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Among the back catalogue of Rush ( the pre-Moving Pictures era, of course) this one still gets the maximum number of plays even after all these years. Even though I consider myself more of a fan of their mid-era rather than their prog rock era of the late 70s, this one sits right on top with all the classics of the prog rock genre, even surpassing a few of them. While I recognize the fact that I’m probably in the minority thinking that 2112 and Caress Of Steel are quite overblown and unmemorable despite having their moments of glory, the band clearly seem to have learned from their mistakes with this masterpiece.
Nonetheless this was definitely not an album I loved after the first listen or even the fifth for that matter. All the tracks took a while to grow, especially the last song “Cygnus X-1” which I initially dismissed as being too overlong for its own good throwing the balance of the album off, but now . I was initially quite surprised with the industrialized (?) intro of the song, but on reading the lyrics with the spoken voice at the beginning, I understood the reason why. This song tells a story about Till the base picks up by the 2nd minute the atmosphere is quite unsettling to say the least. Then around the 7:30 minute, the song travels down a much darker realm than Rush is known for with some haunting textures, only to descend into a flurry of violent (for Rush, at least) riffs with some screechy vocals towards the end fading out with echo-laden strummed chords. Strange indeed, but it does grown on you. It does have some really fascinating vocals and lyrics talking about the thoughts of a captain flying his spaceship directly into a black hole. Quite fascinating actually. One tip thought - you’ll really need to turn the volume up to catch on all the subtleties of the song plus proper headphones are DEFINITELY needed for this song. No two ways about that. Sure it’s not as good as Xanadu, but it’s good enough in its own right. Also you’re more likely to dig this song if you follow the lyrics with the music.
The intro of the title track should be enough to convert you if nothing else with its beautiful acoustic picking. Or even the beautiful build-up/ebb and flow of the monstrous “Xanadu” exploding into an awesome guitar lead around the 2nd minute of the song which repeats before shooting straight to the main chorus riff only to lead into a brilliant keyboard part at the start of the 6th song building up to a phenomenally simple set of riffs. Hands down one of the best prog rock songs I’ve ever heard. Yes my list of “Favourite prog (both rock and metal) songs above the 10 minute mark” is a long one no doubt, but rest assured this song is right up there at the very top 10 of my list throughout all these years. Just a testament to flawless songwriting, which is arguably what Rush is all about. “Cinderella Man” also sees Geddy Lee effortlessly balancing the high range of his vocals with a combo of the mid and low range.
While their previous albums had heavy doses of prog, the songwriting didn’t seem to be concise enough for my liking. Yes, the instrumental parts were impeccable (this is Rush we’re talking about after all) but in their previous epics, a lot of the parts just seem to wander about never really coming to an eventual refrain or final point. And no, by that statement I don’t mean catchy choruses and whatnot, but simply a clear lack of truly memorable moments. Now this release not only merges the twin sounds of the keys and guitar, but also experiments with different sound textures on both the instruments creating loud and soft parts, as opposed to their earlier releases when the guitars and keys were rather one-dimensional in comparison. Then again, that’s not always a bad thing. “Closer To The Heart” just like “Tom Sawyer”, has an unbelievably amazing combination of prog elements and straightforward rock making it a hit even among the non-fans of the band. Hell I even know a couple of my friends who detest prog and still happen to like this song, so clearly that says something.
For all you die-hard prog fans, having this album is a no brainer. However if you are a newcomer to the sound of Rush, I’d suggest you start with Moving Pictures or Signals and subsequently work your way back from there. In either case you need this album. As simple as that.
The first time I ever listened to this was on the way home from a long trip from the mountains. We got to the cabin after being at a football game, and there was no power. This was when I was a freshman in high school I believe, so at 10 PM at night my dad had a long ride home. What did I do? Play this album on my iPod for the first time. Believe it or not, I actually fell asleep during it. Perhaps because I was tired, although it's not my favorite despite being a good album.
