Well, here we are; the end of my Rush reviews.  Took a bit longer than I expected because of factors beyond my control, but I’m glad I did this and I’m glad I managed to eventually see it through.  I did want to end with a few extra notes.

First off, I recommend you watch the 2010 documentary “Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage” (directed by Sam Dunn & Scot McFadyen), which compiles a general history of the band and features extensive interviews with long-time fans, family, and collaborators.  The fans in particular include a who’s who of rock music today, including Taylor Hawkins, Jack Black, Billy Corgan, Matt Stone, Les Claypool, Kirk Hammett, and more.  I also recommend you read the book “Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years with Rush at Home & Away“, a book compiled by Martin Popoff of every Rush album and tour, with extensive pictures and notes of the band’s history.  Both of these pieces of material were essential to my reviews, and I highly recommend checking both of them out.

Neil Peart also has more books out than just “Ghost Rider” if you’d like to give them a read.  There’s “Masked Rider” (which covers his bicycle trip through Africa), “Roadshow” (which covers his motorcycle journeys during Rush’s 30th Anniversary tour), and “Far and Away: A Prize Every Time” (which covers his journeys through Brazil).  If you’re looking for a good general compilation of Rush’s music, there’s plenty available.  One of the most popular is “Chronicles“, which covers everything the band did up until 1990.  There’s also the “Retrospective” series, volumes one, two, and three.  Compilations of their live music also exist, such as “Working Men” (which serves as a Best Of from their tours past the 2000’s) and “Moving Pictures: Live 2011” (a vinyl exclusive that contains the “Moving Pictures” portion of the Time Machine Tour).

I’d also like to send compliments to essential people in Rush’s history, including manager Ray Danniels, Donna Halper (who got Rush their first exposure and record deal), lighting designer Howrad Ungerleider, tour manager Liam Birt, engineers Kevin Shirley and Richard Chycki, and producers Terry Brown, Peter Collins, Rupert Hine, and Nick Raskulinecz.

A moment of silence is also due for the band’s original drummer John Rutsey, who passed away from complications with his diabetes in 2008.  Special interviews and performance clips of him are included in “Beyond The Lighted Stage”.  The band and John’s family asked in his memory to make a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Ontario.

And most important of all, I’d like to dedicate these reviews to my older brother Michael, who got me into Rush in the first place and has taken me as his guest to most of their shows.  Thank you Michael.  I wouldn’t have done any of this if not for you.

I also suppose it’s time for a “Best Of” from all the songs and albums thus far.  Bear in mind these are listed rather generally and are in no particular order.  I’m also including two lists: one of “essential” albums and songs, and ones of personal preferences and favorites.

1. Moving Pictures
2. 2112
3. Signals
4. Counterparts
5. Clockwork Angels

1. Tom Sawyer
2. 2112
3. The Spirit of Radio
4. Closer To The Heart
5. YYZ
6. Subdivisions
7. Limelight
8. Freewill
9. Dreamline
10. Fly By Night

1. In The Mood
2. The Necromancer
3. I Think I’m Going Bald
4. Tai Shan
5. Dog Years

1. Power Windows
2. Signals
3. Presto
4. Counterparts
5. Clockwork Angels

1. Analog Kid
2. Marathon
3. Between The Wheels
4. High Water
5. Available Light
6. Ghost of a Chance
7. Alien Shore
8. Secret Touch
9. Cygnus Books I & II
10. The Wreckers

With all that out of the way, there’s one thing I want to address before I finish these reviews…

Even to this day, despite their longevity, acclaim, and achievements, Rush still gets a lot of unnecessary hate in my opinion.  And I always hear the same criticisms come up: “Geddy’s voice is too high, they’re so pretentious, their songs are too long and boring, their sense of fashion is awful, etc etc.”  Even Neil’s fascination with Ayn Rand earned some disproportionate hate when “2112” was released, with NME in particular implying the band were akin to Nazis (something that didn’t sit well the band, being the children of Holocaust survivors themselves).  When it comes to the frequency of gold and platinum records in their catalog, they are only beaten by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Kiss, but they have nowhere near the love and acclaim those bands have in the mainstream press.

So what is it?  Why the hate?

Let’s look at some of the common criticisms:

“Geddy Lee’s voice is too high”
Yea, maybe on the early records, but by the time they hit their peak with “Moving Pictures” he smoothed it out and has gotten lower in register ever since.  Besides, suddenly the pitch of the voice is an issue?  Amongst 70’s rock no less?  Jon Anderson of Yes and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin have always been WAY higher.  Listen to the long notes Geddy holds during “Headlong Flight” and tell me he hasn’t gotten better with age.  Besides, any society that elevates a voice like this to international fame (ironic or otherwise) is in no place to criticize.

