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Rush - Caress Of Steel CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.53 | 1182 ratings

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3 stars And heeeere comes the artsiness. Oh sure, a third of the album is "normal" rock songs, but the rest is devoted to a couple of long, multi-part, atmospheric compositions of ... *ahem* ... varying quality. It's almost as if the band changed its mind in the middle of the recording sessions of what kind of band it wanted to be, and I can only imagine how confused the band's established fans were upon buying this. It doesn't help, either, that one of the decisions of Peart and company was to completely erase the strong production values of Fly by Night. The sound is very airy, almost of a demoish quality, and only the clever arrangements betray that this is, in fact, a finished product.

Even worse, the songwriting is clearly on a decline. Of the three regular songs that begin the album, only one of them meets the standard set by "Anthem" - the bitchin' opener "Bastille Day." Oh sure, I can complain that the song would be tons better if the instruments were less "dead" sounding, but I cannot deny the quality of that riff and that chorus. But the other two songs ... ergh. Well, ok, "Lakeside Park" is an alright soft number, though quite overrated - I think that the high esteem that it receives from many fans is a product of its placement between a couple of duds. There are lots of good songs that feature a wistful look back at one's childhood, but this isn't one of the better ones. It's still ten times better than "I Think I'm Going Bald," though, which sounds like it should have taken fifteen minutes to write (both lyrically and otherwise). Man, I'm not a Rush fan, but even I can't really believe that they'd run out of ideas this drastically so soon.

After "Lakeside Park," we enter "artsy" territory with "The Necromancer," a three part epic that introduces Rush The Mediocre Prog Band (whereas "I Think I'm Going Bald" showcased Rush The Mediocre Rock Band). The piece does have its good attributes, I'll give it that, like the menacing slide guitars at the beginning, or that part near the end where the band enters an intense jam, or that funny "happy" part near the end, but the rest of the piece doesn't please me at all. The lyrics are based on The Lord of the Rings (Frodo and Sam journeying towards Mordor in The Two Towers), but they end up sounding like generic gothic Dungeons and Dragons fantasy crap, and the music is often as dull as could possible be. There are some good solos, but the "dark" mood that envelopes the piece just sounds completely ridiculous, fake and stupid sounding to me, and that hurts things a lot.

Much to my surprise, the second half of the album isn't anywhere near as unenjoyable as "The Necromancer." This side is taken up by the 20-minute side-long "The Fountain of Lamneth," and while it has its problems, I generally enjoy the piece more than not. I can hear its weaknesses easily (and that's not even accounting for the lyrics); the structure is very reminiscient of Genesis' "Supper's Ready" (pleasant acoustic opening, introduction of a "main theme" that pops up at the end and in places in between, in this case), and it becomes insufferably boring at a few points, but still ... I mean, for starters, the "I am born ..." acoustic opening is extremely pretty. It even features some of Geddy's most timid and "vulnerable" singing, which should make it a relief for bashers of his voice. And dang it, I LOVE that guitar line that pops up every so often; it's fairly simple, but the 'epic' sound it produces is genuinely great. That line also gives birth to one of the greatest stretches of 70's Rush, with the great alternation between the "My eyes have just been opened" vocal melody and the "yet my eyes are drawn" chorus. The drum solo with the screaming is kinda stupid, as is the way it ends in that loud "Listen!," but the section into which it leads, "No One at the Bridge," is quite nice. This section has quite a great guitar line, even if it is highly derivative of classic Genesis; the band had successfully expanded its skill set from good Zeppelin imitations to good Genesis imitations. Later is another solid acoustic number in "Panacea," which is quite pretty (if not very memorable) and soothing, even if the lyrics are distractingly stupid. Of course, the "Bacchus Plateau" chunk could leave for all that I care, but the reprise of that great opening theme ("The Fountain") closes things in a beautiful fashion, leaving me with a good feeling about the piece as a whole. And so, while the piece has many flaws (aside from what's already mentioned, the flow is a bit of an issue at times), "The Fountain of Lamneth" is still a perfectly reasonable, acceptable, and even enjoyable side-long piece.

All in all, this will never be one of my favorite Rush albums, as the weaker features are just way too distracting for me to ignore. But, the stretches of beauty, rare as they sometimes seem, ultimately make the album at least passable and somewhat worth my while. Rush has done better, but they've also done worse.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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