on 15 June 2006
Being a little teenager person right now, I wasn't around to see Rush in their heyday and had to content myself with gleaning snippets of information out of my dad. He told me to get this album because it was the best one ever in the whole wide world ever, and I see no reason to diasgree with him.
The entire album is marvellous. Closer to the Heart remains my complete favourite, hence much naffed-offness when they didn't play it on the R30 tour. People might say that it's tedious and prog - prog it is, tedious it ain't. The soundscapes created vary hugely and the melodies and harmonies are beyond contestation.
Rush are the bedrock on which all modern prog - and a whole heaping load of other weird genres - are founded, and this album proves why. Essential.
on 22 September 2001
Between 1976 and 1981 Rush released what were arguably their finest recordings. Starting with "2112" and ending with "Moving Pictures", Rush released music that was quite simply untouchable. The quality of the musicianship has to be heard to be believed and it was quite obvious that the group were giving everything in an attempt to create something special. During those peak years Rush released two classic albums in "A Farewell To Kings" and "Hemispheres". The first album is packed full of intricate solos and amazing inventiveness that nearly 25 years on still sounds as fresh as ever. Along with Hemispheres, this is progressive rock at its best and I can't reccommend it enough. Although Rush went on to create some great music, I don't think they have ever recaptured that spirit from those years. A great album from a great band
on 3 February 2001
After the critically acclaimed "2112", a lot was expected of Rush. Slowly ascending out of the heavier vien of their first 4 studio offerings, a more diverse and innovative side was being introduced into the arena with the release of " A Farewell To Kings" (1977).
The album starts off with the beautifully crafted title track, that shows the universe what an underrated guitar talent Alex Lifeson is. Beginning with classical guitar, which belongs in a masterclass, which then progresses into a solid piece of trademark Rush, complete with thumping, intricate bass lines and precision percussion, which is perfectly intertwined with virtuoso guitar work. Track 2, "Xanadu", is one of the greatest pieces of music, that we were privalleged to listen to in the last century. From the synthesized vision into a utopian dreamworld, we are taken on a journey by sublime guitar work and percussion that is still ahead of it's time, almost a quarter of a century later (check out the version on "Exit....Stage Left", for a masterclass in perfect live music). Geddy Lee's bass is precise and uncompromising, whilst his keyboard skills are introduced with virtuoso precision.
"Closer To The Heart", was one of the earliest single releases by Rush in the United Kingdom. A classic song, that is still a mainstay of the live show, with a beautifully phrased classical guitar intro, that bursts into an intelligent anthem, which is both excellent ant timeless, a very underrated classic. Next up is the strangely titled "Cinderella Man", which shows the audience just how deep and thoughtful a lyracist Niel Peart actually is. Showered with accoustic sublimity and precision vocal delivery by Geddy Lee, this is definetly more than a mere album filler. The penultimate track, "Madrigal", is a wonderous journey into the mellowness of music heaven. Again sublime to the limit; definetly not just another album filler. The grand finale is "Cygnus XI (Book 1)" (which served as a prelude to side 1 of the brilliant "Hemispheres"). The musicianship and unit solidarity was in full flow on this epic masterpiece. The bass line is powerful to the extreme, whilst the drumming needs to be heard to be believed. Alex Lifeson's guitar work gels the whole track together. Pure excellence in motion.
One of the best albums of the twentieth century.
This is my favourite Rush album, to me it represents them at their creative best. I first bought it on vinyl back in '79 and came to love it very quickly. This was the first album where Geddy and Alex were able to show off their new toys and talents, namely the bass pedals and keyboard playing. There was a new depth to their playing and to their music. 2112 is a classic album but it was still basically guitars, bass and drums. Here, after the break for their first live album, they really expand their sound, and how it pays off. Side 1, for those who still remember such things, had just two tracks, the title track and the majestic Xanadu. This, to me, is the perfect example of prog rock at height of its powers. Eleven minutes long, it starts out quietly with keyboards and chimes and then the guitar quietly enters, it then builds up to the main theme, and not a lyric in sight for the first five minutes. And oh what bonkers lyrics they are, a tale of a man seeking immortality and being rather disappointed when he finds it, but let's face we never turned to prog rock for insights into the daily drudgery of life, that's what punk rock was for.
