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Rush - A Farewell to Kings CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.33 | 2289 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Cities full of hatred, fear and lies.

Rush's Farewell to kings did more than start a tetrad of fantastic albums that would mark the band's classic period. It also put the band on the map as one of the leading hard rock, and indeed, progressive groups of the late 70s while proving that they could be just as heavy and aggressive as the punk rock scene of the time. Likely the band's most unique blend of abstract and more scientific lyrics (paired with it's successor, Hemispheres), starting to focus more on the poetic side of Neil PEART's lyrics with objective observations about society and human nature will still adding a ''swords and shields'' feel t it. Really, this is where Peart's more down to Earth lyrics would start -- having only mild success on their truly poetic Caress of Steel [CoS] album, but more success on their rebellious 2112.

This album also did a number on this young head banger. One of the first albums by Rush that I would acquire, (right after Fly by Night and Grace Under Pressure) this would be the one that would appeal to me the most and make a true fan (and eventually fanboy) out of me. On those cold Canadian nights, treading through the snow after school the warm sounds on songs like XANADU and CLOSER TO THE HEART were incredibly welcome. This is an album that is one of those ones that has that crazy ability to conjure up memories every time it hits my cd player... and what good times those were.

Nostalgia aside, what makes it so good? Let's start the review shall we?

A great mix of old and new (at the time), this is the album that Rush found their niche on. Mixing progressive elements from their newer outings (2112 and CoS) and hard rock elements from their older albums (Rush, Fly By Night) Rush finds a perfect middle ground that is both pleasing to the prog fan, and commercial enough to score a hit. It also seems that the aggression from 2112 has stuck around. This is an album that is heavy and with some truly rebellious moments. Going both more progressive and, at points, darker than ever before, this is an album that demands attention.

Starting with the calm acoustic riff that opens the album, this is a powerhouse. The title track, A FAREWELL TO KINGS, starts off the fray with some excellent keyboards and spacy bits until it's blasted away in Rush's typical Heavy Prog way. More old school-y in style than the sci-fi 2112, the sounds here are more like a better refined version of CoS. The title track is one of those rebellious songs -- a track that shows Peart writing about his view on human nature and questioning what later generations will think of us and our decisions. Abstract, yes... but effective. This is one of the shorter songs on the album, coming just short of 6 minutes (okay, so it's mid-lengthed, but bare with), but definately one of the most memorable. Another song very much in the same vein as the opener is the romantic and accessible CLOSER TO THE HEART. This song is a great one for Rush as it allowed them to score a bit hit, especially here in Canada, where any radio station has likely played it a thousand times... today. This is not without merit of course, Geddy's voice is soothing and the melodies too... the guitar is excellent and the solos fly while the bass and drums provide a mean rhythm section. While definately better in the 5 or 6 minute live blowout version (Different Strings [1996] or A Show of Hands [1988]), this is a song that's always appealed to a wide audience, and has definately earned it.

Among the other short songs are a couple great, often forgotten gems. CINDERELLA MAN is a quirky number driven by some excellent bass and Alex LIFESON's ever wonderful guitar. Certainly not the focal point of the album, this is still a track far too often overlooked. The tranquil MADRIGAL is another one that's often forgotten. This is a short, beautifully composed song highlighted by some excellent keyboards and bass. Geddy is seen singing here in what would later become his normal singing voice (less high pitched), and man does he do a great job anyways.

Of course, this album would not be complete without some kind of Rush epic...

The album houses two Rush classic epics that have been known and renowned as some of the band's best work. Starting with the sublime XANADU, this album is given true life. The calm and subtle intro, highlighted by Peart's background rhythm and Geddy's synths, gives a couple of minutes of ear candy followed up by some heavy riffs by Lifeson. A take on Coleridge's classic poem ''Khubla Khan'', this is a song about the search for paradise and what happens to those who become obsessed with it. Open to interpretation by the song's fans (I myself am guilty of writing a high-school English paper on this song back in the day), Geddy himself has admitted that he doesn't know entirely what the song means. Made great by what Rush does best, mixing heavy elements with traditional prog, this song is one of the best in their catalog. But where XANADU is fairly traditional in it's approach... poetic and floaty... it's counterpart CYGNUS X-1 is the exact polar opposite. This sci-fi thriller that would be concluded on the following album has all the makings of a grotesque (in a good way) heavy-metal epic. Dark and evil narration paired with some very spacey atmospheres and even the sound of a rocket launching make this song's into much different than their previous works. Geddy's pounding bassline soon comes in to overwhelm what was starting to become a Hawkwind song and starts one of the band's best instrumental overtures. It won't be until about halfway through the dark epic that lyrics will come into the fold, and when they do... they do it with a bang. Geddy pulls out all the stops on this one and shows just how high his voice can go coming into the climax of the song. Ending with the same spaceyness as it began, this is a song that might has well have ''To Be Continued...'' written on it (and yes, it does -- in the liner notes, but I'm talking about the music here). Excellent track and a great end to an excellent album.

Slap another great Syme-Peart artwork collaboration on the cover and you're ready to go. This is everything that Rush does best crammed into one album. Some may consider it the band's apex... but between this one and the three to follow it, it's really friggen hard to chose. 5 stars without a shadow of a doubt. This is some of the band's best work and certainly essential to any prog rock collection.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |


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