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Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Key..., 12 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
It's ten years now since this came out.

Like others, I couldn't get my head round VT to start with. There's no handle. No guitar solos, melodies that repel you, and deter the sing-along. It's so different from the typical Rush fayre, and a million miles from the melodic stuff I am drawn to like the Presto album. It's so dense and dark and heavy, brooding, foreboding, unforgiving.

But eventually I got it... Every Rush album has a theme, sometimes quite subtle like an undercurrent. This one of course is to do with bereavement and working through bereavement - reference NP's personal tragedies prior to. One of the responses to bereavement can be anger... intense anger. 'Why has life let this happen to me / him / her?' 'It makes no sense.' etc. There are glimmers of hope, such as Secret Touch - the possibility of renewed love. But it's the love song of a ragged warrior, battered and bruised from the battle. There's no element of slush here.

Now, Rush is a musical brotherhood. This is the marvellously touching thing about VT. Geddy and Alex's empathy for their brother-in-arms Neil is so strong - and this comes over in interviews on the DVD doc's - that they dive straight in to this emotional angst and anger that is a natural and necessary outworking of the journey of bereavement - especially such a horrendous double-whammy that NP suffered. Once you realise that this album speaks volumes for the bond, and frankly deep brotherly love between the three guys, it becomes something extraordinarily beautiful, through all its brooding darkness. In the midst of the gunk, there is a hand holding another hand - 'I'm there for you, man'. There is a righteous indignation against death, and Geddy and Alex share it for Neil's sake, not tritely, but clearly with an incredible mutual trust, as Neil has given these lyrics to the guys in the first place, from a very personal, intimate source, for them to give voice to.

I think now, in retrospect, this has become Rush's most important musical statement, and will stand the test of time as such. A blistering response to the worst that life can throw. (Whether or not we have suffered bereavement, we have all known pain in some way - and I at the same age the guys were when they released the album know that with mid-life can come some dark, searching questions and maybe experiences.)

From feeling alienated by this album initially, I now feel almost addicted to it. Perhaps it helps to know that they've mellowed again since, with Snakes and Arrows etc. In other words Vapour Trails was Vapour Trails - it needed to be what it was at that moment in time, for a deep, deep reason. It served a purpose. And if you're going through s**t, or have been, you might just find this plumbs the depths better than almost any other album.

Keep the heaviness, boys, no need to sweeten it - with a remix, as suggested might be in the pipeline. A remixed VT would be interesting, but I suspect I shall always treasure this one, the original, as the definitive statement. VT is what it is, and it's just fine like that. Spot on. It hits the mark. It does the job. It says what it has to say... Bravo the Brotherhood.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Apr 2012 21:12:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Apr 2012 21:17:51 BDT
G. Young says:
This is a great piece of writing, sensitive and astute. I think you have really tapped into the essence of this record and its (battered) spirit. It took me years to appreciate but I now find it holds some of their (for me) best works; The Stars Look Down, How It Is, Sweet Miracle and Nocturne. And yes, whilst a remaster might be an interesting listen; the rough, raw, bruised, chaotic production sound kind of suits the songs, like it or loathe it, 'Vapor Trails is what it is.' Once again, a great review and a real pleasure to read, thank you.

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 13:48:26 GMT
Stalker says:
Superb review and all the better for its sense of perspective. VT is undoubtedly the hardest Rush album to get to grips with and over the years I would have rated it anything from 2 to 5 stars, currently standing at about 4.5. It's still hard for me to listen to all the way through because I feel pummelled, but played as an old fashioned LP, in 40 minute blasts it can be inspirational.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 15:10:27 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Nov 2012 17:18:43 GMT
G. Young says:
It is an intense album for sure and would have been a double in the days of vinyl, unless they had edited it down to maybe 8 tracks. It took me years to appreciate and I find it is definately more enjoyable if I play it in sessions of 4 or 5 tracks because it is a relentless record. If I had to make Vapor Trails an 8 track album it would look like this;

1. One Little Victory
2. Ceiling Unlimited
3. Ghost Rider
4. Peacable Kingdom

5. The Stars Look Down
6. Sweet Miracle
7. Nocturne
8. Freeze.

It's a very close call between Freeze and How It Is, a very close call indeed. If it were a ten track album I would add How It Is and Earthshine but I love the feel of an 8 track album; think Signals, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows, just 8 quality tracks that make you want to listen to the album in its entirety. I would be very interested to hear what you would choose if Vapor Trails were to consist of just 8 songs.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Dec 2012 12:02:17 GMT
Stalker says:
I'd go with
1. One Little Victory
2.Ghost Rider
3.How It Is
4. Peaceable Kingdom,

