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4 stars This record, although not amongst their finest,is a good example of what Rush are about. Bass players who have never heard Geddy Lee's playing might like to take note that he is often regarded as one of rocks greatest players. 'Circumstances' is very good, while the witty lyric of 'The Trees', proves to all those prog haters that Rush, and others of their ilk, really do have a humourous side.
Report this review (#20513)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Hemispheres" is not merely a strong effort by a "prog-rock" outfit but the defining coda to an era of rock history precipitated by The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Yes. On this record Rush not only assimillated the artistry of these bands but also responded to the musical climate that existed in 1978. Punk, disco, art rock and new wave were all comercially relevant during this period and this album competes without the pretension so associated with these genres.

Report this review (#20503)
Posted Friday, January 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars While often one of Rush's overlooked album, Hemispheres, as well as its predecesor, A Farewell to Kings, highlights Rush's musical and lyrical epoch. The title track, part two to the closing song on the previous album, is one of Rush's greatest epics, shy of 2112. Consisting of the whole of side 1, it tells a tale of the battle between love and reason, between Apollo and Dionysus, the god of knowledge, and the god of indulgence, respectively. The next two sengs, Circumstances and The Trees are another example of Rush displaying their godlike musicianship and lyric writing. The last song on the album, La Villa Strangiato, is another one of Rush's greatest moments. A ten minute long instrumental subtitled 'an exercise in self-indulgence', it showcases Rush's influences in Jazz and early prog, and fuses the styles into a progressive rock milestone.
Report this review (#20504)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not into the story-telling, greek mythology, supernatural mumbo-jumbo. If I want that, I'll pick up a Tolkien book. We know you're smart, Neil. You don't have to prove it. I liked the lyrics of The Trees, but the music was a bit quirky and whimsical. For guys like me there are two reasons to get this album: Circumstances and La Villa Strangiato. The latter rivals YYZ as one of the best instumentals Rush has ever done. Don't pay full price for this one. Buy it used and record tracks 2 and 4, which are truly sensational. The other tracks are for the more hard-core Rush fans who believe the band can do no wrong. I must say, for the time period, Rush was definitely visionary when they made this album.
Report this review (#20505)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Definitely a love-it-or-hate-it record. The first side is daunting, almost a challenge to listen to it, yet it really is very enjoyable. However, I still can't embrace the "fanciful" lyrical side of this epic. "Circumstances" always sounded like a re-write/re-hash of a previous song or songs, but the chorus will slay you. "The Trees" always seemed a bit ridiculous to me, but I know many people who love the song and it is their favorite. I teeter between thinking it could be "deep and meaningful" or laughable. For years, I thought "La Villa Strangiato" was "the only good song on the album," and although I have warmed up to the rest of the album over time, it really still is the best track. Not many bands can come up with a 10 minute instrumental song and make it memorable and not boring!
Report this review (#20526)
Posted Sunday, January 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars What a wait we had to suffer, to discover part 2 of Cygnus X-1 , and we did not really get satisfied by it , even though the lenght of that sequel was so promising and the enigmatic sleeve artwork cover also.

Although most of us tried a thousand times to really get into that long suite trying to find the passion in 2112 or Xanadu. We were sort of disappointed but dared not say it , because something was not clicking the way we were hoping it would. Actually the answer came in an interview a few years ago , with Geddy Lee telling us that they felt trapped by the three words in bracket at the end of X-1. They could not make a link between the lost spaceship and the greek mythology they wanted to expand on. This explains why this last super-long suite/epic is not working out as it should. It will also be the last on of its lenght. They will not go over 12 min in following albums.

But did we ever got revenge on the second side as The Trees was the Canadians Maples yelling at the American Oaks for taking too much light , place and air . La Villa Strangiato was very atypical for Rush foraying into jazz , but we all hailed it as the masterpiece it deserved to be . Even a filler like Circumstances sound great because around that point in tiome Rush could do little that would go wrong.

Report this review (#20534)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Their best album indeed, along with "Moving Pictures" and "2112". Hemispheres is one of those never ending long songs that never gets you bored...Circumstances is OK+...The Trees is one of their best songs, amazing...and La Villa Strangiato is their best instrumental song and one classic superb musical piece that surely marked the prog scene of the 70s
Report this review (#20507)
Posted Sunday, February 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Nestled right smack in the middle of their heyday, ('76-'81), Rush released their magnum opus, "Hemispheres." Their creative peak started here, took a break with "Permanent Waves," and ended with 1981's "Moving Pictures." But that's another story. "Hemispheres" divulged a band that was firing on all musical pistons: top notch instrumentation, fantastical lyrics, superb production and sound quality, and most importantly, riveting compositions that'll keep your mind and ears wide open, your face smiling, and your air guitar wailing! And it's even got a naked dude dancing on a brain, (yeah I know, pretty pedestrian symbolism). Fortunately, the music contained therein is anything but pedestrian. Drummer/lyricist Neil Peart took it upon himself to create his own Greek myth. Guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/keyboardist/singer Geddy Lee threw in their sonic sensibilities alongside Peart's tasty drumming, and voila...instant classic. Clear cut story telling, coupled with recurring melodies and themes drive the plot forward, and tell of a time when Greek Gods Apollo and Dionysus battled for the hearts and minds of mankind. The result? Don't read on if you haven't heard this one before! The Gods, in despite their arrogance, decide to share, thanks to a mere mortal, later named Cygnus, telling them to cut the crap. What have we learned? That it's OK to party on Garth, but just have the sense to come in from the cold now and then! Or something like that. Tracks 2-4 are just as much fun. Initially, "Circumstances" sounds like a throw away song, especially after the the splendor of the title track. However, after a couple listens, nuances present themselves in the form of odd time signatures and wonderful instrumental interactions. And damn, that's a catchy chorus. "The Trees" is a song that's had its critics concerning its "dippy" lyrics, but hell, I once had a college English professor devote an entire class period to the interpretation of this song, so that's good enough for me! "Hemispheres" wraps up with THE quintessential Rush tune,"La Villa Strangiato." For those unfamiliar with it, imagine the genius of the instrumental, YYZ from "Moving Pictures." Now take that 4 minute slab of sonic brilliance, throw in lotsa insane drumming, frantic guitar work, in-your-face bass runs and licks, turn it into a 9 minute slab of sonic brilliance, and there you have it...a perfect ending to a near perfect album. This is some of the best 70's prog around (and by Canadians, no less!), so if you don't have it, do yourself a huge favor, and just go out and get it . The naked dancing dude thanks you for your support. -yak
Report this review (#20523)
Posted Friday, March 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Second only to Farewell To Kings at this point, it is in some ways similar to 2112, but a vast improvement on that album. No weak tracks here! My least fave, again comparatively, is The Trees. But my mate loves that song as one of Rush's best! The title track is, of course, an epic, and musically well crafted. Alex again in fine form. One sometimes overlooks Alex because Geddy and Neil are so well known, but let us not forget it was originally Alex's band! Circumstances has an excellent structure and heavy but controlled guitar work. La Villa is another classic and shows off Alex's often underrated ability with some nice solo lines in it. He wasn't, and isn't, just about power chords! Another 'necessary' purchase for any Rush fan.
Report this review (#20524)
Posted Friday, March 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars it's the RUSH album... no ordinary songs! Guitar, bass and drums are incredible! As hard rock as progressive! The guitar sound is unique and it takes most of the place without giving you the feeling that other instruments are not present enough!! The bass is at its best: complex and perfectly played! The drums are quite outstanding: lot of cymbals and variety. The keyboards are not too present to give again all the prog hard rock dimension of the album. Certainly the best of all time prog hard rock album. Recorded in England!! Listen it very loud because this album is good loud! The guitar takes all its power and presence when played very loud. Yes, we can say that "Circumstances" has a quintescent bit! "La Villa Strangiato" is probably the best hard rock prog jazz song ever made!! Once you started "Cygnus X-5", you cannot stop till the end!! "The Trees" is very addictive and accessible while being never simple!!


Report this review (#20533)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars An awesome unity of form and content. Rush had the guts and conviction to put out an epic on a Nietszchean theme, without fear of alienating the great unwashed. Stylistic and technical pretensions (White/Bruford, Hackett/Holdsworth, Squire) are buried beneath a unity of purpose and theme which manages to incorporate spacey avant garde classical strings, booming bass pedals, screaming leads, screaming vocals, as well as a cosy feeling that all is well with the world. An amazing achievement. The unashamed soundtrack of my youth. Thank you Rush!
Report this review (#20519)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Given wisdom, given love, balance between the two is the answer. That's the message of "Hemispheres", an 18-minute Greek tragedy that, despite its allusion to "Cygnus X-1", is more of a followup to "2112". RUSH has always had trouble with the extended epic format; they write brilliant five- and six-minute songs, but they never seem to create enough music to support multi-part suites. The same themes are re-cast from part to part, disappearing in time only to reappear louder somewhere later. And that's my knock on "Hemispheres" -- it would have made a great six-minute song, but over eighteen minutes the music becomes too self-referential. Maybe the answer for RUSH is to follow the approach of other prog acts, and fuse different songs together as parts of a single epic, rather than stretching a single song to cover multiple parts. As a result, the album's balance shifts in favor of side two, all of it classic RUSH. "Circumstances" is the kind of punched-up pep talk that RUSH would re-visit on "Freewill", "The Trees" is the engaging offspring of "The End", and "La Villa Strangiato" might be the best instrumental workout of their career.

"Hemispheres" is ultimately half of a great album, not the sustained brilliance of "Permanent Waves" or "Moving Pictures", but deservedly a staple in any balanced repast of RUSH.

Report this review (#20516)
Posted Monday, May 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Every track on hemispheres is a masterpiece. Alex, Geddy, and Peart really put forth a great effort writing these songs. I would much rather they write few songs and have them be excellent than they write many mediocre songs. Yes!!! Hemispheres is one of my faovrite albums! My favorite song on it is probably... "La Villa Strangiato." It is a song of pure emotion. I am a guitarist myself, and I enjoy playing parts of "La Villa Strangiato" (of coarse, I can't play the whole thing!). I'm going to start taking lessons soon. I want to be as good as Alex Lifeson and have a musical personality as good as his. That would rule... Well, that's about it. Oh! Other magnificant Rush albums are: "Caress of Steel" (listen to "The Fountain of Lamneth"), "A Farewell to Kings", "2112", "Moving Pictures", and (definately) "Permanent Waves".


Report this review (#20517)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Man, it's really hard to choose between, beneath and behind Farewell and Hemisphere. It's like the case of Revolver and Rubber Soul from the beloved Beatles. These sounds just the same and really, are part I and II of a real concept at first. Imagine the super duper album that could've been! A good addition to a more guitar-oriented taste. Rush scores great on this one. Once again, to me, Hemispheres is to Farewell to Kings what the Beatles 'Revolver' is to 'Rubber Soul': a logical follow-up. Therefore, the second part of Cygnus X-1 is more elaborated, atmospheric and keyboardish as Revolver was. Not better but differently approached. It's more epic. The sense of storytelling is stronger and more dramatic. A great battle of Gods is described all along the 18 minutes. In my opinion, with the song 2112, this is Rush's most progressive effort in career. Rush also defends pretty well the reputation they made about being a guitar-leaded band. A lot of pressure is resting on Lifeson's shoulders in Rush history. He drives the tune by himself in a majority of songs; less in the further years, but the band is lucky to have such a hard-working guitarist as Alex. The song 'Circumstances' expresses well the emotion-turmoil teenagers go through. The lyrics always ringed perfectly in my ears and shows a side of Peart we should see more often: fragileness. And I looove the little interlude in the middle of the song with the soft keyboard and the chimes. Inspired me a lot of reflexion and meditation. It only last like 20 seconds, but it's a highlight. What to say about the 'Trees' and 'La Villa Strangiato'? Classics in every ways. Gotta see the cardio that La Villa gives in concert. A real workout. Hemispheres is a very solid album that won't disappoint. It's a second chapter of a Farewell to Kings, but that puts the bar very high in rock history in uncanny performance and inspired lyricysm.
Report this review (#20540)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars In coincidence with the first time of Rush in Italy (next September 2004)- I like to remind you of the early progressive works by this important Canadian Band: albums like this "Hemisphere" create a sort of conciliation among their fans, despite of remarking a few uneven breaks-through inside (in comparison for example to their stunning work entitled "Farewell to Kings", which is exceptional from the beginning to the end), because the new wave of Rush in the nineties won't never be equal from the artistic point of view!! Nevertheless their evolution (or if you prefer their attempt to work in progress in the recent times) demonstrates the cleverness of these guys to "re-invent" themselves!! But coming back to this famous "Hemisphere", you can find original music features within,even though the second part of Cignus X1 (Book 2) is not equal to its predecessor.The best track of the album is the instrumental "La Villa Strangiato", which shows the technical side of the band, involved into such a great "jazz" excursion,with hints of symphonic music, in the "power-trio format" naturally, that is surprising every time!! Instead "The trees" is another jewel, an unforgettable song which is a must-have also during their performances live on stage!! The harmonic solutions are always incredible and, by forgetting the short 3 minutes song of "Circumstances" only, a return to their "hard rock root", the remaining tracks are well worth checking out!!
Report this review (#20541)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If they had taken this and "A Farewell to Kings" and made one double-album, it would be one of the classic 'must-haves' of any progressive collection...and neither one of the individual albums would suffer from being too short. Even on its own, "Hemispheres" is my personal choice for best RUSH album; the single best side-length piece they've done, plus the unbeatable instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". "Circumstances" is one of Peart's best 'philosphical musing' songs, alongside "Freewill", and it rocks pretty hard too. "The Trees" is the single best compact representative for their 70s sound; acoustic and lush one moment, heavy and hard the next, with impressive and tasteful synth additions. This is also the last chance we'll see 'classic' RUSH; the days of big AOR hits are coming, and with them comes the change in the band's outlook and method. This is RUSH at their hard progressive best, and despite achieving excellence in other directions, nothing they or anyone else does will ever quite match this album again.
Report this review (#20542)
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The third and last Rush prog rock masterpiece. It includes the best epic ever witten by Rush, "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres", since the first time I heard this masterpiece I was astonished by the way the play, as if they were one. "La Villa Strangiato" can also be considered as Rush´s greatest track, because all of it´s complexity, Lifeson´s guitar solo during a 7/8 time, the bass lines by Geddy, and of course the "Professor" Neil Peart and his precisely played drums. "The Trees" is also amazing, overall the interlude and the part where Alex makes all those great fills. "Circumstances" is an awesome track, but if you hear it after "Hemispheres" and before "La Villa Strangiato", surely you´ll say it´s pretty weak, though it´s not.
Report this review (#20543)
Posted Friday, July 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This classic follow up to 'A farewll to kings' shows Rush at their most prog. The 'Cygnus x-1' concept initiated on AFTK, is continued in fine form on Hemispheres. The 18 minute opener describes an epic, mythological battle between heart and mind. The music is as ever, brilliantly played, and Terry Browns productions is way ahead of its time. Hemispheres sounds a decade away from its predecessors, and is the real start of the period of musical excellence that earned Rush such respect for their musicianship. The second song 'Circumstances' has an unforgettable guitar riff, an almost festive middle section and some very personal lyrics about Neil Pearts experiences as an 18 year old wanabee pop star, trying to find his fortune in London, and being dissiliusioned and home sick. 'The Trees' is another piece of political cooment from a band not afraid to touch on these matters every now and then, but by no means ever presenting themselves as serious political or social commentators, like some bands do, albeit not prog bands.

The album ends with the glorious 'La Villa Strangiato' A ten minute instrumental masterpice that moves through rock and jazz themes and pushes Lee, Lifeson & Peart to their musical limits. All three excell and take your breath away with their technical expertise, but also by the amount of feeling they invest in this one piece of music. A very important piece of music in the Rush catalogue! The overall feel of the album is one of classic prog rock; atmosphere and musical excellence.

Report this review (#20545)
Posted Thursday, September 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Tony R
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The previous album AFTK had seen a change from all out metal mayhem on the Prog/Metal crossover album 2112 - in came more classical and acoustic guitars,keyboards and percussion toys, out went all-out riffing and the Led Zep junior sound.

Hemispheres went one step further.For starters a smoother sound was evidenced,not so jarring as say the AFTK title track and the keyboards took a larger percentage of the whole sound.Another development was Lifeson's guitar signature,the arpeggiated chorus sound that was to become his trademark for the next few years. The title track:"Hemispheres; Cygnus X-1 Book II" follows on,albeit a mite clumsily,from "Cygnus X-1" on AFTK. Our hero is transported out the other side of the black hole into a world of warring gods; Dionysus and Apollo.Apollo is the god of all things cerebral, Dionysus prefers the hedonistic philosophy.Naturally the people of this world don't know which way to turn:too much work is boring, too much play leads to nothing getting done.Good old "Cygnus" as our hero becomes,points out that a balance between work and play is the best way to live. The piece has some great moments, especially the Prologue and after the "battle" section but ultimately seems dated and over-ambitious now (hence the 4stars).

Side 2 (On the LP) kicks off with "Circumstances" a nice track which has enough Prog moments to elevate it, just, above album-filler status. Next up are 2 of the shining lights of the Rush firmament: "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato". "The Trees" is an allegory based on equality and jealousy but is absolutely sublime in its musicianship. Lifeson's guitar work is brilliant especially the extended musical sequence depicting hatchets,axe and saws. "La Villa Strangiato" is such a fan favourite that it is still played in full live today.I recall Geoff Barton in "Sounds" Music Paper saying that the track reminded him of the "Sabre Dance" and he didnt know if he liked it. Well it does have an air of that perennial classical favourite and more. The jazz-rock interplay between the band members is 1st class and of course the guitar solo is one of the greatest ever laid down, up there with Comfortably Numb in the all-time lists,in my opinion.

Up to about 10 years ago I would have seen this as a 5 star rated album but time has not been kind to the title track and in the super league of prog Epics cant be considered in the same breath as Close To the Edge or the bands' own Xanadu. However every serious Prog fan should own a copy and it still makes me feel nostalgic for the 70's.
Report this review (#20547)
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In my humble opinion (which is coincident with that of many Rush loyal followers), "Hemispheres" establishes the finest hour of Lee, Lifeson and Peart as both performers and portrayers. Keeping their strong step on the road of hard rock driven symphonic prog that had been started in "A Farewell to Kings", "Hemispheres" finds this power trio exhibiting an air of finesse fluidly combined with their habitual metallic rock conviction. The namesake suite, which occupied the whole A-side in the vinyl format, is a perfect example of the maturity that by now Rush has achieved: it is more cohesive and its successive sections are more cleverly arranged in an integral way than the '2112' or 'Fountain of Lamneth' suites. The link between the 'Prelude' and the main motifs of 'Apollo' and 'Dionysus' arrives to an awesome climax in the martial-like tout-de- force of 'Armageddon'; the inscrutable spatial ambience in the first part of 'Cygnus' creates a dramatic ethereal intermission between the epic fire of the previous sections and the one that burns even more intensely in the climax that signals the last part of 'Cygnus'. A bang on the gong announces the closure of 'Cygnus' with powerful majesty, but there's still something left: a beautiful 1-minute acoustic ballad in which Lee gently proclaims the dream of a unity of both sides of the human soul (the rational and the emotional). Hard as it seems to be, the remaining repertoire is not to be overshadowed by this explosive epic. Well, 'Circumstances' actually is just a moderately complex rocky number, whose melodic lines are based on catchy guitar riffs: but what a good rock song it is, indeed. 'The Trees' is an attractive fable that still nowadays is part of the band's usual tracklist on stage. Its storyline, centered on the subject of unfair inequity being eventually replaced by forced equity, is conveniently reflected by the varied instrumentation, handled with a sense of fine musical vision: a classical guitar intro, the rockier sequences switching from 4/4 to 6/4 with total fluidity, a brief introspective interlude in which the Moog solo and the cowbells portray a forest in a state of "calm before the storm". each and every element in this song shouts out the greatness conveyed in it as a whole. And the same happens in the case of 'La Villa Strangiato', a powerful instrumental "exercise in self-indulgence" that is among the most emblematic pieces in Rush's entire career. All along its 12 sections displayed in a time span of 9 and a half minutes, the threesome expose their technical abilities and their combined versatility in order to create a multi-faceted journey through the realms of symph prog, hard rock, jazz rock, Arabic-like eerie ambiences (even a memorable although brief Flamenco intro!!). The guys seem to be at ease fulfilling such a demanding task, having fun while challenging the listener with all the overwhelming complexity that is contained in 'La Villa'. What a way to close down an album! In fact, what an album! Just like its predecessor, "Hemispheres" is a 5-star masterpiece.
Report this review (#20548)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true masterpiece of rock of any genre really. If you like your music dynamic and explosive this must be checked out. The album establishes the power trio as argually 3 of the greatest musicians on the planet. Neil Pearts drumming is sublime and jaw dropping at times. The album is a little more cosistent and accessible than Farewell to Kings with many moments that match the legendary heights of Xanadu. The main suite Cygnus X 1 is more of a sequel to 2112 with fantastic dynamic swings and a devine conclusion. La Villa Strangiato is a must listen for any rock fan and the strengths of each band member are shown well in this instrumental masterpiece. The only slightly weak moment may be Circumstances which is nonetheless a great little number but is one that isn't homogenous with the overall direction if the album. A 5 star effort that may not suit lovers of gentler symphonic rock of which I am a fan!
Report this review (#20549)
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's really difficult to add something new when everybody agrees the same, and yes I am one of those thousands -if not millions- who thinks that Hemispheres is probably the best work of this power trio in his whole career. The opening song is just brilliant, such clever way to develop an idea! using the same musical motive to give unity during eighteen minutes, if it looks simple must be because they really know what they're doing! I asked myself the first time I heard it, why did they put it as one song instead of five? in a closer hearing I realised that the concept of the song was to develope the same idea in five different ways and comunicate each part with the same musical motive so it can give an impression of an evolution and, at the same time, this repetition allowed you to follow through all the song the same idea which is no matter how much we try to explaine things we cannot anticipate the future nor change the past, somehow we are trapped by destiny, sounds like greek tragedy, must be inspired by it. The next one Circumstances is a fine piece of music with an outstanding opening riff and great lyrics and we can talk hours and hours of the subtle arrengements in the middle of The Trees but is the final act that earns them the five stars, La Villa Stragnato is a potpurri of cartoon music and incidental music, but the genius of it is the order of each part that gives you the impression of an instrumental jam made originally by the band instead of a collection of little pieces, if this album don't deserves five stars I don't know what could.
Report this review (#20550)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush had come full circle in the Prog sence. This Album is fantastic, Alot of people tend to say 2112 is the best album where epic pieces are concerned but I say Hemispheres blows 2112 away. The whole Hemispheres suite is more complex and engrossing, Plus the other songs are just as incredible as well (The Trees, for example) It all hits home with La Villa Strangiato. The Album also has great Keyboard solos to boot. Now I am not bashing 2112 by any means, There is just a major connection between Hemispheres and me
Report this review (#20551)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres is probably the most progressive album in Rush's catalog, but it's also quite possibly their most concise, deftly exectuted effort yet. Rush were extraordinarily tight at this point in their career from their experience as a band. The 18 minute title track is a mammoth, and their last side long epic. Circumstances and The Trees are signs of what Rush would become in the coming years. La Villa Strangiato is a legendary instrumental that has gained the status of Rush classic due to it's neverending display of the individual band members' talents. The extraordinarily odd time signatures, Alex Lifeson's guitar heroics, Geddy Lee's bass expertise, and Neil Peart's legendary drumming make this quite possibly the strongest Rush effort so far.
Report this review (#20552)
Posted Tuesday, January 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Probably the most deserving of its place on a prog rock website this is Rush in their early pomp. Perhaps they thought they'd exhausted the epic prog tracks, if so they certainly finished on a high for Cygnus is a creative masterpiece to rival 2112, building to a crescendo before finishing with the sublime and thought provoking Kind of Dream. There are no weaknesses to follow in the other three tracks. Circumstances is a catchy track made memorable by the little synth interlude in the middle, pure Rush brilliance. Classical Spanish guitar breaks into hard rock for The Trees (still trying to get the full meaning!), and the closing track may indeed be an exercise in self-indulgence but it's a damned good one. Why didn't I give this five stars? Don't know, probably frightened by the warning panel and that Moving Pictures was to follow, my all-time favourite album!
Report this review (#20559)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An interesting album, a part of the bands classic trio of their 70's albums along with "2112" and "A Farewell to Kings". The album starts with an epic which continues the story of Cygnus X-1 from their previous album. It's a good track, but it has some boring moments in it too. The composition doesn't have as much elements as the band's first epics on the "Caress of Steel" had, but this time there could have been a bit more. Well, "The Trees" is a good short song with symbolic lyrics describing a class struggle (I think), and the closing number is a long instrumental song, a true gem in the whole band's discography! Really great guitar work from Alex on that one.
Report this review (#20563)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars And so another masterpiece was created by Rush. After their landmark A Farewell to Kings, it was going to be tough for Rush to top themselves. Well they did with this work of art. The title song is what made the album, with lyrics alluding to famous greeks (Dionysus and Apollo). I especially like the guitar tone that Alex uses on this album. Peart adds another level to his drumming with incredible hi-hat work on all of the tracks, especially the instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". Geddy's use of keyboards is more prevalent here than in AFTK, using it to add texture to each track. Overall, a 70's Rush fan could not ask for more. If you don't own it, I highly recommend purchasing this album.
Report this review (#20564)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great album from start to the end. Although it's rather short one, yet every minute is worth listening. The musicanship is fantastic. I'm not sure if it's their best album, cause I equally love "Hemispheres", "2112", "Farewell..", "Signals" or even "Counterparts" but I know it's really a relief to my ears after listening to KC's "Lizard" a while ago. "Hemispheres" is one of the most compelling album I've ever heard in my live, not only in progressive genre, but the whole music. For me - a solid five star album.
Report this review (#20566)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Classic album, and a 5 star album!

I can tell you that a couple of years ago, when i was entering to the whole progressive world, Rush was a band that i didn´t like it at all,there could be so many reasons that i dont really remember, but it just happened, i listened to Tom Sawyer, or Presto which was my frst Rush album, and i didn´t enjoy it. Suddenly i heard so many good things about them and i got interested to obtain another of thei classic abums, so i experienced Permanent Waves and 2112, i liked both, and i still like them, but hat was strange because my perspective about the band changed immediately for some strange reason.

At the point that one of that lucky days i was walking in the street, went to a place when a couple of guys were selling DVD´s and some albums, when suddenly while im was giving an eye to the movies, in somewhere i sae Rush - Hemispheres, then i asked for the price, it was 50 pesos ( a bit less than 4 dls) so i decided to buy it immediately, and what happened?

Hemispheres is now my favorite Rush album, and is the album which makes me love and appreciate their music, and nowadays i can assure that Hemispheres is one of my gems in my collection.

An album which contains only 4 songs and less than 40 minutes, but full of virtuosity, powerful music, great musicianship and skillful, oh i remember another thing, i hated Geddy-s voice, now ask me.

The first song Cygnus X-1 is an epic which blends fantastic lyrics, with a hard - rock -progressive guitar sound, and the unique style of bassing playing that Geddy uses, of course, besides the virtuosity of Neil Peart, a song which show us how big is the band, with great changes during it, and as i said with great musiciaship.

Circumstances probably is the less favorite of people, maybe because is the shortest song, and the hardest and rockish of them all, nice song, could be nice to sing, but i will put it at the same level at The Trees, which is a great song and a great classic.

The track which takes the album easily is the last one, La Villa Strangiato, a complete masterpiece, greaaat song, and instrumental,starting with an acoustic guitar reminding me to some virtuoso of spanish guitar, then little by little is progressing to reach the peak when 3 people gather to create the best of them, believe me this song is simply amazing, guitar solos are incredible, the bass with it´s weird lines is great, and drumms as good as usual, i dont want to sound ridicolous, but this track deserves at least 4 of the 5 stars to an album.

This great song, supported by the other 3, makes a masterpiece, and a masterpiece deserves 5 stars for sure!

Report this review (#20567)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well I know I can't be alone in this but this is NOT the deffinative Rush album! It is however a very good one just not a Great one.Sorry folks but at 35mins it still seems a bit long to me.This album marks the last of the Rush "prog" albums the next album will bring rush more into the radio friendly territory(and that not soo bad) If you are new to Rush and want to start with their 1st era try 2112 or Caress of Steel, Again this is a very good album just not the holy grail it has built up to be.
Report this review (#20570)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars I was introduced to RUSH when the brother of a friend invited me to his room and let me hear his harder-edged musical taste, from Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple to .. "All the world's a stage", the live 2 LP from Rush. I was stunned by the great skills of these 'hardrockers', especially the biting, often wah-wah drenched guitarsoli from Alex Lifeson and the long and alternating piece "2112". A few months later I read a review about the just released new Rush album "A farewell to kings", this couldn' t be true: acoustic guitars, synthesizers, shifting moods, lots of soli, splendid interplay, .. etc., etc.! Well, it was true and a year later I was on the annual Dutch Pinkpop Festival in Geleen to watch the first appearance from Rush in Europe because of the new "Hemispheres" album. I was a bit disappointed about this album because at some times my attention faded away during the long titletrack and the song "Circumstances" sounded a bit uninspired to me. But "The trees" is pivotal 'heavy progressive rock' and "La villa strangiato" belongs to their finest work, it's perhaps the best example of the 'mid-Rush sound' and their incredible skills and ideas. "La villa strangiato" starts with exciting flamenco guitar and lush Moog sounds, followed by a great build up with twanging electric guitar, drums and bass guitar, culminating in a very propulsive rhythm with magnificent interplay between the fiery electric guitar (with repetetive quick and catchy runs) and a powerful and adventurous rhythm-section. Then the music slows down and a howling guitar (with frequent use of a volume pedal) enters as a prelude to a long and splendid build up guitar solo, from sensitve to biting. The accompaniment of soft keyboards and a slowly heavier, very propulsive rhythm-section lift this part to an almost orgasmic feeling! Soft synthesizer sounds and catchy guitar runs are a forerunner of a mindblowing final part with again sensational interplay between the guitar, (Rickenbacker) bass and drums. The 'Canadian powerhouse' pushes themselves to their limits, what a captivating blend of energy and skills. "La villa strangiato" ends with a short, phaser-drenched bass run. In my opinion this stunning composition is the bridge to their masterpiece "Moving pictures". THE POWERSYMPHONIC ROCK HAS BORN!!

Report this review (#37705)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neil Peart is a much, much better writer. The truth is Hemispheres is a musically outstanding and extremely ambitious endeavor that was created entirely on purpose. Geddy's bass lines are exquisite, Alex' guitar is never matched again on any Rush album, and Neil's drumming, well, it's Neil's drumming. Enough said. Anybody can see this is at least a four star release. I happen to think it's a five.
Report this review (#38634)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don't consider this album a masterpiece. But it is quite possibly my favorite Rush album, though Farewell to Kings and Permanent Waves vie for that position as well. The drumming is fantastic, Alex' guitar work is some of his best (and that is saying something) and the bass work is outstanding. Geddy's vocals are finally starting to come down a bit it pitch over the earlier albums, which I think is a good thing (I do like his voice, but on the first 4 albums, it is a bit "screechy" to my ears). All in all, a fantastic prog album, even if it was a bit late in the "classic" prog era.
Report this review (#38635)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush reached a certain pinnacle with Hemispheres. Sure it may seem that it is their most pretentious album, but you can't deny the innovation here and how well the trio works together. I must first note that for 1978, the production on this album is very good for the year, especially on the remastered editions. The album kicks off with the side- long "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres," which is a more in-depth extension on the original Cygnus epic from Farewell to Kings. Alex Lifeson's guitar is very crisp during the piece, sonically enhanced more than ever. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart are still top-notch as a rhythm section, though Geddy still belts some of those high notes throughout. You have to figure out the story for yourself; regardless, Neil shows great writing ability yet again, especially with being able to create such a "sequel." The other side begins with the short rocker "Circumstances," with Geddy's catchy bass dominating, and funky time signatures in the musical composition. "The Trees" is my favorite, with Neil going on a semi-political rant with oak and maple trees being symbolic of social classes, "all kept equal with hatchet, axe, and saw" in the end; Geddy's keyboard break combined with another shining Alex solo drives the piece home towards the last verse. Finally there is the 9.5 minute instrumental "La Villa Strangiato," where all three members really get to show off. Alex's classical guitar intro leads into a fade-in where electric guitar is joined by synth, then drums, then bass, before the catchy melody flies in at speedy tempo. Neil has amazing precision behind a drumkit, as you can tell by his signature cymbal taps prevailing in this number, which is based upon a dream. I was very impressed by the compostion, musicianship, and some of Rush's best production (only Moving Pictures might have better procudtion sheen than this one). Overall, Hemispheres may be the least accessible album of the Rush catalog, but you could grow to love it if you like to hear more complexity and less progressive-pop-metal or what not. Just an amazing trip.
Report this review (#38651)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is good, but flawed.

What went wrong with it? The answer is the epic (Cygnus X-I Book II). It has one good theme repeated over and over again, resulting in a dull overlong track with lack of ideas. The next tracks are good and redeems the album. Circumstances is a good rocker, The trees is a very well constructed semi-acoustic track, and The last track is an impressive instrumental workout with one of the best guitar solos from Alex, and one of the best instrumental songs I have heard. It is a shame Cinema and Marooned won a Grammy for instrumental song instead of this one. The band did not repeat this mistake again, and ceased writing mediocre epics in the future.

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II (18:04) 4.5/10 2. Circumstances (3:40) 6.5/10 3. The trees (4:42) 7/10 4. La Villa Strangiato: (10:34) 9/10

My Grade : C

Report this review (#42722)
Posted Saturday, August 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This sixth studio album of Canadian RUSH is an excellent album that any prog rock fan should not miss. Musically, this album is a bit under the quality of previous album but I still consider that this is an excellent album. It starts off with an epic which represents part 2 - as a continuation of previous album "A Farewell To Kings". The key track of this album is, I would say, "La Villa Strangiato". This instrumental piece is a true masterpiece as it starts with a sort of calssical acoustic guitar outfit by Alex Lifeson. The music flows wonderfully into crescendo through gradually increase drum work and bass lines. It moves completely into a rocking style with medium-fast tempo music. The song combines a balanced high and low points in energetic way with great (and soft) drum work during quiet passages augmented with stunning guitar solo by Lifeson. WOW! Whenever I spin this CD I always repeat this track minimum three times to really satisfy my needs. It's so uplifting! Highly Recommended!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#43407)
Posted Friday, August 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars At first I thought I had simply gone insane, but repeated listens proved me wrong -- it was, in fact, a GOOD Rush album!!! Granted, Geddy's voice still stabs my metaphorical ears with literal knitting needles, but the band is playing some warm, melodic material and finally the production is up to modern-day standards. No more watery ick! Fuller ick indeed! The lyrics, as usual, are laughable, mystical juvenilia (especially the side-long suite discussing the battle between the heart and the mind -- HEEEE!!!!) so it's not all peaches and heeb, but a grand deal of these riffs actually make you HAPPY to hear them! Clever, slightly unpredictable hard rock type things, with unexpected breaks and lots of bass slapping in the background. Plus, side two allows us a full NINE AND A HALF MINUTES STRAIGHT without a single word from Geddy Pee!!!

I still think these guys are overrated beyond words though. Better than Styx, sure, but what good are gobs of musical chops if you can't write interesting melodies on a consistent basis?

Report this review (#45284)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my third favorite Rush album after 2112 and Moving Pictures.When I first got it I started backwards by La Villa so it won me at once.That track is the definition of instrumental. Great melodies high technical ability with every member perform unique parts and a magnificent guitar solo. The trees is one of my favorite songs showing how prog can be catchy short in length but still inteligent. The second track is a rocker with a very good guitar rif and a powerfull chorous. Finaly the first track apart from realy great lyrics have some amazing melodies and rythms with Lee's bass leeding the way. I would like this track a litle more quirky like the first part but it is something you shouldn't miss anyway. If you like the former Rush albums or generaly prog based on rifs and not solos after solos this is your album.
Report this review (#45718)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars OK, ok...what's the fuss? And why all the bad reviews? This is RUSH, and nearly everything they did in the 70's (w/the exception of COS) is outstanding! My personal faves are "The Trees", a lyrical showcase for Peart, and "La Villa Strangiato", with its dense instrumentation and laidback vibe. As low-key as it may be, each one of the trio still gets to strut their stuff. And of course, who can forget the title track? The melodies get stuck under your skin in a way that few can. People, it's all right here: Prog, a bit of metal, some blues, a touch of jazz, etc., and that's why it's a 5-star disc.
Report this review (#46361)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars How can any prog-rock fan not like this album. This is the best work of Rush, its very tight, full of melodies and its a showcase of the band's skills with their instruments. This also demonstrates that a band can make masterpieces with minimum layers of sounds. The title track Cygnus 2 uses only bits and pieces of keyboards. The entire structure is built on Alex's guitar over which Lee and Peart displayed their power. But above everything Lee's voice in this album is the best of all Rush albums. This album is way too superior from A farewell to kings while the sounds of this album lived on-- on to Permanent Waves. This is a must have.
Report this review (#47032)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars every time i hear this album (actually, every rush album) im left overwhelmed. this magical trio is just so virtousic and artistic!!! this album is, in my opinion their masterpiece. it consists of only 4 songs but what songs!!! side a of the album consists of the mini epic tale of cygnus and tells of the ever going battle between the heart and the mind ever since the dawning of man. the lyrics are great and the music is so powerful and unique, hard and soft. the members are doing such a tremendous work. geddy's bass guitar is so powerful and dominant, alex lifeson is one of prog rock best guitarists and no words can describe the true genious of drummer neil peart. its amazing how can only 3 musicians create such a rich and full music. on to the next side of the album, we have 3 great songs: 1. circumstances - a great steady hard rocker with great bass work - not very proggish but still great. 2. the trees - one of my favourite all time songs. great acoustic guitar opening and it just gets better and better. thank god for neil pearts lyrics in this song. 3. la villa strangiato - best rush piece and the greatest definition of prog rock!!! everything is inside this track - quiet and mysterious spanish guitar opening, hard rock, jazz fusion, amazing classic solos and everything a music lover can hope for. its so rare to find a studio recording in which you can actually hear that the band is having a great fun in the recording and that the only thing that guides them is their true passion for music. THIS IS IT!!!


and while you are at the store do yourselves a favour and get the best live album of all times - EXIT... STAGE LEFT

Report this review (#47422)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres is a four song album which is Rush's best except for 2112.

