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"Life for yourself -- there's no one else more worth living for / Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more..."
It's pretty amazing what can happen to a band within the space of a year. Rush's self-titled debut had initially tanked commercially, but gradually gained popularity as months went by. In that time, their drummer John Rutsey had to leave the band due to complications with diabetes, leaving a third of the band's membership up for grabs. The decision to induct Neil Peart into the ranks of Rush stands as one of the most propitious lineup changes in rock history. I like the debut - I really do! - but it's difficult in current hindsight to dissociate the band's sound and style from Peart. Alex and Geddy had more than enough personality between the two of them to carry a rock record, but it was Neil that pushed them towards a more sophisticated end.
Rush was a solid hard rock album, but it was limited in intellectual scope. Sure, "Working Man" could be interpreted as existential to a certain degree, but their lyrical themes were hooked within genre expectations: contrived lust, having fun, and youthful malcontent. With Peart and Fly by Night, they went from that to songs aboutAyn Rand, of all fucking things. More than that, they were also making songs about Lord of the Rings and the mythic struggles of frostbitten puppies. An expression of highbrow literacy paired with an inkling for all things Fantastic were sure signs that Rush were well on the way to becoming progressive rock.
...It's unfortunate that the music quite as interesting. Despite a few incredible tracks, Fly By Night is one of those sophomores that tries to be several kinds of follow-up at once. Rush were trying to push past the straight-up heavy blues on the debut; a nine minute track like "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" (complete with incomprehensible subsections) was a clear nod towards bigger things. At the same time, they clearly didn't wish to alienate fans of the first; rockers like "Best I Can" and "Beneath, Between & Behind" could have easily masqueraded as weaker tracks on the self-titled. Fly By Night is a less consistent album, with higher highs, lower lows, and a weaker sense of coherence, if only because Rush were trying out so many new things at once. It was a necessary transition album, but it's always struck me as one of the weaker chapters in their discography, alongside the arguable nadir they hit in the 90s, circa Test for Echo.
At the same time, Fly by Night isn't so easily dismissed. On top of having a few of the least appetizing tracks of Rush's early career, there are a couple of the absolute best. On the heels of the self-titled, hearing "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" is a revelation. The peppy rock energy they've carried throughout their career becomes entwined with progressive bombast here. Even if they were new to the 'prog' genre here, they were already teaching it a thing or two. Most progressive suites take time to build and get started; "By-Tor" erupts with a quick drum fill and bursts into the quick meat of the song. The instrumental mid-section is one of the coolest things Rush would ever do; the counterpoint between Lifeson's playful leads and Geddy Lee's heavily distorted bass fuzz sounds like a conversation between two distinct personalities- isn't that what all battles are to begin with?
Even if it's certainly the most ambitious piece on the album, "By-Tor" isn't my favourite. The honour has always gone to "Anthem", which musically might be described as "Finding My Way" on amphetamines. Rush were clearly trying to recreate the thunderous energy that opened the self-titled, and they managed to one-up it in every possible way, creating one of the best hard rock songs I've ever heard. I really like how it takes absolutely no time whatsoever to demonstrate the talents of their newest member. Neil Peart is in top form with "Anthem"; the drums are crisp and frantic, and it's clear Lifeson and Lee are benefiting from the fresh blood.
I have so many good things to say about those two tracks- even the title track "Fly By Night" has gone some peppy flame to it, although the nuisance of radio overplay probably weighs against it. It's a memorable, catchy pop song with a contagiously cheerful riff to boot. much like the debut however, there are just as many songs on Fly By Night that come off as underwhelming. "Best I Can" and "Beneath, Between & Behind" sound like they're rehashing the self-titled without the credit of great riff writing. Barring the title track, the rest of the second half is downright disappointing. I suppose "Making Memories" is decent, but there's nothing really compelling about a simplified acoustic rock tune in the wake of what came before it. "In the End" tries to play the role of bombastic closer, but the hazy pace feels lifeless. Worst of all (and I'm sure some will disagree) is "Rivendell". By all means I know I should be enjoying Rush trying to be Yes or something out of Jon Anderson's solo career, but the sleepy atmosphere never seems to end. It is a small handful of initially charming ideas stretched out to make a song two or three minutes longer than it really should be. Fly By Night has considerably more to say than its predecessor, but nothing off of Rush felt as lazy and uncompelling as the last couple of tracks here.
