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Rush - Grace Under Pressure CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.69 | 1213 ratings

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4 stars 'Grace Under Pressure' was recorded between the Autumn of 1983 and March 1984. Synthesisers play a significant role on the album, their style of use prompting some to label it a poor reflection of the eighties era of music. I however, disagree. There use is not crude, in the manner of eighties 'synth' pop hits, but helps to construct the landscapes onto which is placed the thematic material of the album.

First among these lanscapes is 'Distant Early Warnings'. Occasional chords sweep over a barren plain, the lyrics in verse one further illustrating this musical setting. The use of synthesisers on this song is perfect - indeed to an extent, they make it memorable. Just consider the song's rousing pre-chorus, such an essential component to many a Rush concert. Certainly 'Distant Early Warnings' is no mere radio staple. It's an essential part of Rush's repotoire; as handsome as the face of Absalom of the kingdom of Isreal, whose name mysteriously heralds the song's end.

'After Image' deals with the subject of bereavment. An emotional rather than physical landscape is created by the music. The lyrics reflect the confused jumble of emotions one feels when coming to terms with the passing away of a companion. Towards the middle of the song is offered a brief respite, before the closing statements of this fitting tribute to whom the album is addresed in memory.

'Red Sector A' is a remarkable song. Dealing with a subject matter close to Geddy Lee's heart, it is sung with profound depth of feeling. Again a landscape, this song has curiously had a comic book city constructed from it's musical foundation. In an unusual guitar arrangement, the chords played by Lifeson are often unconventional triads played high up on the fretboard, and there's a lingering digital delay. Peart's drumming is clinical (the cynic, not catching the irony, might possibly liken it 'disco'). 'Red Sector A' stands out even amid the splendour of 'Rush in Rio', and is certainly a reason to purchase 'Grace Under Pressure'.

'The Enemy Within' feutures syncopation, both in Lifeson's harmony and Peart's drum part, almost slightly reggae in character. It's no landscape, but there's an important message in the lyrics, just as there is an important message in the lyrics of 'Kid Gloves', making both an integral component to the album. Fitted snugly in between the two lies 'The Body Electric', which does once more see the invocation of a landscape, the setting to what are actually quite poetic lyrics.

'red lenses' (sic) is to my mind the only real letdown of the album. It's an anomoly for other reasons as well; why for instance, are the lyrics printed only in small case inside the coverslip? Certainly they are irritating to extremes, and the music likewise. Just what point is Peart trying to make here? Is this an attempt at irony, or a genuine decleration of communist sympathies? Not mind you, that I especially care, as long as I don't actually have to listen to it.

'Between the Wheels' is a fantastic song. Very atmospheric, it illustrates the tensions of the cold war era. Deep and penetrating, both musically and lyrically (how I love the lines "You know how that rabbit feels/Going under your speeding wheels/Bright images flashing by/Like windshields towards a fly..."), this song demands to be listened over and over. A screaming guitar accompaniment makes for a great pre-chorus, and we are treated by Lifeson to a fitting guitar solo.

'Grace Under Pressure' may not be especially proggresive as compared to 'Hemispheres', 'Permanent Waves' and so on, but the musicianship is nevertheless spot on, and the album is certainly valuable to listen to. The musical landscapes are every bit as tantalising as the abum's cover art, and I recommend it heartily with a four star rating.

Ktrout | 4/5 |


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