"Cygnus X-1 Book II" gets 4.5/5. It is a hard rocking song with thought provoking lyrics about a battle between the heart and mind. Its only problem is at 18 minutes, it gets to be a little too long.

"Circumstances" gets 4/5. This is a great song with a cool tune, but there is nothing about it that makes it great.

"The Trees" gets a 5/5. This song is definetely among Rush's best. The song is a metaphor for racial relations in our society (not about actual trees).

"La Villa Strangiato" is easily Rush's best song. It is a 10 minute instrumental with incredible guitar work by Alex Lifeson. 5/5.

Report this review (#49905)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Though I don't think the opening epic is perfect, I can't help but award this entire album 5 stars. Anything less would be criminal, as 'Hemispheres' represents Rush at the height of their complexity, the apex of their most progressive period. The sound is deep, thick, punchy and clear, and the playing is tremendous. The addition of keyboards in their music is now becoming a large part of its success, with Geddy mastering a variety of lush atmospheres with those wonderful-sounding '70s-era synths.

As I said, sometimes I feel like "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" is as unnecessarily convoluted as the song title itself. Maybe it doesn't work on the whole as strongly as "2112" (which, c'mon admit it, is PERFECT). But it still takes us into a world like no other song. Each part is a joy to behold. My ears are always drawn to the drums, not only the playing but the recording, which helps underscore the immense talent Neil Peart possessed at this point. Not as dark as the first part, "Cygnus X-1", from 'A Farewell To Kings', this 2nd part of the story is more upbeat and crystalline. It's the next three songs that put this album into the realm of the 'masterpiece'...

"Circumstances": without looking back and without dumbing down, Rush successfuly captures their heavy metal past, coming up with riff that's one of their best, big and bold, carrying with it both attitude and sublimeness. Wonderful tones and chords from Alex Lifeson, not to mention a bassline underneath the verse that must've made it near- impossible for even the great Geddy Lee to tackle in a live environment. Geddy's control of the high shrieked notes in the chorus will be two things to different people: unbearable to those that can't stand his voice, and for those of us who understand, it is GOD. (I recently saw a shirt that read "Who died and made you Geddy Lee". Works for me.)

"The Trees" is a parable filled with clever lyrical symbolism, one of Peart's best bits of prose (even though he now hates it). Musically it is prime Rush, moving from the lilting nylon-string acoustic guitar melody toward a thing of massive construction. Despite it's relatively short 4:42, it carries the weight and drama of any 15+ minute epic.

"La Villa Strangiato": 9-and-a-half minutes of Lee/Lifeson/Peart tearing it up (sans vocals) at the peak of their abilities. Every musical mood you can imagine is here in this wordless story, from the fanciful to the frightful, from the fantastic to the realistic. A wonder of instrumental dexterity and musical storytelling.

As amazing as this album is, the two following it would be their ultimate masterworks. Some disagree, of course, but this string of Rush albums, from '2112' to 'Moving Pictures', is the reason why this band is one of the most respected prog bands on the planet and probably my favorite band of all time.

Report this review (#49907)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The opener is a classic. This contains all the Rushisms that you need to know. Still one of the most amazing long compositions in prog rock history. It deserves analysis at many levels in its amazing arrangement. It hints at the progresssive nature of Moving Pictures, it gives us a vision of what is to come. A rather mystical journey and a pretentious one but simply the best the band ever did. Whenever I listen to this it still gets me. The amazing bass playing and ridiculous lyrical conceits. A true prog rock classic that needs to be put in perspective. They never wrote another tune like this. It was the end of this style for Rush. Perhaps the defining moment for the band. As always they caught up with the times and moved on. While the rest of the album is also brilliant, it seems a irrelevancy to the main event.

The Trees seems somehow laboured under its idealism and La Villa is well La Villa.

The reason this album is a classic is the first side. It demands multiple listens. It is the ultimate Rush journey into their true soul. The first opening minutes for me define Rush. They wrote their epic and moved on. Brilliant that they have the intelligence to let go.

Report this review (#50331)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars You have never ever heared Rush before and this album, Hemispheres, is yours first Rush album. You listen it up, mind floats above those songs... But will you remember something? I think you dont.

Hemispheres is so progressive album, that you should listen it with your brains. This isn't just music, this is art. But lets look those songs! Cygnus X-1 Hemispheres, 18 minute long epic, song full of soul. It's continue for A Farewell to Kings Cygnus X-1, but little bit weirder. This song has very good bassline, long intro and high singin. Drum's sounds better than later album, AFTK, hi-hats are in good hands, tom-working could break your ears.. this song has many good moments. The end of this song can just make you think everything happy! Very good song, but not best of this album!

Circumstances, thisis weird song what tells story about little boy, who doesn't have good life. There are fery funny bass-line (of course guitar too) and drums sounds very fine. And we shouldn't forget that little interlude what I love very much! But only 20 seconds, Circumstances continues. You shouldn't listen this first, or this song just goes by.

The Trees.. WOAH what a classic! Lyrics are so awesome and drums and guitar and bass and and... everything in this song is good! Any bad moments in this song! CLASSIC

La Villa Strangiato is tempo-changin instrumental classic. This has Alex's most accurated solo and dont forget Geddy's little solo! And Neil's solos! Very addictave song! You're gonna like it!

This album is a classical prove how different music Ruhs can make. There's no bad songs at all, good way to make your day end.

This is a masterpiece of progressive music.

Report this review (#56958)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush's ''hemispheres'' contains three of my favourite Rush songs.

''La Villa Stangiato'' ''Cygnus X-1 Book II'' and '' The Trees''

These songs are absolutely amazing.

Cygnus X-1 Book II: This song, I actually enjoy over Part I believe it or not, while some may hate me for that, this is of course a personal opinion.

Circumstances: This song seems like a filler, its catchy, but it just doesn't seem to stick.

The Trees: This song has great lyrics, and great music. One of my all-time faves.

La Villa Stangiato: When I first got this album, this was the track I bought the album for mainly. It's an amazing track, relaxing and even frightening at times.

The only beef I have with this album is that it is much too short, 37 minutes isn't quite that long, it will leave you wanting more.

However, the songs themselves are sure to please almost any prog fan.

Rating: 4.5/5

Report this review (#58471)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is Rush at their most progressive peak and a definite contender for one of their best albums.

"Hemispheres/Cygnus X-1 Book II" (I've seen it stated as both) 10/10 This manages not only to keep my attention for 18 minutes but also displays lyrical and musical genius, while additionally being a very good song; I tend to enjoy this song more than X-1 Book I.

"Circumstances" 8.5/10 A good Rush rocker, although it is probably the weakest composition on the album; it still is worth hearing nonetheless.

"The Trees" 10/10 Clever and completely intriguing lyrics by Peart make this one of my favorite Rush songs, and as usual, the music never ceases to amaze me; this is an extremely strong composition.

"La Villa Strangiato" 10/10 This is easily another one of my favorite Rush songs and deserves to be in that position for a reason. The music is simply fantastic and creates an image in the listener's mind while accompanying it with splendid musicianship from all three band members. I don't know if I enjoy this or "Cygnus X-1 Book II" more.

This easily is one of the greatest progressive albums for me and definitely a recommendation for anyone searching for Rush material.

Report this review (#59685)
Posted Thursday, December 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I thought I'd never like Rush, but I thought it was almost a duty to at least give this album a chance. I can say that my expectations were low before making my first try, but I have to surrender to this fantastic album! Let me explain why I had these low thoughts of this group: I'm a big fan of most 70's prog. But I'm not a fan of music that is pretentious to the level that it becomes ridiculous. I thought Rush was such a band. But I was so wrong that it made me ridiculous instead. The album only have four tracks, but these are all just splendid! Good songs with strong melodies. Add to that some teriffic solos and some "proggish" long instrumental parts and there you have it: This years surprise! To all of you addictive Rush-fans: You were right all along, and I was wrong!
Report this review (#61132)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think this is Another masterpiece after 2112 and AFTK, where the band reach the summit with his technical skill and this work is surely more complex than the previous one. It begins with "Cygnus X-1 book II", which is the continue of the Cygnus X-1's story now with mythological contents, a suite divided in several parts, even if i think it's not at the same level of 2112. "The Trees" is a classic RUSH with his beautiful acoustic intro that progresses in the second hard part of the song, the lyrics are great too. Another classic is the monumental "La Villa Strangiato", one of their best instrumental that they ever made, which begins with a solo of classical guitar in Flamenco's style and flows in several themes (in a hard jazz rock vein), with one of my favourite great electric guitar solo(full of heart and feeling). Circumstances is some points down but it's very good song anyway, with wonderful piece of keyboard in the middle. A must in every serious progressive rock Collection!
Report this review (#61866)
Posted Monday, December 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is definately one of the best RUSH albums! I highly recommend it! Being that this is my first review, i think i'm gonna just go through every song like most people do.

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II (18:04) -- This is certainly an amazing sequel to the previous Cygnus X-1 on A Farewell To Kings. Almost twice the length of its predecessor, this song goes through many themes and touches on some of the most complex music RUSH has every produced. This song is too long for me to go through every single part, but i will say that the only flaw with this song is that its fluidity is not the greatest as with other epics like Xanadu or 2112. It's not all the time, but sometimes themes are introduced out of nowhere or one thing will fade out and the next will begin with an un- epic-like transition (if that makes sense). But on a more positive note, RUSH does a great job at throwing in some old Cygnus X-1 themes during a spacey section toward the end of the suite. Amazing! (9.5/10)

2. Circumstances (3:40) -- I think the song is way underrated! This is a great upbeat rock song. It's also proggy contrary to most beliefs, enduring time changes, different themes, and tempo changes. After a very hard hitting rock section, it falls under a more gentle bells/keys section of odd times of 5/8 and 6/8. This is song is awesome. (8/10)

3. The Trees (4:42) -- Another great song! Probably the most popular on this album, the Trees is another short proggy song, much proggier than Circumstances with lyrics concerning a fight between the trees (typical fantasy prog environment, haha). Another song of odd time signatures, changing themes, and varying tempos... this one deserves to be considered one of RUSH's finest. (9/10)

4. La Villa Strangiato (10:34) -- By far the best on the album! This is my personaly favorite RUSH song and seems to be very popular among most RUSH fans. It begins with a mysterious spanish-flameco guitar provided by Alex Lifeson, then dives into an electric guitar assault before settling on a serene foundation for the rest of the band to build on. The first main section is hard rock and upbeat, and then it comes down into a gloomy and mysterious 7/4 section of ominous guitar sounds echoing about. After this, we come into a more hard hitting rockin jazz section featuring some small outburts from Neil Peart on drums and Geddy Lee on bass. After this change of pace, we found ourselves coming back into the original hard rock theme before diving into the conclusion of this amazing instrumental. Simply amazing!!! (11/10)!

I know the prog polls seem to say that Moving Pictures or Permanet Waves or RUSH's best, and though those are great albums - HEMISPHERES and A Farewell To Kings are the best! This is a must have for not only RUSH fans, but all prog fans! (5/5)

Report this review (#61983)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This record has got to be the most underATED RECORD OF ALL TIME! If not that the greatest prog-rock album in the history of mankind. The band usually has the best balance of all time, and this is as far as they would ever take it. First off, "Cygnus X-1", is the greatest prog rock song of all time. Cheers to the last album side. The perfect balance of both heart and mind, to form a perfect sphere. Sphere as in hemiSPHERE. Does he become Cygnus? Or is it a random god. The ballad at the end is good. "Circumstances" is an omage to the early days. "The Trees" is by far my number one fan favorite. I mean, C'MON THE IDEA OF RACIAL PREJUDICE IS SUBSTITTUTED BY TREES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HOW SICK IS THAT? AND IT'S EVEN MORE BRILLIANT BECAUSE "THE TREES ARE ALL MADE EQUAL BY HATCHETT AXE AND SAW" . CHEERS TO NEIL. "La Villa Strangiato", is a deep cut. It's supposed to represent the virtuostic talents of Geddy, Alex, and Neil. (Alex put those hilarious subtitles in.) As we Rush freaks know, Alex is Lerxt. Geddy is Dirk, and Neil (god bless his soul) is Pratt.

This record is yet another perfectly balanced attempt. It has a little bit of everything. The best of the prog rock years.(Well, 2112, really, but you know wot I meen) The early pedestrian rock days. A great message/conceptual song. An instrumental highlighting individual talents.


Report this review (#64621)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm pretty much sure that this record is probably the Rush's richest in terms of concept values. The theme is about enstablishing a balance beetween the heart and mind of men, which is the key of making mankind more coerent with each other. Neil uses the anciet Greeks myth as a good example for letting the listeners understand the main idea of balance. This is an album where the three musicians want to assure themself the fame of great performers, using vistuosity, accuracy, creativity, some great soundscapes (just listen to the middle part of "La Villa Strangiato"), Geddy's amazing Moog work, fantastic guitar sound (very original). Unfortunately that sound lasted for only a few albums. I agree with those who say that this is an underrated album. For me, it's a classic example of the prog-rock era, so, it has to be listened if you are a prog maniac.

Thank you Rush!

Dario Inversi from Milan

Report this review (#64629)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is probably Rush's most progressive album. Cygnus X-1 is the greatest "epic" in progressive rock. I believe Rush is one of the very few bands that can make a song longer than 15 minutes and not bore you to death at times. Many people regard Circumstances as the "filler" song on the album, and those people obviously don't care for the shorter songs that are more to the point. Great music and good lyrics. The Trees has some of the greatest lyrics in progressive rock, really, who else can make a GOOD song about politics? La Villa Strangiato another excellent song and to me the best instrumental not only in progressive rock, but rock period.


Cygnus X-1 Book II: 10/10 Circumstances: 8/10 The Trees: 10/10 La Villa Strangiato: 10/10

Report this review (#64635)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rush is one band that has extraordinary musicians, very talented indeed and this album shows some nice stuff!!! But its not their best in my opinion ( Moving Pictures is) as so many claim it is! Having said that...the album is very good! Yet something quite peculiar happens to me with this album. Normally I find the epic tracks of an album to be their best, at least in that album. But here its the complet oposite! Strange, but true! I find Hemispheres to be a good song, but not up there with the other great epics of prog, while the other three songs are among Rush´s best. I have soft spot for The trees...I love that song! really great, nice acoustic intro! Circumstances is also very good full of riffs and...french! And then there is the instrumental...great job here! Has a nice epic touch to it...I really like Greedy´s bass here!

All in all it´s one of Rush´s best, definitly a classic and any prog fan should have it! 4/5!!!

Report this review (#65420)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Almost everyone has reviewed this album and everyone has written about many details of the album so I will make my review short. Firstly out of all Rush albums Hemispheres is probably the hardest to get into, especially compared to 2112 and Moving Pictures both of which have shorter songs. The song Hemispheres is a bit repetitive but in this case it is a good thing, brilliant Bass work by Geddy Lee carries the melody well all through the song while Alex Lifeson has some good guitar parts through out. Circumstances is much more of a rock song in both its length and structure, again bass work is pivotal to the sound of the song. The Trees is my surprise favorite from the album, from the opening acoustic guitar section to the strange concept it is enjoyable. Last of all is La Villa Strangiato which features a very famous theme which is not repeated until it becomes boring like some other famous themes. All members contribute very well to La Villa Strangiato but Alex Lifeson stands out most of all as he plays the theme. Overall this is the only Rush album which can be considered a complete prog Masterpiece, others like Permanent waves are 4/4.5 star albums, but this one is a 4.7 star album. I highly recommend this album, this is Rush at their very best.
Report this review (#68361)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of Rush's finest album, if not the best. It's a shame it's so short. Starts with the magnificient epic, known as Hemispheres (Cygnus X-1 Book II). The song starts with some outstanding heavy rock intro and keeps interesting all the time (3 minutes). Geddy's vocals might sound pretty weird in the beginning (not so aggressive as in 2112) but they really are great. Divided in 5 parts (was it?). I haven't looked a lot to the lyrics but I think this song tells about mankind and the important gods of Ancient Greece, and the story how Dionysos became a god. All the parts are interesting and especially the ending is outstanding. Stunning song.

Circumstances is a basic heavy rock Rush song, well not basic. Cause it's damn good. Lasts for a 3 interesting minutes. The riff is awesome by they way. The Trees is a "calm" song. The worst song in this album, not very bad but not very good. I can only wait for La Villa Strangiato.

La Villa Strangiato, maybe Rush's best instrumental song, which lasts for over 10 minutes. NO boring spots, imagine. Usually in some instrumentals there are some weak spots but here is none. Love it.

Hemispheres is an entertaining album. But I had to make a choice between 4 and 5. But it's always nice to give higher ratings, isn't it? And the first song is outstanding.

Report this review (#72964)
Posted Friday, March 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars Many Rush fans will tell you that the 1970s were the band's best decade. After all, in just six short years, the Canadian trio had managed to release the best selling debut in Canadian history, two successful follow up albums and the monster smash that was '2112'. So how do you close out a decade as strong as this one? Simple; you release the masterpeice that is 'Hemispheres'.

As usual, all three band members bring everything they've got to the table. Geddy Lee's voice soars above the crescendo of Neil Peart's masterful drumming, while his driving basslines provide a solid foundation for Alex Lifeson's awesome riffing and incredible solos. Try as hard as you might, you just won't find a single second on this disc that doesn't rear its head back and scream excellence.

2112 fans were thrilled to see another epic opener, this time the sequel to Cygnus X-1 from 1977's 'A Farewell To Kings'. Clocking in at an impressive 18 minutes, the song manages to stay fresh throughout - it never gets old and it never gets boring. Musically, the band remains solid, as showcased by the wicked basslines found in "Circumstances" and the wonderful instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". Lyrically, Neil Peart is at his finest, from the political metaphor that comprises "The Trees" and the cohesive storyline found in "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres".

All in all, you will be hard pressed to find dissapointment within this album. From the moment you hit play to the second you inevitably start it up again, the album never fails to deliver. The only flaw this album has is its length - or more to the point, the lack thereof. However, it remains an excellent way to close out an even more excellent decade, 'Hemispheres' is a must-own album for not just any Rush fan, but anyone who even slightly apprieciates the progressive genre.

Album rating: 10/10 points = 98 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Report this review (#73513)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rush third (really) progressive album brings us 4 songs, one epic suite two short songs and one instrumental suite. Hemisphere would be Rush´s last ´70 album and also the last of this "progressive" period (not to say that later on they wouldn´t be prog anymore, but this three, 2112, Farewell to kings and this one are Rush´s most progressive realeases). Latter on they would come up with a new sound and a new direction in their songs (which in my opinion suits them best) with the albums Permanent Waves and the masterpiece: Moving Pictures. But many consider this one also as a masterpiece, many even say it´s better than Moving Pictures...I don´t. I find this album to be good, very good actually...but not quite there with Pictures...

Cignus x-1 Book, also known as Hemisphere is the epic suite from this album. A favorite of the masses (prog masses) I find it to be the track I like the least from this album, it´s good...but it doesn´t do it as an looong epic...I find some parts repetetive and some other kinda weak...and the ending is...not my cup of tea...

Circumstances, this is one of the two short songs. This one I like, it has intrincated riffs...and even some french. It´s a great rocker and...I like it

The Trees...this is my favorite track from this album. I love the acoustic classical guitar at the begining of the song. The song has got some great melodys and one of Pearts best lyrics in my opinion (even thought he dislikes them a bit heheeh). I really, really like this song...a lot!!!

La Villa Strangiato is the instrumental from this album. Rush´s instrumentals are superb and this is not the exception. It´s really great how it builds up. Lifeson is great here, althought I don´t consider his solo here to be as good as some say it´s good, but nothing else. Still this song is great with great riffs and time changes.

All in all this is a great album, not a only because the "weakness" of the epic (which again, can be just me ) but also becuase the album lacks that thing that makes an excellent album a masterpiece. It doesn´t flow. I don´t know if Cygnus is that good of an opener and the same goes for La Villa, which is trully great...but it´s not a great closer...know what I mean?...hope you do

Report this review (#74984)
Posted Friday, April 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One kind of album I like to review are the ones that got me to like a specific artist and Hemispheres is one of them. In a world of commercial music it's good to see that there's still so much to discover back in the 70s and 60s... Enough for this, let's get to the review. First, "Hemispheres", one of the best big rides that Rush composed through the years. No, it won't beat the vocal intensity shown in "2112" but still, I loved the song so much that after that I HAD TO hear all of Rush's discography! 20 minutes later, "Circumstances". Good musical performance but I really like the lyrics on it; "Plus ça change! Plus c'est la męme chose!". Track 3, "The Trees", now this is something, a cute little guitar intro followed by a powerful drum start that will for sure, make you "air drumming"! The song goes from aggressiveness to calmness in a very unique and nice way. If I though I'd heard to best from this release after hearing "Hemispheres" I was wrong! "The Trees" certainly has is place in Rush's 5 best songs ever! The following, "La Villa Strangiato" is a real musical piece of art. The musical strenght of each musicians is brought to the edge. It's mystical and it's sounds good. Another song that could easily putted in the Rush's top 5 ever. You canno't fin your way in Rush discography? Try Hemispheres! You won't regret it!
Report this review (#75179)
Posted Sunday, April 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Amazing album.

Although it's quite short, it's just made up of four songs, the songs are all good and two of them quite lengthy. It starts off with Hemispheres, the long awaited second part of Cygnus, I have to say that Hemispheres is not exactly as good as Cygnus, but it's great in it's own sense. The sci-fi lyrics are great, the musicianship is amazing, and the overall mood of the song is haunting. Second up is Circumstances...maybe the worst track of the album, but still GREAT! Complex time signatures, kick butt musicianship and a cool interlude that reminds me of "Madrigal" from A Farewell to Kings. The Trees is up next, a concert favorite, awesome interlude, awesome solo, thought out melodies, just amazing.

Here comes the last track....La Villa Strangiato...the best Rush instrumental favorite Rush track by far. Just listen to it to see what I mean, I can't really describe how good this track is.

Go buy this...NOW

Report this review (#76808)
Posted Monday, May 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The last Rush album to feature a sidelong epic, and also the last Rush album to feature Geddy's abrasive screaming, which would, I sometimes think unfortunately, be replaced by his more matured controlled voice. Lyrically Hemispheres picks up where Cygnus X-1 Book 1 left off although musically it sounds little like its predecessor. The interplay between Geddy and Alex on this track is nothing short of beautiful. With Alex providing some of the best riffs heard since 2112. However, Neil Peart really grabs my ears and refuses to let go. He propels us though the epic at mock speed and really never lets up. Busy greatly understates his playing here which constitutes a song by itself.

Circumstances often receives heat as the weakest song on the album, and even as a weaker one in the Rush catalogue. I don't see why this is so. This highly technical, mathematical piece is propelled by Geddy's driving bass, a great example of Rush's ability to write shorter pieces of music.

The Trees starts out with some light wind chimes and acoustic strumming to put you in the mood until Alex's electric guitar roars and brings us into this rather upbeat social commentary.

The instrumental La Villa Strangiato closes out the album as a rather self-indulgent piece which nonetheless fails to bore at any point. The band's interplay and cohesiveness is really showcased in their instrumental tracks and this here is no different. Alex performs a particularly beautiful guitar solo in this piece that ranks among his best

Hemispheres is the best album in the second chapter of Rush, nearly all Zeppelin influence is gone, but synthesizers have yet to overpower Rush's music. Hemispheres shows a band at its zenith and is an essential album for any prog collection.

Report this review (#76928)
Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars OMG! What a great record! Upon hearing this at least 7 to 8 times since I bought it a few days ago, I haven't put it down. I'm of the belief that Rush were the only one in '78 (nay; in the latter half of the 70's...) who were still doing "prog-rock": What else did you have? "Tormato"? "...And Then There Were Three"? "Love Beach"? No thanks.

Why do I like it? To start, the production is just class. Nice and warm sounding, natural and organic. That ALONE should make it at least 4 stars, but wait! There's more!

Neal has seen fit to create his own Greek myth, set to music that plays out like a "rock opera", if you will. "Cygnus X-1 Book II" is linear storytelling of the higest order; the battle of heart and mind raging as our hero "Cygnus" (Neal?) attempts to make some sense of the whole mess. He finally ends up telling Apollo and Dionysus to either [&*!#] or get off the pot. What do they do? They listen to him. And they make him a god as well. I might also add that there's great interplay from the trio, with Lifeson's guitar at the forefront. Peart's pounding drums provide a rock-solid foundation for Lee's throbbing bass and wailing vocal style. The synths are used mainly as a textural device, and also to ease listeners into the next section.

"Circumstances" floored me. How much catchiness and soul-searching can one put into a song of less than four minutes? (Well, there IS "Closer To The Heart...). And there's even some French lyrics! (Too bad for you, "Tales From Topographic Oceans".)

"The Trees" is total socio-political criticism from Neal, and devastating at that. But rather than attack his prey with churlish, puerile lyrics, Neal sets his plea for tolerance in the forest (Good job, Peart!) and pits the short maples (the "have-nots") against the taller oaks (the "haves"). The story ends with BOTH species being put flat on their backs ( hatchet, axe and sword).

Now we have the "piece de resistance", the 9-minute-plus instrumental "La Villa Strangiato" (subtitled "An Exercise In Self-Indulgence"...hehe.) A classical guitar opens up the piece, and in the background, Neal and Lee are slowly working their magic, and teasingly so, at that. I want them to come crashing in, to abate my curiosity, but they don't. They take their time building, building, builiding...til the bottom drops out and they start to jam out righteously. Hot damn! And Alex delivers one of the jazziest, yet WEIRDEST lead tracks known to man. Those aren't so much notes he's pulling out as they are odd sounds and weird, shrill ringing, almost as if he's trying to channel Tom Morelle (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslve) through Ornette Coleman. Guess what, kiddies? IT WORKS! It comes crashing to a halt 9:34 later, and I have to take a DEEP, shuddering breath. MAGIC is all I can say. It's worth your time to pick up the re- master (for better sound quality) and let it quell your battle of heart and mind.

Report this review (#76960)
Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really wanted to love this album. I've been going on eBay, filling in the gaps in my collection. I won both Hemispheres and Moving Pictures, two albums I had never owned. I got Moving Pictures first, and rated it five stars. Then I got Hemispheres.

I can't put my finger on it, but this album mostly leaves me cold. I'm not sure why, but it doesn't grab me like Moving Pictures. Perhaps it's because I'm more familiar with the songs on Moving Pictures.

I will mention those things I really liked about this album.

1) Alex Lifeson's use of accoustic guitars. 2) The lyrics to The Trees. "the tress are all kept equal. By hatchet, Axe, And saw ..." After all the political correctness crap that passes for political discourse, it's good to see a contrary view. I just wish the song was better.

I also keep getting more impressed with the various colors that Neil Peart uses in his drum kit. Neil can keep the music moving without being stuck in the bass, snare, hi-hat, cybal, tom-tom paradigm.

However, just because this album doesn't grab me like Moving Pictures, its still a very good album.

Report this review (#77399)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars If it wasn't for La Villa Strangiato, this would be an average album. This song is probably one of the best instrumentals ever played. It flows beautifully and moves flawlessly from one type of guitar playing to another. Just about perfect.

In addition, the song Trees is very good. It is a simple story put forth in the lyrics, but yet very insightful. The music is also very smooth and catchy, with some unusual percussion sounds throughout.

Although not on par with 2112, this album is better than all rush albums after A Farwell to Kings, which get way too poppy for me.

Report this review (#78214)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album, along with "Moving Pictures", was my first introduction to Rush, and Progressive Rock. "Hemispheres" simply mesmerized me from start to finish. The combination of Geddy Lee's vocals and bass, Neil Peart's intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics and absolutely unbelieveable drumming, along with Alex Lifeson's stunning guitar, creates a sound which no other band can match.

The first song, and main focal point of the entire album, Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres, is a magical song suite revolving around Peart's expertly developed conclusion to "A Farewell to Kings"'s closer, Cygnus X-1: The Voyage. As I heard "Hemispheres" before "A Farewell to Kings", I was not disappointed with the Peart's conclusion to "The Voyage", though I am aware that, for some of those who heard the albums in the "correct" order, it was a somewhat insatisfactory continuation. All is not lost, however, as the music is quite simply breath-taking. "Cygnus..." begins with an overture of sorts, similair to that of 2112, which introduces main themes and riffs which return later in the song. From there we move on to the main story, concerning the rivalry of two Greek Gods, and the return of "Cygnus X-1: The Voyages" 's protagonist, and, finally to the conclusion and acoustic epilogue. "Cygnus..." leaves me with a great sense achievement when it finally comes to an end.

Next up is "Circumstances", a comparitively short song in which Peart describes his experience of living in London when he was young. The song has a rather simple structure, but is still 100% progressive, with crazy time signatures, instrumental mastery and Lee's utterly unique voice reaching the strasophere during the anthemic chorus.

"The Trees" is a shorter story than "Cygnus...", but still has the same effect, except on a shorter, more controlled scale. An acoustic introduction, reminiscent of "Closer to the Heart" opens the piece, and after a short pause, Rush come in with a bang, which leads to the return of the chord sequence from the introduction, and then a break down which sees Rush return to the more gentle mood of the opening bars. Peart makes use of cowbells, and then the listener encounters a series of crashes, which build and build until the glorious 5/4 bass line breaks through, followed by a signature guitar solo from Lifeson and finally, the conclusion of the fable, which sees both opposing ideologies meet a sticky end.

The final treat for the listener on "Hemispheres" is "La Villa Strangiato", an insane instrumental based on Lifeson's odd nightmares, and even divided into 'chapters' of a story, to make "La Villa Strangiato" more than just a mindless instrumental. The song showcases each of the band member's individual talents. Lifeson begins the song with an astounding mexican guitar solo, provides the amazing riffs throughout the song, plays two more guitar solos during the gentle middle section and frantic passage between the middle section and reprise of the main riffs. Peart shines throughout, blending with Geddy perfectly to maintain a great rhythm section, and providing a few short solos towards the end. Geddy Lee is at his best here, working together with Peart in a way no one else can, and also providing a spell-binding bass solo towards the end. All-in-all, an amazing experience, and quintessential prog.

"Hemispheres" is probably my favourite Rush album, and, in my opinion, shows Rush at their most inventive and progressive. It's a shame that they didn't enjoy the process of making "Hesmipheres", as it marked the beginning of the end of Rush's most progressive era. Rush returned with the brilliant Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures, which both contained their final "epics", and then settled down in to the format of shorter, more accessible and "mainstream" format, with 1982's "Signals".

A Five Star album, without a doubt.

Report this review (#80655)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars The more I listen to post All The Worlds A Stage Rush, the more I realise how good the band were in their early period. After their first live album the band closed one door and opened a new one, but Rush also lost a characteristic edge that graced albums like Caress Of Steel and 2112 for all the naivete of those mid seventies albums, but at least those albums contained a substance. Albums of their time, sure, but much easier albums in terms of playability than Farewell To Kings, and especially this one, Hemispheres. There is an innocent wonderment lost as the band progressed, they really left behind all the nuances of the old Rush as they progressed, and it is an almost forced progression to my ears with this one. The music takes a back seat to the lyrical narratives of drummer Neil Peart's obsession with all things sci-fi, social and dumb. The music lacks a bite and take the lyrical context nowhere. Alex Lifeson's guitar always soared and took flight, but now he's rigid and dull, mainly hanging on full chord sweeps and concentrating on time signatures to the point that he, and the band, lose all sense of composition, making for an awkward use of space on many occasions. The music is incidental to Peart's lyrics, sung by Geddy Lee, as always, but lacking any depth to make them exciting and/or visual without getting (or gedding if you will) irritated by his incessant whine. In fact this whole album comes across as a banal affair on purpose, and it just pisses me off.
Report this review (#81562)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars the pen is actually mightier than the's the only album i know that the lyrics overshadow music... what's more amazing is that music itself is brilliant...

Cygnus X-1 Book II : this the 2nd part of the last song of their previous album, "A Farewell To Kings" - their best if you ask me - an epic that can easily be compared to "Closer To The Heart", "Thick As A Brick" etc.. 18 minutes of brilliant prog music, astonishing riffs, preludes or anything else... lyrically, it's about the balance of the two sides (hemisphers of the brain, if you please) of man:the one that serves epicureanism, represented by Dionysus and the one that serves man's wit, represented by Apollo and a new God, called Cygnus who would the God of balance... not that simple as it sounds... probably the most profound concept after "The Wall"...

Circumstances : this is my fav... it has Lee's best performance including his bass playing.. a true gem...

The Trees: another allegoric song with a beautiful acoustic intro before it explodes....

La Villa Strangiato : seriously, were you expecting from me to comment on the best instrumental track ever? this track is like a wet dream...

in cocnclusion, Rush just did what they were easily managing to do from 1976 to 1984, released another fine piece of prog music... enjoy...

Report this review (#82209)
Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first Rush album I bought. I remember being amazed by the lyrics and the "tightness" of this band. "Cygnus X1 Book 2" is about the battle of the heart and mind, basically the history of the world all in one song! Wouldn´t it be great to have the heart and mind united in a single, perfect sphere? This is the longest song on the album at over eighteen minutes and it´s a classic! "Circumstances" also has some great lyrics, in fact the lyrics on this album are incredible. "The Trees" could be a song about war or even apartheid. At the end of the song the lyrics go "And the trees are all kept hatchet, axe and saw"

"La Villa Strangiato" leaves one with no doubt that these are three master musicians. I used to have doubts about Alex Lifeson and always considered him to be the weakest link in the band, but after hearing him on this instrumental I realize just how very underrated he is as a guitarist.

The only problem I have with this album is that it is just too short, it´s over in 37 minutes! This album is a masterpiece, period.

Report this review (#84085)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars All I can say this album is, with the slight exception of "Circumstances" and maybe "The Trees", this entire albums captures me. It is overwhelmingly compelling, whether it be by the mystifying lyrics or top-notch musicianship. Every time I hear the title track, I lose myself and dream up myths. It's an amazing ambiance that hasn't been reached by many other bands. La Villa is also very memorable and a personal favourite - not a track to be missed.
Report this review (#84335)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars First off I must preface this review. I was intially put off Rush after I bought and listened to '2112' . I found very few elements that i liked about it. For whatever reason I tried again, downloading Cygnus X-1 off this website. It has become my favorite Rush track and has led to buy a few more of their albums. Anyway, I was recommended Hemispheres (after i couldn't find A Farewall To Kings). Perhaps I'm not the best person to review a Rush album, but nonetheless I am.

Secondly, I always found Peart to be overrated. He is a great drummer, but he provides many few moments that "blow me away". But saying this, every member does a great job at their own instuments. Also, Lee's voice has never bothered me. So I must appauld him for another solid vocal performence. On to the songs.

This album is dominated by Cygnus X-1 Book II. I like the intro, but I feel this track suffers what many epics do: The inability to hold that intensity or power that they start off having. Saying that, I find the ending very innapropiate for the song. However, I do have favorable things to say about this song. When the music is good, its great. I am also very fond of Lee's bass work. There are a few rememberable melodies as well, that helps boost my rating of this song. After this the album picks up for me. Circumstances is a nice rocking song, that i often find myself singing/humming days after playing. The Trees is another one of my favorite Rush songs. I find the lyrics funny (which, while perhaps odd, makes me approve of them much more). I also like the quiet little section in the middle with Peart playing the woodblocks. Another excellent song. Finally, La Villa Strangiato, ends the album on a positive note. The guitar intro, the lushness of the opening (and most of the song), the shifting moods, very good instrumentations, at least one solo from every member, and a nice cohesiveness make for a very good expeirience. A classic Rush song, from my understanding.

