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Rush - Fly by Night CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.09 | 30 ratings

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3 stars Rush's sophomore effort, Fly by Night, is a slight improvement over their debut. Don't get me wrong: both albums are very solid and certainly above average, but neither one quite matches the sophistication and greatness of their late 70s/early 80s output.

Fly By Night is still in the same Zeppelin-esque blues rock vein of the debut, but it's clear from the opening bars of "Anthem" that this band had honed both their playing and songwriting chops while touring. It's also clear that they've benefited from the inclusion of Neil Peart on drums and lyrics: although Rutsey was a solid power drummer, Peart adds more speed and musical sensibility behind the kit; his fills are more creative, diverse, and complex. Geddy's voice and bass work haven't yet "evolved" much, nor has Lifeson's guitar work, but both musicians play tight and certainly haven't regressed. I mean, they had their chops from the get go. As did Peart. They just got better with songwriting and expressing their chops on subsequent releases.

Peart also had experience in the prog rock vein, and his influence is felt in the songwriting (even if he's not really a songwriter). It also helps that both Geddy and Alex were prog fans by this point. The prog tendencies are most obvious in a lengthy, multi-section piece called "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." It may not be one of my favorite tunes, but I respect it for what it is: a stepping stone that covers everything from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd to King Crimson. On "By-Tor," heavy segments driven by experimental guitar and intense drumming portray an adventurous chase, while the softer, atmospheric pieces border on psychedelic and would have been jarring if the transition hadn't been so seamless. It's all capped off with a short passage of Rush playing pure Blues rock. Peart also pens some thoughtful lyrics - no longer are Rush songs about getting "in the mood" or fetching out some booze. He does tend to go overboard at points (e.g. "Beneath, Between & Behind", "Rivendell") but it's a minor gripe; Geddy is a master at churning great melodies out of verbose lyrics (e.g. "Limelight").

There are also some interesting folk-rock pieces throughout the album, mostly situated in the last few tracks. "Making Memories" is an early Rush classic: it's simplistic, but very catchy and upbeat. "Rivendell" is boring, but trippy guitar effects contract sharply with slicing riffs in the album's closer, "In the End," which sounds straight out of Woodstock.

Of course, the title track is also a standout for its mellow riff, crazy fills, and catchy melodies. It's probably the most well written -song- off the album, though "Anthem" and "Making Memories" give it a run for its money.

Overall, I'm not sure if I'd call Fly By Night a "transition" album, mainly because the next two albums were far more transitory. It's more of a second debut album. They tread much of the same ground as the debut, but with two key upgrades: the inclusion of Peart, and the desire to experiment and mix in prog and folk tendencies. Both prog and folk would factor heavily into some of Rush's later 70s works. All of the variables to Rush's classic formula don't really mesh on Fly By Night, but this is where they were established. The next two albums are where the band truly began their experimentation and progression.

I feel it's a four-star album in the context of rock music, but it's non-essential as a prog rock album: there are no prog rock classics here, only a collection of interesting songs with the occasional dud. I still think it's a step above the debut due to the inclusion of Peart and new styles, but these upgrades are not enough for the album to earn that fourth star.

Album Track Picks:

+ "Anthem"

+ "By-Tor and the Snow Dog"

+ "Fly By Night"

+ "Making Memories"

Weakest Links:

- "Beneath, Between & Behind"

- "Rivendell"

Rating: 7.5/10 (3 stars for ProgArchives: good but non-essential)

Deckiller | 3/5 |


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