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Rush - Caress of Steel CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.54 | 1352 ratings

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4 stars 'Caress of Steel' was released a year before '2112' and two before the first of Rush's truly epic albums 'A Farewell to Kings', both vital stepping stones in it's attainment. The album features the band's first attempts at extended progressive composition, introduced however by three shorter songs.

The first of these is 'Bastille Day', a well known Rush staple which kicks the album off to a fine start. The song commemorates the storming of Bastille, which occured as a result of confrontation between the peasant classes and the ancien régime alluded to lyrically. Geddy's voice is superb and there's a fine guitar solo half way through the song from Lifeson.

Next comes 'I Think I'm Going Bald'. Geddy's singing is outrages, guitar and drumming punchy to make a song that cannot but amuse. The lyrics also introduce a theme which forms the basis for the next song; looking back at one's youth, and nostalgia.

'Lakeside Park' suffers greatly at the hand of critics (actually, Geddy Lee himself has lambasted it as a Zeppelin rip off), but I nevertheless enjoy it. Geddy refines his voice to make the song most pleasant. The drum lead-in and Peart's style in general reminds me slightly of Brian Downey on Thin Lizzy's earlier releases ('The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle', 'Things Aint Working Out Down at the Farm' and suchlike), and Bonham is obviously a big influence.

Funnily enough,'The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle' comes to mind again on listening to 'The Necromancer', although I fail to pinpoint exactly as to why this should be. Could Thin Lizzy have been an influence on Rush during this stage in their careers? Rush are after all equated with hard rock. In any case 'The Necromancer' is quite excellent, the theme being Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings', split predictably into three sections. These do not however summarise rigidly the three books, the theme of 'Lord of the Rings' being dealt with more in abstract. A curious voice-over introduces each section, probably Peart - who also wrote the lyrics. The movement 'Into the Darkness' is particularly beautiful for it's sad, almost painful guitar and melody, and to Peart's sparse drumming, illustrating the barren desolation the 'three companions' increasingly encounter as they journey south towards the realm of 'the Necromancer'. A unifying theme and a degree of structure make 'The Necromancer' fairly successful as an epic, at least in my opinion; it and '2112' are worthy precursors to such masterpieces as 'Xanadu', 'Cygnus' and 'Natural Science' that define what Rush later became.

The same cannot be said of 'Fountain of Lamneth', which is often pleasant but too disjointed to be truly effective. Worthy of note is the chorus of the first movement, 'In the Valley' where reference is first made lyrically to the mountain on top of which lies the fountain for which the song's character yearns, accompanied beautifully by Lifeson on semi-acoustic. Some of the piece is incredibly naff however, for example the introduction to 'Diadects and Narpets' (where the band all shout 'Listen!') and most of 'Panacea'. As a whole this extended piece of music is not poor, but neither is it epic, lacking the maturity and consistency only really a feature of Rush after 'A Farewell to Kings' (inclusive). It must be said that my appreciation increased after multiple listens accustomed me to the narrative, but 'The Necromancer' is far superior to this work, which lacks both the excitement of '2112' and the structural perfection of 'Cygnus x-1 Book II'.

The album as a whole is still excellent however, and I don't hesitate to recommend it with four stars. If you're a Rush fan, then this album must automatically be at least of interest. If your'e not a fan, give this one a try: it's quite dissimilar to anything Rush released prior to or following its release. You never know, but you might actually quite like it.

Ktrout | 4/5 |


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