All in all, this is a solid release. For all the bad i can find in it, I can usually find good to balance it out. Definitely one for Rush fans, and probably a good one to have for a general progressive collection. Based on that, I shall rate it 3.5 stars. Also I will add, I think this would make a good introduction to the band, as it gave me hope that I would find more good things from Rush. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#84643)
Posted Sunday, July 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the best records from this band and it has in it the best song ever recorded from this canadian group: "La Villa Strangiato" and according to some of the reviewers above "Cygnus X-1 Book II" it is the best epic progressive song written from them, but the other two songs let me cold. So it is a mixed album for me. But remembering how many times I went to sleep hearing "La Villa... in the dark over and over again I must assume there´s something magical in this CD. 4 stars for me.
Report this review (#85055)
Posted Friday, July 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Hemispheres" is the Rush masterpiece in my opinion, it is perhaps their most progressive album. The composition on Hemispheres are amazing and there is not one weak song on the album. The 18 minute epic "Cygnus X-1 Book II" is the best Rush song every written and it has a wonderful classic Rush sound. The Best part of the song is the second last section of the epic when Cygnus comes and fights Dionysus (or something like). It is the section of music Rush ever came up with. "The Trees" is the other major highlight, I love the idea of trees fighting for sun light. The end is very true "And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw" "Circumstances" Isn't as memorable as the rest but still carries an authentic Rush sound. "La Villa Strangiato" features a well known theme which I have heard countless times, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that it came from "Hemispheres." "La Villa Strangiato" is a spectacular instrumental! The Instrumentation on this album is of a godly quality, Lifeson, Peart and Lee are masters of their instruments. The Lyrics are also at their best here and I particularly like "The Trees lyrics."

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II (5/5) 2. Circumstances (4/5) 3. The trees (5/5) 4. La Villa Strangiato: (4/5) Total = 18 divided by 4 (number of songs) 4,5 = 5 stars Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

"Hemispheres" is a masterpiece of progressive music, it is a very essential album and although it isn't as highly rated as 'Moving Pictures' I believe that it is better. I highly recommend this album to all prog fans, especially to those who enjoy louder prog.

Report this review (#85072)
Posted Saturday, July 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rush - Hemispheres,

My second experience from Rush. After the great success, Farewell to Kings, this album rises to power at the end of 70's. Excellent album, really good. Neil, Geddy, and Alex impresses me again. Moving Pictures is very good, but for me, this album is better. Slightly. There aren't many flaws, only good stuff. Every track is great, where Moving Pictures had couple of average songs. I enjoy listening this album very much. What I like especially is the structure of the album. The songs are located brilliantly. That is big advantage. The epic 'Cygnus X-1 Book II' starts the album and give a blastful welcoming ceremony. This song is the core of the album. The two following tracks are short, impressive prog rock tracks. The interlude before the diamond. Masterfully planned structure. In this album, Geddy and Alex is the main composers and Neil writes the lyrics.

(The next paragraph will contain some information about the storyline of the first track) The first track, 'Cygnus X-1 Book II', really is great. It begins with four and half minutes lasting 'Prelude', which introduces almost everything that are used in the song later. This song is well structured, as well. When first time listening, you must concentrate and listen focused. The parts change constantly in the 'Prelude'. About three minutes and Geddy Lee's vocals comes fort. For me, his voice needed little time to get used to. After two albums, I begin to like his voice, and vocal style. The second part, 'Apollo; Bringer of Wisdom' tells about what Apollo has to give for the people. The next part, 'Dionysus; Bringer of Love' does the same for Dionysus. This song is about these two Greek gods (Apollo and Dionysus) and their battle of the people and their hearts. Rather interesting concept. The fifth part, 'Cygnus; Bringer of Balance' begins with calm moment, when Cygnus comes and brings balance, as the title promises. The track ends with good, calm outro. Brilliant track.

The second track, 'Circumstances', is very rocky song with catching chorus and some calm parts. Strong, prog rock track. After this, comes 'The Trees'. "There is unrest in the Forest, There is trouble with the trees". This song begins with good acoustic guitars and starts rocking rather quickly. This is same kind of song than the previous one: Rocky song with catching chorus and some calm parts. That is not a bad thing. While these songs does not unite and create one, great interlude, they create this great eight minute entity between the diamonds. They are the same kind, but not entirely. These tracks, alone, are only good, but the structure of the album boosts these songs and makes them great. It is very hard to explain the reason why, precisely. After this great entity, the final instrumental track finishes this brilliant album. 'La Villa Strangiato' begins with calm, Spanish guitarring. This song is influenced little by classical music and it includes great instrument playing. The talent shines in this song, great, dynamic drumming, marvellous, swift guitarring, and fiery, but light bass handling. Great track. Only problem is that this song ends very quickly (as well as the album). Usually that is no problem, but I'm left missing some outro.

That, and the fact that this album sometimes feels little short are the only minor things that I don't like about. The brilliant structure is great, but fails very tinyly. It makes the album feel short, which is of course somewhat true, but it intensifies it little. Despite the extremely minor flaws, this album is full of great music. Very good album, but it still is not a masterpiece of progressive music. But I can say very freely that this album is excellent addition to any prog music collection. I recommend this album with my (black) heart. 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#85788)
Posted Friday, August 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars An amazing album be Rush. This being their last true proggressive album with epics and Geddy's high vocals, it's a fantastic way to end the 70's for Rush.

The album begins with the continuation on the Cgynus story as it began in A Farewell to Kings. It is in my opinion Rush's best epic. It's conceptual melodic, technical, heavy, scpacy at times, and very powerful. Geddy's vocals soar for the last time as the next album and on from where he sings much, much lower. I personally love his vocals on this album. I also believe this album is quite a bit better than Moving Pictures.

Circumstances is a nice melodic bluesy Rush song in the vien of Something for Nothing and A Farewell to Kings (song) in terms of style. The trees is one of my favorites. The lyrics are great as is the classical guitar.

The Album ends with a crazy and fantastic instrumental based on Alex Lifeson's nightmares. This is one of Rush's best, perhaps the best, and is a masterpiece in my opinion.

Report this review (#89300)
Posted Friday, September 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is where it really starts! It was with the release of this album that Rush really got it together and became not just great but truly great. 2112 was excellent, AFTK was better, but this is absolutely essential.

Cygnus X-1 Book II is a musical masterpiece. Its different parts fit beautifully into a seamlessly crafted whole. Messers Lee, Lifeson and Peart display astonishing ability with their individual instruments. Lifeson's guitar work is flawless and drenched with feeling, soaring and diving as each part requires. Geddy Lee's voice is intense, dramatic, mellow, soulful and his bass playing sublime. And as for the Professor and his drum playing - there is no one else like him, some come close but I have never heard nor seen anyone better. And now they are also using synths to dynamic effect as well!

Circumstances is a straightforward, by Rush's stellar standard, rocker which gets the blood pumping every time. The Trees is brilliant too from Alex Lifeson's delicately plucked intro to its shattering conclusion. La Villa Strangiato is nothing short of amazing - this is one of best prog instrumentals ever - and Lee, Lifeson and Peart are the very definition of tight when performing it. I still don't know how they manage to recreate it so well live.

So, in short: essential; a must have; not to be missed!

Report this review (#94810)
Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sorry but I'm unable to share my fellow Rush fans enthusiasm for this album.It does seem to me that the formula that resulted in the excellent Farewell to Kings was beginning to go a bit stale at this point.Cignus X-1 Book II as an epic doesn't hold a candle to the brilliant Xanadu or even 2112.Epic wise Rush had already shot their bolt in my view.Circumstances is also unremarkable.Admittedly the album picks up with a couple of Rush classics 'The Trees' which has very clever lyrics and arguably their strongest instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato'.However as I am not impressed Cignus X-1 Book II this album has to be marked down.Much better things were ahead.
Report this review (#94887)
Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush at its best. Often overlooked by "Moving Pictures", "Hemispheres" might be my favorite Rush album. "Cygnus" is so greatly wrapped up. "Circumstances" is the worst song on the album and that's amazing. Ha Ha, "The Trees"- no need to add anything to what has been said. "La Villa" is possibly my favorite Rush song. Everyone's amazing on this track. I guess I'm a man of few words (probably cause im the 168th person to review this) and everything ive said is guaranteed repetition) but that's all I have to say of this masterpiece.
Report this review (#95458)
Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've never seemed to find the enthusiasm that so many others share for this album. To me much of it seems forced and awkward. As much as I've never really cared for Cygnus-I, I've cared even less for Cygnus-2. Their are a few really neat sections, one's that are no doubt classic Rush moments, however, for the majority of the work I am lulled into a state of lukewarm indifference.

A lot of this can be easily compared to the sound found on A Farewell to Kings, as it is very similar sounding. The biggest surprise for me was the instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato', which is my favorite moment on the record. Starting with a flamenco like spanish guitar sound, it moves into an upbeat Rush riff with that signature tone. There are a ton of riffs in the middle, enough to shake a stick at.

Overall I've never been too impressed with this record that the legions of Rush fans will claim to you as the greatest record in the history of man. I like my copy of A Farewell to Kings much more, and will continue to ride the wings of Xanadu when I'm looking to rock out to Rush.

Report this review (#95472)
Posted Monday, October 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemisphere is a short album with only four songs! Hah, I found that cool about it. The first song is Cygnus X-1, Book-II. It's a great song followed by Circumstances, The Trees, and La Villa Stratiego (spelling?). Anyways, the album, all the songs are good, another rendition of the great Lee, Lifeson, and Peart minds. Peart writes all the lyrics and makes good use of it too. The Trees is my favorite song on the album. I love that song. It's awsome, it's incredible. Cygnus X-1 is great, I love it as much as I did the first one from Farewell. Circumstances and La Villa are great songs, La Villa being an isntrumental Rush continues a great spree in the great five. Out side the prog world most people don't like Geddy's voice, I've never understood why. For some reason his voice has always been one of my favorites next to Labrie, Kahn and many many others who have very unique voices. This review is short because the album is short, 4/5, it's great Give it a listen once in a while!
Report this review (#96032)
Posted Friday, October 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A short review of a short album: Rush's Hemispheres is the one I like the most from the 70's set of records by the canadians (I for one prefer some of their 80's works) and probably the most progressive they had released up to that time in history.

If I have a complain about most ALL Rush's works in the 70's is their LENGTH: they are way too short. Yes, I know there were no cd's yet and bands had to deal with vinyl so they didn't have that big of a room to venture into gigantic projects (I wonder what would've become of The Flower Kings if they were around those days), but, let's be honest: Yes, Genesis, Crimson, Tull, VDGG, GG, all of them constantly delivered between 39 and 45 minutes of music, while the canadians rockers didn't get past 35! (actually, two minutes over that mark in this album). Off course, that's not a major MUSICAL complain, for a masterpiece is a masterpiece even if it's only 25 minutes long, or crap is crap even if it lasts 80 minutes.

But there's more to the point I'm making: in this particular album, we have one great epic clocking at about 18 minutes, one fantastic instrumental closing the record at almost 10 minutes, and in between we have two short, FILLER songs not longer than 4 each. This is my major problem with 70's Rush: the songs that were not the main focus of each album (2112 in 2112, Xanadu and CygnusX-1 in Farewell to Kings, the first and last ones in this one) were usually rather simple, filler songs. They had their moments (Bangkok, Closer to the heart), but most of the time they just ocuppy the room available in the vynil after the inclusion of the main tracks. Rush's short tracks from the 70's feel a little bit RUSHed (couldn't resist, apologies for lameness).

Cygnus X-1 Book II (8/10), a great track that completes the narrative started in the previous album. It begins with a atmospheric prelude that grows into full rock. I have two minor objections to this track: one, at times it's not diverse enough, some parts tend to reappear more than needed, and even with that in mind, the track just doesn't click as a whole musical entity. Two, I don't like the long pause between the prelude and the remainder of the epic: it takes away from the "epic" feeling and makes it look like two separate songs.

Circumstances (7/10), an almost forgettable track, enjoyable but forgettable. Pure rock, almost no prog, with that poor sound that Lifeson's guitar had during the 70's. (He played great but the instrument's sound was rather thin and weak).

Trees (7/10), another short unimportant song that is saved by the lyrics. Yes, in this case, the funny and ironic concept of the battle among trees (canadians and americans that take too much light, do the math) is masterfully crafted by Rush's great drummer and amazing lyricist: Neil Peart.

La Villa Stragiato (10/10), THE track of the album, best Rush's instrumental and, even more so than the first epic track, the most progressive statement in Hemispheres. Geddy Lee's bass makes up for the absence of his voice in such a way that at moments we feel the man should focus only in the bass playing, for he's fantastic. Neil peart amazes everybody as usual and Lifeson performs at the regular outstanding level even if his guitar sounds like an electric saw. This "song" (again, is a piece) is coherent, it has variety but unity at the same time, amazing performances, starts acoustic, there's an actual crescendo (growth in volume level) till the main, fluctuating, zig-zaging guitar riff makes his entrance. We have a middle section with some almost jazz sounding bass lines and Peart using the most out of his hi-hat for effect and bright. Great track.

So, I would say this is a great album but, again, like every Rush album from the 70's, it ends almost before it starts. It's my opinion that Rush, in the 80's, learned how to write great, really amazing short songs, starting with Moving Pictures (maybe even with Permanent Waves), but, off course, sadly, they forgot to include the epics and long tracks that made them one of the progressive giants at the second half of the 70's, a time when, vice versa, they just couldn't get their short tracks to be as good as the longer ones.

Recommended for: Everybody. Every Rush lover, every 70's prog lover, every prog-rock lover.

Not recommended for: Those who can take only 75+ minute albums, no shorter. Elephantism was not one of Rush's characteristics.

Report this review (#96195)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush have the distinction of being the first Prog Rock band I heard in my youth.. Now come with my on a journey back to my youth..... 14 years old.

A song that goes on for 18 minutes?? (Hemispheres).. I was astounded.. and played this track many times over on my old record player, great story I thought, brilliant musicians..

I turned the album over (which you could back in those days!!) "Circumstances" blasted out, wow!! now this is totally different to that 18 minute track, I do like this.. the keyboards mid track were good and the heavy guitars, and those drums.. Can it get any better?

Then, the intro to the next song came on (The Trees).. (I think you are starting to work out a certain pattern forming here).. Oh.. Now I do like that, ang on.. its all about Rights For Trees!! Brilliant, great humour! (yep.. great guitars, etc etc)

Then the last track (La Villa Strangiato).. acoustic guitar.. ahh.. well.. might not like this, I will stick with it.. 9 mins 30 secs later.. WOW WOW WOW! I love it, its so changeable, the rhythm, the melody, the overall track is great..

So I end up playing the whole album again.

Back to present day.. I am now 35 years old, and basically I still love it.

GET THIS!!! (If you are one of the few who havent got it)

Report this review (#98714)
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A superb offerring from one of prog's greatest bands.

The album cover sets put the concept simply and clearly: logic & reason (the business man) stands on one heisphere of the brain while the naked man (emotion love etc) stands on the other. The answer we are told, after listening to the forst side, is in balance: Cygnus. Well there you go: not a philosophical revelation.

The second side is quite spectacular. Plus ca change (Circumstances) is an interstiing song with astute lyrics: there is nothing new under the sun. The Trees is a classic for two reasons: first, it's a great song with poignant humorous lyrics and, second, it allows budding young guitarists to learn a relatively straightforward tune to play on the acoustic which willl generally impress the listeners who do not play ... a la Stariway to Heaven.

The side eands with La Villa Strangiato which remains my favourite Rush track: Lifeson and Peart are peerless, Lee is unique. This is a piece of music which must be heard: take this or exit stage left. Beautiful changes of mood and timing combine to produce a masterpiece.


Report this review (#104974)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres can be considered the pinnacle of Rush's "progiest" era. The album starts off in a great way with Cygnus X-1 Book II. This is a continuance of Cygnus X-1 from A Farewell to Kings. The song is personally my favorite prog epic, coming in at just over 18 minutes. The lyrics encompass Greek Mythology, and the music is some of their best. The next song, Circumstances, is a great Rush rocker. It has the only French words spoken out of all their songs. The Trees has some of Rush's best lyrics. It resembles a smaller power being overshadowed by another... all to be kept equal by "the axe." La Villa Strangiato is easily one of the best rock instrumentals ever made, period. Unfortunately we do not get to hear Alex's amazing guitar solo at the beginning of it on Exit... Stage Left. Still, Geddy Alex and Neil get to showcase their amazing abilities.

A must have by any prog fan... 5/5

Report this review (#105076)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hemispheres is a strong album and one of Rush's best. Although it is not as good as Moving Pictures in my opinion, it is still a staple album and a "must have" in any prog fan's collection. The best song on the album is La Villa Strangiato. It is also my favourite Rush song ever. This is a good album, but not a masterpiece in my opinion.

Sorry, I don't have much more to say 4 stars

Report this review (#106301)
Posted Saturday, January 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars RUSH are so good with these side long suites, I wish they had done more of them. This one is their third and maybe their best. The style of "Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres" is similar to 2112, but this one seems to flow better and is less extreme in the contrasts of the light and heavy passages. This long song is a continuation of the last song on their previous record "A Farewell To Kings" where our subject has gone into the black hole. In this song he seems to be a witness of a battle of the gods as they decide how the people of earth should live. The argument is between Apollo and Dionysns, wisdom verses love, the mind verses the heart. Until Cygnus comes into the argument and suggests a balance between the two. I have to tell you that this record was a soundtrack for my last year of highschool that I didn't quite finish. I was a glassy red-eyed kid who was into music (RUSH) and having fun. So this music means more to me than I can explain with words. And this long song is my favourite from this album. It makes me feel like I do when I listen to "Natural Science" or "Jacob's Ladder". It goes beyond being just guitar, drums, vocals, bass and a song to something that is a part of me and something I treasure.

The "Prelude" for some reason conveys sadness to me, but not in a bad way. Geddy's vocals are at their best and the guitar and the melody are just amazing.The song is full of mood shifts and tempo changes as one would imagine with an 18 minute epic. From scorching guitar and Geddy screaming to a spacey, dreamy soundscape with synths, strummed guitar and gentle vocals. I haven't mentioned Neil but he's simply the best at what he does. I never tire of this song.

"Circumstances" is a flat out rocker with some wicked bass lines and Geddy screaming in two different languages. "The Trees" opens with acoustic guitar and the birds are singing but "There is trouble in the forest..." and this pastoral soundscape doesn't stay that way for long. "La Villa Strangiato" is my favourite instrumental of all time ! Yes it's self indulgence but who doesn't like to indulge themselves once and a while, especially if this is the result ! Pure genius. Complex yet so accessible.

In the liner notes they thank their kid musical brothers MAX WEBSTER as well as UFO. They have also mentioned in interviews that this was by far the hardest album for them to make in part because it was so complex.

Report this review (#110910)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars Building on the epic foundation created by "2112" and expanded on by "Farewell...", "Hemispheres" goes for broke and creates what is easily the band's most sweeping and well-composed extended song: "Cygnus X-1 Book II". More so than most of their other early, "out-there" songs, this epic is truly fantastical, with Peart's lyrics telling of the eternal struggle between mankind's passions and reason. Nietzschean parallels aside, the lyrics are usually somewhat silly sounding; however, somehow Geddy can make singing about Olympian gods very cool.

More so than every before, "Hemispheres" sees the band really pushing their virtuosity and songwriting to its limits; the extended epic is about as symphonic as rock can get (without a keyboard player), while the excellent "La Villa Strangiato" is a 10-minute showcase of the group's masterful playing (even better live!). Fan-favorite "Trees" is just as good, but "Circumstances" slips back into their old style and comes across as a little too shrieky-- especially when compared to Geddy's more restrained vocals on the rest of the album.

A few minor complaints aside, "Hemispheres" remains the peak of Rush's epic output, but is less accessible than "Farewell...". All of the songs hold up to repeated listening and are a tremendous example of the bands talent in their early years.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#116600)
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Between 1978 and 1981, Rush could do no wrong. Starting off this incredible 4-year run of artistic near-perfection is Hemispheres. Although more concise and less bombastic than 2112, from a compositional standpoint this was Rush's most complex and consistent album of the 1970s. The stunning title epic aside, we are treated to other timeless classics such as "La Villa Strangiato", "The Trees", and "Circumstances". There isn't a weak spot on this album, this is the beginning of the band's creative peak which thankfully lasted 4 years and climaxed with the superior Moving Pictures album. I won't bore you with an extensive breakdown of each track or what sets each player apart from the other. Just know that this is one of the very few 'perfect' prog albums I've ever had the pleasure of owning. Anyone who considers themselves a prog-rock fan must have this in their collection.
Report this review (#117973)
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "With the heart and mind united in a single perfect sphere."

In my teen years I would have awarded Hemispheres 5-stars along with most of the Rush and Zeppelin albums I was obsessed with then. Since then I've heard so many hundreds of other great bands and musicians that I am a little less captive to the bands that once owned my soul!

"Cygnus 2" is certainly a respectable "epic" and I admire the spirit both musically and lyrically that they were reaching for. I definitely prefer this to 2112 as epics go.

"Circumstances" is a smokin' Rush classic in the vein of "Anthem" and it just plain kicks. It's all about the tight riff and I still love it. Perfect.

"The Trees" is my least favorite offering here. I find it pretty tiring to listen to now and while I find Neil to be a great lyricist I take exception when he delves too deeply into the Randian worship.

"La Villa" may be an "exercise in self-indulgence" as the band claims but it is an enjoyable one. Alex burns it up throughout this track and the song reminds me of Xanadu in the way it builds and constructs with drama. One of Rush's very best moments and a 5-star song.

Essential to Rush fans and recommended for 70s hard rock fans and guitar lovers.

Report this review (#125361)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars What an album!!i haven't heard until i saw the RUSH IN RIO DVD and them performing La Villa Strangiato!!!Wow!!!:-)I don't think that Rush managed to build such a dynamic and melodic instrumental again!!The guitar solo is simply amazing and the rhythms by Geddy and Neil are untouchable!! As for the others songs Hemispheres is great but gets a bit boring til the end.Circumstances is such a rock tune that kicks!!!And The Trees is one of the greatest songs written by this magnificent trio!!!ESSENTIAL!!!!:-)
Report this review (#126517)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres shows Rush at the apex of their prog side. From this point on, the band favored shorter, yet no less complex, songs rather than epics. This is also the last album to feature Peart's penchant for mythological and sci-fi lyrics. This is Rush's most guitar-driven studio album; Lifeson dazzles everywhere. The title track continues the space epic of Cygnus X-1 by fusing it with Greek mythology. Every member of the band is terrific with great riffs from Geddy and Alex, not to mention Peart's incomparable drumming. The lyrics serve as a metaphor for the struggle of logic and emotion, reflected in the artwork. If this is to be Rush's last sidelong epic, what a send-off it is.

The second side hints at where the band will go from here. "Circumstances" deals with the Peart's initial failure to make it in the music business before he joined Rush. It features some great high vocals from Geddy and is the first song to truly hint at Peart's ability to pen relevant lyrics. "The Trees" is a metaphor for socialism, where the maples argue with the oaks for getting all of the shade. Eventually, all trees are kept equal because they are cut down to size. Lifeson's guitar here is beautiful. The album closes with "La Villa Strangiato," a mind-blowing instrumental that has both Peart's and Lifeson's best performances. Lee's performance is second only to YYZ, which had yet to be written. This song is nine minutes of impossibly complex drumming, heavy riffs, great basslines, and beautiful solos. This is my second favorite Rush track (next to 2112).

This album has the honor of being the only Rush album with absolutely no filler. It is a watershed for Rush, and many fans stopped listening after this, as the band began to change. That's a shame, beacuse some of their best work had yet to come.

Grade: A

Report this review (#127026)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is time for me to review this intrigue album, and one of the most known of band called Rush. First, I must confess, I am not much impressed by this work, it sounds good, there are interesting moments here, but some parts do not sound inspiring. First, less successful brother song of 2112. It has four parts, and first two are simply said guitar-bass-drums masturbation without some special effect on listener (in this case on me). At the end of the second part, Gedy Lee, singer goes too much screaming, and guitar riffs are not much attractive. Third part of this composition sounds good with some synthesizer effects and cool singing, and than again we have stronger sound and singer screams higher notes again. I just do not love these higher notes, nor similar singers like vocalist of Queensryche or Fates Warning, they are not listenable to me. In this category sometimes comes singer of Dream Theater. I think they are all influenced by Gedy Lee. The last and the shortest part of this composition is the finest and most melodic one. Acoustic guitar joins to attractive vocal melody. All in few words: not excellent song to my mind, but not bad.

Second song, Circumstances has catchy riffs at the beginning, and Neal Peart plays so cool here, and dynamically, not so boring like in first song. Then here come some cool synths, but guitar is what bothers me here, there is no solo, and it is alright, but there are no interesting passages, nothing of guitar that could be remembered, only few simpler riffs.

Third song, The Trees has more interesting structure, and warm keyboard that reminds of those in Xanadu song. Here comes fluid and effective guitar solo and there is more of dynamics.

La Villa Strangiato is one of the best instrumental tracks ever; technically superb, melodically rich, powerful, a monument...

Let me now conclude, this is not that much essential album. I am not much fan of the sound in this album, choice of songs is not good, Circumstances and The Trees fit bad in album, and first song has some boring parts (boring to me). I think that Rush have made many better albums, but I still consider this as good work.

Report this review (#127337)
Posted Monday, July 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion "Hemispheres" is the best Rush album. Maybe it is too short but it is their best album. I started to listen to this album when I discovered the amazing instrumental " La Villa Strangiato". This is absolutely my favourite Rush song. It's a perfect song. Neil plays amazing rhythms and themes which are changing and improving during the song. Here while Alex plays amazing solos also. a 5-star-song. The other songs are also really great. The first one Cygnus X-1 book II is the continuance of previous Rush album "A Farewell To King". It's one of Rush epics. It's very long but I never get fed up of it because it is not repetitive, it is changing themes constantly. Then "circumstances" and "the trees" are shorter song. They are more popular than VS and Cy. X but I prefer these. Anyway I also like both songs. They go in the same album's style and also are great pieces.

1.- Cygnus X-1 book II: 9'5/10; 2.- Circumstances: 8/10; 3.- The Trees 9/10; 4.- La Villa Strangiato: 10/10

Hemispheres: 5 stars

Sorry for my bad English again, I am Spanish

Report this review (#129278)
Posted Thursday, July 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars Now this is something. Consisting of only 4 tracks, each of them being equally as superb, this is Rush's best album by far. All of the songs could count as being my favourite Rush songs, being all works of genius, and the title track especially being 18 minutes of contrasting emotion, great musicianship and memorable melodies. Circumstances is a top song also, giving out the peculiar time signatures Rush have been renowned for the past years, a very energetic song. The Trees is still a classic rock song to this day, containing excellent guitaring from the underrated mastery of Alex Lifeson. The final track is the best instrumental they have ever written in the 30 year period they have been around, La Villa Strangiato. Some typical prog at the beginning, beautiful Latin rock in the middle section and some fantastic jazz work at the climax makes this a worthy classic in prog rock history. Top marks for Hemispheres.
Report this review (#131038)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a very good record but not a real favourite of mine. That's because the whole first side seems somehow pointless. Ambitious and excellently performed, I admit it. The main section is really exciting but repeated over and over. I presume the material wasn't enought to make an extended track of over 18,00 minutes. Very good, nothing to say. Not the masterpiece that many said, though.

I rather prefer the second side, especially for the fantastic instrumental closer "La Villa Strangiato" which is the real classic here with its memorable flamenco-like acoustic guitar introduction. Great work on guitar and many bass's wonderful performances. 4.5 stars from me on this one. Fantastic also the darker middle part with atmospheric keyboards and then explosive bass-drums-guitar fast interplay.

Other short tracks on side b deserve a special mention: "Circumstances" with some extended vocals by Geddy Lee and the more common "The Trees".

Very good (3.5).

But I prefer Moving Pictures. Sorry Raffa, I know the risk of such an opinion ;o)

Report this review (#131199)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A cerebral album of the cerebellum!

While prog was on it's dying breath in 1978 Rush seemed to have only started their classic era. With punk taking over it seemed only natural that the surviving prog bands would have to hit hard. Enter Rush's Hemispheres, a hard hitting album that's still as prog as they come, yet still lets the heads bang.

The album consists of four songs, each one of them a construct of grandeur. HEMISPHERE'S (or CYGNUS X-1 BOOK II, whichever name you like better) starts out the fray, continuing on from the coda track from "Farewell to Kings". However, while the first part to this song was especially heavy and sreamy, part II is a bit more midpaced, allowing more storytelling. The track, though avant gard, refers to a battle between the two sides of the brain, portrayed by the gods Apollo and Dionysus, and their followers. Each side gets its ups and downs until the end when the main character makes his way through the bacl hole of Cygnus X-1 and stops the warring gods with a plea, making him Cygnus, god of balance. All in all the track is an incredable combination of songwritting and instumentation, and showcases each member's ability to it's finest. An essential prog track.

The rest of the album consists of shorter songs until we hit the coda. CIRCUMSTANCES and THE TREES are both great tracks, both very heavy in their approach, and the latter of which uses more avant gard storytelling. Soon we hit the next great standout on the album, the 9-minute instumental LA VILLA STRANGIATO, which starts out with a quiet guitar and explodes into a full blown epic journey. It's very hard to describe with words, as a matter of fact.

When it comes right down to it this is an essential band at their essential moment in life, and they have given us a masterpiece deserving no less than 5 stars.

Report this review (#134112)
Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perfect.

I could end my review there, but instead I'll explain my rating. As a huge Rush fan ( that's putting it mildly), this is my favorite period of the band for so many reasons. If you're a big Rush fan, there's a good chance you're a musician or appreciate exquisite musicianship. On Hemispheres, the three guys are flawless.

Geddy Lee is an amazing bassist, and his playing here is absolute perfection. Listen closely and you'll hear Geddy pretty much playing lead throughout the whole album. And he's a bassist! Yes, there are many guys faster than Geddy, but none who play the right notes all the time and have his soul. His bass sound here is perfect too. Then there are the keyboards and synthesizers. No he's not a great keyboard player, but he does a pretty good job here. Oh, and he's the singer too. Is that enough to keep one busy? Just watch him in concert, and you'll be amazed. I personally believe every bassist starting out in rock music should be forced (wait, graced) to listen to Geddy to hear how it should be done.

Neil Peart is widely regarded as the finest drummer in rock, by listeners and most importantly, by other musicians. His drumming on Hemispheres is simply amazing. Listen to this album and be amazed by his intricate style throughout. One of the few albums that I can listen to simply to focus on drums. They're that good. Neil writes all the lyrics also, and they are so cool on this collection.

Alex Lifeson is often forgotten in rock, but is so under rated. Alex is simply great on this album, primarily for his rhythm work. There are some good solos here also, but his song structure is so good, I'd be ok not having the requisite solo. In fact, the second song, Circumstances, has no guitar solo at all.

As for the songs themselves, the first song (and originally first side of the album) is Hemispheres, around 20 minutes. The first few minutes are an amazing instrumental intoduction. So crisp and intricate with all three guys playing together so seemlessly. Those first few minutes are perhaps my favorite few minutes in music. I can't listen to it enough. The whole song is great also, with some amazing music and some fun lyrics. True prog masterpiece.

The second side of the album starts with Circumstances, a shorter song. As I mentioned, no guitar solo, which is unusual in rock. This is one of my co-favorite Rush songs. I don't know why I like it over some other of their great works, but it seems to just fit together perfectly.

The Trees is a typical funky, fun song from this period and is a fan favorite.

Then comes the instrumental masterpiece La Villa Strangiato. Drums, bass and guitar perfection. All three guys shine on this jazzy/bluesy/rock instrumental. My favorite bass solo is within this song. The playing here would make most other rock musicians blush, and then promise to keep practicing. Although I like YYZ from Moving Pictures, I feel this is heads and shoulders above that great instrumental.

Overall, a masterpiece from so many angles. The guys could never do better than this album for me.

As I said, perfect.

Report this review (#137503)
Posted Sunday, September 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Probablyt the pinnacle of the progressive rock period of Rush. This is definately their boldest step towards artisticness the power trio got too, and it came out looking very good. With a more clean and structured sound than a Farewell to kings, and a less mainstream edge than permanent waves, this album is a huge standout in Rush history. At first I didnt know what to expect from the album, my dads friend and I were talking about music one day, and I said I was a big fan of Rush, he tells me that he's seen them 15 times and has every album! So a week later he lets me borrow A farewell to kings, Permanent waves, counterparts, and Hemispheres. Whwn I popped in the latter I was shocked how clean and toned Alex' guitar sounded on the first chord on the first song, which was a major advancement from the first electric riff on A farewell to kings. Anyways, let me proceed with the songs...

If yuu are in anyway a prog fan, than you are innitially excited to see a big twenty minuete song like this one come up, and for good reason. Hemispherers is such a huge improvement from the other twenty minueter 2112, with an actual structur and and flow, not a bunch of songs put together to make one big long one. Anyways Geddy is the one who really stands out to me for this song, excellent basslines, and good clean vocals easily make him stand out far more than the sloppy Alex and the overdone Peart. The lyrics to this song are very innovative, with Greek mythology and talk of the space time continuum. It's about a learderless world that is being fought over by the Gods, but at the end when the world is in utter choas, a lonely immortal, Cygnus, silentl cries for it to stop... so it does. The rest of the songs are all great, except circumstances, and the instrumental is epic in everyway. The bad song circumstances reminds me of freewill, limelight, orcinderella man, boring, poppy, and sounds like something you would hear in a disney showtune. The singal of the album, the tree's is excellent, easily Rush's most artistic radio song with some great all around bandhood and fun lyrics. La villa strangiato is great, one of Lifesons most shining moments in hai otherwise overated style of guitar playing (pentatonic), but whats so great about this piece is that the group works together so effetiantly and precisely they make the sudden changes and awkward tiem changes seem really easy.

I will admit that the music is not Rush's best, Peart is a bit more conserved this time, and I feel that his drums did not stand out in the mix like it should have. I also feel that Geddy did not stretch to the limits of his voice like how he did in cygnus one. I am however impressed with Alex' guitar work, which is a lot less pompous than in previous albums, and his solo during the first part of the opener is one of his best next to natural science. I believe Peart could have done a better job with the lyrics on circumstances COMPLETELY! Overall...


Report this review (#137811)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here it is, the first of three great great 5 star Rush albums. It was close to being 4, but Farewell came up just short.

The epic is Rush's best epic. Better than Fountain of Lamneth, better than 2112, better than Xanadu, better than Book I. Cygnus X-I Book II is shorter than 2112 by just a few minutes. The concept of the story is a little more out there, but for some reason, I feel I get into it a lot more. The transitions are a little more questionable than in 2112. But enough of comparing this to 2112, it is it's own song, and a wonderful one at that.

Circumstances is the only track on here which could be considered average. Lee goes way overboard with his falsetto. He must have been squeezing his balls in the studio to get the sound.

The Trees is an extended metaphor, comparing Maples and Oaks to unions and management, or at least this is what I suspect. It's a political song. One of my favorite Rush songs.

La Villia is a top ten instrumental of all time. The main riff is catchy. Alex's guitar solo is exemplary. It's great to put on at a party.

Rush's first progressive essential masterpiece.

Report this review (#140982)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another Rush Masterpiece!!

Every song on this album is great!!! From the Prog Masterpiece Cygnus book II Hemispheres to the nice rocker Circumstances, the great metaphoric "The Trees", and Finally the amazing La Villa Strangiato.

Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres - 10/10 Their best conceptual piece in my opinion! It really draws you in! Gotta give this one a few listens before you can fully appreciate it. My personal favorite song by them period. Circumstances - 8/10 A Great Song. It rocks, the vocals are great, and just makes you want more. I know some progheads don't appreciate this song,and that's fine, but I personally love it. Take it for what it is, a great rocking tune. The Trees - 8/10 Some real nice guitar playing on this one! This one has a meaning , basically inequality. But it's not heavily preachy and doesn't take itself too seriously. Actually the lyrics in this one are few. It's mainly instrumental, and a gem at that. La Villa Strangiata - 10/10 Speaking of instrumentals! The mother of them all!!! This is a must listen. It is their best instrumental by far imo.Alex really shines here. He may not be the best technically, but he is really creative. Gotta give the man credit for that!

Report this review (#141006)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Eclectic/PSIKE/JRF-Cant Teams
2 stars Sigh...

I was quite a Rush fan after 'Moving Pictures' came out. I decided to get all of their previous albums. I was amazed, aroused and astonished by each one I bought...except this one.

The disappointment starts immediately with the title track. What is supposed to be a sequel to Cygnus X-1 is basically an 15 minute very uninspired and lackluster verses and chorus interspersed with the least interesting parts of x-1, and 3 minutes of the good parts. It basically made the first half of the album completely useless. The second track, 'Circumstances' is almost as boring. The album finally starts to redeem itself with 'The Trees'. A quaint little metaphor on human nature told that a word? And the final track, 'La Villa Strangiato' saves Hemispheres from being relegated to one star. This is in my opinion, Rush's finest instrumental.

I would probably have given Hemispheres 3 stars for the last 2 songs had it not been for the fact that I had already heard those 2 tracks played with superior energy on 'Exit...Stage Left". Therefore 2.3 stars...and I am rounding down.

Report this review (#141846)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is Rush at the peak of their artistic ability and in the very center of the evolution of their music. The album art and lyrics of Cygnus X-1 Book 2 epic make a clear refference to the existential concept of equating emotion with reason, and just as evident are the allusions to Greek Mythology. This work seems to be Peart's strongest statement of his intellectualism, especially his understanding of literature. Rush had also finally broken completely from their early Led Zeppelin-ish influences, which even surfaced slightly in the previus album, and had not yet incorperated the hard rock new-wave sound of the time in their following albums, making it in a way THE Rush album, and I'm not the first to say it. Each song is stunning in its own way, but all are intensely progressive in nature. Changes in meter and use of odd time signatures is abundant, Peart's pointless-to-compliment drumming becomes even more pointless-to-compliment, and the band's intellectual sound is at an I. Q. of about 300.