The instrumentation seems to have become a more important part of Rush with this album, as well as sound effects and extra instruments that are not as commonly used in the field of rock and roll. I say that because this seems to be when they started doing stuff like that in their career quite often. This is heavily evident in the title track, as well as "Xanadu", and the outro to the album. Plus, it's thrown in there in parts of other songs too, but more so the really long ones. I think this can be a nice touch but it can also somewhat drag on as well. This record is good but was never my favorite by Rush. I think the use of the effects is very cool in the intro to the album, as it gives a feel of nature to it. I do think, on the contrary, that on the outro track, it's just kinda old at this point. Sometimes when a band experiments with something, they have to do it more than once to perfect it. That's partly why I think this one overdoes it a little. "Xanadu" seems to be one of the more popular tracks, but even that one drags on a little bit. It's still a good song though, because it picks up and rocks out a little bit more towards the middle. That's just one of those ones that has a slow start but gets kinda cool as it progresses. Along with these effects added to the instrumentation on the record, I do really like that it uses a lot of acoustic guitar as well. The acoustic guitar is one of my favorite instruments, and I think they did a great job incorporating it into this. One example is in the intro to "A Farewell To Kings", as it sounds very ancient to go with the nature effect. That fits, as kings ruled hundreds of years ago. Geddy's vocals are just as outstanding as ever, no complaints there, and when the other instruments don't drag on, they're certainly great as well.
With some of the run on extra stuff, there is still definitely what I would call the standouts. Sadly, they're the shorter ones. But "Closer To The Heart" is by far my favorite one on here. It's another one of the more popular ones, and it uses the acoustic guitar very effectively, much like in the other song that I mentioned. I like it even better here though, because the guitar in this one sounds more modern, and is delivered very beautifully, as it's super happy sounding too. As far as sound effects here, the bell that they used was a nice touch for the soft part. Like other songs on here, it rocks out again as it progresses. That seems to be another big element on this album in general; starting soft and ending hard. It's catchy as hell and definitely the best track. The other one that I really like is "Cinderella Man". It's mostly for the same reasons as to why I like the other one. And most importantly, it doesn't run on and get boring like some of the longer ones.
I like to say that this is a decent album with some really good parts. I think it's pretty clear which parts I like by now. I would recommend this to anyone who has an open mind towards music and can stand things that drag on a little. Same with acoustics and sound effects. You definitely have to be in the right mood though.
Rush has had more than one close encounter with having to disband, and on 2112 basically made an album they knew couldn't sell and were ready to throw in the towel, but by a miracle, not a small one either, 2112 hit #61 on the Billboard hot 100, a high enough position to keep their record deal. They knew 2112's success was basically a fluke and they couldn't do an album like that again (the band didn't even really want to anyway), and so they needed something somewhat more commercial. This is the result.
Rush didn't drop their love of long songs, as two songs here are longer than 10 minutes, but half the album's songs are under 5 minutes, two are under 3 minutes. While not explicitly pop tunes, these are songs meant to have a chance at success, and mostly made to help the album sell better than it would have otherwise, and sell better it indeed did. While not a massive hit initially, Closer to the Heart would go on to later become a classic rock radio staple. The album was a considerable success. While 2112 hit # 61, A Farewell to Kings reached #33 in the US and #22 in the UK.
This is the album where synthesizers became an important part of Rush compositions. You'll either love this sound or hate it, but it's not anywhere near as predominate here as it is on other Rush albums, so even if the synthesizer sound isn't your cup of tea, you most likely won't mind it here, as it's used as texture rather than a leading instrument, as it would become on Rush albums yet to come. It's a good blend between the hard rock days of early Rush and the more pop oriented version of Rush that would come in the 80's.
Outside of Closer to the Heart, there isn't a song here that really is great. The longer songs feel too long and not completely thought out, and the shorter ones feel too short. Not that they're BAD, they just aren't great. The songs here are decent, and would set the stage for the Rush albums to come, it just isn't a completed idea yet.
The most important thing that this album did was provide real success to Rush. #61 was passable, but #22 gave them a real taste of the limelight. It also allowed them to create more, better and less pop oriented, progressive synthesizer songs on their next LP, Hemispheres.
In summery, this is a good, but unimpressive album, that any fan of Rush and progressive music should own. If you aren't either of the aforementioned, you probably won't find much here to like, outside of Closer to the Heart. Even progressive fans can afford to skip this one, it didn't change the musical landscape or anything. The only thing it really affected was the career of Rush, which while I appreciate that, that doesn't make it an influential or good album.
This is Rush's fifth best album. Their fifth best album garners an 89. This album, much like their sixth, suffers from two very weak tracks. Rather than at the end, these are in the middle. This is a small transition for Rush, as they decreased their degree of hardness and metalness into more bursts of it.
Neil is a great, possibly the greatest, drummer. His job on here isn't his best in my opinion, but it still surpasses what all but a few back then could do. Neil's playing is very aggressive and technical. Some people argue that he lacks groove, but I feel it's simply not emphasized in this kind of music. Prog usually doesn't need allow for groove to show up. He does keep time pretty well, which is a criticism born of disbelief. His lyrics on here are more down to earth than previously. Most of these songs are somewhat medieval in lyric and tone, such as referencing blacksmiths and kings.
