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Rush - Caress of Steel CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.55 | 1444 ratings

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4 stars Well, at least one can't say Rush lacked ambition. While most young prog bands tended to work on their composition skills for three or four albums before tackling a sidelong epic, Rush only waited till they'd done two albums before jumping into the murky waters of side long epics. Of course, they also decided to add a song that was "merely" twelve minutes long. These two songs take up easily over half of the album. The rest of the album is three hard rock songs, put at the beginning of the album. One of those songs is called "I Think I'm Going Bald." So, two songs over ten minutes, one of which is nearly twenty. Three hard rock songs, one of which is called "I Think I'm Going Bald." The lyrics are also typically bad Peart, and sometimes even worse. Oh, and the production here has taken a turn for the worse. I swear the band actually recorded this album underwater. And yet, I give the album four, my, the times they are a-changin', brother.

Okay, let me justify my position. I'll start with the hard rock songs, as they're bunched into the beginning of the album. These three songs are three of the best straight up hard rock songs Rush ever did. Bastile Day is a powerful way to open the album. The introduction to the song is creative (and integrates quickly strummed acoustic guitar) the riff is memorable, the chorus is well constructed, and the melody impressive. Songwriting is beginning to become easier for these guys and it shows. Oh, and the lyrics are about Bastille Day, which is the celebration of the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution. Not great lyrics, but not awful.

"I Think I'm Going Bald" on the other hand has completely horrendous lyrics. In a band where all three members of the band had long hair and facial's a song about the fear of growing old. But the fact that this group of twenty something's approached this topic in THIS fashion...well, it's not good. But the song is musically strong. The riffs are good, the melodies are interesting, and Geddy screams a lot. Classic Rush.

Lakeside Park is another classic Rush song. A bit nostalgic, with some more well constructed riffs, melodies, and pretty good dynamics. The song has softer parts contrasted with harder parts. Rush was getting really good at writing these types of songs. They probably could have stuck to this style and still been succesful and interesting.

However, all that goes out the window with the next song, "The Necromancer." Reading this title scared me silly. Peart writing about a necromancer? It was silly when Peter Hammill did it, and he's ten times the lyricist that Peart ever will be. But the song works. The lyrics are actually pretty minimal, mostly consisting of a slowed down voice narrating the story. To some people, this is in bad taste, and it is a pretty silly idea. But it helps keep the words to a minimum, as the band explores some interesting musical ideas, riffs, and progressions. I wouldn't say that the song is a prog rock masterpiece, or that it flows all that well, but the band didn't embarass themselves, and with such an ambitious first try, it could have been easy to do just that.

The Fountain Of Lamneth is less succesful, but I think that's mostly because of the length. And the fact that it has more lyrics. I always cringe when Geddy sings in early Rush, but not because of his voice: it's because of the lyrics. And these are typical Peart fantasy nonsense, too blunt to be captiviating, but too serious and in your face to be ignored. The song has some great moments, and flows better, in a sense, than The Necromancer, but it's not as good. However, I will say that it is, again, not a complete embarassment.

So, three hard rock classics, and two decent to great progressive songs help make this album interesting, at least, but why do I consider this album essential to a prog collection? Simple: the production. I mentioned that the production was awful earlier, and it is very awful. But there's something about that production and the mood of these songs that work. It's murky, dark, and blurs the edges around a lot of the harder material. It makes the more difficult and arty sections in the prog songs difficult to discern and confusing. However, it works to the album's advantage. There is something dark and moody about those hard rock songs as a result of this botched production, something that makes them seem like more than "just" rock songs. They aren't, but the mood of the songs changes to a much more darker feel, even in "I Think I'm Going Bald." And the longer songs benefit the most from the production. Without a distinct edge to the instruments, it makes them feel more unworldly and strange. The lack of production sheen makes the album feel like it was recorded underground, underwater, or somewhere else mysterious and far away.

Okay, I'm perhaps overstating the appeal of the awful production. But I do feel like it does benefit the album. So in many ways, the album is accidentially essential. Besides, isn't it fun to hear a bunch of ambitous long haired guys try to become progressive and almost make it? Sure it is!

SonicDeath10 | 4/5 |


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