Cygnus X-1 Book two is an incredible epic only matched by such songs as 2112, Close to the Edge, Supper's Ready, and the like, though perhaps even less pretentious. Continuing the story from (or more like "sort of linked to") Cygnus X-1 Book 1, this song, rather describing the journey to a black hole, describes the concepts of reason and emotion, what society would be like with one and not the other, and eventually the waring gods Apollo of wisdom and Dionysis of love caused society to be divided into hemispheres of the two thought processes, hence the name of the album. The concepts are also in a way split to opposite hemispheres in the brain, hence the album cover. Anyhow, I don't think there is a Rush song that matches the musical complexity and overall intellectual sound of this epic, besides maybe the other songs on the album of course. Peart's drumming on this song is probably the most creative he has come up with, especially his mastery with the high-hat, also evident throughout the album. Overall, individual musicianship seems to be a bit less stressed in this song; rather, how the band sounds as a whole seems more important, at least more than usual. To be honest, I didn't like this epic much at first and it took me quite a few listens before I realized its genious.

Circumstances seems the weakest part of the album, and considering how awesome it is, all saying that really does is compliment the rest of the album. This song in particular seems to hint at the harder rock direction the band has decided to take. The songs sounds like it could have been organized a little better, especially how the song almost randomly (though quite nicely) moves into a prog-synthy part in the middle, but that is quite minor. Overall a really good song.

Trees was once my favorite Rush song of all time, and still sort of is. The wonderful woodsy sounding nylon guitar reminds one of the intro to A Farewell to Kings, only with more interesting chord changes. The lyrics are some of the best Peart has ever written, which are a metaphor of the progressive movement in the early 20th century toward workers' rights, and even somewhat make fun of the socialist ideals (hatchet, axe, and saw). This is a progressive Rush classic if ever there was one. Time signatures included: 3/4, 4/4,6/8, 4/4, 5/4 (with the solo), 4/4. Absolute genious.

Finally we have Rush's finest insrumental (next to YYZ), La Villa Strangiato. This song is almost all about the individual musicians' talents, how incredibly fast as well as percise they can play, and the use of synthesizers has never been better. Probably Rush's most progressive and well written song, all members are at their prime, playing with incredible technique that could make any open-minded musician's jaw drop. This ten and a half minute long song solidifies this album as an absolute masterpiece.

Report this review (#143784)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not quite up there with a Farewell to Kings, astill a good album but it some of it feels like Rush was going through the motions a little with the twenty minute piece, that doesn't mean its a bad album, trees and La Villa Strangiato was one of the reasons why I'm now studying music at unversity. The trouble is Circumstances itsn't quite up to Rush's high standards it feels a little like filler musically, but the lyrics are excellent and are worth investigating. The Trees is a great inspired tune full of passion, with a great Genesis sounding instrumental that reminds me of the song Cinema Show. La Villa Strangiato is a brilliant instrumental full of diverse ideas a great ending to the album, I think I prefer it to their more well known one YYZ. The epic is good and worth listening to, but lacks the darkness of Cygnus part 1 (this is the sequel), but it still got great ideas and a good listen just not up there with Supper's Ready. It has a nice acoustric ending and throughout plenty of drama in it, Lifeson plays some in this great style but to me it sounds like the band gets a little lost half way through the song. But still positive and uplifting musiclike you expect Rush to be. Definately worthwhile, a great album, just not quita as inspired as A Farewell to Kings. Why am I harsh you may ask, because I consider Rush a top tier band and therefore I have very high expectations and get a little mean in my reviews with the giants of prog . Worth your while. 4.5 stars
Report this review (#144366)
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first time I heard anything off this album was in '78. Me and a buddy were listening to the local progressive-rock station (WHFS to those who are familar with the Wash. D.C. area), we were complete fusion fanatics at the time. What we were listening to was an instrumental that was knocking our socks off which is, of course La Villa Strangiato. When the DJ announced that it was Rush from their new album, we just looked at each and went WHOA! I said "Isn't that the same group that did that joke of an album called 2112?"

Anyway, I can't say I became an instant convert at the time (actually I never did, but I did start taking more notice when Permanent Waves came out). So, after PW came out, I back-tracked a little bit and bought Hemispheres and listened to it and have to say it was a step up from 2112. The title track was certainly more in-depth and intricate than ithe previous epic attempt 2112. Circumstances? Nyeh, take it or leave it. The Trees was quite interesting musically despite the idiotic lyrics. But La Villa stands out as Rush's most ambitious cut ever up until this time and is probably the most respected work they've ever done to this day. Based on a riff Alex had a dream about, they just threw in everything including 2 kitchen sinks, a blender and a microwave! Not entirely original, but beautifully executed and well timed. I can see why it took forever for them to get this right in the studio.

I give 4 stars just for this track alone. 'nuff said!

Report this review (#144372)
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The most progressive and arguably best effort from the Canadian prog power trio.

Hemispheres takes up where the previous stellar album A Farewell to Kings left off with the band's sound a great mix of influences at this point, the hard rock sound of their past is only briefly touched upon in 'circumstances', their lighter folk sound that was quite evident in A Farewell to Kings is relived in the trees and both are great little songs but what this album is about is the epics, 2 of the best songs of the bands career.

The title track is a direct continuation of the final song of the previous album (if only by name - Cygnus X-1 book II) and is in my opinion the best song of their 30 odd year career, very progressive, musically very strong and varied in dynamics and emotion. One of the things that clicked with me about this song that made me realise the amount of genius that went into creating it is that each of the riffs in the introduction before the vocals come in is revisited and pretty much transformed into it's own part of the song, it's like a synopsis of the song in the first 2 minutes. Something of note here is the lyrics, in the past the lyrics on RUSH epics had been to put it bluntly cheesy, but here the stories of solar federations, black-holes and magic are replaced with a mature tale revolving around Greek myths. There really isn't a weak moment in the 18 odd minute track, if anything it only gets better as it goes along, ending triumphantly then passing on with a nice little acoustic outro.

La Villa Strangiato is something of a departure from anything RUSH had done up to this point stylistically, being a 10 minute long big band inspired instrumental and all and it certainly paid off in spades. Lifeson in particular shows his skills and comes to the fore which is quite a feat considering his wingmen are 2 of the greatest and most influential musicians of contemporary music. The solos here are a particular highlight, very dynamic and with great emotional impact and the swing riff that comes along during the latter half of the song is a masterstroke.

Hemispheres is an essential album for any prog fan, my only problem with it is that there aren't more songs on it.

Report this review (#145273)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There is something special about this record. Something strange and wonderful, like in an Arthur C. Clarke novel. And it wasn't just because Rush had finally found that ideal balance of hard-hitting power and disturbingly good musicianship, showing at last a truly distinct identity among modern rock bands. No, it was something else, and it gave this recording a flavor unlike any of their other releases. The music seems to arrive straight from the cosmos onto the playing fields of paradise, delivered by deities for our pleasure and sparkling with incredibly bright electrical power.

A backward cymbal sweeps us into the enormous 'Cygnus X-1 Book ll Hemispheres', an ambitious track even for 1978 with six parts, bold and high-minded arranging, symphonic flair and flawless execution. Lee and Lifeson's compositons are nothing short of inspired, especially when one keeps in mind Rush were, at heart, a hard rock band. And Neil Peart, a brilliant drummer who inexplicably writes all the lyrics, carries this album with his joy and enthusiasm. This title track was the band at the peak of inventive and physical energy, and set a standard for excellence in progressive rock that few could even consider matching. The piece ends with the moving simplicity of 'Cygnus, Bringer of Balance'. Alex Lifeson's power chords break into 'Circumstances', Peart's playing fantastic and Geddy Lee shrieking in his best classic Rush manner, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The ethical axis here is 'The Trees', a stunning personification of nature that oozes troubled symbolism. A great cut. The record concludes with 'La Villa Strangiato', a fan favorite... and who can blame their loyal throngs, it is a thrilling nine-minute instrumental that may be the single finest moment in the heavy progressive rock theater.

The remaster sounds great but the original production was so good it barely matters... and the original poster (a bit smaller of course) is included. Sweet.

Report this review (#148241)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In the long long history of this band there is always a number one album to be found and that his to be this one. Obviously many people seem to think so, so it's not always a matter of taste, sometimes it's probably a matter of facts. When I got to know Rush's albums in the eighties I learned to understand the natural maturing of the band, their debut was a little heavy and somewhat sloppy, then they became real progressive, symphonic really, but they were also growing in that department. This culminated in their ultimate masterpiece: Hemispheres. Funny enough it appeared to be their peak because after this I think they went backwards in quality but of course it's all a personal opinion.

This album starts with a sort of follow up after their previous album Farewell to Kings. On that one there was the track: Cygnus X-1, here we find the Cygnus X-1, book II (Hemispheres). I must admit I haven't played this album for quite a while now. I do remember that once this was to me the best song ever. It isn't any more by a long way because there has come up so much more the last 30 years. But still, it was a proof how much impact it made on me. A real symphonical composition with a heavy prog style added. A highly original song with a tremendoes finish. It blew me away in those days and still is great of course. Another brilliant song is of course Villa Strangiato, the song they conquered Holland with in 1979 on a festival in Limburg. They played it live, Geddy Lee doing all kinds of things with his feet as goes the story. Anyway a great instrumental track with unbelievable guitar playing by Alex Lifeson, showing his great skills here. Even the two short songs are very nice. So actually I should give this 5 stars but I intended to give these only to the absolute masterpieces and this album isn't so significant to me as it ever was. So I give it 4 (4.5 really)

Report this review (#148407)
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Beaten to the post as my favourite Rush album by only A Farewell to Kings. Hemispheres was the follow up to that release and is most notable for the side long (on the original vinyl version) continuation of Cygnus X-1 and probably their most complex instrumental piece, La Villa Strangiatto.

Getting back to Cygnus X-1 Book II this 18 minute piece to my ears is one of the bands finest moments, heavy Rock based Prog of the highest order. Strong melodies and fantastic musicianship throughout which starts with a great instrumental workout before the Vocals come in. If I have a complaint and I hasten to add it's just a minor quibble, it's that for the most part the music of this track is one paced apart from a lull just after the halfway mark for part V Cygnus, Bringer of Balance and the final acoustic section of part VI, The Sphere, A Kind of Dream. Alex Lifeson plays an excellent guitar solo here and on a track of such length it would have worked well to have fitted another one in earlier on but I guess you can't have everything.

What makes Hemispheres so good though is that the other 3 tracks are equally as good as Cygnus X-1 Book II. Circumstances and The Trees are both fairly short tracks but Rush prove with admirable ease that you don't need necessarily write an epic to get lots of tempo/ time changes going on.

Finally we come to perhaps their most celebrated (and my favourite) instrumental, La Villa Strangiatto. The band must have worked really hard to write and play this masterpiece. An acoustic intro gives way to the main riff and from there goes off at many tangents to great effect. All the band play superbly here but special mention must go to Lifeson for his stunning guitar playing.

Overall then, another classic Rush album that can sit up there with the best Progressive Rock by themselves or indeed any other band.

Report this review (#149879)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is Rush at their most progressive work. The album begins with the amazing Cygnus X-1 Book 2, this is almost as good as 2112 but not quite, this song is more straight foreword than 2112, probably the second best Rush epic ever, this is the second half to Cygnus x-1 from A farewell to kings. One thing that i really love about this song is Alex Lifeson's guitar playing, his playing always seems to amaze me, and not to forget the other two master musicians. Next is Circumstances, this one is great hard rocker, and i happen to like Geddy's vocals alot on this one, great riffs by lifeson also. The Tree's shows Pearts great lyrical skills and some amazing acoustic work from Lifeson. La Villa Strangiato is an instrumental that just blows me away, every time i listen to this song i wonder how do they do that. Each musician shines so clear on this track, Neil's amazing jazz drumming, Alex's amazing solo's, and Geddy's top notch bass playing. Rush's Hemispheres album is probably most popular among Art Rock fans, i really do not have favorite Rush album, to me all of them are great. But this one right here they were really on top of their skills, this an album made by master musicians, and there is nothing else out there like it. 5 stars for sure
Report this review (#153061)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is it! the best Rush album. after the litle let down of a ferwell to kings i wasent shure if i wanted any more rush album, but i heard this was suposed to be one of thier best so i tough i might as well give it a try and so one day i finally found it in a small used record shop for a good price so i tough why not. And boy am i happy i finally got it this one has everything that made rush a great band, great riffs and more great riffs and then some, and is probobly the heaviest album they ever made, the opening Cygnus X-1 Book II is no doubt my favorite rush song and thiere best epic by far even beating 2112. the 2 shorter songs are great and hard rocking and the ending La Villa Strangiato is yust as everyone say an amazing instrumental, for me theres no question about it this is rush masterpcie and a big step uf from the last album in my opininon. 5 solid stars. If you only get one rush album make sure its this one.
Report this review (#161001)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Actually it could hardly escape from 3 stars! :-) Side A is at last a real epic with a unique concept, with intelligent lyrics that make the listener think, with incredibly ingenious bass playing but come on! Alex Lifeson's wonder machine plays just the same riffs, not a longer solo and the bass is not enough to keep the interest after 5 minutes. Its a blasphemy but after that it simply gets...boring. Somehow they tried to be too...intellectual and the figures dont add up here. This is the Topographic tales of Rush but I love the other one much better. The ambient part is breathtaking when Geddy sings I am dead and yet unborn. Side B saves the day here. Circumstances is like the epic should be: harsh, raw, dynamic, wild. On The trees Peart shows us his funny side, I really appreciate that! And last but not least the strange village. Wow. Rush went to discover brand new territories with that. Jazzy, unusal, exciting, lots of tempo changes, pure progressivity. The album is definitely a must have but not perfect. Anyway, everyone should learn from his faults. No more epics in Rush's history.
Report this review (#163321)
Posted Thursday, March 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my 3rd favorite Rush album (I liked Moving Pictures and 2112 more), but the is probably their most progressive. The album starts off with Hemispheres, the second part of the Cygnus X-1 epic. Although I liked the first part of Cygnus X-1 better, this piece is still very impressive, although the ending acoustic part was strange and it didn't seem to fit. Circumstances is a short song, but is still a very good song with a catchy chorus and awesome sounding guitar. The Trees is also an awesome song that is a critique on unions, communism and forced equality. The last piece on the album, La Villa Strangiato, is also really cool. Entirely instrumental (a first for Rush), it contains a very awesome-sounding acoustic intro, and the rest of the piece is very Latin sounding (if you couldn't tell from the title) and almost (to me) sounds as if they were on the brink of jazz fusion with this piece. This a must for any fan of prog rock.
Report this review (#165992)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 'Hemispheres' continues RUSH's mid-career dalliance with progressive rock. Like its two predecessors, this album is frustratingly uneven, though in the reverse to '2112': here, the side-long epic is overly repetitive and rather poor, while the side of shorter songs is excellent, with the closing instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' reminding us what RUSH can be when they get it right.

In my view there's an excellent 5-star album's worth of material to be culled from '2112', 'AFTK' and this album. There are too many low spots for any RUSH album to receive the ultimate accolade, but they do deserve a listen and warrant a place among prog's greats, albeit at a second-tier level. If that sounds patronising to RUSH fans I apologise, but I feel that only the absence of viable alternatives in the late 70s propelled this band to the attention of lovers of progressive music.

Report this review (#166102)
Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I almost feel this is the reverse 2112 in the sense that the second side of shorter songs is far superior than the epic. Rush's ventures into progressive rock have really helped their 4-minute rock song writing as ''The Trees'' and ''Circumstances'' have enough punch to knock the listener out, yet develop well in their short lengths. And ''La Villa Strangiato'' has to be one of their most ambitious acheivements; a lengthy instrumental that goes through a few twists and turns, yet keeps itself in check compositionally. It is not a solo showcasing excepting a few parts here and there.

The problem herein lies the beefy ''Cygnus X-1 Book II'' thingy. The ''Prelude'' section is another one on the album where the music is spectacular, but beyond that, not much happens. The development of the epic is poorer than that of ''2112''. In ''2112'', themes from the ''Overture'' are reused later in the epic, but are done in a way that makes the theme sound fresh. Here, most of the music is copy-paste from the ''Prelude'' with little deviation, other than boring synth stuff and ''Cygnus X-1 Book I'' leftovers. The Greek mythology lyrics sound pretty cliche. We still have the classic Rush sound here though, at that's what matters the most for prog fans.

Report this review (#168656)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Along with 1977's A Farewell To Kings Hemispheres is indisputably Rush's most Progressive effort, characterised by the Heavy Metal epics that bookend it. The anxiously awaited Book II of the Cygnus X-1 series Hemispheres certainly doesn't disappoint, an epic tale of space voyage and Greek mythology no guilt should be felt in comparing this to 2112. The closer La Villa Strangiato appropriately subtitled An Exercise In Self-Indulgence is a technical masterpiece, one of the rare occasions on which almost ten minutes seems too short for an entirely instrumental track. The shorter pieces sandwiched between Hemispheres and La Villa are well worthy of celebration too, structurally reminiscent of A Farewell To Kings from the previous album The Trees is a lighthearted narrative of rivalry in nature, perhaps a third Tolkien-tinged track from Rush? Circumstances too is a snappy storyteller, this time Peart relives his adventures as a young musician seeking out success in London, Prog-depth is added by an unexpected Moog solo where one would normally expect to find a Lifeson guitar lead. Incredibly Rush have once again hit the nail directly on the head; pure perfection.
Report this review (#170464)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, in the late 70's / early 80's Rush could simply do no wrong. Within that run, however, Hemisperes is probably the one release that doesn't quite make its mark. This is due to the 20-minute Cygnux X-1 piece not living up to the standards set on longer pieces long 2112, Xanadu, Caress of Steel and Cygnux Book 1. It's a nice enough piece, but doesn't move or capture the listener the way those other songs do.

On the plus side, the three other songs are all outstanding. The obvious highlight is the almost 10-minute instrumental La Villa Strangiato...among the best instrumental in all prog. I'm also a huge fan of the two other songs, Trees and Circumstances. The former is a typical 5 minute rush hit with great lyrics and an imaginative musical break. The latter is a rare Rush rocker clocking in under 4 minutes. Combined the three are outstanding, and lift the overall score of the entire album.

Report this review (#174597)
Posted Friday, June 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Hemispheres" is the 6th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records (US/Europe)/Anthem Records (Canada) in October 1978. It´s the successor to "A Farewell to Kings" from 1977. Rush completed their 9 months long tour in support of "A Farewell to Kings (1977)" in May 1978, and after a very short break, entered Rockfield Studios in Wales in June 1978 with producer Terry Brown, to begin work on material for "Hemispheres". The band entered the studio with no pre-written material and worked tirelessly to write and record throughout June and July 1978, after which they were finally allowed some time off from recording and touring.

Stylistically the material on "Hemispheres" continue the progressive rock style of the predecessor with some natural development of style and sophistication. "Hemispheres" features four tracks. The 18 minutes long "Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres" filled side 1 of the original vinyl version of the album, while the two shorter rockers "Circumstances" and "The Trees" filled side 2 along with the 9 minutes long instrumental album closer "La Villa Strangiato".

"Hemispheres" is a well produced affair and it´s mostly not audible that the band were rushed into the studio with next to no written ideas for songs. But on the other hand neither "Circumstances" nor "The Trees" are the most remarkable tracks in the band´s discography, so maybe the songwriting was rushed just a little bit. The highlights of the album are definitely the long epic i>"Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres" and the playful instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". Even those two tracks could also have featured a more fluent structure, as they are both obviously created using many shorter compositions/pieces of music. I know that´s how Rush also wrote earlier long epics like "2112" and "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage", but here it just seems more pronounced.

With that minor complaint out of the way, "Hemispheres" is overall another high quality progressive rock release by Rush, and a natural successor to "A Farewell to Kings (1977)". Rush are incredibly well playing and lead vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee reaches helium heights with his voice here like he would never do again. "Hemispheres" is Rush most progressive hour, and after this album they would tone down the progressive playing style a bit and focus on a more subtle (or at least less focused on technical playing) progressive rock style (with exceptions). A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#174980)
Posted Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
2 stars Review 61, Hemispheres, Rush, 1978

Hemispheres is rather a mixed album for me. On the one hand, we have a couple of standout moments, and a fairly light-hearted and strong second side, on the other, we have some of the most funny-spot-wrenchingly-bad lyrical content I've seen since First Aid's Nostradamus (released around the same time, coincidentally). Additionally, Cygnus X-I Book 2 is not really a sequel per se, and certainly isn't consistently powerful and interesting like the first 'book'. Even worse, it actually damages the mystique of that incredible piece of music. There is some stuff here that is seriously interesting progressive rock, but not nearly enough to merit the 'essential' tag.

Hemispheres (AKA. Who shot Cygnus X-I?... book 2) takes up the whole first side of the album. It's a very mixed piece, in my opinion, simultaneously containing some flashes of brilliance and some of pure irritation. A rather grandiose overture, which I could conceivably see tagging onto the end of Cygnus X-I book 1, leads up to a basically complete instrumental rendition of the first couple of verses. Of some interest is Alex Lifeson's odd tone and very soft guitar sound. Geddy Lee is on good form throughout this overture.

The vocals open accompanied by some stabbing Rickenbacker bass work, and some interesting twists on the usual thick Rush guitar sound. Peart does a couple of his classy rolls, but is otherwise pretty bland, and a few swirls on the synth try to give a vestigial spacey atmosphere and fail miserably.

Apollo, Bringer Of Wisdom, is the beginning of the true lyrics debacle, as well as opening after a rather ineffectual pause for effect. Not exactly a sequel to Cygnus X-I, but rather a prelude to it and an epilogue set around the classic with a feeble philosophical lesson of balance attached, and with some truly appalling lines. Musically, the accompaniment isn't stunning, either. Just a wandering bass, guitar and drums, seemingly doing not much interesting. However, the tune picks up with Alex Lifeson's typically 'scientific'-feeling solo, with a squeaky edge and supportive bass.

Dionysus, Bringer Of Love, is basically a lyrically altered re-rendition of the above. I didn't see the reason to type out another paragraph to describe it.

Armageddon, The Battle Of Heart And Mind is where the piece picks up with plentiful references to Cygnus X-I book 1, containing some of the ideas in the original, but with a slowed-down nature and softer twist. Geddy Lee's vocals, watery, and they almost sound weak, but are nonetheless somehow likeable. Finally, the lyrics move onto the original's storyline. In addition to hearing a stunning riff thing from the original (I really do love that song so much), and some backgrounded nods to the original over a lush keyboard backing, the piece finally improves.

Cygnus , Bringer Of Balance, features a jaw-droppingly generic keyboard soundscape. But I love it. I have no idea why. I just do. Keys are prominent throughout, and thunder-rolls add a more genuine atmosphere to the piece than any previous work. Even the return to the more rock-based section and even more abysmal lyrical content sort of works, and includes a functional solo, though nothing as mindblowing as 2112. A crashing conclusion with almost classical drumming ends the part fairly effectively.

The Sphere, A Kind Of Dream, works surprisingly well as an acoustic conclusion, with a nice melody (however basic) and a light vocal to accompany it. There is, much to my amazement, a single great verse of lyrics crammed in there. Overall, a bit awkward, ambling and semi-connected, but at times superb and very charming. If the album stopped here, though, it would probably crash in at sub-Moving Pictures levels.

The second side picks up pretty substantially, and is much stronger overall. It's opened by Circumstances, a typically sophisticated commercial-lengthed Rush rock song. After the terrible Rush fanfarey opening we see all too often, the piece takes off potently, with a cheerfully sung set of fairly weak lyrics. Geddy Lee spins around terrifically on bass, taking a triumphant performance, complimented nicely by Peart's fairly edgy and precise percussion. An instrumental break features a silly synth solo with a small workout for the orphan-shelter drumkit's more unusual components, as well as more of the odd guitar tone from Apollo... . All in all, a fairly good song, but I don't feel the guitar really added anything to my experience, and a stronger vocal couldn't hurt it.

I consider The Trees sarcastic, and thus like the lyrical material and delivery. If it were serious, I really wouldn't. Fairly neat, quick characterisations/representations of general kinds of people. It is certainly more quirky than Circumstances. It opens with a set of acoustics backed by uncharacteristically hollow and vibrating bass. Guitar rocks in traditionally as well as sliding around with curiosity. Neil Peart again provides a fairly interesting performance, with classical rolls, shimmery things and hollow-log-tapping aplenty. The break, featuring gradually a constant guitar riff of the style so characteristic of the album and gradually building rhythm sections, works quite nicely, also allowing another Lifeson solo to break out. A final verse rocks slightly more, and, while virtually the same principle as the end of Red Barchetta, it doesn't matter because the content lends itself to it. A good, short, prog song.

La Ville Strangiato is where the album reaches a really special height on a couple of occasions and remains consistently good throughout the entire 'exercise in self-indulgence'. The acoustic opening with a great classical solo gives us a hint of what we're in for, before the whole band enter. After a gradual build, the kicking La Ville Strangiato riff bursts in, with chordal guitar juxtaposed by quick bursts of note guitar. Neil Peart provides a sort of forest of percussive noises as a cheery background throughout. The piece's biggest highlight is a guitar solo, feeling very Spanish on electric, presumably 'Lerxt In Wonderland'. An emotive, calculated and lively performance. Nabbing highlights, since a running description will become tedious very quickly, a Geddy Lee bass solo especially stands out for energy and verve, and Peart's later move to more 'standard' drums devices doesn't fail to pay off with a rock feel as well as a good set of performances. The piece rollicks off fluidly to an abrupt stop. A thoroughly indescribable three-man piece, with recurring themes aplenty and enough motifs and links to give it a cohesive feel despite its very abstract nature and range. Great stuff, though it feels a bit wallowing when you're not in the right sort of mood for it, and the real reason I'd recommend the album.

So, overall, not consistent in quality, and quite weak on the first side, but nonetheless it has a fair few highlights and is usually pretty decent. There is definitely prog material of interest here, and no ardent Rush fan should be without this album. Lerxt In Wonderland alone justifies the album's price. It gets better when you stop listening to the lyrics, mind vs. heart = balance theme and all. I'd recommend this to most progressive fans, except those who really live for the psychedelic and atmospheric stuff, very little of which you'll find here, and those who really find some weaker performances on vocals or guitar insufficient compensation for great bass-work and bursts of stellar guitar. Geddy Lee's bass is another serious redeeming factor (one I've failed to emphasise above, but c'est la vie) for Hemispheres, and fans of that instrument should thus seriously consider it. I'm not the greatest Rush fan (Caress Of Steel excepted), so I'd suggest reading a few more generous reviews to balance my opinion out.

Rating: Three Stars Favourite Track: La Ville Strangiato

Edit: Since I'm going rather harsher on the ratings, and I've provided that a two is something you should get if you'd consider yourself a fan, it's dropping to a two. Even Strangiato has a couple of moments I'd consider awkward or unneccessary, and I simply don't think the title track is up to the standards Rush hit in their previous excellent record or following decent one. Given it's half the album, I think a two is in order.

Report this review (#177495)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Speaks to both of my hemispheres

Hemispheres is in my opinion Rush's masterpiece and also perhaps their most progressive effort ever. With this album Rush completed their journey from a Led Zeppelin-influenced bluesy Hard Rock band to a full-fledged Prog Rock band. Hemispheres also brings together into one place the various elements that made other classic Rush albums so great: the extended suite (first tried on 2112), the acoustic side of the band in Trees, the jazzier/Fusion side in La Villa Strangiato and more melodic Prog Rock in Circumstances pointing forward to Moving Pictures. There is for the first and perhaps only time in their long career the perfect balance between guitars and keyboards. The band is as passionate as they ever got and every member is at his best. The compositions are varied, intelligent and memorable. The lyrics of the side-long epic are intriguing, but I do admit that The Trees is a bit naive lyrically.

There is simply nothing to complain about here!

Report this review (#178732)
Posted Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars RUSH's Hemispheres is the second installment in the bands "Mid-Era Progressive" phase. These albums include: A Farewell to Kings (1977), Hemispheres (1978), Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures (1981) and Exit.Stage Left "Live" (1981)

Hemispheres continues on with RUSH's new progressive hard rock style. It's only got four songs on it, but that's because the first side of the album was dominated by the six-part epic Cygnus X-1 - Book II, which was a continuation of Cygnus X-1 (Book I) off the A Farewell to Kings album. Book II clocks in at 18:04. Next up is Circumstances, which, in my opinion, is the last in a long line of "classic" Rush songs. A more or less straight-ahead rocker with a few progressive bits thrown in. It's got that older "heavy" feel to it. Clear bass-lines and guitar work, before a dominance of keyboard sounds began to muddy up the soundscape. Also included is the classic The Trees, and Rush's first instrumental, La Villa Strangiato, which Rush themselves call "an exercise in self-indulgence".

If you are a fan of RUSH's most progressive offerings, then this is one album you'll have pick up. Even if you like the band because you are into Hard Rock, you will probably like this one.

Report this review (#182122)
Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A Farewell to Kings ends with Cygnus X-1 Book I. It was a tantalizing thought at one point, that there could be even more to this exciting and dynamic song. Unfortunately Rush went the wrong direction on this one. It goes from an up tempo space adventure accompanied a pounding bass intro, to a dull and lifeless march through the land of Neitzsche. The jump in subject matter is pretty profound, but in reality it's only cosmetic. If it had been delivered differently it might not irk me so much. Cygnus X-1 Book II is exceptionally boring and keeps me away from the album.

After the truly dull Book II comes Circumstances. It is quite short. I really like it, but I usually forget about it when you look at it beside the rest of the album. It has two elephants and single. The single by the way, is a terribly over rated song. It does have a few moments, mostly on the drum end, but The Trees however prove to be grating rather than enjoyable for the majority of their thankfully short course.

La Villa Strangiato as the title of the album might suggest is the opposing counterpart (s) to Book II. This song salvages the wreckage of Hemispheres. It's so excellent it drags this one up to a three. It is the essential Rush instrumental. Lifeson saves the day on this one. Hemispheres is worth the price paid because of it.

Report this review (#182970)
Posted Saturday, September 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The only thing I've heard of Rush before this was chronicles CD 1, it was good but not the thing I expected from a band so claimed in prog music like this one so I called a friend who is fan #1 and he recomended me Hemispheres.

When I heard this disc I understood why Rush is so loved, it's amazing!.... a very complete work of progressive music including the characeristic seal that came upon AFTK, very powerfull with amazing mythic lyrics. Cygnus X-1 Book II is for me the best song of the entire Rush discography, along with La Villa Strangiato. All the four songs a very, very good and that is difficult to make, this disc have no lower points (the lowest may be is circumstances but, is still very good) and that's why it deserves my five stars. Godbye and sorry about the bad english

Report this review (#183156)
Posted Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Unlike most reviewers here I really never enjoyed Hemispheres. Strangely enough, even the band seems to agree with my opinion on the articles I read about this period. Just like other famous prog bands of the 70´s Rush seemed to delivering something too pompous, self indulgent and complex work just for the sake of it. The epic Cygnus X-1 is the continuation of the previous LP last track. And that tunewas the worst one from Farewell To Kings. It did not have a great theme or development, both in musical and lyrical contexts. By their standards, it is really poor. Not bad, but way below their capacities. Side two is a little better, but not much. The Trees, for exemple, seems to be a rehash of A Farwell To Kings. the only real strong point on Hemispheres is the last track, the very fine instrumental La Villa Strangiato: ten minutes of great, imaginative, jaw-dropping playing.

The band seemed to be a victim of their own virtuosity and pretensioness (something Neil Peart agrees, so much so he decided, along with the other band members, to redirect the band´s style). Fortunatly it would all change with Permanent Waves, their next studio move, which put them back on track. Hemispheres stands as a wrong step by a great band, specially in view of their former (and latter) high quality work. It still has its moments, but definitly this is not a good starting point for a newbie. Be sure to get their classic stuff before this CD, or you´ll have a wrong perspective. For fans and collectors only.

Report this review (#184505)
Posted Thursday, October 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am not one to give 5 star ratings but a classic is a classic and this is exactly that. A recent reviewer actually gave this 2 stars! Sounds like someone isn't actually into progressive music or something. 2 stars? Might try a pop album, my friend as this is by far one of Rush's most progressive records, right up there with 2112.

The first side is the title track which is a sequel to Cygnus X-1 from A Farewell To Kings. Amazing 18 plus minutes of Rush at their most progressive. The second side is just as perfect. The vastly underrated Circumstances leads it off and gives a hint as to the future direction of the band. Next is of course, The Trees which is one of the truly great songs in the entire Rush catalog (no question). The finale is the amazing instrumental La Villa Strangiato which was based on cartoon themes. Insane and amazing.

Report this review (#184512)
Posted Thursday, October 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I describe Hemispheres as one of the best album by Rush.

Rush needs only 4 songs and 36 minutes to show their love for progressive rock. After a hard rock beginning they started to introduce more and more progressive elements in their music starting from Caress Of Steel (with the long suites The Necromancer and Fountain Of Lamneth) and specially with 2112, often considered the definitive the passage from hard rock to progressive rock.

A Farewell To Kings was an album with unusual atmospheres and melodies for Rush thanks to a new line- up including synthesizer and new percussion such as bells and glockenspiel...

Hemispheres is another album of pure progressive hard rock with the same complex compositions that made A Farewell To Kings a masterpiece, once again with using synth and strange percussion. The suites Cygnus X-1 - Book II that continues the story begun in the last track of the last album, is maybe too repeatitive in the first 12 minutes with a series of regular riffs and synth inserts repeated but then we're struck by a space part excellently played with synthesizers and a good outro with acoustic guitars. Circumstances is a hard rock oriented track with an excellent prog part with glockenspiel notes and a precious synthesizer solo. The Trees begins with classical guitar followed by more powerful guitar riffs and a good instrumental part with a melodic synth solo and a guitar solo too. And we're forced to talk about La Villa Strangiato as one of the greatest instrumental masterpiece! A several music lesson that will be followed by many rock musician! An atmospheric intro with a flamenco- like classical guitar and delicated synth melodies is followed by a succession of complex guitar riffs and solo, changes of tempo (typical of prog-rock style) and several jazz and fusion influences. It's the rightest epilogue for an album that will be surely remember in the history of prog music. To have this masterpiece is not a choice, is a MUST! (but to have Rush complete discography is a must too!!)

Report this review (#187866)
Posted Monday, November 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The pinnacle of Rush's progressive rock period. An absolute masterpiece of music.

1. Cygnus X-1 Book 2: Hemispheres- This has always been one of my favorite tracks of all time, so excuse me if I sound like a fanboy here. Everything is PERFECT. The trio really show off their instrumental chops on this one! The lyrics, which I've heard many criticize, I love to death. They are intriguing and delve into mythology to make a neat little story. This track is so epic that it feels so much shorter than it actually is. Flawless. 10+/10

2. Circumstances- Great rocker! They played this song live on the first S&A tour and it really showed how awesome and overlooked it is. That keyboard instrumental part in the middle kills me every time. Wonderful! How can this be the worst song on the album?! Well, just look at what follows it. 9/10

3. The Trees- Instrumental and lyrical genius. There's no other way to describe it. This is often cited as one of Rush's signature songs and let me tell you... that is for good reason. The atmosphere is perfect, the musicianship is perfect, and the song really rocks! I love the metaphorical lyrics about the whole concept of equality versus equal opportunity and how it can be twisted and demented to something entirely different. Flawless. 10+/10

4. La Villa Strangiato- Wow. Just wow. A roaring instrumental from the trio here, supposedly based on a series of nightmares that guitarist Alex Lifeson had. Musicianship again is AWESOME, absolutely stellar, and all 3 musicians really craft a unique piece of music here. Haunting and beautiful, this song really is magic. Flawless 10+/10

In short, if you want to hear what Rush is all about, this is always the album I recommend (along with Moving Pictures).

To those of you who question Rush's prog credentials, I dare you to listen to this. And not just once!

One of my desert island albums and an extremely important album in my love of music.

Report this review (#190570)
Posted Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Lump of stableness, rigidness, and hardness.

Actually, when I had the album on the turntable for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the terrific rhythm section. Although the album (especially the first track Cygnus X-1 Book II) has a calm and quiet part, basically it's very aggressive. In other words, the songs there might push and push like a Sumo wrestler. About forty minutes the storm of Rush keeps blowing hard around listeners and suddenly gets over like the calm night after a storm...I always feel as that.

This album was released thirty years ago. In that period I guess this was too hard-progressive all of the hard progrock albums. And still now it's alive in all of progrockers' mind...

Very interesting and excellent album, I want to give 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#191993)
Posted Saturday, December 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover Team
5 stars Rush's follow-up to the A Farewell to Kings masterpiece was, well... another one. Hemispheres continued where A Farewell to Kings left off, most notably with the conclusion of the Cygnus X-1 duology. On Cygnus X-1 Book II, instead of the sci-fi storyline from Book I of being crushed by a black hole, the storyline shifts to Greek mythology. Our explorer re-enters midway through the song, body-less, but spirit intact in a mysterious land. Here the explorer experiences the Apollo/Dionysus dichotomy of a society struggling between heart and mind. Neil Peart is quite the writer and I often have wondered what it would have been like if he had written lyrics for Yes.

The Trees is one of Rush's most popular songs, telling of a fable with oak and maple trees competing for sunlight. Many Rush fans have often taken this song to be allegorical with the oaks representing the United States and the maples representing Canada, describing their occasional politically strained relationships (perhaps also with regard to cultural dominance issues too). I can understand this interpretation, but putting that aside, the lyrics are exceptionally well done prose.