Alex does some pretty good playing on this album. I like his playing better on a few other albums, but this is still quite nice. His clean parts on Xanadu are superb. Being part of a power-trio with such good rhythm players doesn't allow him to show off or be as loud in the mix as usual. He is doing some very fine things, but you have to be willing to allow for some of it to sink in. He isn't as technical as Steve Howe or Uli Jon Roth, but he does do some interesting work. His diversity is probably his calling card. He can go from gentle cleans, to hard-rocker, to unique soloist.
Geddy does a fine job on bass. He really was possibly the most skilled bass player in rock. Chris Squire is essentially at a level with him in prog, but Jaco Pastorius in Jazz would surpass him. In any case, I enjoy his bass' strong presence and his ability to make his presence mean something. He is far from an "I'm loud but do nothing" a la Frank Bello. His vocals are fairly high on this album, so those are bothered by this should keep that in mind. Geddy wrote some pretty good music on this. Xanadu is an epic that stands up to any bands. Cygnus X-1 isn't particularly a favorite of mine. It's probably the only song on here where the heaviness predominates rather than bursts, but the outer space story had been done better on the previous album, and the intro takes too long to segue into the song.
Cinderella Man isn't a good song. It isn't very interesting and I can't fully make out the idea it puts forward. It somewhat reminds me of the original Mr. Deeds, but that movie was so much more compelling in its idea. Madrigal is worse. Similar to what I said on Fly By Night, I leave it off my phone. This doesn't drop my review as much, as the rest of this album is greater than the rest of Fly By Night. I should also note that this is less aggressive than previous albums had been. The Yes influence was starting to really come into play, and they were beginning to incorporate electronics past the electric guitar and bass. This isn't as metal as 2112, so I could imagine some metal fans being less thrilled, though it is a very good album.
This is the weakest album of Rush's hot streak, but it's still a very good listen. There's only a few bands who have as strong a catalog as Rush, and they're truly iconic. I would certainly recommend this to most fans of prog, hard-rock, and early metal.
Here we have Rush's album "A Farewell To Kings". Following their hugely successful "2112" record the band returns with full force with another great album. After the masterpiece that was "2112" the band now has refined their progressive sound, and is able to craft multi-part suites like they were nothing.
The album starts with classical guitar playing and ends with probably the heaviest song of Rush's career, which just goes to show how different these guys were for their time, ever changing. Even the shorter songs on this album are brilliant which shows how much they care about the overall product, not just individual songs, although they are clear favorites among the few. "Xanadu" being one of my favorite Rush songs is an 11 minute crusher of a song. Starting with classical guitar, and synths with some crazy percussion thrown into the opening instrumental passage. The song keeps moving, never really sounding entirely the same for long periods of time. "Closer To The Heart" which is one of the most known Rush songs is a quick 3 minute song made for radio airplay, but do not mistake it as a "weaker" song, it's still a classic and is obviously the most accessible song on the record. The last song that we will discuss is the album's closer "Cygnus X-1 Book One". Part one of the two part suite written about a man who drives his spaceship into a black hole to see where it will lead him. The song changes sounds and moods on a dime, and the ending may have arguably started the black metal vocal stylings, I mean just listen to Geddy Lee scream.
The instrumentation is exactly what one would expect from a Rush album, which means it's all extremely advanced proficient and will have your jaw dropping the entire time trying to keep up with the insane time signature changes. With crazy guitar riffs and solos from Alex Lifeson, awesome bass grooves and vocals from Geddy Lee, and great drumming and lyrical writing from Neil Peart.
In conclusion I will say that this is one of Rush's strongest albums. Filled with classic songs and great playing it's an album that you can pop in continuously and never tire of it. Rush in my opinion is the greatest band to ever grace our Earth and this album I believe is proof, because it is not their best work, but if you were not familiar with their work then you would automatically assume that it was because that's how good it really is.
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 as 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 masterpiece 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 experimentation 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 musicianship. 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, and 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 commercial success of 2112, Mercury Records finally gave Rush total artistic liberty. In truth, Rush were often doing what they liked prior to receiving their record label’s blessing, but doing so meant they were constantly at risk to be dropped from the label. Now, having established themselves as a commercial juggernaut, the members of Rush were able to let their imaginations run wild, resulting in one of the group’s most experimental and progressive albums, 1977’s A Farewell to Kings (only its successor, Hemispheres rivals it in terms of complexity and progressiveness).
