on 5 May 2004
In an era when radio meant chart material and, worse still, dancey-dancey stuff, (has anything changed?) we outcasts discovered new music mainly by personal recommendation and live concerts. One cold, dark night in 1978, one of my regular partners-in-crime turned up on the doorstep with another guy in tow, clutching something in the customary LP sized carrier bag. Introductions over, the newcomer reverendly placed the copy of Rush's new Hemispheres album on the turntable (he wouldn't let anyone else touch it) and we settled back for a listen.
Although I was aware of Rush and had heard a few tracks, I'd never given them my full attention - that was about to change. Before even 15 minutes had elapsed I realised I was in the presence of true genius - one of the finest bands on the planet. That opinion remains unchanged over 25 years later and I still regard Hemispheres as one of the all time classic albums, I can never go too long without playing it and the music still sounds as fresh and invigorating as ever.
La Ville Strangiato - wow!
on 24 September 2000
Unrated, unknown to most - loved by those who got in on the act and knew then before the prog-rock concept became a dirty word, Rush have stood the test of time. Originally influenced by Led Zep - indeed they stared out doing covers of the band - Rush quickly forged their own style, and mightily expanded it with every release. Rush fans meet somewhere near the dividing line of those who swear the releases of the 1990s are more refined than their huge volume of earlier prog work. I have every release - but I would place myself in the latter of those two camps. Hemispheres did the impossible by even rising above the barely comparable 2112 epic and Farewell to Kings and proved that the concept album isn't an endless track but a story with chapters, which here have a magical quality. Side One continues where Farewell to Kings left off with Cygnus X-1, mixing sci-fi with ancient (Greek) legend. Putting aside the group's technical brilliance with key and time changes aplenty as well as Lifeson's fantastic arpeggios the lyrics provide food for thought dealing with such issues as the 'battle for heart and mind' as tribal conflict muscles in on human existence. A review in the USA unfairly denounced the "lofty lyrics" which "sometimes bordered on the ridiculous". But compare this with the output of your local radio station. The end of the first side, Sphere, contains wonderful if idealistic sentiment. Side two opens with Circumstances, containing an instrumental interlude which conjures for me a warm image of standing enjoying the atmosphere of a pre-Christmas market, a cup of hot gluhwein in hand. Trees is Orwell's Animal Farm set to music - lovely percussion from Peart - while La Villa Strangiato really is 'an exercise in self-indulgence' - a nine-minute instrumental. But Lifeson can play classical guitar for nine hours when I'm around. Rush are to be admired for trying a new direction post-Signals - but with Hemispheres they took the listener to a higher level.
Definitely my favourite Rush album; Hemispheres is a superb classic album from the Canadian band and can genuinely described as epic, a word that is often over-used but in this case I feel appropriate.
The album contains the concert classic 'The Trees,' which is a truly fantastic song with intelligent songwriting and memorable melodies. I defy you to listen to it for the first time without singing it in your head for weeks afterward!
As if that wasn't enough, it also contains the diverse instrumental track 'La Villa Strangiato,' which of course is a stone cold classic beloved by all Rush fans; the multi part instrumental influences bands as far as Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Tool and even Mastodon.
The least know song on here, 'Circumstances,' is still great, catchy and memorable, even if at times it seems to be ignored or overlooked.
The reason to buy this album however is for the side-long almost-title track 'Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres,' which in my opinion is one of the greatest songs ever written. Sometimes among Rush fans there is argument as to whether it is better than 'Cygnus X-1, Book 1,' or not, or even whether their other side-long suite '2112,'eclipses it, but I feel it beats both if only by a whisker. (Both are undeniable classics after all.)
The track, representing half an album's worth of music is full of creativity, astounding musicianship and brilliant recurring themes tied together nicely. There is so much to like all packed into the one grand track.
The haunting segment where Geddy sings `I Have memory an awareness but I have no shape or form...I have passed on to Olympus,' often sends a chill down the spine.
The lyrics are fantastic throughout in fact; the music is furious, almost mind bending prog-metal... with heroic sounding guitar solos, great synths and of course one of the world's greatest drummers. To top it all off, Geddy Lee the bassist/singer puts down the performance of his life. As I've already stated, it is simply one of the greatest songs ever written.
To summarise; this is the best Rush album there is in my opinion, which is a big statement considering the wealth of classic albums that Rush have in their catalogue, and I would honestly say that it is possibly one of the greatest albums their is.
Standing proud beside classics like 'Dark Side of the Moon,' 'In The Court Of The Crimson King,' and 'Close To The Edge,' you cant go wrong with Hemispheres.
on 26 November 2013
Assuming you already know the music, decision is whether the Audio Fidelity SACDs are worth the extra over the Rush remasters or the Sector box sets. I have a good high end SACD player, pre-amp, power amp set up so find I can hear a positive difference. The SACD is more dynamic. Overall it is mastered quieter so the soft passages are quiet and the louder passage leap out more. Just set the volume up a little higher than you normally would and you get the full benefit of the more dynamic presentation. For me, some of the sounds of the acoustic guitars, especially the nylon string at the start of "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato" sound clearer and more realistic than other CD remasters. Whether it's worth the near £20 asking price depends on how much you like this Rush album (I think it is one of their best) and whether you have the right type of system to get the most out of it. Personally, I hope Audio Fidelity keep releasing SACDs of Rush albums. I think both Counterparts and Hemispheres SACDs are worthy additions to my Rush collection and are sufficiently different to the other versions I have on vinyl and different remasters to make them worth having. They are as good as the Mobile Fidelity releases I have of Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves. I'd like Presto remastered on SACD next from Audio Fidelity.