The album ends with a stunning instrumental, La Villa Strangiato. This has to be considered one of the top 10 best prog rock instrumentals ever composed. The guitar work and complex rhythms on this piece are simply astounding.

Easily a five-star masterpiece. Many consider this about as good as A Farewell to Kings. Some, like myself, think it is slightly better. You can't go wrong with this one. An essential must-have.

Report this review (#192685)
Posted Friday, December 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I see the Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres album as, somewhat of a stage for Rush. They were just introduced to synthesizer instruments in there songs, and it really shows. This was also a very hard recording to make. Geddy had made the notes to sing, but the music was in a completely different key, so they had to redo almost all of the album (most notably in Circumstances and Hemispheres) and it really shows how much time they took on it to make a great album like this one. The title track is an epic, a continuation of Cygnus X-1 Book 1 The Voyage, but it really dosen't sound like it, by the lyrics. It really has its own feel, really mostly about Greek gods at battle, and the townspeople in fear. The rest of the album is above par, by a lot. I will rate each song on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the absolut best that there can be, and 1 being the absolut worst there can be.

Cygnus X-1 Book 2 Hemispheres- The side long track has to be one of the single best epics that any progressive rock band has ever made, and its much better (in my opinion, musically) much more fluent than 2112 or Fountain of Lamneth, but those are also very great. It features very high vocals from Geddy, showing his ability to sing very high on the scales, and it really sounds great on this record. Lyrically, its one of Neils strongest songs, showing that the Greek gods are at battle, making the townspeople leave the villages in fear, and one man, he is aparently imortal, and he sees the gods battle, and he resolves it, giving him the god title Cygnus. The music is really great, the guitar solos are a real highlight of the song, showcasing that underrated guitarist are usually the best kinds. 10/10

Circumstances- Circumstances was the most refretted, redone, and most remastered song of all in the album, it was very hard for the band to pull it together in this song, but the final release is actualy amazing, a very enjoyable listen. The song itself is about Neils time in England, much like the song Fly By Night (they are almost alike, lyrically, symbolizing what they mean). Geddy reaches very high notes on this song, almost irritating, but still in the limits. The bassline is a very over-looked part of the song, but its really a great riff. The drumming is very loud, as with the guitars. This is something that the album needed, an over-looked song, but still incredible. 9.5/10

The Trees- Many people might take this song in the wrong way, not what it really means. Its true meaning is the division of Canada and America, but some people might think of it as a racist song, dealing with African American people, and American people. Either way, it somewhat symbolizes each other in the manor that each way is the same. The music is incredible, with guitar riffs and basslines that are really amazing, they will blow your ears. 10/10

La Villa Strangiato- This is a great instrumental, a little underrated by critics and whatnot, but its really a great, long, and very thrilling instrumental that the band decided to pull out of their sleves. Most of the song was written on a dream that Alex had, and it somehow turned into an amazing song, or an instrumental, if you will. The riffs that are played by Alex are really creative, as with the amazing, fast, and interesting basslines and bass solos that are played by Geddy in the song. The drumming is very, jazzy at the Monsters section of the song, and its very interesting. The drumming for the rest of the song is very fast, up-tempo and near perfection. Another mention is that there are no drum solos in this instrumental, which is very odd for Rush, but still an amazing song. 10/10

This album has very few flaws, and its an excellent progressive album that should not be missed.

Report this review (#195276)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been listening to this album for the past 10 years and it continues to grow on me each time I've listened to it. Rush's 6th studio album titled, Hemispheres, is an incredible work of progressive rock masterpiece! Covering your basic element's of progressive rock (complex lyrics, frequent changes in tempo, mix-meter sections, extensive use of instrumental counterpoint, etc...), Rush out does even themselves on this album. Lets take a look at the songs:

Track 1 - Cygnus X1 Book II, Hemisphere's What an amazing piece of music. As any Rush fan would know, this song is the sequel to Cygnus X1 on the album A Farewell to Kings. Lyrically, this song is following up to what happened to our hero and his Rocinante when they were being pulled into the black hole Cygnus X1. In this song, our hero falls into a world where there is a battle between heart and mind (Apollo and Dioneisus). When our hero breaks through the black hole and approaches the world, the battle stops to see what was approaching above. For stopping the war, the people called our hero, Cygnus, the God of Balance. Musically, this songs weaves nicely from one section to the next. It is over 18 minutes in length and every part of it is just as good as the last. Geddy's Rickenbacker is in full mid crunch here and blends nicely with Alex's guitar work of chords and melodies. Meanwhile Neil Peart the bands drummer and lyricist, is going through many different beats with easy. He adds little flares to his beats so he's not always doing the same thing. Doing this, he adds a nice texture to the music while keeping together the rest of the band. Great song, many different sections, fantastic ending, what's not to like?

Track 2 - Circumstances A finely crafted song that is both technical and meaningful. An autobiographical account of Peart's time in London, England, he takes you there with his complex drumming patterns and seemless flow of lyrics. Take a close listen to Geddy's bass line in this song because this is the ground work for his lines in Rush's mid-80's album catalog. Alex takes a heavier approach in this song giving it an added thickness that is very pleasant for the ears. Listen closely to the french lyrics in this song, the more that things change, the more they stay the same.

Track 3 - The Trees A Rush staple! This is a song that everyone has heard at one time or another. It opens up with a fingerpicked melody by Alex Lifeson on Classical guitar. When Geddy starts singing, the combination of his voice along with the classical guitar sounds almost madrigal like (Rush has dabbled with Madrigal esque songs before). Neil Peart brings us into the heavier section when he comes in with a thundering eighth note line. My favorite part of this song is the 5/4 section in the middle. It just builds up so nicely and Rush always finds a way to make a seemless transition back into the main theme of the song.

Track 4 - La Villa Strangiato (an exercise in self-indulgence) At the time, Rush's most out there song, but as people kept listening to it, they realized the same thing we do today. It is a great song that shows Rush's talent for incorporating many different styles, or even genres, into one song. This song is complex, serious, humorous, scary, and just plain fun to listen to. It is like going to the circus, Rush style. This is one of Alex's most technical classical guitar lines he has ever wrote and still pulls it off nicely to this day. Geddy's bass lines in this song are very funky, but he also holds it down when Alex comes in with a nice melody or something very technical. When I see Rush live, Neil Peart's drum solo always reminds me of this song. He incorporates jazz elements more than usual in this song and lays the ground work for future ideas in his drum solos. This song truly is an exercise of self indulgence.

Probably the main thing that ties this album together is the use of the synthesizer on each song. Geddy always chooses warm synth settings to make the music sound really warm as a whole. His leads are creative, versatile, and pleasant on the ears, while some synth players use settings that are too loud and in-your-face, taking away from the overall quality of the sound. Personally, there is a nice degree of difficulty on both the bass and the synth, and Geddy Lee does a good job of balancing the two on this album.

If you like Rush, you need to have this album in your it!

Report this review (#201048)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I stated with my review of A Farewell To Kings...together with 2112 this is compulsary material for any serious Rush fan. As many commented before me...this is a band on the top of their peak indeed. It really is regretfull that they didn't do more and abandoned epic music creation and replaced it with much shorter compositions....

Right from the first hear that you are in for a treat...the titletrack is indeed fantastic....I keep on wondering about the fact that the song is quite long, but the melody is quite catchy and...very fluid...its like it all comes together magically and that is something really good to hear. As always there is a very characteristic basssound of Geddy, that is accompanied by some great drumming of Niell. I always wonder if its simply the way they play or the way the record their albums, cos time after time you can hear this same....sound over all the Rush albums. But with this seems that Alex is more prominent than on the guitar here is often on the frontground...and from time to time takes time to solo around....Apart from all the great melodies...there is one specific part of the song I really liked, and that is where it slows down and you only hear Geddy sing...supported by a minimum of instruments....what a wonderfull and sensitive passage is that...

Circumstances is a more song based composition....that cannot stand in the shadow of the 2 giants. It has some great vocals and indeed another great melody with a typical Rush sound....The middle part has some really nice keyboardwork....before the song speeds up again and work towards the end.

The Trees..a long live favorite. A start of with some beautifull accoustic guitar...before completely out of the blue the song kicks in really loud and full developing a really typical Rush melody...I like the 'There is trouble in the forrest....' lines....Its a very dynamical song, since it falls back on, guitar and keys build up again...this time more slowly before the song gets on again in a more agressive way..Geddy's bass first and then Alex's guitar create some jawdropping solo...that are too short for my ears......Fantastic song...but I like the ways is played on Different States more...what always struck me there was its agression and the power, that I miss a bit in this original.

The last song...another amazing classic....starts off once again with some amazing accoustic guitar soon accompanied by other instruments, adding more and more building up....nice high head of the eventual melody of the song...Once again we hear Geddy's so recognisable Bass, soon followed by Alex's Guitar...Some nice soloing here....Alex taking turns with Geddy the rest of the song...very nice...Like the way the song is slowing down....and you only hear Alex jam very slowly supported by some more suddle drumming of Niell.....and with that it really is Alex who shines on this song once again.....although Geddy gets his moments as we'll as the track contains some really nice basswork of Geddy.

All in all an incredible album...made by some incredible skilled musicians.....comes highly recomanded.

Report this review (#201589)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This being my first Progarchives review, I wanted to choose an album that encompasses everything I love about this genre of music. With so many excellent albums to choose from, this is one of few albums that I can consistently listen to an 18+ minute epic track. Being a recent Prog enthusiast, I have found it difficult on many albums to enjoy every facet of such lengthy, attention required sit throughs. But that is what I love about Prog. Once you invest the time and interest to these side length epic songs, you realize what Prog is and how it can contain music that grabs you and never lets go. The intros and the middle gold...Prog defined. Enter Rush Hemispheres. My first foray into Rush was back when Chronicles came out. Chronicles, being a greatest hits, does a fantastic job of opening the doors to their complete catalog. Only when I placed all the songs from Chronicles to their respective albums did I realize that Hemispheres was needing attention. The Trees is what grabbed me initially. The Trees has such an interesting story line, great instrumentals, and a Geddy Lee conviction that they do indeed have the right to more light. La Villa Strangiato is an instrumental piece. Had this song contained lyrics it would certainly rock, however, the instruments sing by themselves. Circumstances is the token shorter rocker tune that is certainly part of my revolving life playlist. But in the end, the true gem here is Cygnus X-1 Book 2. If someone were to ask me what Prog is and how it is better than all other music genres I would play them this wonderful song. The facet that seperates this epic track from all other epic tracks is that there is not an ounce of filler. When devoting time and energy to other such lengthy sessions, there is often times a loss of the grand focus and big picture, until it hits its stride and gets back on track...the inner gold. Cygnus never loses that focus. With each passing minute, the excitement is grander and the tingles get heavier. This song is a mind blower. Tranforming from one beautiful segment into a wonderous new segment that makes one ponder how Rush was able to accomplish such a task. If you are a recent Proghead, listen to this album...the rest will fall into place. This is an essential component to any enthusiast library and deserves a place at the head of that class. Once you hear it...there is no turning back.
Report this review (#202322)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars One of the great Canadian trio's most remarkable releases, this album should put to rest any accusation that Rush is not a progressive rock act. I'm not sure I can heap enough praise on the band for Hemispheres; it is certainly an album I often turn to when I am in need of a Rush fix. Though only four songs are here, each one is a masterful creation in its own right. The eighteen minute epic is perhaps my favorite Rush piece- exciting, memorable, and entertaining. The two short songs are fantastic, blending elements of heavy rock and ambient phrases. The final track is a searing instrumental with the guitarist in the fore. Such an amazing album is not one to pass by.

"Cygnus X-1 Book II" The flow of this lengthy piece is unparalleled compared to other Rush epics. Sure there are six distinct sections, but they blend together almost seamlessly. Geddy Lee's bass playing is rather sophisticated, and his voice is beginning to mature at this point. Alex Lifeson's guitar moves between clean chords to crunchy rhythms with chorus throughout. Neil Peart's drums are effective and stand out more than they had up until that point. I really love the sudden stops that punctuate the piece. The use of the synthesizer is tastefully minimal, yet there are atmospheric sections where Lee's vocals are subdued. A short acoustic piece concludes the song, serving as something of an epilogue. This is probably the finest thing Rush ever recorded.

"Circumstances" Following such a powerful and wonderfully crafted track, Rush offers a short song that is structurally straightforward but still complex in its own way. It has that full Rush sound, Lifeson's guitar thick and creamy. This great song boasts great guitar riffs and a catchy chorus.

"The Trees" This song, with amusing lyrics, a classical guitar introduction, heavy rock, and a tranquil musical interlude in 5/4, has always been a favorite of mine from this great band. The chord progression is unique, and the light percussion during the relaxing bits is innovative. And Lifeson's solo still surprises me, just as I am starting to relax. From the acoustic introduction to the mentioning of the three arboreal equalizers, this is most certainly one of Rush's greatest works under five minutes.

"La Villa Strangiato" A gentle classical guitar introduction, fantastically performed, gives way to airy synthesizer and clear electric guitar. Lee and Peart fade in very gradually. This is if anything one of Alex Lifeson's grandest moments in the spotlight. A quiet passage, with Peart maintaining the main rhythm, has Lifeson playing with a cleaned up tone that soon becomes the screaming lead guitar sound he is more known for. This is not to say Lee does not have his moment in the song. After six minutes in, he fires off a quick little bass solo, and Peart soon follows suit. The bulk of the music consists of powerful chords and fast pull-offs, but the music fails to get stale, even after all these years- this instrumental rivals "YYZ" in terms of love from fans.

Report this review (#203431)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The final Rush album from the epic symphonies era.

The other 300+ reviewers has said what needs to be said so I will just add my bit. The final installment of the Cygnus opus kicks of the ball. The sound is great and the song is superb. No complaints here. The second song Circumstances is the weak track on this album. It is a throw away pop song with an almost children-rhyme feel to it.

The two final tracks is the ones who this album is remembered for. The Trees is one of the best songs about power struggles ever written. The analogy with the trees and the unions is very cleverly explained. It is also a very good melody and one of my favourite Rush songs. The same can be said about La Villa Strangiato with it's towering guitars (Thanx, Alex !!) and thundering drums and bass. An excellent track and well and truly a classic song. It has made me happy for the best part of 30 years.

I think this is a truly great Rush album and one who has got a lot of renewed interest during the last years. Hemispheres was also the end of an era. The follow up album was a song orientated album and a commercial success. Maybe Hemispheres was not, but it is still a truly great album. Give Hemispheres a chance.

4.25 stars

Report this review (#203585)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars By the late '70's when prog music becomes something only for open minded listners, the rest of the public were captured quikly by punk and disco. Anyway Rush knew how to manage to survive in this jungle, some of the mosnsters of prog bands from the early '70's didn't know, or they took another path. With Hemisphere from 1978 Rush gained a new status in prog music, the one of the masters of heavy prog with lenghy instrumental passages and above all, the top notch musicianship and writting. This status they manage to mentaint 'till today, with some plus and minuses in they career, but also on front lines. To me Hemispheres is better than the predecesor from 1977 and at same level with my second best from them from the '70's 2112. The music is eleborated with some catcy interplay between two masters, or better said all 3 are masters. The opening track is an epic and is a classic tune in progressive music, everything from here is elegant played and with some very intristing elements from prog music. All four pieces are great, but my fav remains the last track La Villa Strangiato, brilliant musicianship, thats why this piece is still today in their play list in concerts after 30 years of the first issue. And another thing to mention is that the lyrics are excellent, with deep and thoughtfull meaning. So, I will give 4 stars to this album, is not my fav album, I remain to Permanent waves or (it might be strange to some of you) Hold your fire to be my fav albums ever by Rush, Hemisphere is for sure an intristing and well played album in prog history. Recommended, among the best from late '70's and from their career.
Report this review (#204264)
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Hemispheres' - Rush (8/10)

The concept of 'Hemispheres' can be seen in the album art, read in the title, and heard in the music and lyrics. The concept of 'art versus science' has long been an interesting debate, and Rush address the topic in the best way they know how, through intelligently constructed science fiction lyrics and an epic song length. Wrapping up the story the was started in 'A Farewell To Kings,' 'Cygnus X-2: Hemispheres' has the greatest lyrics Neil Peart has ever written, as well as some great music that feels like Rush's most cohesive epic to date (despite the criticism it's gotten for being a tad repetitive.) I've always liked the first side of this album more, but side two is a fantastic three song arc that is only hindered by the mediocre track 'Circumstances.'

The 'war between heart and mind' borrows lyrical elements from philosophy, classic science fiction, and greek mythology and melds it all together into a massive poem that could easily be the topic of a university paper in terms of it's complexity and deepness. While the music isn't up to par with the ingenuity of the lyrics, the flanger guitar is a very interesting addition to the sonic tapestry, and the vocal performance for the acoustic closing chapter 'The Sphere' is very emotive.

The other highlight of the album is the instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato.' Arguably the band's best instrumental, theres some really great guitar work from Alex Lifeson here, possibly his best. Thrown into the mix as well are some homages to ragtime, which are unexpected and bring something new and refreshing to the table. The guitar solo in 'La Villa Strangiato' is one of the best of all time, and it stands as being a Rush classic.

'The Trees,' while being better than 'Circumstances' sort of feels like an extention to lengthen the gap between the two longer songs. 'The Trees' (as shorter Rush songs go) is really cool, and like 'Cygnus X- 2,' the lyrics are of particular appeal.

Despite being only four songs long, Rush has made a prog classic here, and while it's not their most consistent, it's a great addition to their discography. Well done, Rush. My hat is off to you.

Report this review (#205795)
Posted Sunday, March 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is nothing less than the first essential album by Rush. In fact, all their prog rock searchings, all their difficulties in becoming and staying prog rock, and the album that came before is basically a build up to this album. They finally master prog rock. They finally understand what makes good progressive music. They've finally tamed weird time signatures, untrivial song structures, and atmospheric keyboard work. It's all gelled and makes sense. It took the exploration of A Farewell to Kings to get here. It took the major failure and embarasments of most of that album to get to the general triumph and success of this album. Rush is, finally, a major prog band. It took them four albums of straight up hard rock and one album of hard prog to get there, but they finally did. Naturally, being the kind of band they are (always searching and changing) they immediately dropped the hard core prog act just as soon as they'd perfected it. Which in a way is sad, as I'd love to have heard some more albums like this from the band, but it's probably good because I can't imagine them really topping this album in that regard.

The first song on the album is Hemisphere and it sets the tone for the rest of the album quickly. It is a side long epic, and a sequel, of sorts, to Cygnus X-1 on the previous album. However, it couldn't be any different. This is a side long to be proud of. The various riffs and melodies of the song are quite disparate and all over the map. But Rush comes up with a good idea here; to help keep everything together, they reprise melodies and riffs all over the place. This helps the piece be much more cohesive than earlier attempts at length and epicness. And the riffs are good, and the melodies nice. The keyboards have been integrated into their sound fully and seamlessly. The band's arrangements are creative. Their playing has never been any better. If the song doesn't have many standout moments, it's because the band is playing so well together as a band that nothing stands out as bad or good. The moment when the keyboards come in, and Geddy softly sings from the prospective of the man who was sucked into the black hole, reappearing (Peart's lyrics here are...well, I'll talk about it later) are actually somewhat moving and touching. Not a moment of the song is too long or out of place (besides maybe the acoustic ending) and everything feels inevitable. The strongest song, musically, of their prog period.

Unfortunately, the song is graced with Neil's last fantasy nonsense and it's no better than before. The heart and mind are fighting, literally, as the Gods of Heart and Mind battle for supremacy over the human race. They both present their side in as literal and as blunt a case as Neil can do, and then the Cygnus X-1 guy shows up and says "Hey, why not balance things out between both?" so control of the human race is passed to HIM, Cygnus, the God of Balance. Oh brother. But the lyrics can easily be ignored because of the music.

The rest of the album is taken up by three songs. Circumstance is a weird riff rocker. Not one of their best, but it's kind of a nice change of pace after the epicness of Hemisphere. The melodies and riffs are there, sure. The lyrics aren't Neil's worse, but they aren't great. It's a good song.

The Trees is one of their best songs musically. The way it builds up from acoustic to electric is very well done, and the melodies and riffs are quite well. Lyrically, it's awful. It's an analogy using trees to explain why those who are not as good as others, are rightfully denied better circumstances because if they are given access to better circumstances, it can upset the natural balance, and ruin everything for everybody. The ending line of "equal by hatchet and saw" or whatever, has to be one of the most closed minded and ridiculous arguments against enforced equal rights that I've ever heard from somebody who has to be at least somewhat intelligent. I understand why he might have issues with legalizing and forcing equality, but Christ, he does it in that usual blunt Peart way and the song almost becomes terrifying. Why do I find it easy to believe that Neil Peart would probably have supported slavery, apartheid, and segragation? Good song if one can ignore the implication of the lyrics, though.

The last song is a nine minute instrumental and it's a lot of fun. Allegedly based on a series of nightmares that Eric Lifeson had, it rocks, jams, rolls, and switches to different moments at the drop of a hat. The integration of Powerhouse by Raymond Scott was great, and the band is playing in an almost fusion manner at times, with the keyboards again adding a lot of support but never taking the center role.

So there you have it. An album that is just as complex and bizarre as A Farewell to Kings, but which adds an element of cohesion and listenability that was entirely missing on that earlier album. It is their first truly great album. However, the waters of the music world were no longer friendly to prog rock. Punk and New Wave were the new things. Prog was old hat. Many bands had to change or die in this climate. ELP died. Gentle Giant died. Yes changed somewhat succesful, but barely survived. Genesis changed and flourished in the new environment commercially and (in my opinion) artistically, keeping their rate of success strong. Rush had to change. And even though I consider them to be a lesser band than the ones I just mentioned (except for maybe ELP), they not only weathered the change more succesfully, but actually still kept true to themselves artistically. And the fact that they did makes them such a fascinating band.

Report this review (#212427)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music, regarding every single aspect!

HEMISPHERES (the name of the second part of "Cygnus X-1", the opening track) is, in my opinion, the best RUSH album ever along with its predecessor A FAREWELL TO KINGS. This CD carries prog in its true nature from the initial tones to the very last soundwave that is to collash your ears. The opening track ("Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemespheres") is the sequel to "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage", and ties the story of worlddivision, ancient Greek gods and the protagonist, who is on a voyage to the core of a black hole in the Cygnus X-1 district, together by making excessively use of the sharp timing. A masterpiece at its own.

Apart from this track the album consists of 2 other songs and 1 instrumental, all very much worth the time spend on listening them. "The Trees" probably is a political statement about the 2 main countries (I wouldn't call Canada a nation) of North America, presented to us as one big metaphore, by Neil Peart.

A definite 5/5!!!

Report this review (#219828)
Posted Thursday, June 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rush smack brains and give the first essential Rush album.

Yes, this is essential Rush. The opening epics winds well, and every facet of the album seems to be a very slight increase over A Farewell To Kings.

With complex rhythm section and a fine musical attack, the opening epic is full of energy and musical thought. The crunching guitars laced with keyboard strokes and Pert's skillful and technical drumming are fine. It is a worthy addition to what was perhaps the best moment of the last disc.

But, Rush don't redefine their sound, nor do they obtain some magic new abilities. This is generally the same band, playing the same style of music as before, only more skillfully and with more thought put to the work. This leads one to feel an aura of stagnation. The opening epic easily falls to the blade of stagnation. Add this to the choppy and disjointed composition of it, and this becomes an awkwardly off-putting affair.

The song rocks furiously, though. And the multiple musical ideas present are fantastic when they let loose and the band culminates itself as a powerful force. Circumstances is probably the only real last monolith in their influences and roots sound. It loses the album's vigor, and lacks creativity. This is the first, and only real drop the album has, but it still rocks harder and more skillfully than any previous "filler" songs on Rush records. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, though. Which is my main criticism of Rush, in general. They rely too heavily on that "filler hard rock" style.

The Trees brings forth a moment of sheer lyrical talent, as Rush play one of the most restrained and meaningful tracks they've played in a long time. The musicianship is great, and the singing Geddy performs is better than ever. But, things are to get better. Rush go even farther in defining their boastful sound, and the writing continues to improve. The Trees has the most cohesive structure out of any non epic Rush song that I've heard.

The album closes with an instrumental. La Villa Strangiato. With all the meandering sections it holds, there are many fine moments present. I feel it goes on too long at certain points, and the keyboards are still not up to par with the other instruments utilized. But, the soft, restrained soloing from Alex is a markedly amazing performance. Finally, a Rush moment I can get emotionally attached to. This song definitely features Rush at their most mature and deft. This song, specifically about halfway in, is the strongest musical statement on the album, and possibly in Rush's career. Fantastic.

Rush go even farther as a cohesive musical unit, and produce a more adventurous and astounding album. The somewhat short running time could put off some people. It still suffers from a lack of skill in songwriting, but Rush rarely did better than the highest peaks of this album. Fantastic.

Best Moment - La Villa Strangiato, hands down.

Worst Moment - Circumstances, but nothing is terrible.

**** Stars

Report this review (#220057)
Posted Saturday, June 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hemispheres is probably Rush's most progressive work,due to it's structure and compositions as a whole.While there is a good share of excellent moments,the band's main issues are screaming out loud here at several passages.One of the most regrettable problems of this album is the sub-par and exagerated vocal performance of Geddy Lee,extremely high-pitched(much above the usual)and which ends up taking away some of the raw magic of the Lifeson/Peart heavy outfits.

The first composition is a progressive rock song by all means,a heavy and pompous one.Following the song by the same name in the previous album,this suite is focused on a silly story that is however made interesting by some very good lyrics.The driving percussion and usual heavyness of Alex Lifeson's Les Paul riffing lead the piece along it's movements,alternating between pure prog-metal parts and more melodic passages.All theses moments are however slightly spoiled by the aforementioned vocals of Lee,unecessarily dramatical at times and almost annoyingly treble.All in all,a very nice and insteresting song,flawed as it is.It's important to take notice that this piece may take some time in order to be appreciated,as one tends to judge it by it's clear issues at first.

The other side of the original LP features a weak(though enjoyable)rocker named Circumstances,a great,brief and heavy tune which tells the story of a conflict between Maples and Oaks(The Trees) and the album's main attraction and best moment,La Villa Strangiatto.The latter is a 10-minute instrumental suite which starts as a classical acoustic guitar workout and eventually evolves to a wilderness of heavy arrangements and thundering guitar/percussion duels,all crowned by Rush-fashioned consistent riffing.

This record ocassionaly suffers from an overdose of too-heavy arrangements,giving Hemispheres an exageratedly loud spectrum.Maybe this is just my opinion not being much of a Rush fan,but the truth is this was a frequent problem in their early years.Later on,the band would learn to master their on sound and produce more subtle and equlibrated albums such as the outstanding Moving Pictures,but here there was still too much of their dominant heavy spirit.

Despite being a somehow incomplete and rather flawed album,Hemispheres presents some very nice prog offerings,containing songs that, even though have been made dated by the passing of time,still manage to please in the overall picture,as long as one can listen to them as less skeptically as possible.

Report this review (#223788)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres is probably my second favorite Rush album. Or is it third? Anyway, Hemispheres is part two of the Cygnus X-1 duology. Let us continue from where we left off. A tense ending to the words of Neil Peart! Oh right, this isn't a book review site :O.

The first song of this album, which takes a full side, is called Cygnus X-1 Book II. Book I was in the previous album, A Farewell To Kings, so Rush could sell more albums. The track is full of energy, with furious guitar solos and unbelievably awesome drum-banging, yet, soft and mellow melodies by our beloved frontman Geddy Lee, and nice simple Ride-based drum beats. The second track on this album, Circumstances, is fairly short, single-length, to be honest. This song has a catchy riff, and a nice feel to the song, overall. The Trees is the real classic out of this album. The young ones know it through Rock Band, the old ones know it through friends, it really is a popular song! This song is based on a comic Neil Peart once read (irony), and really showcases Neil Peart's drumming skills. The final track on this album, La Villa Strangiato, is an acoustic guitar-based, 10 minute song. The band decided to put in some humor into this one, with all the jazzy influences and the ridiculous amount of sections, not to mention the names.

Hemispheres is ESSENTIAL, to any prog fan.

Report this review (#226704)
Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Hemispheres finds Rush right in the middle between sheer genius and overblown ambitions. The 18 minute title track contains plenty to drool over and it is their only 10 minute+ piece that really holds together as one song (opposed to 2112 and the Fountain which were just a song cycles). Still, not all sections flow equally strong. The music is amazing. The vocal melodies sometimes leg a bit behind.

For the first time on a Rush album, the shorter tracks are very accomplished as well. Circumstances and The Trees are very clever and intensive songs that would serve as a template for the tracks on the following albums.

La Villa Strangiato is simply beyond grasp. It's a display of musical freedom. It starts off very innocently with a pleasantly building intro, then there's the first guitar solo that is one of the best of the many exceptional guitar solo's that flourish almost every Rush album. After that it just starts dashing in all possible and impossible directions with 4 more minutes of surging riffs and deceptive time signatures till it ends very suddenly and abruptly.

Rush would take another approach after this album and start releasing more consistent albums but even so, we will be forever nostalgic to '77-'78, their short but dazzling prog moment. 4.5 stars

Report this review (#236644)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
2 stars On the Prog Hemisphere

This is Rush's second full-blown Prog Rock album, Alex's guitar has already changed of sound permanently, synths are included for a more Prog-alike sound, Geddy's vocals are softer in the high-pitch ''screams'', and Neil now is technically better, less of a massive and unstoppable drummer as he was in 2112.

So, this is definitely Rush's hey-day to proclaim themeselves as a Prog Rock band. Though, does that mean anything at all? Well on this site yes, but as far as my preference goes this album is not an album I would pick when I want to listen to Rush:

The 18 minute epic, the second part of Cygnus X-1, makes you hear all the introductory description I gave about how the band was now. Alex's guitar is less heavy and his riffs are pretty forgetabble, only pros would be his solos which still sound pretty great. The rest of the musicianship is top-notch, better than in 2112 and previous I got to state, yet the composition as a whole is rather repetitive and leads to nowhere, and just makes a good bunch of musicians throwing their great ability to the trash.

Circumstances and The Trees bring back the straight hard rock from their early days, however this is not the raw mid-70's hard rock they used to deliver, this is headed to a softer and cleaner hard rock where all the power and strength is aniquilated. Not enjoyable if you prefer the more loose hard rock with energy, however it's indeed in the like of those from Rush's later albums, so those who like that surely will get a better kick out of these.

La Villa Strangiato alongside YYZ are Rush's pinaccle on the musicianship side, incredibly tight instrumentation. Yet, again it's not the raw sound we're talking about here, already reading this review you'll notice that Rush sacrificed there heavier and rawer sound to ''become Prog 100%''. Definitely check this instrumental out, though not one I particularly like.

Hemispheres is no less than a PROG Rock record, yet it's just not the side I particularly enjoy from Rush, and well it's not that it's an excellent PROG Rock record either, A Farewell to Kings deserves that position.

2 stars. Prog, yes. Great Prog? Well, many seems to think that and I respect that, though don't include me in.

Report this review (#238351)
Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a stunning little piece of work this is! From the moment you start this up you're blasted to the other side of the galaxy - literally! This album really is brilliant, Rush were one of the greats of the 70's and they manage to show it in this album, and not just this album either, but several others. But it's this album we're concerned with: 5 stars, hands down. I'm not even gonna try and go into too much detail about the music on here, it's way way waaay too epic. But throughout the title track you're taken through blistering guitar solos, Geddy continues the story from the previous albums Cygnus X-1, there the usual excellence of Neil Peart on the drums; unstoppable throughout the song. They take this story, one if you'd told in words alone would be slightly interesting at the most, and make it a journey. Wonderful piece of music!

And then there's The Trees, with A Farewell To Kings sorta intro and terrific lyrics written by Peart, expressed by Geddy Lee. Circumstances spoils it very slightly with a very out of place sorta interlude in the middle, but we soon move swiftly onto La Villa, just the most extraordinary roller coaster of an instrumental that I have ever heard, with each band member showcasing their abilities on their respective instruments superbly.

A short review, but it's hard to describe the brilliance of this album in words. When you're lost for words like that, you know it's bloody good!

Cygnus X-1 Book II - 10/10 Circumstances - 8/10 The Trees - 10/10 La Villa Strangiato - 10/10

Report this review (#239128)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars True Rush album, but still in transition. May be it sounds a bit strange, but for me this album is still the evidence of their way to masterpieces as Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures,

Yes, there we have just four compositions, that formally confirms their music as prog-rock. But in fact I can hear here more mix between hard rock and prog. OK, this album is very important in sense of decision of the direction: Rush turned on to their classical heavy prog ( from hard rock of their earlier albums).

Music is true Rush, but still too heavy and in moments a bit simplistic. Whenever you have a big portions of heavy prog there, at the same time you have big portions of hard as well. In some places you just can feel how these pieces are connected between each other.

The best song for me is "La Villa Strangiato", more deep and melodically mature composition, one of their best instrumentals at all.

I think this album is very important for Rush discography and quite interesting for listening. But still not at the level of their best works. Strong 4.

Report this review (#241250)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Largely considered to be Rush's proggiest effort, "Hemispheres" features an 18 minute epic and a wonderful 9 minute instrumental. "Cygnus X-1 Book II" has a few minor flaws. It is far more repetitive for 18 minutes than most would expect of a prog song. It's broken into 6 movements although the first three movements are pretty much the same except for the lyrics and the fourth doesn't change too much. Some could call this repetition and from a purely objective standpoint I feel that I should probably lean towards that school of thought, but the song is catchy and musically interesting enough that I'll call it good cohesion throughout the song. "Circumstances" is a short straight-forward rock piece. While this may not be a pure prog effort, it still contains excellent musicianship from the trio. "The Tress" is a mellow piece about generic opposition between the Oaks and Maples. The maples are not allowed any light because the oaks are too big and block out the sun. The solution worked out in the end is that all trees have to be kept equal "by hammer, axe and saw." Finally is the crowning jewel of the album, the nine and a half minute instrumental which boosts the above-average album to a great album. "La Villa Strangiato" tells the story of a bizarre dream (bordering on nightmare at some times based on the tone) that explores a wide variety of emotions. All musicians are on the top of their game here. The meticulously crafted song packs as much music as possible into this time frame; there is not a single superfluous note here. I feel that almost all Rush songs can be overplayed after a fairly small amount of listens, but "La Villa Strangiato" is complex while still being accessible with plenty to keep you busy. This makes it have a much higher replay value than most others. While this is probably my favorite Rush album, I must admit it doesn't really progress enough. If you really want to get a feel for what this album will be like before listening, combine A Farewell to Kings, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures. Hemispheres is a good starting point if you're looking to get into Rush or even prog in general. If you like Rush and somehow don't have this album yet then I strongly encourage you to get it. And if you are looking for a pleasant-sounding album that rocks pretty hard and isn't too "out there" I recommend this. 4.28 stars.
Report this review (#242284)
Posted Thursday, October 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
3 stars Hemispheres, Rush's 1978 release, is seen by many as the best album Rush has ever made. It is a very ambitious album I must say, with an 18 minute sequel to "Cygnus X-1", from the previous album A Farewell To Kings. The album is more synth driven than the previous album was. This synth sound would eventually get much more important for Rush's unique sound. I have to say I am not very fond of this album at all. Most of the music on this album actually is good, but compared to the other albums Rush released in this part of their carreer this one is kind of dissapointing.

The main reason for this album being somewhat dissapointing is the first half of the album. The 18 minute long "Cygnus X-1 Book II" is the sequel to "Cygnus X-1" and Rush did make this sequel because people expected them to do so. The result is a repetative song, that sounds forced. The riffs of the song are pretty good, though not Rush's best. It's a shame that they last way to long, to eventually become boring. The second half is better, though the first song here, "Circumstances", isn't a killer either. The remaining songs, "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato" are some of the best songs in Rush's catalogue though, The first being a great song, which is in the typical Rush style; powerful, somewhat straight forward and full of great musicianship. "La Villa Strangiato" is a lengthy instrumental, featuring some truely memorable music, though not being perfect.

This album has two sides. One of them is pretty uninteresting, being forced, repetative and eventually becoming boring. The other is very good, featuring some of the best and most memorable material Rush has ever written. Because of this I will rate the album three stars, which is what I think it deserves.

Report this review (#245234)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I bring love to give you light, in the darkness of the night.

Hemispheres is a bit of a crossroad for Rush. The second book of Cygnus had been written. It was great, but was it as great as the first one? Maybe not. It's a bit over the top to be honest, but it's still a great piece of music, and if we didn't have that great first Cygnus book to compare it to, we would probably see it in a different light. The album still offers very much. I love "Trees" and "La villa strangiato" but somehow feel the last one, "Circumstances" to be a bit fill, and it's here where Hemispheres loses it's fifth star. Farewell to Kings didn't have a single bad track on it, which Hemispheres seems to have, and even the epic can't rescue it because it's not as good as its prequel.

By no means a bad or only a mediocre album. A great rocker by Rush, just not a masterpiece as the other ones by them. 4 Stars.

Report this review (#246271)
Posted Sunday, October 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The magnum opus of Rush and perhaps my favorite album of all times.

Like most albums you truly treasure, Hemispheres was first introduced to me when I was young by my dad who is as close to a Rush fan-boy you can get without actually being Canadian and hitting people in the mouth on skates(I'm sorry, Canada, that was cheap).