After recording its previous three albums at Toronto Sound Studios, Rush traveled to Wales to record their next two albums at the secluded Rockfield Studios. The lush, bucolic surroundings are reflected throughout A Farewell to Kings. Save the final track, A Farewell to Kings maintains an idyllic sensibility. Many of the instrumental passages conjure images of rich, vernal landscapes while the lyrics often employ pastoral themes and imagery. Birdsongs from outside the studio are even integrated into the first two tracks of the album.
While A Farewell to Kings might be inspired by the simplicity of the country landscape, it is anything but a simple album; it is loaded with absurdly complex and elaborate compositions. Within a given song Neil Peart will employ any number of bells, chimes and xylophones, not to mention his already massive drum kit. Similarly, Alex Lifeson will use up to three different guitars on a single song, including quite a bit of classical guitar. Geddy Lee is much more liberal in his use of synthesizers, resulting in a more textured soundscape. Compositionally, Rush raise the bar from 2112 with even more complex time signatures and razor sharp transitions. At times it is almost overwhelming following all the twists and turns that occur in a single song.
Rush throw out a lot of ideas on this album, and while most of them are successful, A Farewell to Kings is not the group’s most consistent album. That said, Side A nothing short of perfect. The title track is kinetic, building from a soft acoustic intro into spirited, fast-paced verses and choruses before peaking in a throbbing, throttling bridge that climaxes into an elegant mid-paced guitar solo. “Xanadu” achieves a similar genesis on an even grander scale. The eleven minute epic tells the story of a man who travels to the mystical, icy mountaintops of Xanadu in search of immortality. The protagonist gains immortality, but at the cost of his freedom. He is remains trapped in the “Pleasure Dome” where he goes insane from loneliness and isolation. The moral of the story: It’s better to die free then be enslaved for eternity. The opening five minute instrumental passage is one of Rush’s greatest moments. It traverses a gauntlet of melodies, tempos and time signatures while employing just about every instrument in the band’s vast arsenal. “Closer to the Heart” is equally impressive, though on a much smaller scale. Peart offers heartfelt, utopian lyrics that Lee delivers with energy and earnestness. The song also contains a joyous, ecstatic guitar solo that stands as one of Lifeson’s best.
Side B struggles to match the brilliance of Side A. “Cinderella Man” is the closest Rush ever got to writing a song in the style of Lennon and McCartney and is sufficiently catchy, but “Madrigal” is melodramatic love ballad with synthetic flute solos and references to dragons. “Cygnus X-1: Book 1” is the album’s outlier. It abandons the pastoral spirit and returns to the deep-space aesthetic of “2112”: blubbery bass, heavy riffs and lots of echo. The song is one of the few instances where Rush sacrifice musical coherence for the sake of the song’s concept. “Cygnus X-1” is the first-person narrative of the captain of the Rocinante deep space shuttle. The captain becomes obsessed with discovering what’s on the other side of the black hole Cygnus X-1, so much so that he drives his ship directly into the black hole. The music is excellent throughout, with tons of groovy riffs, quirky synths and ballsy screams from Lee. However, everything moves a little too quickly and some excellent passages are cut too short: the group chases the lyrical narrative while leaving excellent riffs in the dust. If Rush had taken a little longer to flush out all the ideas contained within this song, it could have been a classic, but as it stands it’s a bit of tease.
A Farewell to Kings is certainly less consistent than either its predecessor or its successor, but Side A is as strong as anything else within Rush’s illustrious discography. While Side B has its bumps, it still contains a more than its share of interesting moments. Evaluated as a whole, A Farewell to Kings is creative, exciting and unpredictable—progressive in the truest sense of the word.
Originally written for deinoslogos.wordpress.com
After the somehow start-grower "2112", very overrated everywhere though good stuff, good enough for starting a new way in metal, our favourite power-trio offers us this tiny but tremendous piece of gorgeousness. Yes, after the previous album cited above, they've learnt something. They finally have put the pieces together for bringing us what would be the first of the three masterpieces in their catalog.
"A Farewell to Kings" is like "2112" but without most of the mistakes made in the latter one. Actually, is a full solid piece of work where the working society formed by this canadian dudes finally reach the peaking cota. The sound, as well, touches us in a more polished and clear way, with the enough amount of distortion and sharpness. Is a watershed in the evolution of Rush, an evolution that shall get to its logic conclusion in "Moving Pictures".
