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Some strange choices and skewed emphasis
on 7 October 2009
Straddling heavy rock and prog and liked by fans of both genres, Rush were highly successful in the late 70s and early 80s with their punchy, power trio sound. Excellent stuff, though those buying The Spirit Of Radio may be slightly disappointed as the tracks chosen don't quite follow what it says on the tin...
For many fans, Rush are particularly liked for their lengthy epics, especially the side-long 2112 and 11-minute Xanadu. Whilst I appreciate that there may not be room for both songs on a single CD compilation, Spirit should surely include at least one of them in full - not just the first two movements of 2112! These omissions are all the more grating when considering some of the material which is featured such as the seven-minute sub-Sabbath rock of Working Man from their debut album - a period and piece which hardly shows this highly talented band at the top of their game.
Another problem with The Spirit Of Radio is that it includes too many songs from the mid 80s when the band were trying too hard to sound contemporary. Guitars are turned down, moogs swapped for synths and Neil Peart's vast array of percussion traded in for more mechanical drumming with the net result being unmelodic, over-complicated songs with less dynamic edge than the best of the band's mid-late 70s and early 80s output.
Despite these criticisms, there are still some excellent songs on The Spirit Of Radio with hard-rocking highlights including the exciting title track, Tom Sawyer and the first two movements of 2112. Quieter highpoints include the pastoral Trees as well as New World Man with its clever wordplay and catchy pop-rock tune. Drummer and lyricist, Peart is probably better at words inspired by literary works than his analyses of modern society though he gets it right with NWM. Even when his lyrics are slightly awkward however, he should still be praised for bravely tackling far more complicated concepts than most other wordsmiths.
Trying too hard is an admirable trait though it sometimes leads to shortcomings as it does in Rush's highly skilled music. Despite this, The Spirit Of Radio is still a good introduction to the band though new listeners should be aware that it doesn't altogether represent the band's best work from the 1974-1987 period.