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Rush - Caress Of Steel CD (album) cover




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5 stars Review 21, Caress Of Steel, Rush, 1975

StarStarStarStarStar My favourite Rush album, from the seven that I currently own, and likely to remain there. In good conscience, I can give it the full five stars. I can't really comment on the resemblance to Led Zeppelin, because I don't know Zep nearly as well as I should. What I can comment on is how the album affected me, and still affects me after quite a few listens. I was blown away from the first listen (I had only heard Snakes And Arrows previously), and still am. From the emotions of The Necromancer to the reminiscing of Lakeside Park to the rocking of Bastille Day, everything works for me. I can understand why some people would take issue with some of this album, but I love it anyway, and consider it perfect for me.

Bastille Day opens with a kicking bass riff, and Peart and Lifeson both come in neatly. The screaming, high vocals burst into life, carrying some enjoyable (if simple) lyrics from Peart. Great opener, with a very strong rhythm section, and I like the slightly softer instrumental break, with the occasional withdrawals of the other instruments to leave Lifeson alone. The concluding burst, however, is the highlight of the song, ascending with a great guitar-drums combination.

I Think I'm Going Bald is a great semi-sarcastic, riff-based (although it is varied, and done very neatly) song with a couple of solid short guitar solos from Lifeson. The lyrics are pretty decent, Lee's weird, not-quite-clear vocals work brilliantly, and the fade works very neatly, I think.

Lakeside Park is widely accepted as a Led Zep rip-off. I really don't mind. Nice subdued bass performance, a good example of Peart's softer percussion and I love the vocals and lyrics, with their nostalgic tone. The small escalation at the end to an almost-celestial guitar tap is perfectly done. Basically, a really good song, whether or not it's a rip-off.

Now we come to my joint-favourite (with Cygnus X-I) Rush song, The Necromancer. The division into three sections works pretty neatly, since while each section is a distinct entity, they flow very well and have a couple of constants that glue them together. Each of the musicians stands out perfectly, with Peart handling the transitions from fairly intense drumming to sparse drumming and vice versa very well. Alex Lifeson moves between soloing and rhythm neatly, and Geddy Lee provides his usual excellent bass-playing. The biggest criticism that I could give this one is the lyrics, which are unabashedly nerdy and inspired by Lord Of The Rings, even if I like them. Could have been worse... (*coughTheWhiteRiderbyCamelcough*)

Into The Darkness begins with a haunting atmospheric guitar, and develops slowly, with a hollow Lord Of The Rings inspired narrator, very sparing percussion from Peart and a developing bass part. The way it all comes together into a song, which retains all its elements and yet is a complete entity, is unforgettable and indescribable. Geddy Lee's entrance on the vocals is superb, and the strange guitar continues behind him, echoing the ideas in the vocals before turning into temperate solo that expresses the longing and mental breakdown of the travelers. Music as a form of expression. Post-perfect.

The second section (Under The Shadow) begins with a sort of swirling (presumably guitar) effect, that conveys some sort of distance and power, and then bursts out in with Peart's hard-hitting drumming and biting stabs of guitar and near-growly vocals before bursting into a heavy, rocking part with the first of two vicious solos from Lifeson. After a twisting, thick guitar effect, it moves onto the second part of the instrumental with a more pronounced bassline. Whereas the first part was travelling through a grey, soulless wood and succumbing to its destruction, this is a medieval dungeon of horrors and torture, and visions of terror and chaos. Another post-perfect. If the rest of the album was at the level of these two parts, it would never leave my CD player.

Out of this horror, the third section, The Return Of The Prince, comes with a gentle, uplifting guitar melody, bringing back the light and life to the Necromancer's dungeon. Peart contributes with a nice drum part, while Lee and Lifeson intertwine their bass and guitar. Uplifting, cheerful, potent and unassuming. Perfect as an expression of hope.

So, there you have it. Three emotions: sadness, fear and hope, three sections. A truly amazing song.