The main opener may not be a powerful headblaster song, but contains various amounts of Rush's multifacetic quality of composing. 'A Farewell to Kings" is a nice slowpaced song with an unique accoustic intro and a great feeling in the singing. This song makes a magic trick and confuses us all with his enjoyable and hypnotic rythm, because right next to it we contemplate the growing power of a magnanimous force. Yes, 'Xanadu'. That track needs no introduction for Rush's fans nor progressive metal fans. The atmospheric introduction with a rubato-like beat and a multiple exchange between bass lines and the guitar is impossible to forget after heard. As an electric storm, the song grows stormy until the grand entrance by the singing. Never, ever, you shall listen a more heartbreaker and headkicker Geddy Lee than in this song. He simply owns you. When he arrives to the second chorus-verse in the phrase "I've drink from the milks of paradise... Oh, paradise..." (I pity you if you think sexually about this, it's based on a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, though, well, it's laughable and the content debatable...) you are mesmerized, tamed, possessed by the Rush. The sole presence of this song makes this album a masterpiece.
After 'Xanadu' is difficult to keep it up. And with 'Closer to the Heart', well, the effect is completely lost. Once I've said that, with songs kinda this one, Rush looks like a more rocker version of Air Supply. And yes, this song gets it very wrong, despite Geddy's great performance and a couple of nice interventions by Lifeson. Yet enjoyable, it's far from Xanadu's reach. For AOR audiences, though, this is a suitable song. The same happens with 'Cinderella Man', though here we got an exception, cause Lifeson drops us his progressive vein and manages to give, for this track, an unique melody. Rush have made a lot of songs like this one, in-betweeners, enjoyable but filler-like songs. From all of those, this one is the finest. Maybe 'Madrigal', being so short, so mellow and simple, is the major flaw here. Yet, this piece is not a total loss, as we recieve nice singing with a solid bass line. And when you compare it with other flawed pieces by Rush, which are not many, but there are (cough, 'Tears' in "2112", cough), 'Madrigal' is pretty decent.
And, as usual, our canadian trio wants to surf over sci-fi waves and they launch us into the 'Cygnus' Saga. Here, the first part: 'Book One - The Voyage'. Another progressive rock-metal brilliancy, it contains some of the finest drumming combinations by Neil Peart, oh you fucking rule. The thing here is the alternative lines, even if the sound and the essence is the same, we got different shapes from the tunes made in the whole song. A bit funky, a bit groovy, a bit rocker, a bit bluesy, with much progressive sounding and as I stated before, a clockwork drumming. By the way, the song gets even better when you meet the second part, believe me it does.
Synthesizing, we got here one of the three holy-albums by Rush. The continuation of "2112" but without most of the mistakes found there. If you are a fan of Rush, well, you can't actually consider yourself a fan of this band if you don't have this record. But if you are new with the band, this album is a nice way for having your first taste of it. Completely safe masterpiece.
Having saved their careers with 2112, and noting the appreciative reaction to that album's ambitious prog epic on side 1, Rush increased the prog rock influence on their formula on this album. In terms of lyrics and themes, this is almost like Caress of Steel Take Two - it's still rooted in sci-fi and fantasy with objectivist ideology poking its head up here and there (though not so obnoxiously that you can't look past it if you're not a Rand fan).
The big difference is in the compositions; not only had Rush clearly advanced as musicians by this point (Geddy Lee's bass work in Madrigal and Cygnus X-1, in particular, is pretty damn amazing), but their songwriting had also matured. On preceding albums, songs were either comparatively short or of absolutely epic length, with comparatively few in-between; this time around, they show much more willingness to compose songs of moderate length, and only stretch out to the ten minute and beyond mark if they really have enough ideas to fill that much time.
With an infectious amount of energy and enthusiasm for the songs here - Rush know that they are playing unabashedly geeky material here, and they are absolutely cool with that - Rush deliver a performance which takes their music to the next level. With strident declarations of intent, acoustic romanticism, and foreboding black hole rhythms all in the mix, this is also one of the most varied Rush albums of their early career. The first Rush disc which is a flat-out great album from beginning to end, Farewell to Kings is a must for anyone interested in fusions of metal and progressive rock.