Side two had four tracks, three of them being on the gentler side of the Rush universe. Starting off with concert favourite, Closer To The Heart, and then followed by Cinderella man, a song loosely based on the Gary Cooper film Mr Deeds Goes To Town. It starts off as a bit of a rocker then calms down and then all of a sudden in the middle section things get slightly funky before calmimg down again. Madrigal, as the name suggests, is a gentle acoustic number before the album finishes off with more bonkers Sc-Fi in Cygnus X1 a tale of a spaceship sent to investigate a Black Hole and getting sucked into it. As with Xanadu it starts of slowly and quietly before building up to an almighty climax (No giggling at the back). It's a two part story that is finished off on all of side one of the Hemispheres album.
This is the kind of album and artist that we are told punk killed off. Funnily, Rush are still around as popular as ever and prog has had yet another re birth with the likes of Mastodon, Opeth and Dream Theater enjoying great success and rave reviews, whilst punk stuggles to offer us anything new. Something the trendy music press can't bring themselves to admit.
on 25 February 2000
Arguably the Canadian trio's finest album release, even if only for the monumental 14 minutes of 'Xanadu'. Starting with the title track, medieval acoustics give way to the crunching power of Alex Lifeson's guitar and Geddy Lee's distinctive falsetto vocals screeching "Scheming demons dressed in Kingly 'guise" (more wonderful Neil Peart poetry).The superbly melodically crafted 'Closer to the Heart' leads us on to the gentle 'Madrigal' and intriguing 'Cinderella Man'. The brilliant 10 minute Space Odyssey of 'Cygnus X-1' perfectly finishes the album. A must for any Rush fan.
on 11 October 2010
Jeeez ... most of the Rush back catalogue is available on Amazon for less than £5 an album ...... why the heck wouldn't you buy it, even if only out of idle curiosity? At times you wonder how they produce a sound like this with just 3 guys and you become convinced this is hyper-produced and multi-layered recording ... and then you see them play it live, faultlessly, seamlessly and without any of the layers missing. Quite simply Rush are that awesome. Geddy Lee appears to be the front man of the band, but Neil Peart is a massive driving force behind what they produce and I doubt they would have had this level of global success if John Rutsey had stayed as their stickman. However, do not under-estimate the contribution of Alex Lifeson .... his excellent solo album Victor shows his creative abilities.
Farewell To Kings contains a couple of Rush classics ... the epic 11 minute Xanadu and also the gig favourite Closer To The Heart ... one of the few lighter Rush tracks that you genuinely feel disappointed if they don't perform it live. This isn't their best album by any stretch of the imagination but its still fantastic. Great album artwork, diverse songs and some superb guitar work by Alex Lifeson. Farewell To Kings, 2112 and Hemispheres are the three albums where Alex has been allowed completely off the leash and yet incredibly he never features in any of the TV polls about great guitarists ... he is not even one of those they quickly skip through in the high 70's and low 80's. Kinda makes you wonder who puts these polls together. Great album, get your fiver out and do something wise with it ... buy this album, you wont regret it and you will enjoy for much longer than the two pints of lager or the beef madras your £5 would normally get you.
on 20 August 2004
In their early years, Rush were very much a band of their time - the 70's - and were unmistakably "prog rock". From their third album "Caress of Steel" to their sixth, "Hemispheres", Rush reached the zenith of their ambition in terms of lengthy, musically complex song suites. Although their outstanding musical talent was really never in doubt it can fairly be argued that at times their ambition exceeded their ability. As a result, some of their work now feels uncomfortably dated.
However, with "A Farewell To Kings" they reined in their excesses just a little and created an album of enduring worth and listenability. Okay, this album contains two long, musically complex pieces and totals only six tracks, but it manages to stay interesting by constant changes in theme and musical style both between tracks and within them.
