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Rush - A Farewell to Kings CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.33 | 2289 ratings

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5 stars 'A Farewell to Kings' was where Rush truly left their hard rock, Led Zeppelin-influenced style behind and pursued progressive rock full throttle. Their two previous albums had been bold ventures into the prog rock world but they were still a hard rock band reluctant to give up their musical roots for following the paths blazed by their contemporaneous prog heroes. The success of '2112' however had given them confidence to fully expand their horizons and the result was the first album in a pair of albums where Rush established themselves as prog rock gods.

Alex Lifeson opens the album with a beautiful composition on classical acoustic guitar which serves as the intro for what becomes a progressive hard rock song in the title track. The style is clearly different from what had been heard on previous albums.

'Xanadu' is for me one of the great prog rock songs of all time. The intro is a few minutes long and takes its time to set an atmosphere and build the mood for an exciting adventure. It could easily be the soundtrack for a short film. The band fills every second with creativity in music and lyrical delivery. The song rocks at times and takes moments to allow room for the story too. Alex's closing solo is short but very sweet. This is what I call one of the big three prog mini-epics which also includes 'Cygnus X-1' from this album and 'La Villa Strangiato' from the next album 'Hemispheres'.

'Closer to the Heart' was a song I often heard on the radio but never took much interest in until I really gave it a chance. It's surprisingly short but in a way it works as a conclusion to the title track because both songs use the lyric 'Closer to the heart' and the themes are similar. Again, another great solo by Lifeson.

'Cinderella Man' is a more or less simple seventies' rock song with a good melody and 'Madrigal' is one of Rush's most unique songs, ranking alongside 'Rivendell' as an odd acoustic track that seems almost out of place in the Rush catalogue. But it's only 2:36 so it passes before you have time to ponder it too deeply.

Next to 'Xanadu' the other highlight of the album for me is what Martin Popoff called in his book 'Contents Under Pressure', 'Xanadu's evil twin'. 'Cygnus X-1' is likely my favourite Rush song among many favourites. It's another example of how music can tell a story as in 'Xanadu'. The story is about a spaceship captain who sets his ship's course to a black hole with the intention of discovering whether annihilation awaits in the crush of gravity or a passage way through to the astral plain. The music goes through several changes as the spacecraft rockets to the stars and travels across the galaxy. The tension mounts as the ship drifts closer to the swirling maw of gravity and then the vessel is caught in the vortex and tumbled about violently as Neal Peart pounds mayhem out of his drum kit and Alex plays a riff that conjures images of the rapidly rotating black hole while Geddy screeches out his highest note ever. Envisioning the cosmic scenes as the music plays gives me shivers of suspense. This is a masterpiece of progressive music and surely a progenitor of progressive metal.

In conclusion, I think this album is brilliant. 'Madrigal' is what it is. The rest of the album delivers wonderfully with 'Xanadu' and 'Cygnus X-1' being top-ranking compositions. I can't give this less than 4.5 stars so I'll give it 5. And as the astute among you may have conjectured, the 'kings' in my user name is derived from this album.

FragileKings | 5/5 |


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