"A farewell to kings" is another visionary progressive rock record by the Canadian legends "Rush". It unites rather catchy and commercial songs like "Closer to the heart" with epic conceptual science-fiction pieces like the brilliant "Cygnus X-1". Any fan of progressive music can hear that this record largely influenced bands such as "Ayreon" and "Dream Theater" many years ago and it is interesting to discover the roots and influences of those outstanding bands. Personally, I adore the diversity and visionary works of Rush and prefer them to "Genesis" that got to commercial and "Pink Floyd" that were not always able to get their inspirations to the point. "Rush" are neither very commercial nor handicapped by heavy drug abuse so that they are free to do what they want. That's what this album is all about: diversity and freedom. In the progressive rock world, there are only "King Crimson" and "Tangerine Dream" that I like as much or more than Rush.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of flaws on this particular record. First of all, the band starts with the most incoherent and weirdest song "A farewell to kings" that really takes some time to grow. It's not the best choice as an opener and title track and probably the uneasiest song on the record. I can't get a healthy approach to it as there is a lack of addicting elements in this experimental song that goes a little bit nowhere. Second, this record is technically well crafted and even perfect but I miss some emotions and some human warmth in the songs. That's a flaw that many progressive rock bands have but some exceptions prove that this is possible and that's what divides the small path between an excellent and a very good band. The third negative point is the vocals, probably the only truly weak point in this band, Rush’s Achilles’ tendon if you want to call it like that. Geddy Lee screams and yells like an angry woman from time to time and especially the more complex epics are too much interrupted by his surely unique but pretty much annoying voice. Most people might pardon those flaws and I agree that they don't really do any harm as I appreciate discovering this record over and over again but those points are the reasons why this isn't the band's best work and why some people might have some difficulties to get into this.
The instrumental parts are the true highlight on this record and I mostly appreciate the longer tracks that have less lyrics and concentrate on a conceptual atmosphere like "Xanadu" and especially the outstanding "Cygnus X-1" that surprises with its dystopian and mysterious moods and offers many changes of style, rhythm and melody and is one of the best progressive rock tracks in history.
In the end, this early masterpiece of the band is amongst their best albums but not yet in the top notch because of a few little flaws. The longest and most important tracks are all great and add something new and unique to the genre while the shorter tracks are less impressive. From an intellectual and technical point of view this record is close to perfection but concerning the emotional and coherent point of view, there are a couple of aspects that could be further worked out.
In the late 1970’s Rush were riding a wave of momentum that was years in the making. After three fairly promising studio albums the band struck proverbial gold in '76 with '2112'. It was applauded by many for its epic 20 minute plus title track which to this day remains a significant milestone in the band's history. Many people were beginning to take notice of the Canadian boys and in order to prove themselves consistent and worthy of such widespread accolades Rush would need to equal 2112's successes with their follow up release. At the time, many nay-sayers were afoot who suspected it couldn't be done. 2112, after all, was a daring release and one that usually only comes along once in a band's lifetime. But only a year later, Rush's ‘A Farewell to Kings’ would virtually render it’s a predecessor a mere afterthought.
A Farewell to Kings remains one of the band’s most heralded albums. They began dabbling in admittedly odd instrumentation such as using a mini moog and bass pedal synthesizer all in an effort to carve out their own distinctive brand of progressive rock. It was different and despite lacking in proficiency in the beginning it did work on a number of different levels. The two lengthy compositions on A Farewell to Kings feature prominent use of these newfound elements. They also remain two of the band’s signature songs from this period of their career.
The first, Xanadu, starts off quietly all the while perfectly introducing these new found musical additions. The intro reaches a climax at around the 5 minute mark and then the song erupts in soaring fashion. Such overwhelming power that leads you to believe you are in for something grandiose. An alternation between verse and chorus leads to the closing minutes at which point an epic Lifeson guitar solo takes the tune home. Xanadu is something that really needs to be heard. A perfectly constructed song that is not at all unnecessarily long for being 11 minutes and tells a story through not only the lyrics but the exceptional music also.
The closing track, Cygnus X-1, is the album’s second lengthy track. With this song Rush managed to perfectly convey what a daring and dramatic quest into space would sound like. Complete with dark unsettling synthesizers this track is akin to Xanadu in that it opens quietly then explodes into musical splendour. Lee’s bass intro sets the tone for the bumpy ride into the Milky Way – something not all that difficult to imagine as the song creates perfect theater of the mind in the listener. Smart time changes, superb build and technically advanced musicianship, as well as the heaviness of it all, make Cygnus X-1 instantly loveable. It’s among the best of Rush’s lengthy compositions.
Arguably, Xanadu and Cygnus X-1 do take center stage on A Farewell to Kings, but the rest of the release is mostly comprised of shorter albeit equally satisfying material. The title track is catchy and instantly memorable. It’s a very effective opener that can be referred to as a sophisticated up-tempo rocker with a fantastic chorus that it is just impossible not to sing along to. Add to that a very captivating main riff from Alex Lifeson and a short classical guitar into for a little flair and you have another gem.
Cinderella Man, meantime, is also a winner that features equal parts acoustic and electric guitar. One minute it’s full of vigor the next it’s quiet and almost lifeless though miles away from descension into boredom. A raunchy middle part guitar solo from Alex Lifeson makes one conclude that Cinderella Man has multi personalities and you’re not sure who you’ll be dealing with next.
