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Rush - Hemispheres CD (album) cover




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5 stars REVIEW #3 - "Hemispheres" by Rush (1978)

Still in the United Kingdom after recording their follow-up album to their successful 1976 album "2112", Rush continued on the path of conventional prog rock necessities - long songs with thought-provoking lyrics, interesting stories, and instrumental virtuosity. Their 1978 album "Hemispheres" would be the magnum opus of the band's prog rock phase, topping the solid "A Farewell to Kings" and being the most ambitious album by the band ever. With four songs, it features a continuation of the band's previous closing song (Cygnus X-1) and three very solid tracks on the flip side. This album very well shows how Rush is pretty good at making music - each member is phenomenal on the album with their respective parts - from bassist Geddy Lee to the ubiquitiously acclaimed Neil Peart on drums.

The entire first side is occupied by the second part of the Cygnus X-1 suite, continued from the band's previous album. "Hemispheres" (4/5) is quite possibly the most ambitious song the band had created to that point; an eighteen-minute, five part epic with themes rooted in Greek mythology, science fiction, the supernatural, and human nature. A more musically pleasing song piece than the first part of the suite, we learn what happens to the protagonist and how he, with the guidance of Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus, saves Earth. The concept of introversion and extroversion also emerges, with the former representing the left hemisphere of the brain and the latter the right. A fine sounding song, my gripe with it is its musical redundancy through the first three parts - it sounds the same and goes on for quite a while. The fourth part brings us back to the action, as the first three provide background on the new characters and the situation back on Earth (keep in mind the protagonist is in deep space). The underrated masterpiece of this album lies on the fifth (and final) part of this track - an acoustic, light piece titled "The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)" that is essentially a plea to peace and harmony in the world. All in all this is one of the better Rush songs, but is hampered by a convoluted story that is hard to digest for new and/or less intellectual listeners. The band itself has also admitted that the room for creativity at this point had been zapped, as the band felt pressured to make a solid sequel to the first part.

Three more songs occupy the second side. The first two are shorter pieces in relation to the two giants on the album - "Circumstances" (4/5), a track about Peart's life away from his Canadian hometown in England and his journey to find himself (similar to their 1975 hit "Fly by Night"). A comfortable song, it is not an astounding masterpiece, but rather a fine track that cannot be summed up as filler content. The other short track is "The Trees" (5/5), considered by some Rush fans as one of their best songs. Based upon a children's story that is an allegory to class warfare, it pits two species of trees as they fight over sunlight, with the smaller trees crying "oppression" in the words of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. An odd choice for a theme, especially as the band was considered to be heavily libertarian (as evidenced by the songs "Anthem", "2112", and so forth), but Peart denies having any ideological consensus with the story's message. Also notable on this song is the calming acoustic intro by guitarist Alex Lifeson - which would later be expanded into its own song titled "Broon's Bane". Overall, a brilliant song and one of their best as well. Finally, the album is ended by a very ambitious instrumental track titled "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)" (5/5) which would test the musical virtuosity of all three band members. With twelve parts in total inspired by a dream of Lifeson's, it is truly a masterpiece of the genre, with ruthless drumming by Peart, establishing himself as one of rock's best, and intricate bass and guitar work by both Lee and Lifeson. This song alone took more time to record than the band's whole 1975 "Fly by Night" album, and is a fan favorite, despite being pretty much retired due to the band's lack of stamina as they grow older.

"Hemispheres" would be the last strictly prog rock album the band would make. Its intricacy and pretentious nature ultimately drove the band in a more commercial direction - one which would eventually yield them mainstream success with a more new wave sound. This song would also feature their last song to date above twelve minutes, and the last to feature the glockenspiel, wind chimes, and gong that Peart used so well for ambience on this album, as well as "A Farewell to Kings." It's my personal favorite Rush album due to its well-structured, unique songs, and it deserves great honor. I enjoyed this album so much I eventually purchased a limited release Canadian red vinyl of the album - which sits at the pinnacle of my LP collection to this day. It isn't perfect, but it is pretty well near there, and deserves a "rare" five-star rating. A great album for prog fanatics and those who want to get into the world of prog from heavier rock and metal.

OVERALL: 4.5/5 (A-)

ProgMirage1974 | 5/5 |


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