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Rush - Hold Your Fire CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.26 | 871 ratings

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Mr. Gone
3 stars In my review of Signals, I mentioned my being a latecomer to Rush and the fact that I love synthesizers. So I'm starting by tackling (as I can) the controversial post-Moving Pictures 1980's Rush albums, just...well, because I can. So there.

Seriously, there's certainly plenty of worthy material on all those albums. The thinnest for me is probably Grace Under Pressure, where certain songs seem a bit forced, and the energy seems a tad down (there's a heaviness in sound but also in delivery). Power Windows sounds cleaner, but is weighed down by some unremarkable filler. There's filler on Hold Your Fire, too, but the high points are certainly memorable and quite moving here, more than probably on any of these other releases.

Let's start with the low(er) points. "Force Ten" is a fine song the first 30 or so times you've heard it. After awhile, though, it becomes a bit ordinary. Powerful, yes. But it doesn't always stick terribly well. The sentiments of "Time Stand Still" are beautiful (especially as someone staring down middle age and watching loved ones - even peers - succumb to that inevitable final enemy, while also contemplating things I wish I could accomplish or times I wish I could go back to), but the presentation is a bit too poppy and feels somewhat unsubstantial. And "Prime Mover" - just never liked this song. There's nothing to distinguish it from anything else on the album. A rather boring riff at the center and the lyrics don't speak to me.

Other songs fare better. "Open Secrets" is also a bit slight, but the melody is lovely and holds up fairly well on repeated listenings. My favorite of these "pretty good" songs is "Second Nature", with a pleading tone of gentle desperation and the recognition of our efforts to save the environment ("We fight the fire") while simultaneously destroying it ("while we're feeding the flames"). "Tai-Shan" has a nice Asian feel to it, courtesy of sitar-sounding guitars and synthesized flutes. I know this is not a favorite of many (like "Madrigal" on A Farewell to Kings, there isn't another Rush song quite like it), but I quite fancy it and also appreciate the band's willingness to try something quite atypical for them. And "High Water" rumbles along with a nice energy through its fat guitar/bass riff in its middle.

Then, there are the three songs I consider to be the true centerpieces of the album - the "side two" openers. "Lock and Key" has decent lyrics if perhaps a bit of a reach (I'm not sure all of us have homicidal mania in our psyche, especially not close to the surface), but the orchestrated melody is very, very well done and highly enjoyable. Alex Lifeson gets a nice solo in the middle (if perhaps a bit short) and Geddy Lee gets to play a muscular bass at the same time while Neil Peart turns in his usual complicatedly catchy tom hits. "Mission" is my favorite here, celebrating the movers and shakers in our world in a variety of areas (science, art, literature, architecture, etc.) while simultaneously wondering if they might have appreciated a bit more sanity in place of the frenzied brilliance that dominated the lives of many. Substantial thoughts, here, and presented against an immaculately beautiful musical backdrop. Great guitar lines, fantastic keyboards, excellent drumming - just a terrific song. And "Turn the Page" has a great bassline and a great guitar solo. Maybe it's no more progressive than "Prime Mover" (I would argue it is), but it's certainly a far more distinctive and memorable effort.

So, the final analysis? Some filler here for me. I never liked "Prime Mover", and the album's openers don't wear that well. Some of the "pretty good" songs ("Open Secrets" especially) are pleasant but not super-distinctive. But the three centerpieces are among the best work the band ever did (yes, even with "Red Barchetta", "Xanadu" and "La Villa Strangiato"), so that props things up a bit. In my younger days, this album was one of my faves. I see its flaws more clearly now, and it's certainly not their best, but I still pull it out and enjoy it from time to time. Essential? No. Somewhere between Good and Excellent. I'll give it three stars, with the caveat that everyone should hear it at least once and decide if they need more.

Mr. Gone | 3/5 |


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