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Rush - Roll The Bones CD (album) cover




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3.09 | 818 ratings

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3 stars After taking a long break from going through Rush's extensive catalog of work (and reviewing prog discs at all, for that matter) I sat down and gave this album a few spins recently. I recall all too well that the rock music scene in the early 90s was undergoing a drastic, everything-must-go overhaul due to the emergence and popularity of the grunge movement so I give this trio and all prog artists of that era a mile or two of slack. The "Seattle sound" invasion was akin to the "back to the basics" trend punk rockers instigated in the late 70s in an effort to distinguish themselves from what they considered pompous and preposterous posturing on the part of groups like Yes and ELP. Prog took a vicious uppercut to the jaw and hit the canvas hard. Many acts didn't survive the beating and those who did walked with a limp for the rest of their careers. The sole exception was Rush. They never expected to be accepted in the first place so being quarantined outside the mainstream was business as usual for those guys. The more I've gotten to know about them, the more admiration I have for their sheer audacity and guts to stay true to themselves. I still think "Moving Pictures" was their apex but I also think they scaled the heights of adaptive creativity on '84's "Grace Under Pressure." I find all of their releases to be above average in general but those two really stick out as special. As for "Roll the Bones," it sits comfortably in the "pretty-good-but-not-extraordinary" range.

They open with "Dreamline" and I was immediately struck by Geddy Lee's ever-maturing voice. I, like many others, had a very difficult time handling the screeching chirps that characterized his vocals on earlier efforts and it kept me away from giving the band a fair listen for decades. But beginning with the aforementioned "Grace Under Pressure" the man mellowed substantially and I found his lower register much more to my liking. This number is a dynamic hard rock ditty that showcases their always top-notch production, a reliable hallmark of their recordings, but the composition itself is slightly pedestrian. "Bravado" is next and I was instantly drawn into the track's cavernous depth-of-field and solid groove but the shallow lyric content doesn't stir up anything I can relate to. It doesn't help that Lee doesn't deliver them with suitable conviction. The title track "Roll the Bones" follows and I was bowled over by Alex Lifeson's guitar sound that's huge and impressive. Geddy's synth adds a brassy tint and, while I'm no fan of the genre, their detour into pseudo rap territory during the breakdown section actually provides a welcome relief from predictability. The "life's a crap shoot" theme imbedded in the lyric is attractive, as well.

"Face Up" is a bit of a throwback to their original sound but once again it's hard to take Lee seriously when he doesn't put enough raw passion into his vocal. Especially when he's singing about how angry he is. Gotta give Alex a nod, though. His flaming guitar solo rips a new one. The instrumental "Where's My Thing?" is the best thing on the CD because it's as if they finally stopped overthinking and just let nature take its course. It's awesomely funky and fun with Neil Peart getting to toss in some nifty drum fills. They take a few risks here and there and the enriching payoff proves they were worth it. "The Big Wheel" is next and it comes out swingin' with a Who-ish gritty vibe but the too-relaxed chorus detracts from the powerful verse pattern they'd built up. It would've been more effective if they'd kept this one a simple, straight-ahead rocker from start to finish. "Heresy" begins with a military march beat that promises an epic thrill ride but it ends up being more of the same arena rock fare. I'm not complaining, per se, but I expected something wild to happen and it never did. "Ghost of a Chance" sports the edgier approach that I prefer but alas, the airy chorus sucks all the helium out of the balloon. The song just never quite jells. "Neurotica" is next and, while I have great respect for their continuing to pay close attention to the technical quality of their artistic endeavors, the tune fails to take me anywhere they haven't taken me several times before. Lifeson does wow my ear canal briefly by letting the fur fly on his solo, though. "You Bet Your Life" has the trademark of a progression they might have developed while jamming in rehearsal but, no matter its birth, it manages to shine brightly. The song's chorus in particular is distinct and intriguing. Makes for a good exit.

"Roll the Bones," released on September 3rd of 1991, was their 14th studio album and it marked an upturn in their collective fortunes. By reaching #3 on the American charts it became their first CD to reach the top five since "Moving Pictures" did that ten years prior. I've gotten to know more about Rush due to various documentaries, interviews and live concerts that keep being aired on satellite TV networks and my hat's off to them for hanging in there so long. They really are a remarkable entity but they had their ups and downs just like their peers. "Roll the Bones" is better than "Presto" was but only by a few checkmarks. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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