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Rush - A Farewell To Kings CD (album) cover

A FAREWELL TO KINGS

Rush

 

Heavy Prog

4.32 | 1996 ratings

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Magnum Vaeltaja
2 stars To put it quite simply, this is a disappointing album, and I think its faults are best summarized with a track by track.

Starting things off, we're greeted to a more serene Rush than we've ever heard before. Classical guitar? Lush synthesizers? What is this blasphemy?!? After about a minute of inconsequential softness, though, the Rush we're more familiar with reenters the picture. A nice hard-hitting riff comes in and sweeps us off our feet. Admittedly, "A Farewell To Kings" is a fine track. It's not the best opener in Rush's catalogue, and even the main body of the song itself shows a marked lack of the exuberance that they so faithfully put into each and every second of their first four albums. Unfortunately, this will serve to be a common motif for the album.

With the opener drawing to a close, it's at this point that I'd like to say something along the lines of "and now here's where the prog awesomeness comes in!", but I really can't. "Xanadu" occupies the remainder of side two, and is the first "epic" of the album. It's really difficult for me to call it that, though, even in quotation marks, because there's really nothing evocative, daring, or thrilling about it. 3 minutes of dated synthesizers open it off, in some futile attempt to create atmosphere, but it does absolutely nothing for me. Fortunately, just as I'm reaching for the skip button, that's when Alex Lifeson saves the day with some more good ol' fashion Rush riff-age. Unfortunately, then, the track never develops past being a collection of riffs, sometimes interspersed with "dramatic" breaks synth effects that wouldn't seem unfit for a 90's new age album, or an Asia b-side. In general, "Xanadu" is simply a flawed track. While there are enjoyable moments, namely when the band actually decides to *rock* a little (Lifeson's solo is quite good, really), the dreadful synth tones, and the start-and-stop tendency make this one really difficult to appreciate as a whole. After sitting through this, I can't help but think "man, this sure makes the last track look good in comparison". And, unfortunately, that sentiment is perhaps the most commonly recurring motif on the whole album.

Side two opens with "Closer To The Heart" and "Cinderella Man", which just let that "man, that sure makes the last track look good in comparison" magic keep on delivering. Forgettable riffs, low energy performances, you name it. These are simply sub-par rock numbers. "Madrigal" just keeps the disappointment and immemorability coming, but it's not until the album's closing "epic" that those sentiments reach an all-time high.

Ah, "Cygnus X-1". No wonder people can't take prog seriously, if this is the kind of stuff that serves as the genre's public face for so many. On the bright side, at least Book I has one redeeming feature in that it isn't quite as bad as Book II (yes, somehow Rush manages to make the "man, this sure makes the last track look good in comparison" motif span multiple albums!). 2 minutes of spacey stock sound effects give way to a mediocre medley of riffs, each one disjointed from the last and never developing into anything substantial. But perhaps the general lack of compositional capability here is at least masked somewhat by the unparalleled cheesiness of the concept. Looking purely at the positives, though, I suppose that I should give this song at least some merit. There aren't many things more hilarious than the mental image of Geddy Lee getting sucked into a black hole.

So there you have it. An album that starts off decent, only to gradually devolve as it runs its course. I feel an insatiable desire to give this flopper a sole, feeble star as fizzled out and lifeless as Cygnus X-1 itself, but I realize that there are a great number of Rush fans who actually enjoy "A Farewell To Kings". So with that in mind, I hesitantly give this 2 stars. If you're already familiar with the majority of the Rush catalogue, and enjoy it a lot, you'll probably enjoy this one, too. But for everyone else, avoid this thing before it tries to suck you in.

Magnum Vaeltaja | 2/5 |

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