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Rush - A Farewell to Kings CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.33 | 2289 ratings

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2 stars Lots of fans consider this at least a minor classic; to me, this is an enormous, unfathomable letdown. This is the album where Rush seriously incorporated the gimmicks, relatively complex song structures and various trademarks of prog rock, and I sense that that's part of the reason that many fans adore this album. Well, after buying who knows how many prog rock albums over the years, I'm well past the point of being impressed by the gimmicks themselves. When I listen to this album, I can only focus on one thought; with one major exception, the songwriting, often solid on 2112, has gone straight into the toilet. Five of the six songs strike me as mediocre or worse, and since they're often quite long on top of it, this makes most of the album into a horrid experience for me.

Ok, first the good news. The good news is that the album's second track is my favorite Rush song by a good amount. "Xanadu" is a magnificent prog epic; I'm probably biased towards it because the atmosphere is rather Yes-ish (it reminds me a bit of the "I Get Up, I Get Down" portion of "Close to the Edge"), but it's a masterful piece in its own right. One thing that strikes me as a little weird about the track is how little of it consists of the (great) "regular" song; probably 2/3's or more of the song is spent on either the bombastic introduction or the grandiose coda. Fortunately, the introduction is freaking great, largely based around an intricate, hypnotic guitar line, mixing in some magnificent ambient guitar noise and some cool riffs. The coda is quite nice too, with some great triumphant guitar solos leading the way. The main part of the song, though, is what produces the bulk of my love for the piece. The lyrical concept is actually quite intriguing (about somebody who achieves immortality but at the cost of never leaving Xanadu), the melody is beautiful (yet mildly rocking in the up-tempo parts), and I totally buy the emotions that the piece attempts to generate. Yup, this was as good as Rush ever got.

Too bad the rest of the album is terrible. The opening title track sounded ok the first couple of times I ever heard it, but quickly became one of my least favorite Rush radio standards. It has a decent classical guitar introduction, but the opening riff strikes me as an inferior rewrite of "Fly by Night," the melody seems boring and rambling, and the lyrics just seem really stupid to me. They're not as stupid to my ears as the ones on the fan favorite, "Closer to the Heart," though. The band brought in somebody else to write the lyrics for the song, but they're worse than almost anything Peart ever wrote. I dislike most of the lines, but one line pretty much takes the cake in terms of making me want to stab out my eardrums: "You can be the Captain, and I will draw the Chart, sailing into destiny, closer to the heart." The mid-song guitar solo is ok, but the lyrics, combined with a melody that's sing-songey in the worst sense of the word, make this one of my least favorite Rush songs ever.

Side two isn't any better. "Cinderella Man" is a generic "complex" rock song with more stupid lyrics (and nothing that I find memorable), while the ballad "Madrigal" passes me by every time I hear it. The closing "Cygnus X-1," then, just gets worse and worse each time I hear it. If "Xanadu" was Rush's masterpiece, then this was Rush's greatest self-parody. There isn't really even a song in here; it sounds like a bunch of lazy warmup riffs pasted together (only made recognizable as Rush by the repeated start-stops for their own sake), all tied together by ridiculous "sci-fi" sound effects and lyrics about traveling through space into a black hole. If I want to hear a song about traveling through space, which actually FEELS like a song about traveling through space, I'll put on "Pioneers Over c" (by Van Der Graaf Generator); if I want to hear a song about traveling into a black hole, which actually FEELS like traveling into a black hole (or something similar), I'll listen to "Into the Void" (by Black Sabbath). I will never, EVER bother with something as half-baked as this.

I know that many Rush fans might want to kill me for this review, but this album mostly disgusts me. Were it not for the greatness of "Xanadu," this album would be close to a * from me; as is, it's still easily Rush's worst album of the 70's. Fortunately, it was pretty much an anomaly; the band's best era was about to begin.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |


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