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Rush - A Farewell to Kings CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.33 | 2341 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars |A| Rush's sound matures - and soars.

I feel I could never do true justice to any of Rush's works from when the band was in its prime, but the time must come for when I finally must review one of their best works.

On a personal note, I cannot emphasize enough the musical influence Rush had on me, which would eventually lead me to become a musician myself. I would not have been the singer of a rock band, and thus eventually a classical singer, had it not been for this band; how much I loved singing their music and playing it on rhythm guitar, how much I loved performing it in front of hundreds of people at my high school. And through all of the classical training I've had in college, their music has never sounded less incredible to me, less artistic in the context of being simply great, well crafted rock music.

A Farewell to Kings represents what many consider to be the band's full fruition of their progressive sound, when they departed from being simply a hard rock band to being a truly "progressive" hard rock band, aka heavy prog. I agree with this sentiment completely and would add that it was a huge step up from the already decent 2112 in terms of the band's compositional capabilities. I would also argue that it is also the most diverse sounding of Rush's discography; each of the songs sound very unique in the context of the whole, more so than in all of the other Rush albums, which is saying a lot as it is. There is still a hint, maybe even a strong hint of their Led Zeppelin influence, which would diminish substantially with subsequent albums.

To describe the sound of the album, it's a good mixture of elements of 70s hard rock and progressive rock. The former is evident in the guitar work, many great crunching riffs and solo melodies. Lifeson uses open E and B treble strings while playing clashing chords, which combined with chorus effect creates a dissonance very specific to Rush's sound in their highly regarded works. Lee makes even more extensive use in his counter-melody sounding bass lines, and his singing has improved since 2112, especially on the softer side with ballads. The progressive elements are most obvious with the heavier use of keyboard moog, asymmetric time signatures, less conventional song structure, and a sense of dynamic nuance with the transitions from soft to loud and vice versa. Peart introduces more percussion sounds to his set, with the chimes, wood blocks, etc.

In terms of lyrical themes, an element of Rush's music always worth mentioning, there is quite a departure of the objectivist philosophical tone of many previous tracks in previous albums. While a sense of libertarianism is preserved, there is much emphasis on specific intellectual concepts: Xanadu, based on a famous poem about the palace of Kublai Kahn; Cygnus X-1, based on what were then relatively recent astronomical discoveries regarding the existence of black holes; Cinderella Man, based on the intrinsic value of idealism and compassion; A Farewell to Kings, based on the historical transition of government order from monarchism to democracy; Closer to the Heart, the radio hit song about the need for deep, intimate emotion in the artisan works of the modern age; and Madrigal, about love prevailing through the darkness of life. A departure from Randian principles indeed!

Needless to say, this is one of my favorite works of rock music of all time, if not one of my favorite pieces of artistic music in general. To be honest, it took a year of repeated listens for me to fully appreciate this album for the beauty it truly possesses, and only after indulging fully in the three following albums I have. At first I thought the composition too thin and simplistic, but I came to perceive this as a rare virtue for progressive music rather than a detriment to the quality of the album. It has an inspired, youthful, exuberant feel that permeates from the musicians themselves.

Hopefully I have done some justice to the quality of this work of beauty with this review. A Farewell to Kings is the first of a string of masterpiece albums that will be remembered and listened to in future generations, certainly including mine.

Isa | 5/5 |


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