5. Secret Touch
7.Sweet Miracle
8. Freeze

I arrived at this firstly by losing the weak "From the Cradle" and also Nocturne which is just too dark and brooding for me. After that it gets difficult because all of the remaining tracks have merit. The "must haves" for me though are 1,2,4,5,6,7 (above). I also know I want to close on either Freeze or Vapor Trail. I've settled on Freeze because it's unique whereas Vapor Trail has some similarities to Ghost Rider. From the remaining 3 tracks I've gone for How It Is which I think provides the best balance to "side 1" if it's played third. After the thunderous opening of One Little Victory I like the quiet opening of Ghost Rider which provides a nice chill out moment.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2012 16:21:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Dec 2012 15:18:04 GMT
G. Young says:
This is excellent. I can see you have really put some thought into this. I found your placement of Ghost Rider as the second track very interesting, especially with the quiet section coming after the power of One Little Victory. How It Is does work very well as a third track as it is much 'lighter' than many of the heavy, relentless tracks on the album and softens the feel of the album. I will definately have a listen with your sequence. Nocturne I love exactly because it is so dark and brooding and it has some great guitar textures and drum work going on and I love those two beautiful notes on the bass that first appear at 0.46 seconds. I think I have mentioned it before but it took me a long, long time to appreciate Vapor Trails because I just could not get past the production and the chaotic nature of the music. Now of course, I love it. Think I will have another session with your first four tracks and my final four tracks, that is an excellent, near perfect sequence for me. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

1. One Little Victory
2. Ghost Rider
3. How It Is
4. Peaceable Kingdom

5. The Stars Look Down
6. Sweet Miracle
7. Nocturne
8. Freeze.

Your choice of Ghost Rider and How It Is work really well as the 2nd and 3rd tracks. An inspired choice Stalker.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Dec 2012 13:35:30 GMT
Stalker says:
Thanks, that was interesting to think about and I've got a brilliant 5* Rush CD out of it too. It works much better than my old quick fix of skipping Nocturne and stopping after Freeze. I don't think Nocturne is a bad track but when you play the whole cd the latter middle section of what is a dark moody and emotional album is uplifted by the (I think wonderful) sequence of "Secret Touch", "Earthshine" and "Sweet Miracle". Then Nocturne just stamps on that life affirming feeling that was building.

I can't leave out "Earthshine" anyway, it's my favourite song on the album and ranks up with my all-time Rush favourites. Love the dirty guitar riff and crashing cymbal verses, alternating with the elevating crest of a wave chorus and (rare on this album) guitar solo. It's even better on "R30".

I wish they had recorded more of the Vapor Trails tracks live. I keep meaning to scrape together what there is onto an alternative VT Live CD but haven't got around to it yet. Rush seem to have dropped the album entirely for the Clockwork Angels tour which is a shame.

I'm still looking forward to getting the much discussed VT re-master if it ever appears, just to hear that different take on the album. For me it's a far more interesting project than the surround sound version of something like Moving Pictures which was already perfect. That's the beauty of Vapor Trails, its many imperfections allow so much room for debate, variation and potential improvement.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2012 23:32:15 GMT
Interesting dialogue here, G and Mr Stalker. I certainly agree with Ghost Rider no. 2. It softens OLV and takes you into the theme of the album, in a way. Having Ceiling second plunges you into the darkness and heaviness relentlessly, throwing down a musical gauntlet challenge to the listener, and lyrically seems misplaced at the front.

I confess I would find it hard to whittle it down to eight tracks. But I always felt Cradle sounded like a bonus track, a bit poppy almost throwaway compared to the rest. And for me Freeze is a bit too dense and impenetrable. So I would lose those last two. Personally I love Nocturne and think it's a tour de force. The refrain is infectious 'Dreee-eeam...' etc, and for me quite positive lyrics: '...the answer is Yes'.

So I'd cheat and go for five a side, and if still space pop in Ceiling to finish. To me it shouldn't be near the beginning, but makes a reasonable finale, with its determinedly positive lyrics... at last looking, as it were, to the future, the 'endless river'.

So I'm going for musical variety, and a lyrical narrative:

1. One Little Victory
2. Ghost Rider
3. Nocturne
4. Secret Touch
5. Stars Look Down
6. Earthshine
7. Vapour Trail
8. Sweet Miracle
9. Peaceable Kingdom
10. How it Is
(11. Ceiling Unlimited)
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