The range here is staggering - from the two-minute "Madrigal" to the 14-minute-plus "Xanadu", from blistering full-on rock through folk, Spanish and classical guitar, and from complex chord changes and and twiddly bits to the perfect pop-rock of "Closer To The Heart".
Even the most obvious target for critics, "Xanadu", works as well today as it did 25 years ago. The tale of someone seeking Kublai Khan's fabled pleasure dome and the terrible fate which befalls them as a result is a masterclass in writing decent lyrics and then surrounding them with ever-changing, ravishing music - an object lesson in how to do "prog" well. Oh, and anyone who thinks abrupt "quiet-loud" dynamic changes were invented by the Pixies or Nirvana should listen to this.
Much that seemed like a good idea in the 70's has turned out not to be. "A Farewell To Kings" is one of the rare exceptions.
on 10 September 2011
It starts gently, acoustic guitar strings opening the first track, sweeping from left to right channels, accompanied by a soft keyboard melody, glockenspiel and birdsong that bursts effortlessly into A Farewell To Kings - medieval in feel and infused with a melancholic yearning, the middle section is delicate and heavy at the same time, ride cymbals ping, bass weaves up and down and Alex Lifeson simply makes his guitar sing but best of all, it all sounds so effortless. This opening splendour leads us to the dark, mystical and intricate beauty of Xanadu - a masterclass of atmospherics and composition. This is a wondrous Rush album and easily one of their finest moments, you really get the sense of adventure and experimentalism that fired the band at this bold new phase of their recording career. The timeless Closer To The Heart proving that Rush can create a perfectly crafted song under the three minute mark and still showcase their developing musicanship. Madrigal, whilst melancholic and quiet, displays another rare short song that is both calm and evocative and always makes me think of some ancient, otherwordly winter, all burned broken trees and cracked earth, a tired horseman with splitting boots, contemplating the absence of a lover.
Cygnus X-1, closes the album in a brilliantly eerie and fearless manner, it is at once dark and brooding, slow and pulsating, it builds and builds into a spiral of chaos then leaves the listener in a soft, space-like and contemplative mood. In places, there is a real feeling of menace and of mystery. Kings is a unique and complex album, full of interesting ideas and truly exciting compositions. This is essential listening for lovers of intelligent music and fully deserves a place in the sacred halls of progressive rock. This is classic Rush.
After the era defining live album 'All The Worlds A Stage' Rush now moved to the next level.Its hard to convey just how good this album is,a perfect snap shot of Rush for the 70's,it combines Prog,Heavy Rock,Whimsical lyrics,Biting Riffs,subject matter from Kubla Khan to Black Holes!,Sci Fi rock to melodic rock,in a nutshell it has it all.
From the understated opening of acoustic guitars the title track bursts in to life for ever destined to live in the shadow of the track it precedes,the mindblowing class of 'Xanadu',if one song defined Rush in the 70's it has to be this one,lush keyboards,stunning guitars,thundering drums all provided by three musicians at the top of their game,masters in a field of one,untouchables.
The remainder of the disc more than lives up to the ist 2 tracks,'Closer To The Heart' a short concise piece of music,delightful in every sense(cant believe its not a regular in the live set anymore),'Cinderella Man & Madrigal' two overlooked classics while the album closer 'Cygnus X-1' Sci Fi rock n roll perfection,how would they top this you wondered,in truth they never really did.
I'd gotten the live double LP Exit...Stage Left and that was my portal into the world of Rush. Liking their more creatively imaginative stuff on it, both lyrically and musically, I headed for the albums those brilliant epic songs originated from.
'Xanadu', one of the most finely crafted pieces of prog hard rock, ever, led me first to this LP - I thought their concept of an LP cover radical (for its time) - and along with many other's favourite, Cygnus X-1, I had Geddy wailing away, his bass churning like a bad gut, Alex's guitars screaming and Neil's drums laying out a rhythmic landscape of their very own.
Having been as much of a Yes fan that my pocket money would allow (not very much!) I also liked what others describe as Rush's 'medieval' sounding tracks, too.
These old(er) classic Rush albums have really stood the test of time. My playing of their CD replacements is more about if and when my neighbour goes out shopping so I can crank up the volume a bit...