Fly By Night is a total mixed bag. Unlike the self-titled (which I think benefited from a revisit) my thoughts on Rush's second album haven't changed much over the years. There are a few immortal tunes, some 'meh', and a couple I'm bored stiff by. In any case, there's a lot to be said for any band that tries this hard to see what they're capable of. Emerging from the shadow of their influences was no doubt a scary step to make, but judging from the streak of legendary records they would make soon after this, I think their leap of faith paid off fairly well; don't you?
This is Rush' sophomore release, and the first that I myself own, as so much changed between the first and the second. The debut was largely Zeppelin and Cream worship that only occasionally hits the right spot. This is a different animal. For one, Peart is here, and all the changes that that brought about. For another, the production is better. Lastly, this begins to show the prog that would come to be a major part of their identity.
This is Neil Peart's first outing with the band, and acquits himself very well on the opening track. Anthem features many aspects that have come to define Neil and, by extension, Rush itself. Almost immediately, Neil's drums come in loudly and with more variety and technique in the first thirty seconds than Rutsey had on the whole first album. As well, Geddy's words usher in another aspect of the (early) Rush sound, the lyrics. Anthem is the name of a book written by Ayn Rand. She was a big proponent for Libertarian ideals, including the free-market. Some people are really irked by these lyrics, but I don't see why. Zeppelin around this time were singing about pseudo-mystical nonsense, Sabbath seemed to mostly poke at society and politics, and the rest of the scene stuck almost purely to blues tropes. I honestly find it a breath of fresh air to find a band from that era that isn't fixated on sleeping with their girlfriends or pining for the ones that left them.
In comparison to the debut, everything feels tighter and sounds better. The sound definitely has more punch to it, and that distinctly 70's airiness is almost gone. That's not to say that this doesn't sound like it was released in the 70's, but the production is not doing near as much damage. The rest of the band also steps up a notch. At this point, Lifeson was already a pretty good guitar player. He's never been a true riff-maestro, but he's still done some great work, and this is his first step towards that. His faster work on Beneath and his more laid back on the title track are pretty strong notches in his belt. Geddy as well has a nicer sound, but that could very well be the production. Suffices to say, his playing is very loud, so that's a strong point in this album's favor. His vocals are a source of everlasting debate, but I actually like them. They definitely stick out from the sound, and there's just not very many vocalists who sound like him. To those who aren't well-versed in 70's hard-rock or metal, they're high-pitched. His natural range is pretty high for a male, so it may take a while to adjust to his vocals even aside from the screams.
This is also the first album where the prog touches can be picked out and recognized. Rush' debut had long songs, but By-Tor is set up differently. It is an actual effort at an epic song where distinct parts come together to tell a whole story. This approach wasn't new for rock, but it was for Rush. Another proggy aspect is in their sonic attack. All of the instruments are very distinct and often quite melodic. Zeppelin, for example, was usually separable, but they tended to condense into a heavier assault. Rush was pretty heavy for the 70's, but they were also quite skilled even early on, so they could incorporate melody into it. What all of this means, is that they sometimes achieve the burst that a band like Yes often did of every member together and separate at once. Now, the pendulum still favors the hard-rock on this release, so these aspects aren't predominate, but from the perspective of their development are quite obvious in hindsight.
The tracks on this album are pretty strong and surprisingly varied. Anthem is an excellent album opener that essentially showed all that was about Peart. The title track is a pretty relaxed but fun number, and Beneath is a pretty speedy track compared to the rest. They flex their newer songwriting abilities with an epic that, while not to the level of some of their future works, can still be counted as a success. A few more good songs, and this would have rivaled some of their more famous brethren. The problem is that we have two longer and very weak tracks at the end instead. They are both slow and fail to create any atmosphere or even really be pretty. I have this on CD and simply clicked these two away so they wouldn't pollute my phone. They are that bad. Any of Rush's less popular works such as Caress or Power Windows do not trough as badly as these two.
As Rush' first effort to mix prog into their hard-rock sound, I'd say that they did pretty well. This album sowed the seeds that would define Rush as a distinct band that could be popular while also being weird. Through six songs, this holds up as a good listen worthy of anyone's time. The last two are a different ballgame all together. They drag down the rating in my eyes, but the album overall is still good. I would recommend this to any fans of hard-rock, heavy metal, or even prog-metal.
