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Rush - Hemispheres CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.37 | 2483 ratings

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5 stars Rush's Proggiest Moment

Up to this point, Rush had been climbing a progressive mountain. Their debut 'Rush' had a few odd song structures, but was still more or less a heavy rock album. 'Fly By Night' showed more experimentation with epic songs like By-Tor and the Snow Dog. 'Caress Of Steel' was the album with Rush's first 20 minute suite The Fountain of Lamneth, which was flawed in that the music didn't run together. '2112' showed Rush learning from their mistakes and producing and epic prog classic. With 'A Farewell To Kings', Rush didn't write a side-long suite, but instead wrote more complex and 'proggy' songs, such as Xanadu and Cygnus X-1: Book I, the first part of an epic prog suite. It was time for Rush to hit their peak, by writing long complex and unashamedly progressive music.

And what a time to do it! 1978 was admittedly not a great year for prog. Lest we forget that 1978 was also the year that brought us Yes's Tormato, Genesis's ...And Then There Were Three..., ELP's Love Beach, Gentle Giant's Giant For A Day, Camel's Breathless and Uriah Heep's Fallen Angel. All the major prog bands had gone into decline, and would either fizzle out soon or start using a more commercial format for their songs. However, Rush seemed to be a few years behind everyone else, and this certainly payed off, as it can easily be claimed that 'Hemispheres' is the best album of that fateful year. Rush would tide the prog world over, if only until the neo-proggers came along in the early 1980s.

'Hemispheres' starts off where 'A Farewell To Kings' ended, in the middle of the Cygnus X-1 story. To finish the sci-fi tale of adventure, we are given 18 minutes of pure unadulterated prog music. Cygnus X-1: Book II is a progressive journey whose grandeur can be likened to that of The Gates Of Delirium. From the first three minutes, you can tell how complex and intricate this track is going to be. An impressive number of musical themes can be found recurring in this track, each time played slightly differently, making this the most cohesive Rush epic ever. There are also a few themes and devices that have been lifted from the first part, thereby making the whole suite extremely consistent.

There are a couple of bizarre things about this five part epic. At the end of the first part, the music just stops as if the song has ended. After a few seconds, the music starts again just as suddenly as it stopped, making us wonder why it stopped in the first place. It's pretty hilarious actually and I don't mind it at all. The next three parts segue together without a break, showing that Rush had learned much since their 'Lamneth' days. The final part of the song is a sort of epilogue that seems unconnected to the rest of the suite.

The first three parts of the song take up about 12 minutes, and together they form the most intense 12 minutes of Rush ever. Altogether, Hemispheres is a fitting conclusion to the spectacle that is the Cygnus X-1 suite. I may not understand the story that well, but boy do I love the music.

Over to Side 2, things get more commercial with the radio-friendly Circumstances. Despite being under four minutes, this is still a solid track. The chorus is quite unique and memorable with it's bilingual message. There is also a great instrumental in which Neil Peart shows off his chops.

The Trees is an interesting ballad indeed. The ballad tells of the seemingly political struggle between the two groups of trees, the Maples and the Oaks. Unsurprisingly, many people have taken this as an analogy to the politics between Canada and the USA. However you interpret this track, you have to admit that it's a fun and interesting story, in lieu of Genesis's The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. It goes without saying that the music is also brilliant enough to carry the story.

A lot of people say that YYZ is Rush's best instrumental, but I claim that they haven't heard the prog rock spectacle that is La Villa Strangiato, a twelve part instrumental with the subtitle 'An Exercise In Self-Indulgence'. This is a killer instrumental, the twelve parts correspond to very different musical themes, with just a couple recurring near the beginning and at the end. The musical themes are all really strong, but the so called 'Strangiato Theme' is the best, and this is the theme that is repeated, giving the instrumental a really cohesive feel, and justifying the whole 'exercise'. This is a really complex and meaty track that you can sink your teeth into and listen to time and time again until you can remember all the parts (which I have yet to do). The subtitle says it all, but then again, isn't prog as a whole just an exercise in self-indulgence?

This really is Rush at the top of their game. The next two albums, 'Permanent Waves' and 'Moving Pictures' would show the trio getting less and less progressive, and by 1982's 'Signals', there wasn't any prog left at all. This is a fully realised album, with three talented musicians pushing prog to its limits, and rocking it's listeners hard. A masterpiece.

baz91 | 5/5 |


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