Different Stages, by Rush
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
Disclaimer the First: Different Stages, by Rush, runs at three hours and twenty-two minutes. After four hours of sleep, the air was blue in the Stevenson Household when I Randomised the Albums this morning, I can tell you. So, in consultation with the suggester, I’m reviewing Disc One of Three.
Disclaimer the Second: Different Stages, by Rush, is a Live Album. I’m not a fan of Live Albums, for a number of reasons I’ll tackle in the review. By definition, it’s also a compilation album. Because unless it’s a Concept Stage Show like The Wall, being Live means playing all the hits.
Disclaimer the Third: Different Stages, by Rush, is likely red-raw Prog in rending tooth and claw. Whether this is a boon or a burden remains to be seen. Rush are the legitimate End Boss of Prog Rock, likely the first name uttered when the Person On The Street is polled about the genre.
Different Stages is a Live album with an almost obesely full sound. That three people can coax such a swollen cacophony in a performance setting is nigh on miraculous, but it’s always been a lode-bearing beam of their structural superiority. Rush have always prided themselves on their near-flawless live recreation of their studio sound, through the judicious use of sample sequencing pedals and more, so my bib beef with Live recordings – the flabbiness – is neatly deflected. Other concerns, such as the background crowd noise and the inane inter-song witterings, are present here but thankfully in short supply.
As for songs, another of Rush’s strengths is their coherent structure. Sure, there are some overt Progressive leanings, but mostly the compositions are accessible and skewed to a more Rock style. This might be due to the fact that a number of the tracks are from their Nineties albums, when the Prog Rock band were focussed more on the Rock and less on the Prog, but to my uncultured ears that is not a bad thing. Songs such as Dreamline, and my standout track Animate, rock us at a fair pace, and the charged bass of Driven gets the blood pumping strong.
The musicianship on display is obviously peerless, especially in the bass guitar and drumming arena. Both Geddy Lee and Neil Peart are masters of their craft. Alex Lifeson’s guitars are splendid accompaniments, but I’ll leave others more qualified to wax lyrical on his particular talent. Vocally, I’ve always found Geddy Lee’s delivery a little overwrought, as if he’s straining to hit notes that his chords can’t quite muster, but when he’s not grasping for the stars he’s definitely accomplished.
While I do admire a lot of what I’ve heard, there’s still a sense of Prog Excess in a few places. The hippy-dippy track The Trees served little but to irritate, and while I suspect I was supposed to be enraptured by the seven-part fantasy operetta 2112, it felt like a tiresome mashup of Aldous Huxley and Fantasy Roleplaying, as if Gary Gygax was DMing a dystopian adventure based on his drunken opinions on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
I’m giving Different Stages a warm yet measured 7/10. I enjoyed it in parts, but I’m worried that an extended examination of their catalogue would reveal much more of the noodle than I’d be willing to stomach.