreds of albums on Prog Archives that are arguably not progressive - - to me anyway - - and I think it'd be counterproductive to choose certain albums to penalize for not being progressive enough; if Michael Jackson's Thriller we're listed on this site, I'd give it five stars.

Presto does in fact have some progressive elements; certainly more than Thriller does. But judging it by its own merits, Presto is a four-star album.

patrickq | 4/5 |

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