Most of the records that I've listened to since I was a kid are nowadays kept in their dusty corners, cherished but used up. Hemispheres on the other hand has survived all through my life, shifting only in how I view the album, its messages and its music.

At first this was all about the melody for me. I remember being six years old and my daddy playing the opening track on the highest volume possible on his insane stereo-set(this story is also in direct correlation with my present day tinnitus) loving the almost video game like melodies represented within. Then I got older and learned English, only to find that the record I had loved all my life had words of wisdom and meaning within it. As I got even older and started studying philosophy and ideologies it became even better when I for the first time began to comprehend the entire scope of its stories.

Later on I began studying music and again; revelation! I had always known that Rush were supposed to be a band of high musical standards and its hard missing the fact that Niel Peart is highly thought of as a drummer, and again the record grew.

I think that this is the prime example of what makes a classic and what truly constitutes for a five star rating. It gets better as time passes and represents not one but all aspects of what a great album should be about; melody, song structure, production, musicianship, soul, lyricism and perhaps most importantly a sense of "wholeness". Each of these aspects are present here and done so in a virtuoso manner.

For me it never gets better than this. Now or twenty years ago, it makes no difference; Hemispheres is a timeless classic.

Masterpiece! 5/5

Report this review (#251866)
Posted Friday, November 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rush were one of the few bands who could write a prog-rock epic and get away with it in 1978 amidst the the onslaught of th evil forces of punk rock and disco, forging ahead as if neither even ever occurred. Applying their unique formula of superior musical prowess in combination with well read, thoughtful lyrics, Hemispheres is arguably the Canadian power trio's finest hour of their illustrious career. Thematically they began to veer away from Hawkwind-like sci-fi dabblings towards more mythical/philosophical regions. Lyricist/drummer Neil Peart also began to become more spiritual in his writing, displaying more human attributes which forshadowed future Rush projects. Not only did his compelling lyrics contain more depth, the band's musical lskills were also steadily coming to a focal point, becoming more diverse and refined than previous forays into the realms of prog-rock. This was achieved in part by the band's masterful employment of advances in recording and musical gear technology which was advancing at an exponential rate towards the end of the '70s which would usher in the digital age.

Right from the opening chords of the grandiose prelude to the main suite Cygnus X-1 Book II ( a continuation of sorts from Cygnus X-1 from the previous A Farewell To Kings album ) the listener becomes acutely aware that something collossal is about to transpire. Based loosely on Frederick Nietzsche's Book Of Tragedy, Cygnus X-1 Book II explores the complexities and differences between the right and left hemispheres of the human brain which is exemplified by the alluring cover art. Lricist Peart uses the abstract metaphor of two greek Gods, Dyonisus and Appollo, symbolizing the right and left brain hemispheres respectively, dueling for the fate of man. Various musical devices, such as insane chord and time signature changes, arpeggiated guitar runs and modal shifts suggest various moods and atmospheres which occur as the battle rages. A moderator appears in the form of Cygnus who materializes as the not-so-subliminal Cygnus X-1 main theme from A Farewell To Kings is re-visited . The mystical Cygnus rationalizes the two opposing factions and balance is achieved with the world being divided equally into two equal philosophical modus operandis and a new chapter in creation is written. Or something like that. I sometimes think that this would have made a great Star Trek episode with Captain Kirk taking the place of Cygnus. Live performances of this piece back in the seventies were simply mesmerizing.

The second side of the LP offers some respite from the intensity of side one ( although some effect of this is lost in the CD format ) and is introduced by a harder rocking reflective, soul searching autobiographical piece penned by Neil Peart. Circumstances contrasts somewhat with the rest of the work and is more representative of earlier Rush compositions heard on earlier albums such as Caress Of Steel or Fly By Night and this is perhaps why it is appropriately inserted in the middle of the album. Geddy Lee's vocals become somewhat annoying at times which shouldn't bother hard core fans of the band. Barely played in concert for a number of years , for some reason it resurfaced on the first set of the recent Snakes And Arrows tour so it must hold some special signifigance for the band. It also appears as a B side on the 1980 Spirit Of Radio single.

The album concludes with two of the band's undisputed favourites which also offer contrast. The Trees, which lyricist Peart claims is nothing more than a poetic vignette of a bunch of trees fighting like children in a comic strip he once saw, it has been most commonly metaphorically interpreted by fans as a microcosm of oppression and inequality among human beings. A very dynamic piece it features a classically inspired nylon string guitar intro with a sublime middle section building into a sharp crescendo for the grand finale. The closing blowout, La Villa Strangiato, a firebreathing 12 part instrumental monster, incorporates some of it's musical ideas from jazz composer and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott's standard " Powerhouse " used in Warner Bros. cartoons in the 40s and 50s and was the subject of a lawsuit which went in favour of the band. The title itself takes it's name from a real castle in Italy which was once the home of an Italian aristocrat. Certainly one of the most bizarre rock instrumentals since Focus' off the wall Hocus Pocus from 1971.

A Prog-rock magus opus that appeared in the most dangerous of times when most "dinosaur" bands had gone along with the trends of the day or just faded into oblivion, Hemispheres made it into the North American top 100 charts peaking at #47. It also marked a pivotal point in ther career as Rush's music became more streamined and their lyrics increasingly more concerned with human issues. Although it suffers from minor flaws such as Geddy Lee's vocal hysterics these can be overlooked when it's moments of sheer brilliance are considered. Even at the short running time of 38 minutes much is to be gleaned from subsequent listens from this 1978 jewel from Rush. So put the cat out and play this baby LOUD!

Report this review (#251894)
Posted Friday, November 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Without doubt, the best album of Rush ... I think until the result was a nice rest after the start of trials in the "2112" and "A Farewell to Kings" ...

The opening is a surprise, because it brings a continuation of a great classic of the previous album: it is, no one denies that "Cygnus X-1" continues to visit other worlds and bringing new flavors sound. The level of assemblies with synthesizers and other paraphernalia, part 2 of Cygnus was much simpler, but kept the same themes and objectivity in the rich history and mysticism in the lyrics of Peart.

"Circumstances" is a ballad very interesting and in some ways recalls the hard-rock formula that gave pretty sure the first disc of Rush ...

"The Trees", in my opinion, is the best track on the album and one of the top 10 of Rush. Built in concrete, with a lovely guitar input, as some guitars, lyrics of ecological awareness, a synthesizer solo that makes you think being in the Amazon and one cohesive end.

And finally, we have "La Villa Strangiato" , the most complex of the disc. It is very good, but I honestly do not know which is the main goal of this song, do not know if it's lack of a better interpretation or something, but can not be a candidate's favorite song!

4 stars. Cohesive, technically, a translation of which is the Rush. But like all good record, always has some drawbacks.

Report this review (#265734)
Posted Friday, February 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After three albums that featured signs of development towards progressive rock Rush finally went all in and carved their most complex album yet! Widely considered to be their most progressive release, a statement I support completely, Hemispheres was also the most consistent band effort from the trio. Just when Rush managed to score their biggest hit with Closer To The Heart the band must have left the mainstream audience feeling cold after hearing this album, which might explain the indifferent reviews that this album has received from a wide array of critics. Let's talk about the music!

I think that it was a smart idea adding the tag Book II to Cygnus X-1 Book II since, besides one riff rehash and the sampled section there isn't really much of a connection between the two compositions. Lyrics are much more coherent and the ending brings the two pieces to a completely unexpected closure that is well worth experiencing. As a composition this one still doesn't hit the spot as much as 2112, due to a rather slow progression, but it's a definite improvement over the performance that we've heard on A Farewell To Kings! Unlike the previous two albums where the second side didn't hold a candle to the excellent first side, Hemispheres actually gets even better towards the album's end.

Circumstances might not be the best rocker that we've heard from the band but it has grown significantly over the years, which might explain why Rush still performs this track during their concerts. The Trees is easily my favorite 5 minutes featured on this album. What we get here are smart lyrics mixed into a masterfully technical rocker. Plus there is an acoustic middle section, leading up to the guitar solo, that sounds like as if it was lifted straight out of a classic Genesis tune! Surprisingly enough I've never been much of a La Villa Strangiato-fan. I can sympathies with everyone who considers it to be a solid instrumental piece but there's just nothing more to this performance. Yes, it's a great highlight in a live setting but that's probably why this studio version leaves me cold.

Unlike the previous releases that had a few majestic highlights that kept those releases afloat Hemispheres is a very consistent record from start to finish that might not have as many magnificent moments. Nonetheless, it's an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

***** star songs: The Trees (4:42)

**** star songs: Cygnus X-1 Book II (18:04) Circumstances (3:40) La Villa Strangiato (10:34)

Report this review (#279785)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Rush's finest hour! Well, their finest 37 minutes to be exact, but who's counting?

Was there ever a longer year than the one from 1977 to 1978? A year I spent in eager anticipation of the conclusion to Cygnus X-1. For all I knew, this Canadian trio would make me wait more than 1 album before finally concluding the saga. (Yes, I led a very sheltered life I'm afraid!)

Anyway, Hemispheres did not disappoint me in any way, shape or form. It spun Part One's sci- fi tale in a direction I never anticipated, transforming it into a fable of cosmic proportions!

Another rock fable "The Trees" was the shorter (translated 'radio-friendly') AOR *hit* song from this album along with the beloved instrumental romp "La Villa Strangiato".

But it is Cygnus X-1's "Book II" that reached a height of stylistically diverse, yet still guitar dominated progrock achievement from which Lifeson himself would later retreat. It is almost as if he asked himself "How can I possibly top this?" Later albums would reveal a gradual increase in passion for timbral texture accompanied by a subtle subordination of lead lines and melodies.

Musically, each song is a gem. "Hemispheres" makes a convincing case for the potency that can be achieved by releasing only the most compelling material on a new album. Had this album been released today, I'm afraid the band would have felt compelled to provide 60+ minutes of music. I have little doubt that 23 of filler would dilute this album's impact.

Report this review (#280719)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2010 | Review Permalink

I don't care what anyone says, this is my all time favoruite Rush album and one of my all time favourite albums.

My brother was actually arguing with me, this morning, saying that he found this album to be weak, and I nearly broke my pacifism pledge and just smack him with any thing I could find.

This song has it all really, the best epic they ever made, the 2 best Rush album tracks and their best instrumental (YYZ is nothing compared to La Villa Strangiato.

This was also the last Rush album to be released in the 70's and the slow electronic and pop disease started to take over them, but what a way to go.

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres - Their best epic. This song is amazing in every way, the amazing lyrics based on Greek mythology, along with Neal Peart's amazing imagination. This song, which is mainly based around E, really does take you on an amazing journey. In my opinion, the prologue of this song is better than the Overture on 2112.I love how the Mind & Heart sections have the same occuring themes & similar structure in order to give a sense of balance (the main topic of this song). After a very confusing battle and a nice ambient section in Cygnus, the end follows off with an amazing folk like chord section and some great vocals from Geddy. The pefect way to end the most perfect epic ever made.

2. Circumstances - The more upbeat song of the album. Love the chorus, and the French which give it a French-Canadian added culture. Amazing instrumental section with some great moog playing from Geddy. Amazing vocal performance from Geddy.

3. The Trees - This song always lyrically reminds me of Lord Of The Rings (Ents). The lyrics of this song are very fable and quite Grim Fairytale like. The instrumental sections are amazing and really show what a band Rush are. Amazing song.

4. La Villa Strangiato - Rush's best instrumental. Very lyrical and the occurring themes make the song alo more enjoyable. Flawless.

CONCLUSION: Their best album. That's all I need to say.

Report this review (#282062)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars THE prog masterpiece of 1978; Rush present the most stunning music on the planet

"Hemispheres" is a classic album from Rush that featured one huge epic track on side 1 of the vinyl and 3 fantastic shorter tracks on side 2. The album is primarily celebrated for the awesome instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato', which may be the best instrumental ever. Both this track and 'The Trees' were featured on "Rush: Gold" a compilation I purchased to taste what this band everyone is talking about actually sounds like. Of course, I ended up getting the entire Rush catalogue, but these two tracks intrigued me enough on first listen to warrant grabbing this album eventually, one of the last Rush purchases in fact for me. I was unaware of how extraordinary the other 2 tracks were so this sealed the deal for me; this album is an astonishing masterpiece.

It starts with the 18 minute multi movement suite 'Cygnus X-1 Book II the sequel to the track on "A Farewell to Kings". I enjoyed the first part to this, with it's spacey resonance and conceptual framework so I hoped this second part would justify its existence. I was not disappointed. It begins with the crunching chords and odd time sig of Lifeson and Peart. Lee's vocals soon enter the fray and the song sets sail for one of the best epics I have heard. Rush know how to structure an epic, '2112' is a prime example, but this epic has an incredible melody, crystalline vocals and very tight musicianship throughout. The lyrics of 'Prelude' are fantastic; "when our weary world was young, the struggle of the Ancients first began, The gods of love and reason, Sought alone to rule the fate of man."

There is a break at 4:30 to herald the next section 'Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom'. Lee's voice is strong as he belts out the new melody, "I bring truth and understanding, I bring wit and wisdom fair, Precious gifts beyond compare, We can build a world of wonder, I can make you all aware, I will find you food and shelter, Show you fire to keep you warm, Through the endless winter storm, You can live in grace and comfort, In the world that you transform." The track has a strong melody that always gives me the chills. When the chorus builds up to a crescendo another melody begins that is perhaps the best section on the entire epic. Lee has an amazing voice and his high vocals are incomparable as he sings with passion and conviction, "The people were delighted, Coming forth to claim their prize, They ran to build their cities, And converse among the wise, But one day the streets fell silent, Yet they knew not what was wrong, The urge to build these fine things, Seemed not to be so strong, The wise men were consulted, And the Bridge of Death was crossed." The thematic content is all based of course on the Greek god mythology and each god addresses what they can bring to the protagonist who searches for meaning. At 6:50 'Dionysus Bringer of Love' begins, the same melody as previous though more subdued with some beautiful guitar picking. It builds to the riff and Lee returns to the chorus section; "the cities were abandoned, and the forests echoed song, They danced and lived as brothers, They knew love could not be wrong, Food and wine they had aplenty, And they slept beneath the stars...".

'Armageddon The Battle of Heart and Mind' section 4 begins at 9:08; a new time sig change entirely, though the same chords are heard. The awesome lead break is a real feature that is phased out and spacey. On this new ascending and descending riff Lee's vocals are more aggressive with a delay effect, "The universe divided, As the heart and mind collided, With the people left unguided, For so many troubled years, In a cloud of doubts and fears, Their world was torn asunder into hollow Hemispheres." The poetic pentameter works perfectly and there is a powerful effect on the sense as we are treated to one riff after another.

At 12:08 the music settles and there is an ethereal ambience when the keyboard pads begin, and the next section is titled 'Cygnus, Bringer of Balance'. It is reminiscent of the spaceyness of the prequel to this track. The atmosphere is definitely one of melancholy tranquillity but the lyrics are unsettling in this section speaking of "a disembodied spirit, I am dead and yet unborn..." It builds and Lee's voice becomes higher and more forceful on; "Then all at once the chaos ceased, A stillness fell, a sudden peace, The warriors felt my silent cry, And stayed their struggle, mystified." This is followed by some divine passages of guitar and then a very soft, gentle calmness is created with minimalist guitar, effectively massaging the senses after the onslaught of power riffing.

At 16:54 the new section begins, a much more moderate Lee with acoustic guitar and sustained keyboard pads. The lyrics are reflective on the chaos that has gone on before on The Sphere: A Kind Of Dream; "We can walk our road together, If our goals are all the same, We can run alone and free, If we pursue a different aim, Let the truth of love be lighted, Let the love of truth shine clear, Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty, With the heart and mind united in a single Perfect Sphere." The ending is abrupt and tends to leave the track up in the air, though there was no sequel to this. I think this track is a bonafide masterpiece.

'Circumstances' has a great chorus with a strong melody and very high vocals; "all the same we take our chances, Laughed at by time, tricked by circumstances, Plus ca change, Plus c'est la meme chose, The more that things change, The more they stay the same..." The chord progression is heavy and the time sig is unusual at times. This track really kicks hard and the live performances I have heard or seen lift the crowd every time. It is genuinely uplifting music with a simplified straight forward power riff. The lead break seems to blend in rather than become a showcase for Lifeson. Another excellent track due to the memorable melody and killer riffs.

I was never a fan of 'The Trees' on the compilation that was sandwiched between two classic tracks, but it tends to work better on this album as it allows breathing space between the hard rocking content of the other tracks. The trees could be an anthem for Greenpeace or other conservationist groups as it really hammers the message about saving the trees from their point of view, if you don't mind. The lyrics are very strange; "So the maples formed a union, And demanded equal rights, 'The oaks are just too greedy, We will make them give us light', Now there's no more oak oppression, For they passed a noble law, And the trees are all kept equal, By hatchet, axe and saw." It may be an allegory for civil war but more likely this is a message from rush to look after the planet, a similar stance to the music of Yes in this regard. The track begins slowly with a sad atmosphere and it eventually builds to a dynamic instrumental break, with innovative riffing and time sigs. The melody is once again endearing and grows on you on each listen. This is the weakest track on the album but is not enough to detract it as it still has some great moments on it. The film clip on the latest Rush DVD is very good too by the way featuring a humorous look at trees versus man; ironic and wonderful.

The last track is the incredible instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' that begins with Spanish flavoured acoustic and then a synthesizer booms in and soon it locks into the fabulous 5 chord synth riff that every Rush fan knows. I saw this on the "Live in Rio" and every one in the crowd was roaring the tune out as the band played in perfect sync. The instrumental is a definitive masterpiece with so much to recommend it. The bassline is wonderful that keeps up with the loud guitar of Lifeson. His lead motifs on this are well executed and stay in the memory long after the music is over. Rather than a filler, this instrumental becomes the highlight of the album and this is unusual. The violining that is heard is dreamy and haunting, and then an absolutely soaring lead solo follows, one of Lifeson's best. He rips it out with fret melting elegance, and then an enchanting riff locks in while a two chord synth progression is layered underneath. The time sig then changes with a passage of lead and then bass solos. There are fantastic drum fills in this too with a lot of jazzy cymbal work. The time sig returns to the original though it is fractured as Lifeson blasts out another brilliant lead solo. Then a back breaking chord structure is crunched out, the bassline is divine here, and it settles into a slow paced bluesy metrical pattern. The main lead motif returns and then the intro section is reprised with the same finesses as heard earlier. After 9 and a half minutes it draws to a close. What an amazing piece of music; stunning virtuoso excellence.

How does one conclude after hearing 4 incredible tracks. This is a masterpiece of prog. Perhaps the best prog album of 1978. In a year when punk had already reared its ugly head and dance-oriented disco was soon to take over and systematically kill all things progressive for a season, Rush produced this music, despite what everybody else was doing. They refused to sell out to mainstream commercialism in the late 70s, and in fact their music was more progressive than ever on this release. You have to give them credit for that and you have to identify a masterpiece when you hear it, and this is it.

Report this review (#283933)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was first introduced to Rush a few years ago by my uncle, who played La Villa Strangiato to me. Ever since that I've been mad about Rush. It simply is the greatest band of all time. After hearing La Villa, I bought Hemispheres (besides being my first Rush album, it was also my first prog album). Since that I've bought about half of Rush's other albums, but Hemispheres still holds an important place in my mind. Well, let's put the history lesson aside and carry on with the real review

The album is arguably one of the best Rush album, and one of the best albums of all time. It was released in 1978 and was the 4th consecutive Rush album to sell gold (and eventually platinum in US). The album is pretty short, lasting only 36 minutes, but still includes such Rush classics as The Trees and La Villa Strangiato. It is considered to be a sequel to Rush's earlier album A Farewell To Kings because AFTK ended with Cygnus X-1: Book I and Hemispheres opening track is Cygnus X-1: Book II. The album is a traditional Rush album containing complex rhytms, time signature changes and awesome guitar solos by Lerxst (For those who don't know what that means; Lerxst is one of Alex Lifesons many nicknames used by his fellow bandmembers). The album in my opinion has also one of the greatest covers ever, with Apollo and Dionysus standing on opposite sides of a human brain depicting the way how human brains work (I will later explain this in more detail). Now to start reviewing the songs:

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres (18:05)

Cygnus X-1 Book II is an excellent prog epic and it has everything you would expect from Rush. This song is often overshadowed by other Rush epics like 2112. The song is much calmer than Cygnus X-1 Book I, and has also abandoned most of the scifi elements and has replased them with fantasy elements such as the Greek mythology. To me this song has one of the best lyrics Peart has ever written. They seem very poetic and delve into Greek mythology in a very interesting way. The song centers around the concept of the Apollos and Dionysus dichotomy, which can be further explained to mean the difference between the thinking of human brains left part and right part, that concept is also where the albums title comes from.

The song starts with 'Prelude', which builds up for about 3 minutes before Geddy joins Pearts and Lifesons playing by singing about the battle between Apollo and Dionysus. The section ends with a short pause before 'Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom' starts. Now Geddy starts singing as Apollo and explain what he can offer to the people of Olympus: "I bring truth and understanding, I bring wit, and wisdom fair -" The people accept Apollos offering, but one day they realize that wisdom and truth aren't enough so they go on a mission to find Dionysus. The quest to find him is depicted by a fiery guitar solo by Lifeson. The 3rd part 'Dionysus: Bringer of Love' starts with the same melody as the previous section, this time Dionysus explaining what he can offer that Apollo can't:: "I bring love to give you solace, In the darkness of the night, In the heart's eternal light, You need only trust your feelings, Only love can steer you right." The people abandon Apollos ways and start following Dionysus and move to the forests. As time passes they realize that this too isn't a good way to live. The music settles down for the next part 'Armageddon: The Battle of Heart and Mind'. There is once again a short solo by Lifeson, after that Geddy starts explaining what happens when people get divided on Apollos and Dionysus's side: "The universe divided, As the heart and mind collided, With the people left unguided, For so many troubled years, In a cloud of doubts and fears, Their world was torn asunder, Into hollow Hemispheres." The section ends with Rocinante the protagonist from the 1st part of the song arrives into Olympus through the Cygnus X-1 black hole as a disembodied spirit. Once again the song settles down, but this time much more. 'Cygnus, Bringer of Balance' begins with Geddy singing as Rocinante when he gets the gods and humans to stop fighting. The gods name Rocinante, Cygnus, god of balance: "They sat a while in silence, Then they turned at last to me, We will call you Cygnus, The God of balance you shall be." About half of this sections music consist only of very simple synth sounds. The other half is more upbeat and includes drums, guitar and bass. The last part 'The Sphere: A Kind Of Dream' begins at about 17 minutes and sets a very peaceful mood with only acoustic guitar backing up the vocals. The part explains how we should learn to live as one: "Let the truth of love be lighted, Let the love of truth shine clear, Sensibility, Armed with sense and liberty, With the heart and mind united, In a single perfect sphere." This could be interpreted in a way that we have to find balance and learn to use both parts of our brains correctly. After those lyrics the song slowly fades away, leaving you with a very calm sensation. All and all one of the best prog epics.

2. Circumstances (3:41)

After the previous song this one is a good way to continue the album, it's much more easier to listen to. It's more of a basic hard rock song with power chords and such. The song tells the story of the time Peart spent living in England. The part where Geddy sings in French is just perfect: "All the same, we take our chances, Laughed at by time, Tricked by Circumstances, Plus ca change, Plus c'est la meme chose, The more that thing change, The more they stay the same." The keyboard part at the middle also fits the song well because when it starts you realize that you're still listening to Rush. I think this song is very underrated and that it belongs in to the top 10 Rush songs of all time.

3. The Trees (4:46)

I've only understood the greatness of this song recently. It begins with a very moody acoustic guitar intro which suddenly changes when the drums join in. The tempo rises and the song truly begins. The song tells about maples arguing with oaks because they think that the oaks are taking up all the sunlight. Peart has stated in an interview that the song actually doesn't have any deeper meaning as fans have always thought, the idea was just picked from a comic which depicted trees fighting like people.

4. La Villa Strangiato (9:35)

The last track is an excellent intrumental and currently I think it's the best song by Rush. The song vas inspired by a dream Lifeson had, and every section of the song matches the events that occured in the dream. Often the live versions of the song alter from the original version, especially the Rush In Rio version. Originally the band tried to record the song all in one take, but after countless tries it proved too difficult and they did it in three parts. Alsothis song was the reason why the band decided to stop making epic length songs. According to Lee, the recording of La Villa took more than time than the entire Fly By Night album. Now to move to the actual song. It starts of with a very Spanish sounding guitar. Soon the synthesizers join in, later accompanied by the drums. At about 2 minutes the song builds up to it's full potential and the riff that every Rush fan should know, kicks in. The bassline is also just perfect, it's pretty quiet but without it the song just wouldn't feel complete. About halfway to the song everything slows down and Lifesons guitar solo starts quietly in the background and as the solo continues the volume slowly rises with it. This may be one of Lifesons best solos with some perfect shredding. If you listen to it carefully enough you can imagine him playing the song and putting his heart and soul into it. Just perfect, always sends chills down my spine. When you watch this live and see the expressions on his face. it feels even more awesome. As the song continues there is a short bass solo and some time signature changes. Then there is another solo by Alex, which to me sounded best in the Rush In Rio dvd. Although I haven't mentioned it, Pearts drumming has been superb all through the song with some truly outstanding fills. When the song is over you're left stunned, how can anyone make a song like this, it's just pure gold. Usually when I listen to Hemispheres I repeat atleast once. The song is the pinnacle of musical skills. Maybe I should stop praising this song, cause theres no point in it because I can never do it justice, just listen to it yourself

5/5 stars!

Report this review (#288168)
Posted Friday, June 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
5 stars If you want a good Rush album, Hemispheres is a good choice. Blasting forth with the second Cygnus X-1 track, which is a spectacular song, the album sets out on a great foot.

Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres starts out with a nice melody. As the song progresses, the great melodies and part changes don't stop. The mythological allusions are great, as are most of Peart's lyrics. Despite its long length, it flows beautifully and it flies by quite quickly, so don't be discouraged by the fact that it is eighteen minutes long.

Circumstances institutes that great essence of Rush that is progressive yet is so damn catchy. With great lyrics and great melodies and rhythms, this song is a wonderful track; I can see why it was chosen as a single.

The Trees is a great sing not only because of its nice acoustic intro, but also because of those lyrics. Detailing how Canada (the maples) feels that America (the oaks) feels diminished by America's fame and prowess, it presents and very poignant problem, and how we should and shouldn't address it.

La Villa Strangiato is such a spectacular song. Being a drummer myself, I am always awed by Neil Peart's drum work. With this song, I cannot stop whatever I'm doing when listening and wonder at Rush's great musicianship, all of them! With mystic solos by Alex, blistering and complex riffs from Neil and spectacular bass lines, this instrumental is definitely a showcase of the bands great musical talent.

Report this review (#289790)
Posted Friday, July 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A GOOD album, and none too soon. A Farewell to Kings could have easily indicated that Rush had run out of gas and were about to fade into oblivion, but fortunately that wasn't the case. Starting with this album (and fan favorite, in my observation), the band was able to launch itself into a period of, if not necessarily greatness, then solid competency.

The fact that I enjoy this album so much is made all the more remarkable by the fact that, lyrically, I consider this album bad even by Rush standards. Of the three songs with lyrics (the fourth, the closing "La Villa Strangiato," is instrumental), one ("Circumstances") is unremarkable for good or bad, but the tracks which bookend it strike me as totally ridiculous. The opening side-long "Hemispheres (Cygnus X-1: Book II)" tackles the age-old concept of the heart-mind dichotomy, but the problem is not the subject matter; rather it's that Peart decides to frame the argument around what I can only describe as a Greek mythology fan fiction. The lyrics make me cringe every time I hear them, and given that the track lasts over 18 minutes, there's a lot of them to make me grit my teeth. The other offending track is "The Trees," where Peart writes a straight-forward parable deriding the concept of labor unions. The lyrics are off the charts on the unintentional comedy scale, to say the least.

When I ignore (and I don't mean tolerate or just allow to blend into the background, I mean IGNORE) the lyrics, though, this album turns out to be really great. Musically, the title track is EASILY my favorite of the band's three side-long epics, and strikes me as one of the neatest things the band ever did. The first ten minutes are built around a growling bass- driven riff, which regularly alternates with a beautiful, ambient-esque guitar line from Lifeson, and they interact amazingly. One thing that really impresses me is that those ten minutes do a good job of slowly, continually building up tension, while also continually releasing that tension, but at a slower rate than the build up; the result is that, by the end of those ten minutes, there's an overwhelming amount of net tension, and I have to respect any piece that can pull that off.

The best part of the track, though, and the chunk that drives me crazy with glee every time I hear it, is around the 12-minute mark or so. It's that quiet, robotic-sounding (drenched in atmospheric synths) part with the "I see the gods in battle rage on high" lyrics. The idea at this point in the song is to portray Cygnus' entry into the palace on Olympus, and they did it they did it they did it so well!!! That part is so majestically eerie that I can't help but tip my hat to the talent the guys so obviously posessed. Too bad they couldn't show it all of the time ...

The track ends with a rather throwaway acoustic snippet, which was obviously intended to be a "heart-warming" coda, but which seems a bit tacked on to me. Still, it hardly mars the effect of the whole track, which is quite magnificent. The second side, then, can't possibly hope to live up to the first, but it does a decent job anyway. "Circumstances" is a decent riff- rocker; it never quite moves beyond the main riff, and seems to me to somewhat overstay its welcome, but I'm fine it. As for "The Trees," well, my opinion of it is pretty much the exact opposite of what it used to be: I used to think the lyrics were ok, while the music was lacking. Now, though, I basically hate the lyrics, but I think the melody (which starts off acoustic-based) is quite nice, and even the mid-song instrumental break, even if it's too overlong for my tastes, is quite cool.

The most famous track from this album, then, is the closer. "La Villa Strangiato" is a 14-part instrumental (supposedly) based around a strange dream that Lifeson had one night (I am SO GLAD Peart didn't try to write lyrics for this). The music is good, especially for how it gives Alex a chance to display his diverse skill set. I don't find it an immortal classic, and it doesn't seem as energetic on the whole as it does when I play it in my head, but most of the individual sections are quite interesting. The "monsters" riff, and the parts where the riffs seemingly use the quiet synth parts as a launching pad, are my favorite parts, but it's all quite decent. I still prefer the Exit ... Stage Left version, though.

This is a fine, fine album. I am not a Rush fan by any means, and the lyrics cause me to be much harsher to it than I'd like to based on the music itself, but I cannot deny the high quality of the album. No Rush fan should be without it. It's kinda short, but there's a good remedy for that; play it twice.

Report this review (#291293)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are many reasons to consider Hemispheres as the best album coming from Rush and a five star grading deserver as well. From that very fresh beginning when I started hearing music, Rush was a kind of preferred band dueling strongly with Pink Floyd. But, strangely, Hemispheres is not my preferred one; this belongs to Grace Under Pressure; but this is another way of discussion?

I do believe we must put clearly the reasons why an album deserves five stars; these must be strong in order to direct this grading for those truly fantastic works. Let´s see why this is the case of Hemispheres :

1 ? The epic "Hemispheres" is one of the most well integrated epics I have ever heard. Sometimes, epics just seem to be a bunch of songs too different to be an epic or too similar to last for the normal long time of an epic. These two problems were clearly avoided by Lee&Lifeson. Each part of it has concise connections and integrations; a very defined melodic theme repeats itself in the right moment and for the right times. Variations between each part are sufficient to prevent our desire of having the song shortened; and on the other hand they are close enough to be part of a cohesive whole.

2 ? Mr. Peart´s lyrics are over average as always. It matches a more than 18 minutes song which does not rely in long instrumental parts. There is no strong epic without strong lyrics ! If it is hard for you to write them, so go to instrumental song.

3 ? Side two completes side one giving us a very delightful diversity. The Trees is enchanting and has a very decent chorus; and so does Circunstances, though in a slightly lower level. To complete the party, there comes La Villa Strangiato, which in my opinion is the best instrumental piece recorded by Rush. This is where we can see all three guys shining as bright as in no other moment in their guitars, drums and basses.

With Hemispheres, Rush achieved maturity as a band. They were no more just a promise of a band, they showed a lot of evolution on each album after another until reaching their masterpiece. And they would go now to changes, many other good works were yet to come, prior to a long decline. But this is also another story?

Report this review (#296638)
Posted Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

This is where all their previous prog-rock learning process peaked. There are only four songs, but they are all exceptional. Ranging from 3 to 18 minutes, they display the band's dexterity in different compositional forms.

Hemispheres, the title song, shows that they learned from the mistakes of their predecessors. WIth it, they finally mastered the craft of epic songs. It contains all the virtues you would expect from them: fluidity, cohesion, coherence. Here, they show how they matured in their prog-rock approach. The Trees is among the best songs and the best lyrics of the band - a fable about opression in the woods. Circunstamces is a short but powerful song, with a powerful chorus that some would find strident - but not me. And La Villa Strangiato is a great instrumental that displays all the abilities of the band. Each member has the chance to shine here. Another flawless album, another indisputed masterpiece, another five stars.

Hemispheres is the pinnacle of Rush's prog-rock phase. So, instead of reproducing a formula, the band, restless, would soon be opening and widening their sound to other influences. It makes their sound feel like a perpetual work in progress, a learning process, rather than a finished, prefab product. Build up from this restlessness, they kept original, relevant and influent while the rest of the prog scene slowly stepped out and faded.

Report this review (#296917)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Hemispheres" is Rush's sixth album and the last of their epic songs era. This is Rush's most progressive album yet, as time signatures fly all over the place and song length holds no bounds. Guitars propel this album into the stratosphere, and other reviewers on Prog Archives have taken note, as this is the highest rated Rush album. This is my review of "Hemispheres" by Rush.

0) Album Artwork: (9/10) Very good artwork, as it draws you into the fantasy that is this album.

1) Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres, 18:08 (7/10) Its not what everyone says it is. The first ten minutes are riveting, albeit repetitive, but unfortunately the final eight fall short. Excellent guitar and drums throughout, but its simply too long. No matter how good the guitar is for the first ten minutes, it doesn't sustain for 18 minutes. Disappointing yet good at the same time.

2) Circumstances, 3:41 (9/10) Classic Rush! One of my favorite Rush songs of all time, and rightly so due to the catchy chorus, excellent guitar, and, of course, Neil Peart (his drumming is assumed to be god-like). There is no stopping at any point, the energy pulses through the whole song. This is one that will be stuck in your head for a while, but you'll be glad it is.

3) The Trees, 4:45 (9/10) A beautiful song! It opens with wonderful acoustic guitar and then storms into a very enjoyable rock song. The story behind is a good one, and it doesn't take twenty minutes to carry out. Very good all around boys!

4) La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence), 9:37 (9/10) Such a good instrumental! The guitars never skip a beat, as Alex and Geddy power through this song with thoroughly enjoyable solos. But, in the background lies some excellent drumming from Neil. Listen to it and it does not feel like a nine and a half minute song, but an exciting short single. But thats the beauty of it! Its exciting, and its long!

Overall: 34/40= 8.5/10= 4.5/5

While the starter is too long, the other three make up for it in this sinfully good rock album.

Report this review (#298180)
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was both the proggiest thing Rush ever did and the last real proggy album they made. I was never really into the Cygnus story and frankly don't care what it's all about. Neil Peart made a wise decision to drop all the sci-fi stuff after this album and concentrate on more human related topics. I prefer both his lyrics and Geddy's singing in the 1980s than almost anything either wrote or sang in the 1970s. Alex Lifeson, however, did his best guitar playing in the '70s, IMO. I don't think Rush were ever really good at making side-long epics or 3-minute pop/rock songs. Their strength, to me, was in making 5-10 minute songs whether instrumental or not.

The side-long track here has it's moments. Generally I like most of it but the mellower section with 'samples' from the other "Cygnus" song is kinda dull. This epic features what Rush fanboys refer to as "the Rush Chord"(I can't remember what it is exactly as I don't know how to play guitar). I'm not sure if this is the first time they use it here, but they used it throughout the rest of their career. Rush fanboys insist that Rush were the first musicians to ever use this chord. All hail Rush! One of the best things about Hemispheres is that they are starting to use more synths than previously(MiniMoog, Oberheim), and it adds to the music. By the time of, say, Power Windows, they went overboard with the synths and it took away from the music. Apparently Lifeson uses a guitar synthesizer on this album too, but I'm not exactly sure where. I never really cared for "Circumstances" too much, although it does forshadow what they will be doing on Permanent Waves. I actually never noticed that Geddy sings some of the lyrics in French before. Just goes to show how little I cared for/listened to this song.

Okay, now let's get to what I actually *like* about this album. "The Trees" has my favourite lyrics of any Rush song and "La Villa Strangiato" is my favourite instrumental of theirs. In fact, these may be my two favourite Rush songs of all time. Apart from the lyrics, "The Trees" has a super fantastic middle section that I could listen to forever. All three musicians just play their hearts out here. Hell, they play their hearts out on "Strangiato" as well, especially Lifeson. If you want to hear Rush at their proggiest, get this. If you want to hear Rush at their most consistent, get Moving Pictures. 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 because they tried so hard.