Closer to the Heart, alongside Tom Sawyer and the Spirit of Radio, is often regarded as the band’s finest moment in the minds of a mainstream audience. It packs quite a punch for being under three minutes long and is almost entirely worthy of all the attention it’s received over the years, though time hasn’t done it any favors . The song, mind you, would go on to become a crowd favorite when performed live and demonstrated Rush was just as successful at writing short radio friendly songs as they were lengthy epics.
A Farewell to Kings (2112 not included) was the first in a series of must have Rush albums. The only bump in the road here is the filler tune Madrigal and even that is excusable for being under two and a half minutes in length. This was the beginning of the second chapter in Rush’s career and unequivocally the most successful. A Farewell to Kin\gs would set the stage for years to come. It is a great entry point for those willing to explore the most acclaimed portion of Rush’s catalogue.
A Farewell to Kings heralds the next phase of Rush’s discography, the band now free to explore its muse, 2112 putting the band firmly in the driver seat of their destiny. The new period of albums, culminating after three more releases in the live set Exit… Stage Left, is the journey of Rush stretching out from writing for the sake of performing into performing as writers. Writing, music and lyrics, become center stage as Rush starts its final foray into the progressive genre. The love of performing is not diminished; it’s just no longer the obvious beachhead of their creative efforts.
“A Farwell to Kings” opens up the album with a confident sound, but one that is firmly planted in rock. It’s all good, but must be noted for those looking for another 2112. It’s not going to happen. Rush has moved on from that album’s tone into hard rock conceptual landscapes. Mid-paced and precise, “Kings” explores society’s ills from the historical perspective of future historians looking upon our times. What makes this interesting is that it does this in the form of a question. It’s a great song, but the payoff for this is in the track “Closer to the Heart”, the well known hit from the album. This is where the band stretches into lyrical poetry, for not only is “Closer to the Heart” a philosophic/societal evaluation, but more importantly it’s the counterpart to “A Farewell to Kings”, delivering the band’s answer to the very questions the title track proposes.
Important song note is “Cygnus X-1 (Book One – The Voyage)”. Another long piece, it begins the final foray of Rush into progressive epics. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, it is a Sci-Fi tale. This song is a bit odd in that it is only half complete (thus the subtitle); once you realize this is part of a bigger piece, being continued on the next release Hemispheres, it becomes more tangible. As a stand alone, it is some good music, but average as a whole and needs to be combined with “Hemispheres” it takes on more depth. You would have though someone at the label at one point would have though of this and combined the two on a compilation.
All of this brilliant song writing aside, the real story is the standout masterpiece: “Xanadu”; inspired by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem “Kubla Kahn”, a name that should be recognized easily by most metalheads for “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. “Xanadu” is a timeless piece of magical muse that transports the listener years away to another land, to “Dine on honeydew and drink the milk of paradise”, for better or worse as will be seen! Lee’s vocals describe this land, but the music is perfectly crafted to carry you there. It not only succeeds by not breaking the golden rule of long songs by not feeling long, but is just a brilliant piece. For me, this rises to join the level of all time classics. It’s the perfect display of progressive rock, gorgeous layers of music portraying more to your senses than most films or pictures can do when handicapped the ability to provide a visual.
The band is tight and on target, conceptual, composing, layering constructs of depth making the listener wonder how three men managed the whole affair. Peart’s percussion encompassing many new pieces of equipment, none used needlessly, reminding the listener there was an era that instruments served the purpose of the song versus the song serving the purpose of the instruments. Lifeson is literally full of life, ranging from concise acoustical work to outstanding axe work, his solos more than the music but not above it. Lee still proves the bass is a fulltime member of the band, being more than support, and even steps out on “Xanadu” to play rhythm guitar. Lee’s vocals have developed from his early patented shrieks, into many ranges, his voice now another instrument used to develop the tone of each song.
A Farewell to Kings is a hidden gem of the catalog, forgotten by many due to time and distance, further lost in the shadow of being sandwiched between fan favorites 2112 and Hemispheres. But this stands well the test of time and is worth many a spin.
2112 marked the beginning of Rush's golden period, with a nice stretch of some of the band's best material to date. Their progressive experimentation on that album continues onto the masterful A Farewell to Kings, a solid combination of epics and classics that remains one of their best releases to this day.