“Their songs are too long and too pretentious”
This might be a personal thing, but I’ve never gotten in too much of a lather over song length, as long as the song itself is interesting.  Yea early attempts from the band like “Necromancer” and “Fountain of Lamneth” were duds, but they quickly found their voice and focus with “2112” and “Cygnus X-1”.  Also, the band has all of three songs that reach the 20-minute mark, and less than half a dozen that reach the 10-minute mark.

“They’re more interested in showing off musically than writing good songs or lyrics”
Again, this is something I just don’t get.  I’ve actually found most Rush songs rather easy to play and they don’t show off their skills as much as, say, Dream Theater would.  And the only show-off points during any one of their shows is Neil’s drum solos, which are some of the most fun and inventive I’ve ever seen.  The fact that every member of Rush is a spectacular musician who can still write an energetic, memorable song I find thrilling.

“Neil Peart is a terrible lyricist”
This one is definitely subject to personal opinion, but I find Neil Peart to be well read and verbose with both his prose books and his lyrics, and Geddy is a good enough singer to give them proper melody while still retaining those qualities.  I’ve admitted in these reviews he has some duds lyrically from time to time, but who doesn’t have a few to their name?  So what if he likes to write about science-fiction and fantasy?  Led Zeppelin threw in Tolkien references all over the place and they’re one of the most loved groups of all time.  Again, any society that makes songs with lyrics like this or this into hits is in no position to criticize.  God forbid the band doesn’t chant mindlessly repetitive choruses or makes you think slightly with their lyrics and concepts.

“The band has horrible fashion sense”
Dude, even the band admits this and bemoans they couldn’t just perform in jeans and T-shirts back in the 70’s.  Besides, who wasn’t subject to some horrible fashion choices in the 70’s and 80’s, or even today?

The only criticism I find even more immature is this…

“They’re from Canada and Canada is totally lame!”
Oh grow the fuck up.

I think though, the more I’ve mulled it over, the hate for Rush comes down to one simple thing.  And I say this as one of their biggest fans…

…Rush is not cool.

They’ve never been cool.  Any attempts on their part to actually be cool has been met with miserable failure.  They’re a bunch of skinny, white, Canadian Jews with bad haircuts and worse outfits singing overly long songs about Tolkien, spaceships, Greek mythology, and earnest songs about individuality and thinking for yourself.  They’ve never been sex symbols or symbols of rebellion like some of the best rock and roll.  They’re too big for the indies, and too indie for the big leagues.  They’ve never comfortably fit into any category (rock, pop, progressive, new wave, metal, etc), and have purposefully eschewed most concessions to the mainstream.  They’ve been epic, but they’ve never been badass or gritty like The Stones or AC/DC.  Such attempts simply don’t suit them.

But here’s the thing: Rush not being cool has always been their greatest strength and asset.  “Being cool” is something that’s suffocated our society and rock music for too long.  “Being cool” is something that music and fashion magazines try to market to you to make you buy crap you don’t need.  What’s more, I noticed a disturbing trend around the 90’s (when Nirvana blew open the doors for indie music and the internet blew it wider a few years later) that publications run by the older guard of rock music suddenly got very territorial.  The Baby Boomers who had held the monopoly on rock and roll and tried to define or quantify what it is suddenly found themselves being made irrelevant by a music movement and a means of distribution that had developed completely independently of them.

They no longer had control over what rock n’ roll was.  They no longer determined what was cool.

So all the people who didn’t fit that definition of coolness suddenly found others who had never been cool, and came together in their love of a band that had never been cool either.  A band who had never fit neatly into any category, and thus satisfied fans of a lot of genres when the scope of music fandom got blown open by the internet in the early 2000’s, but still retained their identity all throughout.  Suddenly those voices became so loud and so united that the old guard could no longer ignore it.

While I certainly didn’t intend it with my schedule slips, ending these reviews shortly after Rush was confirmed to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 became the perfect concluding point, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one.  Rush finally became too loved to ignore.  And they did it without the huge promotional budgets and false praise so many other groups have gotten.

But in the end, why do I personally love Rush so much?

Well…they’ve never let me down.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve gotten let down by a bunch of my favorite film series, book series, TV shows, video games, even other bands.  The bottom just fell out and it all turned to shit…all except for Rush.  They’ve not only never let me down, they’ve consistently improved over their long career, never giving us the same thing twice but still retaining their identity and their soul.

I don’t know if “Clockwork Angels” will be their swan song.  I don’t even think the band themselves can say.  They’re not getting any younger, but they approach their work with such passion that I’m not sure retirement suits them.  But if they do decide to retire at this time, after releasing one of their greatest works and receiving such high praise from their peers, it would be the perfect feather in their cap after their long and illustrious careers.

Thank you all for enjoying these reviews.  And always remember: “You can miss a stride…but nobody gets a free ride.”