Report this review (#305511)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Without a doubt, HEMISPHERES belongs up their in the high pantheon of great Rush classics. I not sure if it my favorite, but it is close. The extended story of "Hemispheres" is my favorite of the Rush epic tunes. Great story, great music, great music. Also fantastic are "Circumstances": a shorter powerful classic Rush piece, and "The Trees", a nice little morality story about...well trees! The only part here on this album that does not really grab me is the instrumental adventure of "La Villa Strangiato". This has never really been a Rush classic for me the way many others see it. Not sure why, but it just has never really clicked with me the way the rest of the album does. (Maybe if it was the starting track?). That aside this is still a classic album from the classic period of Rush. An easy 4 stars, really about 4 1/2.
Report this review (#338351)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's amazing to me that Rush was only four years in at this point. It sounds like they had been at it for much longer. I took French for four years in college, and I still can't speak a word.

"Hemispheres " marks their 7th album (6 studio, and 1 live) in only 4 years, which by today's standards is crazy. These days, we wait years between any band's releases. To this point, Rush had improved on every release, and "Hemispheres" is no exception. They trump every preceding album in every way with this release and produce their first perfect 10. There is not a weak moment, and there is no filler.

Before this album, they had some perfect songs: "Anthem," "Bastille Day," almost everything on "A Farewell to Kings," and of course "2112, but they didn't have a perfect album. Everything you get on Hemispheres is on the money.

On to the songs, "Circumstances" is this album's "Cinderella Man," but it's better in every way, which is a huge compliment because "Cinderella Man" rocks. "Circumstances" has always been one of my favorite Rush songs, and I absolutely loved hearing it live on the snakes and arrows tour.

"The Trees" has always been a fan favorite and a live staple. For some reason, people connect to this forest war between the maples and the oaks, and the last line gets me every time? "And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw." Great closing line.

"La Villa" is just sick. Their first and best instrumental. I rank it above "YYZ". Best instrumental every written. End of story. It's 10 minutes, but it just flies by? every intricate note is perfection.

Then you have the "Hemispheres" suite, which is important for so many reasons. Here's the top 5.

1. It's the best epic they ever made. It beats "2112," and I'm not sure why it's not played live.

2. It's the last epic they ever made, and it represents an end of an era.

3. The "Prelude" segment is a war march section, which?as I've mentioned in other reviews ?I'm a sucker for? Tull's "Thick as a Brick," Bad Religion's "Along the Way," put a war march section in a song, and I'm sold.

4. Crescendo: Rush had mastered this technique at this point, and this is their best use of it. It builds up just like in "2112," then kicks in with the "all at once the chaos ceased" section. Simply fantastic.

5. "Atlas Shrugged" is put back on the shelf to collect some dust. The lyrics here are a departure from Randian idealism. Rand is all about reason (emotion is not on the top of her list). In other words, all mind and no heart. "Hemispheres" is about finding a synergy between rationalism and sentimentality. It's all about finding balance? "we will call you Cygnus, the God of Balance you shall be". Hemispheres really closes out that chapter of Neil's writing.

That about sums it up. The only negative is the cover. Not Hugh's best. Between this and Yes's "Going for the One," I've had enough naked men for a few years.

That's it, perfection. If you don't have it, you are missing out.

Report this review (#347441)
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The album that could almost, in the light of hindsight, be subtitled "A Farewell To Epics", because this was the last time that the band would ever try anything quite so lengthy or a concept piece, certainly with the sci fi fantasy that marked earlier epics. I take issue with those who declare that this album marked the end of Rush as a prog band. Maybe it was their last proggy album, for want of a better word, but they certainly, with subsequent releases, established themselves as one of the planet's leading progressive rock bands (and I do think there is a difference).

Of course, in 1978, we all lapped it up. Hemispheres is the direct sequel to Cygnus X-1, and has five distinct segments lasting an entire side of 18 plus minutes. Listening to it again now, there are some lovely sections, but, dare I say it, I really don't think it has aged particularly well over the years, certainly not as much as its illustrious two predecessor albums. The story (which is so well known, I won't bother to repeat it here) is actually insensibly carried forward from the first part, and it all sounds very disjointed in a way that, for example, 2112 didn't. Sure, it features some massive riffs, excellent rhythm section work, and Geddy Lee in fine vocal fettle, but, somehow, it just doesn't hold together for me. The acoustic passages are by far the best in this.

Side two gave us a hint as to the future direction the band would take. Circumstances and The Trees are two shorter tracks, whilst La Villa Strangiato, whilst fairly hefty in terms of length, offers us no lyrics and lets the music speak for itself.

Circumstances is a good rocking track, with excellent riffs. The Trees is a track I love, and strikes me as actually being the true successor to the music in A Farewell To Kings. Lush and acoustic to begin, the main riff follows with the type of catchy main section for which they would definitely continue with in the later releases. A great track, with prophetic lyrics as to the future of our world, and the Lifeson & Lee main feature riff packs in more of a punch in a mere couple of minutes than the title track did in its entirety. The final, instrumental, piece of music is a glorious exercise in symphonic rock and is the sound of a threesome entirely at ease with themselves and their craft. The theme of this would later be taken forward in XYZ, albeit in a shorter time frame (i.e. without the drum soloing). This is up there with that classic.

Reviews for this album range from the incredible to the damning, and it remains one of the progheads favourite Rush albums of all time. I'm in a minority when I say that I regard side two as being far better than side one. In fact, I suspect that the band, especially Peart, thought the same, because they had gone as far as they could with this particular phase of writing and recording. They then did what all of the best bands do - they moved on and progressed to another level.

Three stars for this. A good album that is great to revisit every now and again.

Report this review (#348135)
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Obviously, good musical taste can be genetically passed from father to son. My son, who will be 17 in two weeks loves prog. Last night he asked to listen to "Hemispheres" in the car when we went out for some errands.

This album is one of Rush's most progressive, having none of the rock anthems that represent nearly all of the group's radio airplay.

The first piece, the five part Hemispheres suite is a fine, but not perfect prog epic. I find that while each section is great, the transition between movements are often awkward. Still, the musicianship is fantastic, and the song shows why Rush belongs here on this site.

The other highlight is La Villa Strangiato, one of Rush's two best songs (the other being YYZ). With a theme based on Raymond Scott's Powerhouse (you may remember it from some classic Warner Brothers cartoons), this song is one of the classic heavy prog masterpieces, and has been a concert favorite since this album debuted.

The production is not as lush as on later albums, and live performances of these songs usually sound better (listen to La Villa Strangiato on "Rush In Rio" for an example). But considering what was happening to prog in 1978, this is an excellent album.

Report this review (#355556)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In a time when progressive rock was losing about all hope, Rush kept releasing classic release after classic release. After what could be considered the highpoint of their career, A Farewell to Kings, the band decided to top themselves off again. Though the album may not be as consistent as the previously mentioned, the songs are tighter, more evolved, and having much more feeling; even though I know that it was a very hard time for the band to record this album, due to it's complexity.

1.Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres - Even though the story telling may not be as coherent as epics such as 2112 or Xanadu, i'm willing to call it one of the band's most consistent efforts. The song, dealing with Greek mythology about the struggle of heart and mind, is probably the most well written of the epics and has a "never-dull" characteristic, and I KNOW people will disagree with me. The aggervated riffing mixed with slower and gentle part are perfectly placed on this track, as Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee create their master-work. The band had decidedly mixed a bit of head-banging with the symphonic structures of band's like Yes, leaving the lyrics of Peart to flourish and the band to really rock. Lee's vocal is very high, as it would be one of the last times he would sing like this. His bass playing is very complex and works well with the impressive drumming of Peart. Lifeson never fails to amaze me, as he plays one of my all - time favourite solo's on this track. Melodic and structured, the song never ceases to be pristine. (10/10)

2.Circumstances - Easily the weakest of the tracks on the album; though easily the most accessible of the track. The song has that unforgetable and immortal riff from Lifeson, and a true Heavy Metal feeling. Lee's complex bass playing and hard - hitting antics are always a pleasure, even if his vocals are a bit annoying. Pearts drumming is always perfect, as he really smashes with intensity on this song. The French chorus is intense, as is this track on a whole. Breakdowns of pure symphonic ecstasy are found here, with the band at full form during the short duration of the track. (9.5/10)

3.The Trees - Out of the shorter tracks, this is the best. The band had put together completely thoughful lyrics of the maples and oaks (America and Canada) in an increasingly interesting story of greed and hate. The music isn't a bore either. Lifeson starts with a classical intro on guitar, then leads the band into a harrowing journey of musical direction and thought. Lee's vocals are sung with passion and beauty, while is moog playing and complex bass rhythms aren't too shabby either. Peart, as always, becomes the master of drums on this song, as his ability is never under-esitmated. A true Rush classic. (10/10)

4.La Villa Strangiato - The band had saved the musical utopia for last. Pure Euphoria, is a way to put the track into one. The band is in perfect form for the track, as their virtuosity is only matched by the sounds. Lee's basslines are completely epics, as are Lifesons amazingly emotional and passionate guitar playing and solo's. Peart seems to be playing is heart out on the drumkit, with his steady beats and amazingly huge sound complete the bands symphonic breakdown instrumental. This is as much a Rush monument as it is a Heavy Symphonic Rock one. (10/10)

The band had completed their most consistent album to date and were completely drenched of creativity. The songs are beautiful in a majestic way, keeping a hard rocking edge with the progressive jams and structures in tact. This is the last record of this kind, and is beautiul in every way. A 5 stars must be award, no more, no less.

Report this review (#372306)
Posted Monday, January 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I hate to be the only naysayer, but I have to say that the title track is somewhat weak. The song continues the "Cygnus X-1" story from A FAREWELL TO KING's, but I think RUSH perhaps felt a little bound to completing the song on their next album and so didn't hone it as well as they could have. Some of the transitions are a little awkward, especially between "Apollo" and "Dionysus". I understand the idea of having both sections be musically identical to represent the underlying similarities between the two modes of life, but I feel like perhaps maybe a call-and-response of different voices or a single section reflecting both would have worked better. It's not a bad song by any means, but it has some glaring weaknesses that detract from it. One great thing about this track, at least for me, is the way that it subtly states that NEIL PEART was tired of talking about Ayn Rand and had moved past her intellectually; this has to do with her preoccupation with Apollonian thought and the general lyrical theme of the track. I found this quite delightful.

I can never remember how "Circumstances" goes despite having heard the album many, many times. I think that says enough about that track.

The second half of this album is one of my favorite parts of any Rush album. "The Trees" reminds me of JETHRO TULL's acoustic/hard rock/progressive hybrid songs, especially with the subject matter. The lyrics, despite what Peart may say, sound far too much like a dig at social reformers, which makes me a wee bit uncomfortable, but the music is solid. Meanwhile, the final track, "La Villa Strangiato", is one of Rush's best. It reminds me of FRANK ZAPPA, being built around virtuosity while also having strong elements of humor, musical quotations, and sweet melodies. This is another album that comes perilously close to five stars, but some qualms I have with the title track, the weakness of "Circumstances" and the lyrical iffiness of "The Trees" makes me hesitant to give it that. But it is definitely, definitely a great album and well worth your time.

Report this review (#409533)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the most beautiful moments in rock´ n´ roll story. This is where hard rock and progressive music met themselves. Ok, if we consider only Rush we saw some traces of progressive music in Caress Of Steel; and it moved further away ion 2112 and was a consolidated movement in A Farewell to Kings. But all this three albums has its flaws; leading some people to say this matching was not well conducted. But with Hemispheres, Rush proved that these both stiles can exist not only side by side, but perfectly melted in a masterpiece album.

Side one of vinyl is for me a model of how can an epic be composed. Not a too long song that differs and differs until becoming a huge piece of music, and not a too repetitive one that becomes long due to excess in how many times sections on it repeats itself. The perfect balance was achieved here; exactly like Neil Peart by means of lyrics says with his Cygnus, the God of Balance. In side two has two very unique like songs, Circunstances and The Trees, but climax is achieved with La Villa Strangiatto deeply loved by Rush´ s fans.

With this album, Rush proved themselves as top skilled musicians, and became models for many other bands like Dream Theater, for instance. Hemispheres is their best moment and the great masterpiece of their entire career. No less then five stars.

Report this review (#434527)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true progressive classic!

This is a masterpiece of an album, Rush's best album to date in my book. Sure, there are only 4 songs on the album, but every singel song is great!

What a way to kick off an album, continuing the story of "Cygnus X-1" from their previous album "A farewell to kings", it sucks you in, messes with your head & imagination through many different complex parts & rythm changes, spits you out again completely drained & messed up. I LOVE IT. 18 minutes of pure bliss. And a great concept as well, the Right & Left hemispheres of the brain dueling each other in Man. Intellect vs Emotion. This is right down my street, intelligent lyrics in intelligent music.

The tracks "Circumstances" & "The Trees" are both shorter songs, but really good ones, and could easily have been on the superb "Farewell to Kings" album. Even some French in the lyrics, haha gotta love that.

And ending the record is the masterpiece instrumental "La Villa Strangiato", and what a way to end an album! Lots of different parts & komplex ruthm changes, and all the guys are just on fire here. Great drumming from Peart, great bass from Lee, and Lifeson really shines here, especially on his guitarsolo, which is stunning. Goosebumps city.

How these guys managed to make this album in 1978, when every other progressive rockband stumbled in the dark, is equally impressive.

A classic, and a MUST HAVE for any Progressive Rock fan!

Report this review (#458055)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Hemispheres" is not a masterpiece.

It is, to date, the album's weakest Rush I listen.A regression in relation to its predecessors, "2112" and "A Farewell to Kings. " This album is the proof that my favorite band's stage is the one that started "Permanent Waves" in 1980.

Even here the epic "Cygnus X-1" is disappointing, not having the same force "2112. " It seems to go from nothing to nowhere.Fortunately is better than his first one, presented in the previous album.The two small tracks that follow it, "Circumstances" and "The Trees" has nothing special, but "La Villa Strangiato" is an epic instrumental as never seem.Great!

5 stars: La Villa Strangiato

3 stars: Cygnus X-1

2 star: Circumstances, The Trees

Average: 3.00

3 stars

Report this review (#459218)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars With their 6th album Rush went full on experimentation and did what all good bands do at one point, took things a bit too far. That being said, it is still a great album that might as well be released along side A Farewell to Kings as a double album. They sound familiar but with the sequel to Cygnus X-1 in Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres (properly spelled) that they felt they could make the most complicated album and song to date in this album and they delivered. It is a great song start to finish that i could listen to over and over because of the fantastic musicianship from all 3 guys and the beautiful and almost philosophical lyrics from Neil. great first side of the record. Side 2 kicks off with Circumstances which is a short rocker that works for what it is and in some ways could be a sequel to Fly By Night because they share similarities in the lyrics. The Trees is a classic Rush song that to me symbolizes the band in their late 70s era. Starts out mellow then just goes almost metal for a while and just musically hits you in the face for a few minutes then slows down but picks back up again. Great song about Trees fighting. The last song, La Villa Strangiato, they chose to do their first instrumental piece and this song is arguably the best on this album. It goes through so many changes and ups and downs in just 9 short minutes I have to listen to it a second time and a third time to find out what the heck is going on. Overall, great album but you felt Rush was pushing themselves a little too much. 5 starts. Highlights: Cyngus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres, The Trees and La Villa Strangiato.
Report this review (#463380)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#466708)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Then all at once the chaos ceased..."

Rush make it two in a row.

The Good: The album starts off where the last one ended with Cygnus X-1 Book II. This sprawling 18 minute composition builds on the story of a wayward space traveler sucked into a world of warring deities. Although its not quite as distinguished as 2112, it's definitely up their in terms of quality, so much so that it would easily be the standout track on most albums. But Hemispheres is not like most albums because it closes with La Villa Strangiato, the MOTHER of all instrumentals. A mind-blowing composition that took longer to record than the entire Fly By Night album and this really shows as it is absolutely flawless. The guitar from Lifeson is unmatched by any other song in their long and illustrious career, Lee and Peart aren't too bad either!

The remaining two tracks feel a little bit timid hidden between this pair of behemoths, but they still hold their own and are solid additions to the release.

The Bad: Some of the lyrics are a bit cheesy.

The Verdict: Rush fully establish themselves as prog heavyweights.

Report this review (#483863)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The followup to Farewell to Kings takes the approach of that album, cranks it up to eleven, and also sees Rush experimenting with an increased presence of synthesisers and keyboards in their work. Whilst these experiments would yield the sound of albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures - foreshadowings of which can be heard here and there on this album - Hemispheres itself is a rather muddled beast.

Side one is dominated by the title track, the sequel to Cygnus X-1 on the previous album - although both thematically and musically, it couldn't be more different. Cygnus X-1 is a spacey number about a guy who deliberately steers his spaceship into a black hole out of his burning curiosity to see what was on the other side. It was tight, cohesive, had different sections seamlessly melded together through tight changes of time signature, and it rocked like you wouldn't believe.

Hemispheres, conversely, is a bit more of a mess. It's a fantasy story about the conflict between the gods of reason and emotion and how eventually they install a mortal to adjudicate the balance between them. So far, so prog. The problem is that it's yet another Rush epic that, like the bad old days of Caress of Steel, just doesn't have sufficient ideas to fill its running time. What's more, the different sections feel hastily pasted together, almost as though they are separate songs that happen to run together. The same was true to an extent of 2112 of course, but 2112 both rocked harder and kept the listerner's interest far more than Hemispheres, and didn't repeat itself nearly so often.

On the second side we have two throwaway tracks - Circumstances, which sounds like a reject from side two of 2112, and the heavy-handed political allegory of The Trees. But at least we also have the album's saving grace - La Villa Strangiato, a 9 minute instrumental track which both acts as the culmination of their prog-above-all period and as the transition to the next phase of their career. Ducking and weaving at a breakneck pace through a range of different moods, juggling time signatures without breaking a sweat with each band member soloing like their lives depend on it, it's everything that the title track should have been but wasn't.

Still, one really awesome track isn't enough to save an album that is otherwise rather inessential. Harsh, maybe, but there's no getting away from the fact that this is a very transitional album which would have got a significantly lower rating were it not for the wonders of La Villa.

Report this review (#558585)
Posted Friday, October 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I used to dislike this album and my reviews judging Hemispheres were usually very negative. Now I think it's one of the finest Rush releases with very clever songs. Yes, very clever construction of Cygnus I Book II (which lyrically isn't a continuation of Cygnus from A Farewell To Kings) makes this 18-minute long suite appear shorter. 2 basic themes interwine and a culmination is when Armageddon kicks in. It's very aggressive part of this song, metal - like. Very soft and relaxing ending though. Circumstances is the shortest track on the album and it's very good too. This heavy and progressive riff is so remarkable. The Trees is a bit simplier still a good relaxing tune. La Villa Strangiato nearly 10 minute long instrumental piece suits me fine too. Maybe a bit too long but many great themes appear in this song so you won't get bored. Hemispheres is the last Rush album that shows Geddy's aggressive vocal side. On Permanent Waves his still high pitched voice is more smooth. Some parts of the record sound like some ideas designed for their later release Moving Pictures. Themes from Red Barchetta and YYZ appear here and there. And I've got a feeling that Circumstances later evolved into Limelight. Both A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres are probably the most proggy Rush albums. Absolutely essential.
Report this review (#591350)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It come out during the new age of Punk and represented everything wrong with the Progressive Rock.

And it was beyond good.

The arrangement! Pure Power Trio bliss! This is the only band who has the bass louder than the guitar. Hell, I even used my "Karaoke" mode on my stereo to drown the screeching vocals only to find out that just the bass dropped out. This powerful, strident, roller-coaster proved that Rush was highly original for it's time. More so than what other prog acts force upon the listeners. Rush push through with some heavy jamming and a little Space Rock thrown in. Rush at it's Apex!

With Neil writing about the balance of the heart and mind, and with the band taking 18+ minutes to explain the plot in some pseudo-esoteric way, is the weakest point. With Geddy emotionlessly (sic) (as he always has) screaming of the plight of human existence in the disguise of this make believe world or a parallel universe.

The next 3 songs, more in keeping with the theme of the battle mentioned above (this is a pure concept album. You can figure it out), deserve the same accolades. More of the same, dare I say, Tour de force. Ooh la la. You can hear the Cream, Zep and 60's Psych influence rolled into a slickly produced and thrust laden sonic bombardment. Perfectly musically executed for the genre.

The final resolve within the heart and mind ring in Circumstances: going for the pursuit. The conflict withing existing with the balance shows in The Trees, coexisting with other's wants and showing the equality among them: the fascist rule (IMO), government red tape, violence or maybe self limitations. La Villa Strangiato, The Village of the Strange is maybe what they meant if fake Italian (strano is strange with -iato added to give it some sort of tense... why???), shows us the travel into the strange places one goes while inside other's ideas or dwellings.

Personally, I enjoy this period of Rush because Peart wasn't in full helicopter mode, Geddy had a full, thick percussive tone via amps and a Ric, and Lifeson was quite original using real guitars. They crafted good powerful, complex-ish jams that would make any odd-ball kid (like I was when I heard it... now I'm just a bit bitter) with an unorthodox imagination queef with glee.

Now, please excuse me while I go for a long drive and screech out the lyrics. It takes 3 hours to get to Hartford and I need something to kill some time.

Report this review (#603906)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definitely their most coneptually ambitious album, the third part of the trilogy they started with 2112 is a very rewarding heavy prog experience (their label on this site, and this is the album that I think best falls under that category) full of ideas and impressive playing. The Hemisphere suite, which sounds more like one long continous song than any other of their epics, is a very deep composition that reveals itself more upon repeated listening. It has some truly interesting musical ideas, with great use of motifs (even from the previous album!) and Pearts' lyrics have moved into a new realm of philosophical artistry here. The other hemisphere of the album is equally interesting, with the odd-timed yet highly infectuous "Circumstances" leading things off into "The Trees", a great societal allegory with nice acoustic work from Lifeson and really good moog work from Lee. "La Villa Stragiato" closes things out in the form of "an exercise in sefl-indulgence" according to the liner notes that turns out to be their one of their best instrumentals, and probably the best example of their playing ability as soloists and as a working band, as well as for the many styles they have mastered. Easily one of their best albums, and a masterpiece of progressive rock.
Report this review (#622194)
Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars After reading a bunch of reviews on this album, I see that this album differs from one persons perspective from another. My feeling towards this album is indeed a masterpiece. This album does deserve to be a masterpiece, for reasons I think most people would agree with. Now the album is sort of short, only going to 37mins. But the songs make the album superior from its length.

Starting off with the songs, with my first listen through on the album, I only found the need of one song that made me wonder why it is on the album. This song was Circumstances, and honestly, I believe it was a filler. Some people will disagree, some people do love this song. But, at first, I didn't. But it did grow on me, and I love the album completely. Now the rest of the songs starting off with Cygnus X-1 Book II. This song is the epic on the album. This song has great instrumental playing by the trio. I really enjoy the lyrics to this song as well. It's 18mins, and the song doesn't ever seem to drag on or get boring. It's really an all-around great song. The Trees is another great song, my second favorite on the album. It has great lyrics and shows a lot of the use of metaphors and personification, giving the trees life like attributes. I really liked the theme to the song. Musically, it was a really well composed piece. Lastly, we have La Villa Strangiato. Which is my favorite track. This track is an instrumental, and it shows off all of the trio's skills. Peart's drumming to Lee's bass lines to Lifeson's dynamic guitar work and fast shredding. It is really creative and even without any lyrics, the song has some strong emotion through Lifeson's guitar work.

Another thing I liked about this album is the artwork. Album artwork is really one of the things I enjoy most on an album. Now Hemispheres album artwork seems to be about the brain, seeing that the brain has 2 hemispheres. The left and the right. Now, I really enjoy this because I love psychology and in this subject, you can learn about the brain (Depending on what field you take). The left hemisphere is responsible for arithmetic ability and logical thinking, and the right hemisphere is responsible for creativity and the arts abilities. Now that was my little explanation on the brain...

***** songs- Cygnus X-1 Book II, The Trees, La Villa Strangiato

**** songs- Circumstances

Report this review (#630303)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is made by humans who have big brains, as showed in this wonderful cover.

The best Rush album of all time, no doubt about it. It didn't revolutionise it's time as much as 2112 or Moving Pictures but it is their best album musically and lyrically. The album open by the epic Book 2 of Cygnus X1 who is called Hemispheres. One of the greatest Rush songs of all time. This song is followed by Circumstances an extremely proggish song even if it is nearly 4 minutes. Then there's the political The Trees witch has one of the greatest Neil Peart lyrics. Then... there's... LA VILLA STRANGIATO !!! This is a deadly instrumental.

Geddy, Alex and Neil, keep on making good music.

Report this review (#640579)
Posted Friday, February 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars

Fate led me to this album. Flash back to two years ago, when I was first getting into Rush (and music in general). After hearing Tom Sawyer and The Trees on the Rock Band video games, I wanted to hear more of this band. I proceeded to obtain a copy of Hemispheres - it was at that moment that my entire music tastes changed.

My fourteen year old ears couldn't fathom what they were hearing. This was a long way from what mom normally played on the radio. This was actually intelligent music, the likes of which I've never heard before. And I loved it. I loved every second of it, and I love it to this day.

"Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres" was very different than what I normally heard. Everything about it is different - the length (eighteen minutes is much different than four), the instrumentation (I'd heard sounds from this song I've never heard before - synthesizers, panning, ambiance), and the vocals (Geddy's voice is incredible, and oh so unique). Behind every instrument was a virtuoso, yet it wasn't the mindless shredding I'd heard before from so-called "good" musicians - it had substance, it had character, and most importantly, it was jam-packed full of emotion. From start to end the song trucks on, Alex, Geddy, and Neil never missing a beat. The concept behind this song was excellent as well, it has much meaning for one to draw. After I found out this was part two, I had to hear part one. And that, my friends, is how I "officially" got into Rush.

"Circumstances" is a good rocker. I love blasting this song when no one's home. Geddy's voice is flawless here. I have always loved the chorus that Alex adds to his guitar. It adds lots of progressiveness and character.

"The Trees" is the one everyone knows about. It's a fan favorite, and for good reason. Personally, this is my least favorite song on the album (that really isn't saying much though, The Trees is still an amazing song). On playthroughs of Hemispheres, I seem to be listening to this song with a yearning for La Villa Strangiato in the back of my mind.

And that's perfectly explainable. Before listening to "La Villa Strangiato", you must prepare yourself for nine minutes of excellence. Virtually every note played by all three musicians is played with the utmost emotion and virtuosity. From start to finish it sucks you in, and the nine minutes will seem like no time (time flies when you have fun). Indeed - I'll be listening to it in school, and before know I realize what's happened, it'll be time for the next class. Utter bliss is to be had when listening to La Villa Strangiato.

Hemispheres is what got me into music, Rush, and progressive rock. This album will always hold a special place in my heart. I encourage anyone who hasn't heard this album to put it at the top of their to-do list, for they have not lived until they have heard this album.

- Planklin

Report this review (#746556)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres takes the prog aspect of Rush's music as sampled in their previous albums to a whole new height. There are only four songs here, but each one is amazing in their own right. Musically, the songs are similar to those on Farewell to Kings; the prog is abundant, the riffs are complex and catchy, and the keys are used to great effect to give the album a slightly symphonic feel.

'Hemispheres' continues the Cygnus duology started in the previous album. Though I consider this a close second to the epic 2112, this is much more of a "song" in that it really can't be broken down into separate tracks like 2112 can. In this sense, I find it amazing how much they can do with so little, but still keep it interesting. The song is energetic and rocking for most of its duration, except for an atmospheric section two-thirds through. The instrumentation is complex, the melodies and harmonies are stunning, and the flow is perfect. This is one of Rush's greatest single accomplishments.

'Circumstances' and 'The Trees' may be stuck in the middle of two of Rush's greatest songs, but they themselves have their musical merits. The former is upbeat and rocking throughout, with some great vocal melodies from Geddy. The latter opens with an acoustic passage before going delving into more up-tempo madness. Though, the middle section shows that Rush isn't a one dimensional band in this regard, and that they can slow down and be more methodical with their music.

Even with the praise I gave to Hemispheres, the concluding 'La Villa Strangiato' is even better, and is perhaps my favorite Rush song. Everything that prog is about is in this song; the structure is elaborate, time changes are abundant, and the instrumentation is complex, but not overwhelming. The song incorporates a plethora of styles and sounds in its 9-minunte frame. The opening Spanish guitar, great use of keyboard, and the overall jazziness are just a few examples. This piece exemplifies Rush at their musical apex.

For a lack of words to describe this album, I will simply say it's a flawless masterpiece, and is one my all-time favorite albums.


Report this review (#771345)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars Lately I began to appreciate Moving Waves, so I thought I should give Hemispheres a try. This record is well advised by the prog community, so maybe It may reveal the superhero status it has been given. My first thought about it was that is sounded pretty much like the follow-up Moving Waves. After some listens however I concluded that it was less good.

I was never fond of the sound of Rush's guitarwork, but on a sidelong track this worked out even for worse. The riffs on this this "Hemisphere" stay completely the same and there is no evolving within these 18 minutes. There is no clear theme or building up. The more silent passages are the worst part, because here it is most clear that Rush was not able to come even close to the early 70's prog acts.

The second half of the record is the better part, but even here I've got the idea that the songwriting was quiet random. By this I don't mean I got surprised quiet often, but that also on these tracks there is no clear pathway and makes me think that Rush almost had no vision about what to achieve.

The few guitarsolo's don't impress me as much as on the Moving Waves record. The bassguitar is doing the best job here, but will not save this work. Random development without moments of brilliance lead to a mediocre record. And with one of the least attractive album covers in progressive music I've decided that I will not put this record to my collection. 2,75 stars.

Report this review (#871447)
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This may be my biggest testimony for how Prog rock can grow on you, and how multiple listens yield to better appreciation as well as greater understanding. This album is quite essentially the perfect example for how different music may sound on the surface in contrast to what is really underneath all those power chords.

The first song, a continuation from where the previous album left off (though it isn't so easily revealed to be so, musically), is in my opinion a staple of progressive rock. This is Rush in their progressive prime. Not only will you find undeniable instrumental skill from all three members, you will find interesting lyrics that tell a story so perfectly with the music, the two may as well be one. At first listen, "Cygnus X-1: Book II - Hemispheres" may sound simple, even repetitive at times. Here is where multiple listens is essential, because once I realized how each rhythmic section represented the story, and how that story came to be, it was so glorious and epic that Rush was instantly propelled to one of my all-time favorite bands. This song successfully combines two elements that are hardly seen together: heavy rock and mythological story-telling. A masterpiece of prog.

"Circumstances" is a catchy tune that adds flavor to the album, if only just a little. The chorus will make you sing along despite being half French and half English (well, French-Canadian anyways). Certainly an excellent Rush song for fans of any of their work, and fans of classic rock in general.

"The Trees" offers another story representing the oppression of the Maples (Canada) from the Oaks (U.S.A.), though I'm not what you would call a historian so I don't really know what their referencing. Anywayyy this song has some interesting elements about it. Musical passages that, once memorized, will rock your socks off. Not to be overlooked by any means.

"La Villa Strangiato" ends the album just as well as "Cygnus" began it. Everything that is Progressive-era Rush is in this song. Virtuous skill and flawless execution. Their longest instrumental song, this one is a rapid-fire ride that will rise and fall with exact precision. A staple for Rush-fans and Prog-fans alike, "Strangiato" will not disappoint, particularly if you enjoyed the rest of the album before it.

Overall, this album deserves five stars because it truly is flawless. Rush have created a perfectly balanced masterpiece here and I think even if you don't care for heavy sounding guitar riffs, you should give this album a chance because it is certainly more than it appears to be.

Report this review (#873729)
Posted Saturday, December 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Hemispheres" is a turning point in the long career of the Rush. Until today it is at least in my opinion their most progressive rock. The band spent around three months in Wales to record their sixth studio album. The result was an album with only four songs. Two of them were short and catchy but the two other became long epics with lot of signature changes and progressive structures. The title track "Hemispheres" is after the epic "2112" the longest studio track ever recorded by Rush with a duration of 18 minutes. The final instrumental "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)" is the first instrumental and according to drummer Neil Peart, the band spent more time to record this ten minutes instrumental then the entire "Fly by Night" album.

Even though the fans, me included liked and still like this long epics the band decided to make some changes in their sound and that's the main reason why the following studio album "Permanent Waves" included shorter song with easier song structures, even though it was still a proggy record.

In my opinion "Hemispheres" is the album, where Rush brought their sound to perfection, even though it is "only" my second favourite studio record by them after the previous released "A Farewell to Kings". "Circumstances" is one of the catchiest Rush Songs of all time and showcases Geddy Lee as an excellent singer. "The Trees" is only a remarkable song and is in my opinion one of Neil Peart's best work as a songwriter.

The best track on the album is the title track "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres", which is probably the most complex work in the entire discography of Rush. Even though it has a running time of 18 minutes; there are no boring parts.

Also the final instrumental is an impressive track and it showcases single members of the band on their instrument.

All in all "Hemispheres" is a perfect album by the Canadian progressive Rock institution Rush. It took me some time to get into the album, because it is progressive as hell, but when you listened to the album around 10 times or more you recognize that it's really a masterpiece in so many ways.

Report this review (#897939)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I enjoy all of Rush's music and I adore some of it. This album is a step up, to me, in that I prefer it to all of the previous releases barring the monster album 2112. I adore "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato" is a brilliant piece of musical work as is "Cygnus X-1 Book 2 Hemispheres". This is not 2112 for me however it's a very good album that admittedly took some getting used to as at first it was difficult for me to find cohesion in the first track. The keyboard synthesizer sound, at times, I find hasn't dated very well but it doesn't detract from the music much once I get into it. I've deliberated long and hard on whether to give this offering a three or a four star rating and I can't but award four stars. This is prog for the Seventies but it does have relevance today if only to recapture that 70's thing again for a while and to understand where prog as we know it came from.
Report this review (#940055)
Posted Saturday, April 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars For your surprise (or maybe not?) this is the only album from Rush that I like from beginning to end. A really great album that surprises after having many dissapointments from the band (it is really not my kind of prog style I think, also Geddy Lee's voice becomes irritating). The first track is sadly the last epic from Rush: Hemispheres. The tracks has excellent drum work and I think the lyrics are awesome, but there are some parts that I really would quit. Circumstances is a little rock piece, very commercial if you ask me, but also really good. The Trees is a strange song, I think it is the weakest song from the album, but many consider it one of their best. La Villa Strangiato is another story, really perfect instrumental, pretty memorable and complex, best song in the album. I want to say that this album should be the only essential work from Rush, I can find at least three negative qualities in the rest of the albums, but not in this one, a true masterpiece, accesible for everyone.
Report this review (#1011583)
Posted Monday, August 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I may be in the majority to state that this is my favourite RUSH album. Along with A Farewell To Kings (1977) it is Rush at its most progressive, and these two albums were even made in Great Britain as if to underline the influence of British prog and the will to break into the same album market. Another factor to tie these albums together is the sequel of sorts to the 'Cygnus X-1', the title epic filling the first side. It's the third and last time Rush made a side-long epic, and by far the best if you ask me. Yes, better than '2112' though many disagree!

It has a good concept - to which the cover art points directly with the brain hemispheres and two figures. Peart was inspired by a book (I now forget which, on psychology perhaps?) and he shaped the storyline about Greek gods Apollo, Bringer of Wisdom, and Dionysos, Bringer of Love, and their battle for power, until enters Cygnus, Bringer of Balance. The 18-minute epic has five sections. It works well on both narrative and musical levels with its many changes on dynamics. The use of synths is just suitable, more than before but not too much. Geddy Lee doesn't scream aggressively anymore as he did on '2112'. In my opinion Hemispheres is the high zenith of the epic prog Rush - which was to change into the accessible pop-sensitivity of Permanent Waves. But for a proghead this too is very accessible work.

The hard rocking, rather straight-forward 'Circumstances' is the only track I'm not fond of. Peart's lyrics deal with his personal disappointments in London before joining Rush. 'The Trees' is one of my biggest Rush favourites, what a wonderful, ironic story about overgone equalizing! It was inspired by a comic drawing. The battle for a place in the sun between Oaks and Maples ends up with the use of "hatchet, axe and saw". Not only the lyrics are great; the composition is both economic and exciting, dynamic, catchy and colourful.

The final piece 'La Villa Strangiato' - the first all-instrumental Rush track - is as excellent as it gets. "An Exercise in Self-Indulgence", based on a dream that Alex Lifeson had seen. The twelve parts form a cohesive whole that grabs the listener. The recording of this track alone took more time and effort than the whole Fly By Night album some years earlier. The album doesn't quite enter my list of all time prog favourites, but it's not very far from a five-star album for me either.

Report this review (#1015564)
Posted Saturday, August 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars the seventh album by the Canadian prog rock band. It 's 1978 and Rush are already an institution in the international music scene, thanks to record success of previous release "2112 " , their masterpiece of the "first phase". The previous studio album "A Farewell to Kings " ended with the powerful and epic "Cygnus X-1 : Book I : The Voyage", incredible journey of intrepid Rocinante, the black hole Cygnus X- 1 and left open many questions, since the last sound of the record was a heart throbbing in fade out ... The extraordinary Canadian trio opens the dance with "Cygnus X-1 : Book II: Hemispheres" a history steeped in Greek mythology, relating to that told in the first book. This first track is a triumph of sounds, that highlight the talent of the three icons of prog -rock; changes of time, masterful solos by Alex Lifeson, overflowing sequences of Geddy Lee bass - and percussion in traditional Peart -style, that continue to be inhuman in their perfection!! Although this Book II is composed of six chapters, seems to have no solution of continuity, and hides details elusive at first hearing. Again Neil Peart to deal with the lyrical section: Brilliant . After the overdose overflowing of music, comes a short piece: "Circumstance", another glaring example of the lyrical genius of Peart. This time and attention centered on the concept of revelation, and with the background music, it seems really open eyes on the "things of life" Then comes a hit of the band "The Trees", absolutely fantastic on stage, still in rotation on the radio. It is a piece hard-rock dynamic and powerful, but the cherry on the cake is "La Villa Strangiato": An Exercise in "self -Indulgence" , the first instrument that Rush have composed, a flurry of notes, the arrangements and rhythms, that is meant to be a grand exercise in self-satisfaction!! According to rumors the piece was due to record several times, because the group wanted to record it in direct, and so it was: on CD and vinyl versions of the original you can hear background noises, maybe electrostatic disturbances .

