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Rush - Permanent Waves CD (album) cover




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4.28 | 2123 ratings

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2 stars I could almost call this review "A Tale of Two Sides." Side A is vey good, whereas it's hard for me to reconcile the unfocused Side B as part of the same album.

Permanent Waves opens with "The Spirit of Radio," five minutes of focused rock which richly deserves its status as an AOR classic. Another radio staple, "Freewill," follows. Whereas the band would revisit and improve upon "Freewill" on Moving Pictures in the form of "Limelight," there was no need to improve upon "Spirit," and to their credit, they never recorded a "Spirit of Radio part 2."

The first side of the LP ends with "Jacob's Ladder," which, despite some repetitiveness, accomplishes as much in seven and a half minutes as most of their "epics" do in nine or more - - epics including "Natural Science" here and "The Camera Eye" on Moving Pictures. The second section of "Jacob's Ladder," which begins at its geometric center, opens with a synthesizer part reminding me (favorably) of "The Remembering" from Yes's Tales from Topographic Oceans, and at around five minutes, a rhythmic guitar part fades in which sounds Genesis-like, not all that different, say, from "Eleventh Earl of Mar." By 1980, Rush's Led-Zep-fanboy days had been over for at least five years, and they were winding down a period in which their influences were still occasionally apparent. At some point, of course, Rush would establish a sound that would be much more influential than influenced.

Side B begins with "Entre Nous," a cringeworthy song even for Rush. Lyricist/drummer Neil Peart is occasionally saccharine, he really outdoes himself here on this plea for English- and French-speaking Canadians to sit down and try to understand each other because we're all brothers and life's too short and can't we be friends. OK, actually that's always been my interpretation; I don't actually have proof that this is the song's meaning. But the words are embarrassingly corny, and the music doesn't make up for them.

While I think I can see what the band was trying to accomplish with "Entre Nous," the last two tracks on the album are truly baffling to me. "Different Strings" occupies a place on the album suitable for a mellower song, or a softer or slower tune, and it delivers on these counts, but strikes me as uninspired - - it seems like the band had four minutes to fill but no creative raw materials to work with. Perversely, I would've preferred that they recycle higher-quality from elsewhere on the album - - as they appear to have done on Signals by cloning "Subdivisions" to create the album-closing "Countdown."

Permanent Waves closes with "Natural Science," which a considerable number of people consider a classic work by the band. The first two of the three sections, "Natural Science," to my ears, are as unfocused and uninspired as "Different Strings" was. I'll admit that things pick up a bit for the last section of "Natural Science" (entitled "Permanent Waves"). It's hard for me to tell whether these last two songs - - "Different Strings" and "Natural Science" - - represent poor composition or album padding, but either way, along with "Entre Nous," they make up one of the weakest album sides on any Rush album.

Whatever the case, twelve months after finishing Permanent Waves, Rush would enter the same Québec studio with the same producer, and would create the great Moving Pictures album.

As is the case with nearly every Rush album, the production and the performances on Permanent Waves range from very good to excellent. But while the half of the material is strong, the other half is tough to sit through. At three songs and 18 minutes, Side A would've been a four-star EP. Consider getting their 1981 live album Exit...Stage Left, which has all of the songs from the first side of Permanent Waves, and, perhaps tellingly, none from the second.

(P.S.: I wonder if now, forty years later, the guys in Rush cringe a little at the cover of this album. Duh, they have every right to have whatever image they want on the cover, and yeah, it's not pornographic at all - - I get it. But I wonder.)

patrickq | 2/5 |


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