Jim Carver reviews 10 Classic Rock power trios.
Who do you think the top trios in Rock history should be?
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Today, we take a look at the #1 slotted band!
I recall watching the 2nd show of Rush’s first US tour while opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred’s Mann’s Earth Band at the Cleveland Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. The crowd partied heavily while paying little attention to the trio onstage. I kept trying to find the fourth person in the band. Since then, Rush has never looked back!
Photo by Joe Kleon – joekleon.com
Geddy Lee’s exciting high-pitched voice and bass playing, Alex Lifeson’s power riffs and the amazing Neil Peart on drums were a literal display that a new kid on the block had arrived. The Canadian power trio formed in 1968 and released their debut album in 1974. Originally a heavy blues-based band, Rush later became more progressive with the implementation of improvised compositions of odd time-signatures, a myriad of genres and sometimes incorporated the use of synthesizers into the Rush sound.
40 years later, Rush is still one of the biggest bands in the world!
Rush was formed in Canada in 1968. The band began with Jeff Jones on bass and vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and John Rutsey on drums. Jones would depart the band and be replaced by Geddy Lee, a school friend of Lifeson in 1971. Lee, Lifeson and Rutsy would record their debut album in 1974.
The album wasn’t being picked-up by radio stations across the country, so Cleveland FM radio station, WMMS, began a heavy push of the album and particularly the song “Working Man.” Soon the request lines light-up in Cleveland wanting to hear more of this new band. The push WMMS gave Rush forced other FM radio stations across the USA to add Rush to their playlists and soon the bands appeal skyrocketed!
John Rutsey didn’t like touring and his diabetes forced him out of the band. Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart just two weeks prior to their first US tour with Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1974. John Rutsey became Rush’s version of “Pete Best” (former drummer of The Beatles).
Photo by Joe Kleon – joekleon.com
Neil Peart brought his pervasive ability to write lyrics into the band and it helped to create a centrifuge of musical directions. Peart’s lyrics are often a result of his love for of science fiction, fantasy and Ayn Rand. Lifeson and Lee spent their time working on the instrumental musicianship of the band.
The bands second record, “Fly By Night” (1975) would be Peart’s 1st recording with the band and result in the title song being a commercial success. Although “Fly By Night” featured the heavy blues-rock forged on the band’s debut album, the inclusion of Peart and his story writing would feature the band’s first epic mini-tale of extended format (“By-Tor and the Snow Dog“).
In 1975, Rush released “Caress of Steel”, which only featured 5 extended tracks. The album was a commercial flop and despite the record company urging the band to write a “commercial friendly” record; Rush refused to follow their advice.
The result of the band’s insistence to do things their way produced the masterful release “2012” in 1976. The record company promoted the record as a concept album, due to it’s long title track being 7 different passages and 20 minutes in length. In truth, it was the bands first major journey into progressive rock, resulting in their finest achievement of commercial success to date.
By 1977, Rush began experimenting with more complex time signatures, rhythms and broaden their sound with increased instruments to extend their musical sound. Geddy Lee began using bass pedal synthesizers and a mini-moog, Alex Lifeson incorporated acoustic and 12-string guitar into songs, while Neil Peart added timpani, electronic drums and variety of other percussive instruments.
“Permanent Waves” was released in 1980 and incorporated ” shorter” songs with a progressive style mixing hard rock with reggae and new wave elements. The result was a top 5 selling US record which included the songs “Freewill” and “The Spirit of Radio.”
“Moving Pictures” was released in 1981, containing the monster hit recording “Tom Sawyer.” The album also featured ‘limelight” and Rush’s last extended play song- “The Camera.” “Moving Pictures was a massive success catapulting the record to #3 in the USA charts.
Throughout most of the 1980’s Rush continued to use songs featuring extended use of synthesizers and electronic drums and music incorporating elements of hip-hop, funk and jazz. By 1989 however, the band began their return to a more guitar-driven based sound.
The record “Test For Echo” was a monumental example of the band returning to their rock roots.
Following the tour for “Test For Echo”, the band went on a 5 -year hiatus due to death of Neil Peart’s daughter in a car accident and his wife’s death to cancer. Peart went on a 55,000 bike ride throughout North America to mourn and reflect upon his life. Peart wrote Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road as a chronicle of his geographical and emotional journey, dedicating the book to his wife and daughter.
After vowing to never return to Rush and retire, Neil changed his mind. The band entered the studio and released the CD, “Vapor Trails.” The recording would be without the use of synthesizers for the first time since the 1970’s.
Photo by Joe Kleon – joekleon.com
In 2003, Rush released a triple live CD and DVD entitled “Rush in Rio” during the last night of theVapor Trails tour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The recording was a massive success. In 2004, Rush recorded “Feedback”, a collection of cover music by artists who inspired their careers. Following the recording, Rush went on a 30th Anniversary Tour.
Rush released the highly successful “Snakes and Arrows” CD in 2007 and the supporting tour resulted in a live recording release. and another DVD.
Rush began recording a couple of new tracks to be featured on their upcoming record “Clockwork Angels” in 2010. Prior to finishing the recording and releasing the record, Rush embarked on a tour called: “The Time Machine Tour.” The tour was so successful the record release got pushed back to 2012 to add a second leg of the tour.
To honor the fans and supporters that supported Rush from the beginning, the band decided to choose Cleveland, Ohio and film the DVD and double CD: “Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland.“
Rush received a star on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” in 2010. Rush was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. The band has amassed 24 gold records and 14 platinum records (including 3 multi-platinum). This distinction places Rush, third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.
I believe the history, lifetime achievements, music and the insistence of Rush doing things their way and not following the masses or suggestions of “industry suits” set them apart from everyone else. This is why Rush is #1 on my list!