In any case, it's an incredible track, from the beginning and delicate finish on the final guncotton "Hemispheres" is perhaps the pinnacle of the "second phase", the more ' progressive, with many keyboards, untouched, far light-years from the various "Presto " or " Vapor trails" .

Report this review (#1086000)
Posted Thursday, December 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Why gods, Oh WHY? Rush was not born "instrumental", WHY??? Why one has to go through so much Fk misery to listen to such great music? Why?... Why, no one has told this virtuous bass player and extraordinary composer, that his voice sounds like the notice of your near death?

If at least their lyrics were as damn good as the music, well I would not mind that much, but really, not necessarily been a gifted-musician, makes you a gifted-poet (forget gifted, mere poet and otherwise of course,). This, I have been advised, is not Mr. Lee's fault to blamed, he just sings. ...

It is just unbearable to try to skip his voice alone, then the "surrealistic" (I'm being polite) lyrics, in order to enjoy, such a vast universe of excelent music.

In my case, I can not bear so much of this, that frequently. At the end of the day, it is not that "essential" to go through these "voluntary" visits to the dentist, that we all know are necessary, but as such, not something to look forward to.

Why Gods, Oh why!??! It has to be like this?? ........of course, ****4.5 P.A. stars, and in "Karaoke/Land", even ********8 K.L. stars!

Report this review (#1086472)
Posted Friday, December 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars With their sixth studio effort in just 5 short years, Rush produced the masterpiece Hemispheres, an outstanding piece of conceptual hard rock and possibly their most progressive effort. Stylistically very similar to A Farewell To Kings, the band pushes even further into uncharted territory of ultra-technical, conceptual and progressive hard rock.

The obtusely titled Cygnus X-1 Book 2: Hemispheres is arguably a finer sidelong epic than the seminal 2112. For eighteen minutes, Rush bedazzles us with unbelievable musicianship, shifting moods and tempos, compelling narratives, and all the other hallmarks of classic Rush and symphonic prog rock. And unlike the early era side-long epics, the whole thing flows! In this way, it is much greater than the sum of its smaller parts. The bass lines are funky and powerful, the guitar solos soar, the drums are unusual yet driving. The whole presentation is something that can transport and move the listener to Rush's fantastical world. Utterly unique and fascinating, and quite accessible.

There are two shorter songs, which accomplish an impressive amount in their relatively short duration. The arrangements are incredibly colorful, loaded to the max with interesting keyboard sounds, odd percussion, quantum time signature changes. The lyrics on The Trees are a remarkably poetic way of degrading the welfare state and deserve recognition no matter your political views.

Lastly, the almost ten minute La Villa Strangiato is a hyper complex instrumental which sees these young men pushing their music to the absolute limits of their considerable technical skills. There's brilliant flamenco Spanish guitar, funky bass solos, indescribable drum fills, while still finding space for slowly building jazz-fusion sequences. Astounding.

Hemispheres was such a demanding album to write, perform, and record, that the band refused to attempt to recreate something of this caliber, the process was simply too taxing. It is an album of unrestrained ambition and complexity rivaling works such as Yes' Relayer and Gentle Giant's In A Glass House, but with 100% more classic rock in the mix.



Report this review (#1171793)
Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars HEMISPHERES continues the unique hybrid of hard and progressive rock that RUSH so successfully married together and basically continues where their previous album left off. Literally. I am unaware of any other two-suite composition that ended one album with part one and began the next album with part two. Other than the sci-fi and Greek mythology used to tell the story of how the logical and emotional parts of the human mind are separated into different hemispheres, parts one and two sound very different from one another which makes sense since the different sides of the brain represent two different aspects of human reality. Whereas part one represents the emotional brain and conveys a sense of cohesive flow, part two represents the logical brain and is divided abstractly into several seemingly unrelated parts much as cognitive information tends to be. The results of the second part of "Cygnus X-1" may seem strange at first but I have grown to love it as much as the first part. It's definitely the more demanding listen of the two.

"Circumstances" is a proggy little rocker that is very catchy at the same time. It is basically Neil Peart's introspective take on the time he spent living in the UK which is where both "A Farewell To Kings" and this album were recorded.

"The Trees" remains one of my favorite shorter RUSH tracks which allegorically uses the examples of the different species of trees in competition for the sunlight to represent the trials and tribulations of humanity's own internecine competitive nature to dominate resources for political control. Alex Lifeson just nails it on the beautifully composed classical guitar which belies the hard rockin' tale of the trees that abruptly ends by hatchets, chains and saws.

"La Villa Strangiato" like "Xanadu" is one of my personal all-time musical compositions which has the honor of taking more time to compose and record by itself than most of RUSH's earlier albums. It has also been cited as the straw that broke the camel's back in the tension created by ever upping the progressive ante but what a way for RUSH to end their full-on prog stint. This 9 ˝ minute masterpiece is divided into 12 parts which all string together effortlessly. There is even a 20 second part that begins at 5:49 into the song which uses a riff called "Powerhouse" written by cartoon jazz master Raymond Scott.

HEMISPHERES is another huge winner in my book. Unfortunately more albums like this were not to be :(

Report this review (#1184839)
Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars After my review about "A Farewell To Kings" , where I said "If you ask for prog rock fans - "What is the best RUSH album ? top RUSH album is "A Farewell To Kings" . Becomes very difficult to write some review about RUSH next three albuns "Hemispheres", "Permanent Waves" and "Mooving Pictutes".. because they are also perfects as the first one. In the case of "Hemispheres" I can say is which this album is a natural sequence from AFTK, but not only by the continuation of "Cygnus X-1", but due the musical approach in itself ( which are very close from the previous album ) and in the case of "Cygnus X - 1 (Book Two) Hemispheres " the main difference between this two albuns is while in AFTK I can't perceive none great approximation with 2112 musical structure, in this first track this approximation is very clear at least in two points: only one track divided in 6 "sub-tracks", more use of guitar chords ( some of these in fingering mood) in the melodic construction , however... the track are full of "filigrees", one of this is the unexpected interruption in the overture melody ( exactly in 2 min 34 sec) a "break' in the execution where the "space" are fill by a single triangle ring ( simply brilliant ), another great moment is the "phased" guitar melody (starting about 9 min 29 sec and finishing in 9 min 45 sec). In track 2 "Circunstances" the great detach are Geedy' vocals and the keyboards "interlude" in the middle section of track. The Track 4 "The Trees" in my opinion is the more similar in musical construction in relation to AFTK tracks : a classical guitar introduction, a very heavy melody, a great guitar solo with a "conclusion" ( starting about 3 min 29 sec until 3 min 50 sec) where guitar and percussion duets extrapolates in all of senses. The last track " La Villa Strangiatto" is in my opinion the peak of Rush creativity, full of alternate themes and presents the band in their higher point of composition and performance. I can't forget to mention the cover of Hemispheres, a more well clear representation of the theme of first track: the 3 brains (Alex, Geedy and Neal) the "serious' man ( using a very "sober" costume) a reason symbol in counterpoint to a naked ballet dancer which represents the emotion. My Rate is obviously 5 stars !!!
Report this review (#1196031)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Here is another Rush album that has been reviewed so many times that everything that needs to be said has been said. "Hemispheres" is one of the many 5 star albums by the band. But there were some interesting changes going on and that becomes apparent almost immediately. Keyboards were being used again, and were being used effectively. The core guitar, bass, drums were still the driving force.

But the first real obvious change is that Geddy's voice is suddenly a huge centerpiece on the first track, which is the very long suite which serves as the sequel to "Cygnus X-1" from the previous album "Farewell to Kings". It's not really a sequel though because the first part dealt with a science fiction theme where part 2 deals with mythology. Whatever, it's Rush. The track is full of reminders of the first part with a few repeated or similar guitar hooks taken from the first part. But after a decent instrumental introduction, Geddy's vocals take over and don't let up much for the remainder of the long track. There were some disappointed fans at this time as this was the first time the guitar didn't stand out so obviously. It took more time to appreciate this track this time around, but after a few listens, it was hard to deny it the progressive epic status it deserved. Yes there was a lack of guitar craziness in the first half of the album, which is comprised of the suite, but there was masterful skill in the composition of the track. It did take a little longer to appreciate, but now that I do appreciate it, it is a masterpiece.

The 2nd half of the album is a return to form from "Farewell to Kings". This was the familiar Rush with the same formula of excellent keyboards, blazing guitar and bass solos, and heavy exciting songs. "Circumstances" and "The Trees" are rock classics and the guitar solo in "The Trees" make the difficulty of "Cygnus Part II" easier to digest on the first few listens and it also guaranteed Rush fans would return to the album. Fans were happy, and soon they would accept the long suite even if it meant listening to it a few times to appreciate it.

But I don't think anyone was ready for the awesomeness of what was to come next on the album. This is the best guitar solo ever! I know when I first heard this solo, I was amazed and excited, and I was sold on the album. After all these years, it still hasn't worn itself out, I still consider it the best instrumental track by Rush and one of the best Heavy Prog songs ever. Even if it is driven by guitar for the most part, it is a multi-dimensional full blown prog anthem. "La Villa Stragiato" would set the bar for guitar based prog for years to come. We all knew that Alex Lifeson was one of the best prog guitarists, but after this track, he was considered a guitar god. Simply amazing track that still gets me excited when I hear it. And the progressive nature of the track is amazing with all kinds of rhythmic changes, dynamics, moods, style shifts and it's all done seamlessly. If nothing else on the album was any good, this track still would have been a standout in all of rock music. But fortunately, the album is still great. One of Rush's many masterpieces, heavy rock with classical attributes in the composition of the music and loaded with prog elements galore. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1412193)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars No matter what you think of Rush, I think anyone can agree that they rarely rest on their laurels. Even later on in their career, the band would always experiment with sounds of the decade while sticking to own their guns in the process. The 70s and early 80s held the best examples of this, with the trio constantly expanding upon their concepts and style with each record. Their debut and a large chunk of Fly by Night were rooted in bluesy (sometimes folky) hard rock in the vein of Led Zeppelin, but they soon realized that evolution would be important to their work. If someone ever needed the best proof that Rush's progressive experimentation was the best thing that happened to them (along with Neil Peart, of course), I'd tell him or her to look no further than their 1978 effort Hemispheres.

With its four songs and 36-minute running time, Hemispheres is more abstract and less accessible than its predecessors; however, it also ends up being the band's most concise. We've got an 18-minute epic, a long-winded instrumental closer, and two shorter hard rock songs sandwiched in between. As with 2112's title epic, the opening epic on Hemispheres makes up the entire first side of the record. The storytelling and overall lyricism, also like 2112, are once again a big part of this song, as I'll talk about in a minute. As for individual performances, the trio absolutely astounds. One quality of Neil Peart's drumming here that really sticks out is the fact that he seems to put the overall band first. What I mean by this is that he only gets flashy when the situation calls for him to do so; he anchors the other musicians very nicely while bringing his own style to the table as well. Geddy's voice is as high-pitched as ever, but the bass playing is phenomenal at the same time. Alex Lifeson is more experimental with his guitar effects this time around, utilizing a wide range of tones and sounds to suit any given situation. His emotive and technical solos on "La Villa Strangiato" and "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" are standout moments on this album as well.

When the title track bursts right out of the gate, you can feel the band's confidence shining through 100%. The band aren't going to take any prisoners on this effort, and it shows as the instrumental overture goes on. Similar to "2112," you'll hear many of the song's future themes on this overture as it displays all of the band's frequent time signature changes and unorthodox compositions. As you could imagine by the "Book II" in the title, there's also a story to this epic. Following the events of "Cyngus X-1 Book I" in which the protagonist was sucked into a black hole during his voyage, the explorer enters a new world where he's eventually destined to be the God of Balance. In a world filled with multiple extremes and fluctuations between love and hatred, the explorer decides to be the balance that anchors everything into place and is named Cygnus. The story is epic and moody, and the instrumental work always gets switched up to suit the mood. For instance, the Apollo segment contains contemplative guitar work and a sense of instrumental control to display the theme of wisdom that's supposed to be represented there. While the technically remains present, it sounds more reserved at the same time. Then there's the Armageddon segment in which the music is much more distorted and loud to represent conflict and chaos. The rhythm Neil goes for is a bizarre sort of swing beat, but it surprisingly works with the music. The last few sections depict how the explorer eventually becomes Cygnus (after it's debated by the other Gods) and the Sphere segment tightly wraps things up with a calm acoustic finale. It brings a sense of closure to one of progressive rock's best epics; frankly, I can't recommend this song enough overall. It's simply a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

The other songs are great too. "Circumstances" is the most accessible song on here, a straightforward hard rock song with Geddy Lee's high-pitched screaming leading the chorus. There are still plenty of technical moments here as well, like with the calm instrumental break before the finale or the chorus itself. Either way, everything sounds tight and in place. "The Trees" is a bit more interesting, talking about prejudice but with... well, trees. Sort of a weird scenario, isn't it? Well anyway, it starts with 3/4-time acoustic guitar segment before launching into a clash of instruments before the verse comes about. The instrumental break in the middle is pretty interesting too, preferring to build itself up instead of making things too obvious. You get many little nuances here, such as Neil Peart's woodblock or the underlying synthesizers. Finally, we get to the other highlight of the album: the instrumental "La Villa Strangiato." Holy hell, this song is absolutely insane; first of all, what other song would start with a shredding intro on a classical guitar? Anyway, this is another song that builds things up, eventually leading to one of Alex Lifeson's most emotive and refreshingly spacious guitar solos. After that, the craziness begins; a rolling drum beat is supported by a hard rock riff and rhythm changes start to get constant. The "rolling riff" is a recurring theme but usually appearing in different forms, such as a bluesy swinging section that reminds me of "Lovin,' Touchin,' Squeezin'" by Journey. This song is pretty much a perfect combination of compositional variety, exceptional instrumental prowess, and a cohesion matched by very few progressive rock/metal bands even today.

So what do I think overall? Get this. I don't care how you get it, just do. It's one of the best progressive rock albums of all time, if not one of the best rock albums in general; this record represents what music is all about, and only in 36 minutes. Very impressive.

Report this review (#1445871)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beyond the black hole

4.5 stars

Often referred as one of RUSH's best albums alongside "2112" and "Moving Pictures", "Hemispheres" extends the musical approach and story developed on "A Farewell To Kings". Still consisting in sophisticated changing tracks, uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms with fantasy / sci-fi lyrics, the musicians develop their neo- hard/heavy progressive identity they've been crafting in their two previous opuses. Unlike its 1977 predecessor, there are no filler songs here, the quality and inspiration remain constant this time.

The story of "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" begins where the first book stopped. Initially describing the descent into a black hole, the second book explores what's beyond this spatial singularity and the possible conflicts between the two cerebral hemispheres, by mixing Greek mythology and philosophy. This 20 minutes epic is in the same neo-heavy- prog vein as the suites from RUSH's two previous albums. It alternates soft, calm and rocking passages but is a bit lengthy. Nice, although not as dark and epic as "Book One" or as remarkable as "2112".

"Circumstances" is a powerful heavy rock in the style of "Something for Nothing" from "2112". Geddy Lee even sings a part of the lyrics in French: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la męme chose". It rocks! "The Trees" is social fable narrating the battle between two tree species, the oaks overshadowing the maples. At the end, Man comes to cut all trees down, making them equal in death. This song includes nature and bird sounds and features acoustic and nervous changing passages. Another very good track. However, the genuine highlight of the record is clearly the great mini-epic "La Villa Strangiato", RUSH's best instrumental with "YYZ". Here, all musicians deploys their talents and personality through multiple soli showing their virtuosity at their respective instruments, supported by complex rhythm structures. The music itself offers a wide range of various ambiances: Spanish, trippy, beautiful, hard rock, heroic, and even prog metal and little jazzy moments. Original and mindblowing, this composition alone justifies the listen!

Apart from "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" which may be a little repetitive and not as inspired as the other songs, the overall quality of the disc is much more constant than its predecessor's. Unique at the time, the Canadians develop their identity and still manage to bring something new to the progressive world in the late 70's during the punk revolution, when the British elders were rather getting away from it. No other band was offering such neo-heavy- prog at the time. No wonder they strongly influenced DREAM THEATER.

"Hemispheres" is indeed one of RUSH's best albums, maybe the most progressive in terms of structure. Highly recommended!

This sixth studio release is also their last opus to contain 20 minutes suites. The musicians were beginning to find the long epics songwriting too stressful. After this one, the Canadians' music will become a little more accessible, but this does not necessarily means a loss of quality or interest...

Report this review (#1581369)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars REVIEW #3 - "Hemispheres" by Rush (1978)

Still in the United Kingdom after recording their follow-up album to their successful 1976 album "2112", Rush continued on the path of conventional prog rock necessities - long songs with thought-provoking lyrics, interesting stories, and instrumental virtuosity. Their 1978 album "Hemispheres" would be the magnum opus of the band's prog rock phase, topping the solid "A Farewell to Kings" and being the most ambitious album by the band ever. With four songs, it features a continuation of the band's previous closing song (Cygnus X-1) and three very solid tracks on the flip side. This album very well shows how Rush is pretty good at making music - each member is phenomenal on the album with their respective parts - from bassist Geddy Lee to the ubiquitiously acclaimed Neil Peart on drums.

The entire first side is occupied by the second part of the Cygnus X-1 suite, continued from the band's previous album. "Hemispheres" (4/5) is quite possibly the most ambitious song the band had created to that point; an eighteen-minute, five part epic with themes rooted in Greek mythology, science fiction, the supernatural, and human nature. A more musically pleasing song piece than the first part of the suite, we learn what happens to the protagonist and how he, with the guidance of Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus, saves Earth. The concept of introversion and extroversion also emerges, with the former representing the left hemisphere of the brain and the latter the right. A fine sounding song, my gripe with it is its musical redundancy through the first three parts - it sounds the same and goes on for quite a while. The fourth part brings us back to the action, as the first three provide background on the new characters and the situation back on Earth (keep in mind the protagonist is in deep space). The underrated masterpiece of this album lies on the fifth (and final) part of this track - an acoustic, light piece titled "The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)" that is essentially a plea to peace and harmony in the world. All in all this is one of the better Rush songs, but is hampered by a convoluted story that is hard to digest for new and/or less intellectual listeners. The band itself has also admitted that the room for creativity at this point had been zapped, as the band felt pressured to make a solid sequel to the first part.

Three more songs occupy the second side. The first two are shorter pieces in relation to the two giants on the album - "Circumstances" (4/5), a track about Peart's life away from his Canadian hometown in England and his journey to find himself (similar to their 1975 hit "Fly by Night"). A comfortable song, it is not an astounding masterpiece, but rather a fine track that cannot be summed up as filler content. The other short track is "The Trees" (5/5), considered by some Rush fans as one of their best songs. Based upon a children's story that is an allegory to class warfare, it pits two species of trees as they fight over sunlight, with the smaller trees crying "oppression" in the words of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. An odd choice for a theme, especially as the band was considered to be heavily libertarian (as evidenced by the songs "Anthem", "2112", and so forth), but Peart denies having any ideological consensus with the story's message. Also notable on this song is the calming acoustic intro by guitarist Alex Lifeson - which would later be expanded into its own song titled "Broon's Bane". Overall, a brilliant song and one of their best as well. Finally, the album is ended by a very ambitious instrumental track titled "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)" (5/5) which would test the musical virtuosity of all three band members. With twelve parts in total inspired by a dream of Lifeson's, it is truly a masterpiece of the genre, with ruthless drumming by Peart, establishing himself as one of rock's best, and intricate bass and guitar work by both Lee and Lifeson. This song alone took more time to record than the band's whole 1975 "Fly by Night" album, and is a fan favorite, despite being pretty much retired due to the band's lack of stamina as they grow older.

"Hemispheres" would be the last strictly prog rock album the band would make. Its intricacy and pretentious nature ultimately drove the band in a more commercial direction - one which would eventually yield them mainstream success with a more new wave sound. This song would also feature their last song to date above twelve minutes, and the last to feature the glockenspiel, wind chimes, and gong that Peart used so well for ambience on this album, as well as "A Farewell to Kings." It's my personal favorite Rush album due to its well-structured, unique songs, and it deserves great honor. I enjoyed this album so much I eventually purchased a limited release Canadian red vinyl of the album - which sits at the pinnacle of my LP collection to this day. It isn't perfect, but it is pretty well near there, and deserves a "rare" five-star rating. A great album for prog fanatics and those who want to get into the world of prog from heavier rock and metal.

OVERALL: 4.5/5 (A-)

Report this review (#1636634)
Posted Friday, October 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of Rush's "Kimono" albums. Clearly, they were under pressure to come up with something that could meet the expectations set by Farewell to Kings. While "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato" are excellent (among Rush's best songs), the rest of the album suffers. As Neil Peart himself said about this album, looking back it was clear they were "reaching". This is most evident in the long epic "Cygnus X Book II Hemispheres". While I usually love long epic compositions, and I LOVED Cygnus X-1 on Farewell to Kings, I think Rush were tired and trying to hard when composing this follow-up. It probably could have been a decent 7-minute tune, but by stretching it out to 18 minutes they felt compelled to come back too often to the "I bring..." theme, which gets tiring after a while and is the least musical theme on the album. This, to me, is a good example of how long does not necessarily equate to musical. (And while "Circumstances" is fine and listenable it is nothing too special). With the test of time mainly only supporting Trees and Villa, which I admit are essential SONGS, I can't call the entire album "essential" or a "masterpiece", or even "excellent". I give this 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is short of the threshold needed for 4 stars. So, for the album, 3 PA stars.
Report this review (#1695649)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars No prog n' no problem: 8/10

Truth be told, I always found RUSH's flirting with prog rock laughable. Not only their "innovations" are dated, but they are not innovations at all. While the musical movement shook the earth in the early 70s, RUSH was busy playing simpleton hard rock (that bordered metal) tracks. This obviously doesn't take their merit as accomplished musicians and creators of good music, but I feel I would be ridiculous to visualize RUSH as a progressive powerhouse. So much so that, after their "prog" phase, they hopped in the synthesizer-driven poppish rock trend of the early 80s without a single flinch. Almost as if they were glad that they had no longer to worry about faking a "prog" posture. Honestly, their music became more natural.

Putting this aside, HEMISPHERES, just like most of their songs in the "prog era" (or almost any era I have listened to, to be honest) is fun to listen to. I can't seem to find any excerpt of theirs that sounds saddened or melancholic or to put it simply, isn't downright upbeat. Their joviality, cheerfulness and a rather unpretentious (well, unwillingly, because eighteen minutes long tracks aren't written accidentally) approach to music are so appealing to me.

Hemispheres is perhaps their most polemic work. Deemed by some as boring and dragging and others as enjoyable, this has a lot to do with its lack of diversity on the riff repertoire. There's also a debate whether the lyrics are overly cheesy or a well-crafted lyrical fountain. I belong to the latter group. I love this song.

Circumstances show that RUSH never truly abandoned their simple and unadorned approach to hard rock.

The Trees is a weird version of a fable. Rather than featuring animals, it features plants. Lyrics tell of small trees that, due to lack of sunlight, joins in a syndicate against the larger trees that absorbs it all. In the end - spoilers - all trees are chopped so what difference does it take? The distilled sarcasm is sturdy, resembling Frank Zappa's. Also, the midsection features a delightful and serene atmosphere as Peart plays the temple/wood blocks.

La Villa Strangiato is their acclaimed and indisputably most 'progressive' work, an instrumental song with various jams and sections that showcase their fullest potential. Didn't give many listens to it, but from what I've heard it sounds masterful.

If you are willing to ignore the debatable "lack" or "abundance" of progressiveness in their songs and just enjoy it labellessly, I'm pretty sure you're going to have a good time with it. I did.

(originally written to rateyourmusic, hence the review's less substantiality than I usually put)

Report this review (#1769322)
Posted Monday, August 7, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album speaks to me. I had found Rush randomly upon searching more classic rock music to listen to. I started with the greatest hits album, and I ended up being amazed by all the songs. Before that, I had never come across a band that I thoroughly enjoyed. This band appeared out of nowhere. So I decided to spend time researching.

Long story short: Rush became my gateway drug to progressive rock as a genre. Geddy, Lifeson, and Peart are a real treasure to me. The more I looked into prog rock, the more I appreciated Rush's heavy prog ways in the 70s and early 80s. I started to listen to their albums in full, as well as other great bands, and wanted to find the best album, of a band I had concluded was my favorite. 2112, A Farewell to Kings, Moving Pictures, and even Caress of Steel had become big contenders.

However, when I had finally listened through *Hemispheres* all the way through, it changed everything.

1.) Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres

- Many have critiqued this track the most when comparing it to 2112. That 2112 is a better song. I think that is not completely ill-willed. 2112 is very good, and is probably the best Space Rock Opera. However, Hemispheres is really it's own category. It's much more of a journey of the mind, rather than an observation of a anti-individual society. The song lyrically is a metaphor. Apollo is pure reason, and Dionysus is pure pleasure. Cygnus is the balance found between them. The song carries the listener through this process in a brilliantly crafted way. Peart's lyrism is strong here and throughout this whole album.

The album starts with an exhilarating intro, as if throwing you into the space realm. The guitar riffs, the bass riffs, the drums, the mesmorizing synth wave. It carries you through man's attempted with following Apollo, failing, then going to Dionysus, only to fail again. The guitar riffs becoming ever more panic driven, with Geddy's vocals striking you with bright dismay at the current events. The story then reminds us of the previous book (The Voyage) as if we are drifting weightlessly in space. When we arrive to Cygnus' awakening, it is like an epiphany, and the light of a new born star in the galaxy hits our eyes. The realization that, "perhaps pure reason or oure pleasure is not what is right."

Once the gods acknowledge Cygnus and we blast off into space, we are suddenly greeted with an acoustic guitar, and Geddy's voice more calm and still. The lyrics here are especially important. It is not merely that we walk together with similar goals in mind, but we can all follow our own dreams freely. I personally think that this is to show that, even though we must follow truth and love, it is *our* truth and love. Find *our* balance. Our balance as individuals.

Perhaps the lyrism is a bit odd, I'll admit, but the instrumentation is stellar. 10/10

2.) Circumstances:

- I love this track. Everything is on the nose here, with instruments and lyrics (was that French I heard in the chorus!). While many find this track weak (it is fair to say that it is the weakest of the album), I find that it hits my buttons both lyrically and musically. 10/10

3.) The Trees:

- Lyrically thought provoking, with incredible acoustic work by Lifeson, and the ever talented Peart drums and Geddy bass work as usual. A observation of Maples and Oaks that makes you consider your thoughts on certain poltical ideas with a very evil twist at the end. A libertarian manifesto. The song is still quite pleasent to listen to with Geddy's voice starting soft and then becomes engaged in dialogue. A great song over all. 10/10

4.) La Villa Strangiato:

- This song changed my life. It made me pick up guitar and start playing it. Perhaps that is why I am biased and love this album so much. Sadly, while being my favorite, it is a double edge sword. The song was so difficult to make, as well as other parts of this album, it killed Rush's wants to make more epic style albums. Hence it was the last epic album. It is unfortunate, but Rush should not pressure itself like it did here, even if I loved it. It still blows my mind that three people did this song. This song is out of this world.

This 9 minute instrumental that kicks in is the ultimate Rush track. The power trio really showed it talent and musicianship with this track. From a beautifully breath taking flamenco inspired intro, to synthwave and the ever growing drum fills in the first 2 minutes, slaming into the epic. The guitar solo that Lifeson play is the best guitar solo I have ever heard. It is elevated higher from the amazing drum fills by Peart and the subtle synthwave through out its length. The great Jaco inspired bass riffs by Geddy show his wild side. The transitions between all these events is like watching a rock band doing jazz. Many parts of the song feel like jazz. The way the song ends certainly shows that to me, by ending with a great thud in *A Farewell to Things.* It gets a RUSH/10.

5.) Conclusion:

- The best Rush album hands down for me. Worth every minute. I can't highly recommend it enough for prog users and especially Rush fans that like prog. If you like synthwave and prog rock with heavy and jazz elements, this has a nice mixture. A great masterpiece of Rush, and certainly a great addition to any prog rock collection. I hope you enjoy!

Report this review (#2054288)
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hey Progheads, I'm back from a long hiatus in reviews and stuff. You all missed me? Lol probably not. Anyway, I am going to be reviewing one of my absolute favorite music(not just prog, metal or rock) albums of all time, Rush's 1978 Hemispheres. Where to start? Well for one, the band started hitting it big in the UK with the previous effort. They finally reached what they dreamed about as kids playing at high school dances. What they recorded after A Farewell to Kings (Hemispheres, the aforementioned album) was and is the stuff of legends. On to the review right?

1) Cygnus X-1 Book 2: Hemispheres - What to say about it? Not much because I find it absolutely flawless and awe-inspiring. This is what music should sound like. It is the epitome of great sound and imagination. Whenever I hear it, I get taken to the cosmos with it. It is an amazing piece of music as it is so smart, so emotional and heartfelt all at the same time. You're not really going to get that else as some bands lack the intellect while others lack the emotion. This piece of music has them both. We will call you Cygnus, the God of Balance you shall be!! ....(chills). 10/10

2) Circumstances - This one is just a straight up rocking and pretty darn complex tune. Although a bit higher than he is used to I love Geddy's vocal delivery (it fits the mood and song perfectly). I also quite love his bass work (it's pretty darn busy and rad). Everyone shines on here from Alex, Geddy to Neil. I love it. 10/10

3) The Trees - This is one of absolute genius in my opinion, the lyrics and music just go so well together. From Geddy's bass to Alex's ingenious soloing and riffing to Neil's woodblock playing . Personally, I feel it depicts class struggle (that's pretty darn cerebral there ain't it?). It just never feels dull or boring, you feel like you're taken to another world with these Trees. Yet another track that I love from these guys. Rush is just on another level with these tracks. 10/10

4) La Villa Strangiato - This track is the epitome of Rush at their most mind-blowing and epic. Although not for everyone (most Prog isn't lol) it is something I feel ordinary people will be blown by if they listen closely. It is that good even though it is also very complex. This is the track to get lost into (from any band really) if you ask me. Lee, Lifeson and Peart all put on a show. Amazing, amazing stuff. 10/10

Yet another masterpiece from Canada's best Prog band ever. I think it would have topped Kings as my all time favorite record had they included Alex's Broon's Bane but that's just my nitpicking haha. Overall it gets a 40/40 from me. It's an absolute masterpiece. 5 stars!! Peace out!!

Report this review (#2288328)
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the pinnacle moment in Rush's long career. They took the lyrical themes of the previous album, perfected the musical aspect that somewhat lacked in 'A Farewell To Kings', and just made this beautiful work of art. 'Hemispheres' was always a wonderful album by the heavy prog band, the continuation of 'Cygnus X-1' in our Book II: Hemispheres.

I've seen complaints and praises, but I find that my overall thoughts on the song are more on the side with praising this piece. I like the odd times that start the song off, it fits very well with the first part of Cygnus X-1. This isn't as space rock oriented as the previous chapter, but I like the more formulated and more classic Rush tonality of the second chapter perhaps more than the first part. The lyrics work as a sequel to Cygnus X-1 Chapter 1, its a good way to continue the two part series. We open with reverse faded guitars, and end off with acoustic guitars.

'Circumstances' has always been a really well written piece in my honest opinion, the elements that capture the ears most is Geddy Lee mastering the more loose cannon vocals of those days, and the lyrics. The song itself isn't amazing, but it's short and catchy, the lyrics and Geddy's voice are the elements that really work for me. Geddy sounds great here, he use of vocal fluctuations work incredibly. Usually I find that when he screams like that, his voice can come off a bit out of control and sometimes out of key, which turns out to be a common issue on '2112'.

'The Trees' is a well written piece by the band about communism, a fictional debate between trees act for the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Neil Peart was a huge fan of the libertarian mindset, and this song was conveying the message that communism doesn't work. As someone who usually isn't a fan of political lyrics, this song does the political themes really well and shows that Neil was against the communist and socialist parties and mindsets. The song in general is extremely well written, great playing overall, great chord progressions, and most importantly, Geddy still sounds great here.

'La Villa Strangiato' is the grand finale of this brilliant album, the instrumental to end us off and it's a doozy. The instrumentation, the chord progression, the mood and feel, the opening of finger style classical nylon guitar playing, and then getting into the song with a bang. This is a top 10 Rush song because of the role it plays in their discography, Rush was good at doing instrumental parts in songs but hadn't really tried a full instrumental track before. This opened the doors and showed that they could write a full instrumental, and they would continue doing it. So what are my final thoughts? This happens to be Rush's masterpiece, they have a few albums that are just as good as this but this is where they had perfected their signature sound.

Report this review (#2406652)
Posted Monday, May 25, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hemispheres is the second album of the second stage of Rush, in which the increasingly intense and complex use of nuances and sounds, the result of the incorporation of more musical instruments (synthesizers, pedals, and percussion elements) shows us a band consolidated in its most progressive aspect.

The album starts off great with Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres, a continuation of Cygnus 1, the ending song for A Farewell To King. In its 18 minutes we have a very intense development, a spatial and atmospheric suite, in which the god Cygnus X-1, turned into a divinity that balances the friction of the rational part with the affective part, represented by the gods Apollo and Dionysus . In the style of 2112, combining moments of tense tranquility and moments of intense rhythms and dramatic evolutions, it is a theme that is among the best of his repertoire, and one of his latest extensive compositions. The entire suite completely encompasses side A of the album.

Circumstances, starting the B-side, is inspired by the time when Neil Peart lived in his 20s in the British Isles, it is a beautiful song of less than 4 minutes and the shortest of the album, followed by The Trees, a critic where Neil Peart reflects, although he has always denied that it has any particular political connotation, aspects of human reality, of the complex and the constant struggle between its different social structures with a simple and fabled example of nature, using the trees of maple and oak. An excellent song and constant and highly acclaimed presence in their live shows.

The album closes in a spectacular way with Villa Strangiato, and its more than 9 minutes, an instrumental composition that combines a number of styles and musical influences, all linked by the progressive thread, where both Lee, Lifeson and Peart show off of their enormous qualities as musicians. An essential song in the group's catalog.

Hemispheres, in summary, places Rush as one of the most representative bands of the genre, which without leaving its very rocky initial roots, quite the contrary, they add it and complement it very well by adding a greater range of musical textures. Excellent album.

Report this review (#2408330)
Posted Saturday, May 30, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review #85

The amazing Hard Progressive Rock that RUSH developed in "2112" and "A farewell to kings" reached its climax in their definitive and absolute masterpiece from 1978 "Hemispheres"; in this record, PEART, LEE, and LIFESON showed a musical maturity creating the most ambitious and complex of their compositions. Even when the following albums "Permanent waves" and especially "Moving pictures" are regularly considered as masterpieces, I truly believe this was the last album of RUSH that deserved such a label.

1.- Cygnus X-1 Book II (18:08): If the first song of the album is as amazing as this, you can be sure the rest of the album would be terrific; from the very beginning of the piece we can appreciate LIFESON's dexterity with the guitar. Aggressive guitar riffs, killing drums and very concise basslines combined with the sensual touch of the synthesizers and PEART's crazy lyrics made this song an intense masterpiece. This song is the second part of 'Cygnus X-1', a song from 'A farewell to kings'; it talks about two Greek gods: Apollo (god of the Sun and the arts who represents the left hemisphere of the brain which is more used by logical thinkers) and Dionysus (god of wine and fertility who represents the right side of the brain which is used by more sensitive people), the war that these two gods and their people had and how they choose Cygnus to bring peace and balance between the two hemispheres and their people. The structure and the length of this song are very similar to YES's 'Close to the Edge'.

2.- Circumstances (03:44): As the previous RUSH albums did, 'Hemispheres' included short songs in the middle part of the album; 'Circumstances' is one of those songs that had become classics in the live performances of the band.

3.- The trees (04:45): This is actually my favorite song of the album; once again Neil PEART's lyrics talk about wars between fictitious characters: this time those characters were talking trees.

4.- La villa strangiato (09:34): I saw a meme once that said something like 'drummers need metronomes and metronomes need Neil PEART' and I really think this song is a perfect example of how real that statement is. Neil PEART is considered by lots of people (me included) as the best drummer in all rock history, his technique of switching the signatures and patterns is unique and in 'Hemispheres' he managed to create one of the hardest drum lines ever. Also, LIFESON's guitar and LEE's bass and synthesizers made intense and majestic participation in the structure of this piece.

'Hemispheres' is one of the most unbelievable albums in Progressive Rock history, probably the best one from 1978 and the last RUSH album featuring this quality of compositions.

Report this review (#2494091)
Posted Friday, January 15, 2021 | Review Permalink

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