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Rush - Caress Of Steel CD (album) cover




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3 stars REVIEW #6 - "Caress of Steel" by Rush (1975)

The second of two albums released by Rush in 1975, and the one following the moderately successful "Fly by Night", this album represents a major shift towards conventional prog rock by the band. Some prog themes had been given rise thanks to the inclusion of new drummer Neil Peart, but "Caress of Steel" is the album which veers away from the shorter, more commercially-friendly songs the band had put out on their first two albums. A failure, it nearly had the band dropped from their record label, as it sold poorly and its accompanying tour was also a wash. Nevertheless, the album has gained a cult following by many die-hard Rush fans over the years, with some claiming it's their most underrated album. Bassist Geddy Lee has also made known that the band was "pretty high" during the recording of this album - which may explain the crazy concepts and ambitious nature of some of the tracks on this album.

The album starts off with a conventional hard rock song titled "Bastille Day" (4/5), and is about the French Revolution. A rocking song, made better by the wailing voice of Lee, it is a surprisingly good and catchy track with an interesting theme. No problem there, but the following track is a complete 180 degree turn - "I Think I'm Going Bald" (1/5), a song inspired by Canadian Kim Mitchell and the KISS song "Goin' Blind", it is uninteresting and the humor does not appeal to me. This track certainly would have been a better fit for a B- side than on an actual studio album. One of the worst Rush songs in my opinion, this is just one I have to look over, for I know this band is better than what this song conveys. The last "short" track on the album is "Lakeside Park" (3/5), an early favorite at Rush concerts. About the nightlife of a 1970's Ontario town, it is a very soothing and comfortable song that provokes the nostalgia of careless teenage life. The lone single off the album, and not looked upon favorably by Lee, it is a good track, and that's about it. What comes next is the first ever prog epic by the band, "The Necromancer" (5/5), coming in at over twelve minutes. With fantasy themes inspired by Tolkien, it is split into three parts - a build-up, a very heavy middle part, and an acoustic closer. There are many bright spots on this song, ranging from the inclusion of narrations by Peart between the three parts and the jamming of guitarist Alex Lifeson, to the inclusion of the third part "Return of the Prince"; the prince being By-Tor from the previous album who now as a hero, slays the evil antagonist of the story. All in all, a very solid song and worthy of playing over and over again.

The epic "Fountain of Lamneth" (5/5) occupies the entire second side. The longest song on the album at one second shy of twenty minutes, it is based upon the journey from birth to death, or rather an allegory. The protagonist is searching for the fountain, which can be an analogy for the mythical fountain of youth. Detailing birth, adolescence, love, heartbreak, aging, and death in six parts, this song is certainly ambitious. A rather pretentious song at times, it is very well thought out and has very good passages, ranging from soft acoustic parts to jamming guitar passages and even a drum solo by Peart. The beginning and ending parts are also book-ended to possibly symbolize the endless circle of life or the return to nothingness at death. An interesting concept, and a definite thumper, this track is indeed an underrated masterpiece - overlooked and now serves as the first true epic the band would create.

"Caress of Steel" was not well received by their label, Mercury. Demanding that the band create a more commercially friendly album, they threatened the band with dropping them - into sheer irrelevancy. However, the band decided to ignore the label's demands, and went to creating a similarly ambitious album with another twenty-minute piece, and no truly radio-friendly songs. Thankfully, that album was "2112", and it propelled the band to stardom. A great story of perseverance, and a lesson to everyone of being resilient and never giving up, without the band's stubbornness, we would see Rush as another obscure prog rock band, sucked up by the sands of time. I can see how fans love this album - it has pretty good examples of prog, and the epics are pretty strong, but this album simply is hampered by the awful second track. A great listen for hardcore Rush fans and those who want to delve further into the seemingly endless abyss of 1970's prog.

OVERALL: 3.6/5 (C-)

ProgMirage1974 | 3/5 |


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