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Geddy Lee - My Favourite Headache CD (album) cover


Geddy Lee


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3.40 | 79 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Legendary Rush bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee released this album in 2000, when the future of the band was still hanging by a thread following the tragic events in drummer Neil Peart's life. His cohort Alex Lifeson's solo album, "Victor", had been released in 1996, when the band was still active. Lee's first solo effort must have been seen as a godsend by the many fans who feared their favourite band was on the edge of calling it a day. So, the burning question first - is it anything like Rush? And, if so, how?

A completely honest answer would be "yes and no". Seen as Lee has had practically little or no history of recording activity outside the band he helped found in 1974, it is next to impossible to hear his distinctive vocals (loved and loathed in almost equal proportion) without thinking of Rush. The same goes for his famed, intricate bass playing style, which on this album is somewhat more understated than with his mother band, but nevertheless quite recognisable. However, the musicians who accompany him are in many respects a departure from what one would have expected. Canadian multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink, familiar to Rush fans for his wistful violin playing on the song "Losing It" (from 1982's "Signals"), provides both strings and guitars. Geddy's choice of a drummer, though, may seem quite strange to many a staunch progger, as the musician in question is Matt Cameron, better known for his work with two seminal Seattle grunge bands such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam - therefore, a more traditional rock drummer than Lee's thirty-year, faithful sidekick, drum god Neil Peart. Cameron, however, acquits himself very well in this new role, although we can imagine how daunting it must have been for him at first to work with one half of one of the most celebrated rythm sections in the whole rock world.

Like on latter-day Rush albums, the emphasis here is on shorter, well-crafted songs (the longest, "Slipping", clocking in at about 5 minutes). Lee's voice sounds as strong as ever, with the presence of airy. lyrical string arrangements making for the most striking difference from Rush's sound. Most of the songs are deceptively simple in structure, revealing unsuspected musical layers after repeated listens. Some are noticeably heavier, like the title-track, which opens with one of Geddy's trademark, booming bass lines, only to slow down in the middle with a beautiful string section punctuating his thoughtful vocal delivery. The tracks that may be more reminiscent of Rush's '90s output are "Moving to Bohemia" (where the violin part reminds me somehow of Mink's contribution to "Losing It"), the metallic "Home on the Strange", possibly the heaviest song on the record, and especially album closer "Grace to Grace", which could have been lifted from Rush's "Vapor Trails" - only with much better production. These streamlined, dynamic offerings are balanced by the string-laden, almost romantic "The Angels Share" and "Slipping", which see Lee's vocals at their emotional best.

As I have already mentioned, the production (by Lee, Mink and David Leonard) is crisp and modern, as is the intriguing cover artwork, featuring some striking photos of Geddy's new look. He may not be the world's best-looking man, but he's sure a very expressive, even photogenic character. "My Favourite Headache" is without any doubt a strong offering by one of prog's most influential musicians, one which reveals a different side of his remarkable creativity (even as a lyricist). Highly recommended, not only to diehard Rush fans.

Raff | 4/5 |


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