After the excellence of 'Farewell To Kings' a lot was expected of this,the follow up,after all in small writing,which no doubt haunts them to this day,they promised 'To Be Continued',the good ship 'Rocinante' had disapperaed into a black hole,sadly as it turned out,the black hole was the collective imagination of messrs,Lee,Lifeson & Peart,who struggled to complete the story and generally fudged it,at 18 minutes its overlong,at times meandering ,at times appearing lost in itself,musicianship top notch as usual but about 8 minutes too long,a shorter more focused track(like Cygnus x-1) would absolutely have done the job,still it is Rush experimenting,worth listening to now and again.
Thankfully the rest of the album held its own, with the excellent 'The Trees' and stunning instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' raising the bar,everytime i hear this track i'm full of admiration for the three musicians' prowess,'Circumstances' is another lost classic excellent little rocker thats never given the credit it deserves ,overall its 3.5 stars.
The band faltered slightly with this one,over reached themselves(as they themselves admit) and vowed it wouldnt happen again,a new ,modern Rush, was about to surface.
on 2 November 2014
I first heard this album in my late teens through my brother's bedroom door. He had a great HiFi and I honestly wondered if there was something wrong with his turntable due to the helium-fuelled vocals emanating from his speakers. It really was a bizarre moment for sure. I learned that there was nothing amiss and that the vocals belonged to a man called Geddy Lee and not a three-foot-tall Munchkin.
Since that early exposure some thirty years ago I can honestly say that Hemispheres is one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. Musically and lyrically it is incredibly satisfying and I grew to appreciate Geddy's vocals too. (I have, on several occasions, attempted to reach his high notes with the help of an elastic band around my gonads. Having failed every time I can only assume that Geddy had his firmly gripped in a vice to the point of going purple. A remarkable achievement).
If you love great rock music and stunning musicianship then this album is a must buy.
In the late '70's Rush offered up everything I wanted in rock music, guitars, guitars, loopy lyrical ideas, light and shade, oh and more guitars. What more could a spotty, confused teenager want in his life? Not much, and all these things came together wonderfully on this magnificent album. Some fans seem to look down on this album for some strange reason, one reviewer here giving it one star and saying this caused them to leave Rush behind after enjoying their previous albums. I really can't understand how they came to this decision, this was the obvious conclusion to everything that had come before. Side one consisted of one 18 minute track, a sequel to the final track on the previous album, A Farewell To Kings. Mad lyrics about Greek Gods fighting to rule over the planets in a black hole. All this played out to a prog rock stew of rocking guitars, gentle acoustic guitars, keyboards and of course it all starts off with THAT chord. Rush fans will know the one I mean, the one that is referenced in Far Cry on Snakes And Arrows, the chord that makes me feel like I 'm back in 1979 every time I hear it.
Side two starts with Circumstances, a good old rocker in which they throw in some French lyrics just to show off their prog credentials ( Or their French Canadian roots) . And then onto The Trees, a song that rightly stayed in their live set for many years. It starts off with some beautiful acoustic guitars, and then rocks out with a gentle acoustic break in the middle that slowly builds back up to a classic rock guitar break. And behind all that bonkers lyrics about oaks and maples wanting equality, make of that what you will. Finally, La Villa Strangiato, their greatest instrumental. Everything gets thrown in there, they clearly had so many ideas flying around they thought " Let's just throw it all together an see what comes out". We'll, I'll tell what came out, an instrumental that just bursts with invention and imagination. It's quite rightly still a concert favourite.
So there you have it, four excellent reasons why this album was not their nadir, but in fact is very close to being one of their greatest triumphs. For anyone who likes Fly By Night through to Kings then this is a must buy.
on 15 October 2015
I fist got the vinyl record when it first came out and it was red in colour which was really cool, but more importantly the musical content was incredible, and after all these years and 30lbs. and grey hair, it is still amazing. Rush is unbelievable how they can coax so much luxuriant sound from only three people when most groups need full orchestras and still can't pull it off. One of the best from the best.
on 24 August 2007
I can say no more than 'this is The Best Rush Album'.
In my humble opinion.
I still have it on a very scratched/played vinyl as well as a playable cd.
on 27 December 2012
Classic masterpiece, never get tired from this one, this is one my top 3 Rush albums along with 'Rush' and '2112'.
'La Villa Strangiato' is my favorite instrumental track of all times.
The album is short but maybe another track could have wreck the perfect score.
Any rock fan and especially prog rock fan should own it, if you don't know Rush this album can be a good start but all the previous to this one is recommended.
A must have classic, no room to fillers of course, can be heard every day without get tired. Enjoy!