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Four more albums under their belts and Rush come forth with their second live set. Most of this being recorded on the Moving Pictures tour, with a little of previous tours tossed in as well. Out of the gate, the first thing to note is the song selection. Most of the songs are from the last four albums, with only two coming from before the previous live release All the World’s a Stage. As those two songs were not included on the previous live album, that gives us songs never released live before. Making me not pay for more of the same material, only half a decade after the last live outing, is a good thing and gets big thumbs up to start.
Next noticeable item is the lack of the Cygnus X-1 opuses. This is highly disappointing as this would be the first and best opportunity to have them combined on one album, and live no less. I understand that 30 minutes of music would probably take up to much space, but come on – It’s a signature classic of this period, and they had edited it down on tour anyway. Perhaps it would have worked easier in the CD age, but what would have been the harm in an extra record? It’s a minor complaint, but for me a wasted opportunity.
Most important, the sound is odd if not a little sterile for a live release. The sound portrays some tinkering with the wonderful digital technology new at the time. The tracks have been lifted or diminished too much, and the live feeling is drained some in the process. Sad really, for it will be a while before these classics see the light of live daylight on an official release again. Don’t get me wrong, the sound is of good quality, very polished in fact at times. That is the problem. This is a live recording and the sound is almost *too* polished; notable exception being “The Spirit of Radio”, which sounds weird, struggling versus soaring as the opener. Rule #3 of live albums: Do not make a live album sound like a glorified studio album with crowd noise. This album runs close at times, but doesn’t cross the line; notably because the production tried to have it both ways, which is probably why it failed. Quite the shame since the performances could easily stand on there own and shine without the listener questioning if the shine was due to liberal use of digital polish.
As stated, the performances themselves are good; the guys still masters of performing despite the layers of complexity exhibited on these songs. At the end of the day, these songs are live renditions of songs written by guys who love progressive music, played with the same sentiments for those who love progressive music. Highlights include: “Closer to the Heart” with the crowd singing along (making you wish you were there to join in); “The Trees” comes with a well performed acoustic intro in “Broon’s Bane”, courtesy of Lifeson; Peart’s solo within “YYZ” still earns him the title of “Professor”; “Xanadu” still succeeds in being the musical masterpiece that it is; “Le Villa Strangiato” closes the album jamming out ten different ways from Sunday. Also of note is the solo work from all three, with their overall performances being outstanding and lifting the final score despite my complaint on the production.
What you have here is a snap shot of the last part of Rush’s golden era. There are some great performances here that should form an outstanding picture of this period, if not for the production. The end result is a release that lacks its full potential, almost relegating the album to a collectable for hard core fans. There are just too many later live releases with much of what is found here to make it a “Must have”. If you’re a Rush fan, then you’ll enjoy this, if for nothing else than to have the only live versions of “Red Barchetta”, “Beneath, Between, and Behind”, and “Jacob’s Ladder”. Otherwise, the casual Rush listener is better off picking up Different Stages or Rush in Rio to get 90% of what’s on this album (plus a lot more music).
Ahhh, Rush. One of my favorite bands of all time; and this is the album that started it all for me. Now I've been a drummer for most of my life, and my drum teacher was always raving about Neil Peart, who called a god. I decided to check out Rush, and took my chances on this live album. Oh, MAN. Their energy on stage is insane, and every member of the band has amazing. Plus all the songs are killer. It starts off with "Spirit of Radio," one of their biggest hits. It's catchy. It's good. Geddy Lee is a great vocalist in my opinion. I know a lot of people who are turned off by Rush because of the vocals. Well fuck y'alls. You're missing out.
Songs of note:
"Yyz." This completely blew me away. A long insane drum solo by The Professor, Neil Peart. Listening to this completely changed me as a drummer.
"Jacob's Ladder, The Trees, and Xanadu." These three equally great songs are merged together, though they're three different tracks. Jacob's Ladder is a great epic, and goes into The Trees, another epic, then goes Xanadu, another epic! These three songs are very synth heavy, and Geddy Lee is the man on synth.
Everybody should get this album. Everyone will enjoy it. Musicians will enjoy it even more, the musicianship on this disc is incredible. I learned a lot listening from this. Not only as a musician, but also a human being. As the final notes of "La Villa Strangiato" ended, I looked myself in the mirror, and decided I was going to get out of my nowhere job and make something of myself. Now I'm the manager of a big real estate agency, married to a beautiful wife, and it's all thanks to this one album. Thank you, Rush. Thank you. *sniff*