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Rush - Caress of Steel CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.54 | 1352 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I can't tell you how much I love this album. But I'll try anyway.

'Caress Of Steel' isn't very well-liked by many of the band's fans, and even the members of Rush generally dismiss it. I've never understood that. It's a bridge to the even better '2112', and the progression from 'Fly By Night' (released earlier that same year) is remarkable. It may be a transitional album, but what a fascinating listen.

Clearly there's a desire to stretch boundaries wider than ever, evidenced by the band's first side-long track, "The Fountain Of Lamneth". As quoted in Martin Popoff's 'Contents Under Pressure' book, Geddy admits that Rush was "influenced by Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant and ELP" at this time. "The Fountain Of Lamneth" is a clear nod to their prog influences, an epic in six parts. It carries a lot of sadness, a grey melancholy heightened by the dry recording. It also features some of Neil Peart's best drumming up to that point (especially in first part "In The Valley"). And second part "Didacts And Narpets" offers some of the weirdest Rush ever. The different parts don't always link together seamlessly, but the individual pieces are all engaging.

It's interesting to note that keyboards hadn't yet come into the band's arsenal, so much of the progginess on 'Caress Of Steel' is achieved through ambitious songwriting, extended song-lengths ("The Fountain Of Lamneth" and "The Necromancer"), and the performances. Without keyboards filling up the sound picture, as they will do in most prog, Rush's sound (at this point) remains firmly in the early metal mode, with Alex Lifeson displaying an incredibly wide range of tones and techniques. His very individualistic style starts coming into its own all over this album.

The first half offers quite a variety of song styles. You get metal bludgeon (in that cool '70s style, of course, this ain't Napalm Death) with "Bastille Day". Self-deprecating humor in the straight rock of "I Think I'm Going Bald"--the last time anything approaching humor would be heard in a Rush song for quite some time. Fun, and a great solo from Lifeson, but the only less-than-excellent moment on the album. "Lakeside Park", lyrically and musically a better version of 'Fly By Night''s "Making Memories". And of course, album climax "The Necromancer", 12-and-a-half minutes of epic storytelling and magic-making. It stands right up there with the epic darkness of early Judas Priest and the proggier Black Sabbath material.

Maybe it's that weird downer greyness (sound and presentation) that keeps people at a distance? I like that aspect. There's certainly no other album that sounds like it. And if you, like I, love early metal as well as early prog, and prefer a good bit of darkness and drama in both, 'Caress Of Steel' is a joy. Frighteningly close to perfection.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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