The Fountain Of Lamneth is not as strong as its predecessor, and there are admittedly some sections that people with a sense of cheese might look down upon. There are some repeats (verbatim) of the album's main parts (acousting opening echoed in the closer, The Fountain's theme and chorus are repeated a few times, and the other sections also haven't got obscene amounts of variation within them), however, no matter how hard I try, I can't bring myself to care. The main theme is an absolute killer, with a savage bass-drums combination, and the acoustic parts are very neat and back-up the lyrical themes. All the other themes work as intended, I think, even the Panacea section. The reason I love this song, though, is probably to be found in the ambitious lyrical exploration of the human condition (cheesy metaphors and all) and stunning, poetic lines ('My eyes have just been opened and they're open very wide/Images around me don't identify inside/Just one blur I recognise: the one that soothes and feeds/My way of life is easy and as simple are my needs'). I love this piece, though the criticisms of it are mostly fair.

The side-long suite begins with a gentle, hesitant, acoustic opening, accompanied by a soft vocals introducing the lyrical search and leading pretty neatly into the main, heavy Fountain riff with a drum battery from Peart and a tearing guitar part (accompanied by stunning, powerful lyrics [just my opinion, normal people may not like them]). Geddy Lee lays down a whirling bass part which hasn't grown old yet and provides his. Peart continues pretty neatly through this section of the song, having a semi-directed soft drumming style that reminds me of Bill Bruford's finest hour (Close To The Edge).

Didacts And Narpets is a weird section, beginning with a chaotic, hollow, rolling drum solo with shifting guitars and opposed vocals chiming in with an argument of sorts. The guitar returns and the whole group scream out 'LISTEN!'

The following section, under the melancholy title of Noone At The Bridge, complete with sailing metaphor, begins with a guitar part from Alex Lifeson that holds up almost the entire section, with Peart and Lee working around it very well. Peart is particularly stunning, and Lee does an impressive job holding up completely solo on vocals for a couple of moments, and giving life to the great 'SCREAM OUT DESPERATION, BUT NOONE CARES TO HEAR!' line (sorry for the capitals). At its end, Lifeson provides us with an interesting solo over a slightly morphing beat, and Peart fades the song out effectively with his percussion and some birdsong effect.

Panacea is perhaps the weakest section of the song, having more clichéd lyrics, even if I love them, and as an acoustic piece, it sounds poor and generic unless you pay attention to the subtleties, shimmering guitar (could be keyboards, I'm not sure) and throbbing bass, as well as Neil Peart's fairly nice drum additions at time.

Bacchus Plateau rocks in with a pretty standard guitar part, decent drumming and bass. The brief rhythm section solos are enjoyable, and Geddy Lee is perhaps taking a risk with his vocals, which sounds a little dubious if I try really hard not to like it. Lifeson's ending solo, while in keeping with the song, could probably afford to rock a little more. Nonetheless, the softness of this section is perfect as a lead up to the main theme driving in again.

A slight bulking up of the earlier Fountain theme slams in, with especially superb high vocals from Geddy Lee, and the guitar effect is very interesting. Alex Lifeson provides a solo (which feels more typical of him than the previous one) which works very neatly, and Peart's drumming is especially welcome. A minor escalation of the theme leads up to a reprise of the acoustics on the opening, continuing and rounding off the grand lyrical themes. A slow instrument hum concludes the song.

All in all, a much-loved song, with one of my favourite Peart performances (I'm not the greatest fan of his drumming elsewhere, but this is brilliant). The lyrics were really my thing, even if they might come off poorly with some listeners. Not a general epic masterpiece, but a masterpiece for me.

This is one of those albums that has a sort of personal resonance with me, which is fairly rare, and also not the most loved of Rush albums, but I feel that I can justify why I think it's so brilliant, and love it so much. What distinguishes this album, and 2112, from later Rush albums that I've heard, is that it is emotional, open and honest throughout, and conjures up images in a way that Moving Pictures never will. I can understand that this may not be the album for some people, but it's the album for me. Consequently, it gets the highest of ratings from me.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: The Necromancer (especially Into The Darkness)

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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