The album begins with the title track, a generally rocking tune with an awesome acoustic intro. I'm pretty sure that Neal Peart has written just about all of Rush's lyrics since he joined the band. I'm not going to assume it for the sake of accuracy, but regardless, the lyrics on this album are phenomenal from beginning to end, as immediately apparent on the title track. Afterwards is the epic "Xanadu," based on the famous incomplete poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (the other famous Coleridge piece "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" would be the subject of an epic of the same name by the mighty Iron Maiden). "Xanadu" is amazing and atmospheric, almost not seeming eleven minutes in length. The hit single "Closer to the Heart" is next and it deserves the attention it gets. It's just a great song. "Cinderella Man" is another solid rocker, though not as good as the title track. "Madrigal" is a mellow change of pace and not at all out of place here. The final track is the second epic, the science fiction based "Cygnus X-1". It doesn't top "Xanadu," but it's impressive to say the least. Overall, not a bad song in the bunch.
Getty Lee's voice is in top form here. His inimitable falsetto is powerful and expressive, and his bass playing is intricate. Neal Peart proves his drumming prowess throughout the album, with a lot of auxiliary percussion cycled in and out. Alex Lifeson's playing generally takes the back seat to the other two, but his playing here is incredibly effective and his solos are top notch. So overall, not a weak performance from anybody.
As far as Rush albums go, it doesn't get a whole lot better than this. Sure it's not their best work, that honor would go to 2112, Permanent Waves, or Moving Pictures, depending on who you asked, but it's a high level representation of the band's skill, progressiveness, and creativity. And really, what more can you want from a band?
One thing I've noticed through my experiences listening to Rush albums (with the exception of their usually amazing live releases), is that they fall under one of two categories (or both): (1) They have some great songs or a great epic but are quite weak besides that, or (2) They are perfect in every way except length. This release falls under the latter...
Overview: This was a pre-sytnh era Rush album and my favorite at that! Probably their most balanced album as far as long, progged out songs mixed with short catchy tunes is concerned. Faster tunes and slower ones are also another point of balance. The flow of this record is just amazing. Warm sound, tons of unconventional instruments, and brilliant lyrics make this a classic. Not a bad song on it.
1. [A Farewell to Kings] Strong, strong opener. The mood is first set with a soothing acoustic classical guitar piece that is eventually joined in with some bells and ambient nature noises. Then come the opening thud and following mid-tempo section. Eventually this picks up with a cool little riff accompanied by some master percussion work. The song remains at this tempo until you reach the almost head banging chorus with the accents on the up beats. Geddys vocals reach a high point (in the literal sense) in this little ditty. The solos show off the entire band. As it closes it slows down a bit, taking it down a notch for the next song.
2. [Xanadu] Here comes the first epic! This one starts VERY quiet. The most dominant sounds being a wood block arrangement by Mr. Peart. This one accelerates musically but then hits a stop before the slower vocal section comes in. Chill as hell, and truly sets the stage for the rest of the song. The verses are fast and riddled with stops where Geddys vocals are allowed to soar. Strange thing about this song is: for what it is (a long prog-rock song) it's quite simple as far as song format is concerned. It's mostly a verse chorus type thing. Yet somehow, Rush makes it not boring, and before you know it the song is over.
3. [Closer to the Heart] The radio hit. This is a sort of a "peace&love" type tune that you can really sing along to. Starts with an infamous acoustic guitar riff that is joined by vocals and then drums and bass. Pop-length songs might seem weak most of the time, but after hearing the serious opening track and epic second track, this is quite welcome. Simple lyrics, simple music, simple and short solos. Very uplifting, very good.
4. [Cinderella Man] Mid-tempo song with slower chorus. Another simple but good song. Especially appropriate for those of us still feeling the after-effects of Xanadu, haha. This picks it up a bit, but is not too much of a jump from "Closer to the Heart". Lyrically lovely and subtly good musicianship go hand-in-hand and make this song as good as it is.
5. [Madrigal] My only gripe with the album. Now would be the time to start picking things up again, but instead we take a step back and get a song even slower than the previous two! A simple love song that is very slow and almost too simple even for a ballad. Fortunately it doesn't last for long and we soon get what we were waiting for...
6. [Cyngus X-1 Book 1-The Voyage Prologue] And here's the second epic (as if you couldn't tell from the name)! We get a surprisingly eerie intro with some futuristic-sounding noises and a deep, alien-like voice speaking in the background. After a while of this, a funky bass line kicks in and an equally laid back guitar and drums join in. The vocals that soon join in go from laid back to much louder, as does the music. After a short while of this, we get some good headbanging bits, and then the next part comes in.
This one is a bit more up-beat and happy, a HUGE jump from the last part. A big instrumental section comes after this and eventually we hit the chaotic section that leaves us hanging (until part two that is...)