Before Rush developed one of the most innovative and influential sounds in modern rock, the group was not much more than a Led Zeppelin-worship act. On the self-titled debut, Rush fails to even create top shelf Zeppelin-worship. The songwriting is overly derivative, the lyrics do not fit Geddy Lee’s vocal persona and the drumming is far too vanilla. On its sophomore release, Fly by Night, Rush predominately produce cuts of Zeppelin-inspired hard rock, but this time they do a damn good job of mimicking the masters.
From the opening notes of Fly by Night it’s clear that Rush have improved their sound in numerous areas. Most importantly, the pedestrian drumming of John Rutsey is replaced by astonishing percussion of Neil Peart. Peart treats drumming like a master painter treats landscape painting. In the same way that the painter is careful to give each tree, mountain and stream its own personality through the small details, Peart constantly provides subtle variation, seemingly within each bar. His fills are varied and elaborate and add tons of color to every song. Peart plays with power and precision, which in turn allows Lee and Lifeson to play more technical progressions and employ a greater variety of time signatures. As a result, the compositions have way more detail and depth than those found on the debut.
Another major upgrade is in the production department. In contrast to the flat sound of the debut, Fly by Night is a robust recording, with each instrument filling a ton of sonic space. Echo and reverb are used effectively to create a rich textures, especially on the icy “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”. The improved sound is partially due to equipment upgrades at Toronto Sound Studios and partially due to the superior sensibilities of Terry Brown (who would produce the next seven Rush albums).
Peart’s impact as a lyricist is also evident. Gone are the clichéd rock n’ roll lyrics of the debut (save the Lee penned “Best I Can”) and in their place are Peart’s poetic and fantastical lyrics. In addition to simply delivering some beautiful lines (the chorus of “Beneath, Below and Behind” is Pulitzer-worthy), Peart’s lyrics fit Lee’s vocal style very well. Lee’s soaring falsetto is the perfect medium with which to express the dramatic stories and big feelings found in Peart’s lyrics.
While Fly by Night still stands the shadow of Led Zeppelin, Rush are at least resting beneath the right branches. Instead of trying to replicate the raunchy and sensual dimension of Zeppelin’s sound (which just doesn’t fit Rush’s personality), Rush replicates the bright, upbeat sound of Zeppelin’s mythological tracks such as “Battle of Evermore” and “Over the Hills and Far Away”. Even “Anthem,” which structurally resembles the visceral, erotic “Black Dog,” attunes the format with philosophical lyrics and bright, spirited vocals. As a result, Rush sound less like out-of-place wannabes and more like Zeppelin’s little brother who can’t help copying his cooler older brother’s style, but at the same time is at the cusp of developing his own identity.
That unique identity manifests on the eight and a half minute epic “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”. Over the years, Rush have become known for allowing the instrumental segments of their compositions to express portions the song’s narrative, and that is achieved brilliantly here. The first two verses set the stage, describing the a mystical world in which By-Tor and the Snow Dog prepare to battle over the fate of its land and people. The battle is expressed through screeching guitar and bellowing bass which shout at each other over racing rhythm before culminating in a series of heavy stop-start riffs that are executed with razor sharp precision. At first, the riffs are bridged by jaw-dropping drum fills, but after a while Rush just leave bars of silence between the crunching riffs. Eventually the composition falls into the dead space and enters the “Aftermath,” a minimal and atmospheric passage that creates an icy atmosphere through chimes and atonal guitar work. The song concludes with a soulful, bluesy guitar solo that leads back to the third verse, in which Lee celebrates the victory of the Snow Dog.
While “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” is the only true masterpiece on the album, tracks like “Anthem” and “Fly by Night” are beautiful and catchy pieces of 70’s rock that are full of spirit and energy. On the downside, Fly by Night does contain some filler at the end. “Rivendell” is a dull and melodramatic acoustic ballad that drags on for five torturous minutes. “In the End” is nowhere near as boring, but it does lack a memorable hook and is bloated at almost seven minutes. Even if this album loses steam down the stretch, there is enough quality material here that it is essential listening for Rush fans. On Fly by Night Rush begin to piece together their identity and establish the excellent chemistry that would drive them onward through the next two decades. Even if everything isn’t in its right place, Rush have clearly taken flight.
Originally written for deinoslogos.wordpress.com
Standing head and shoulders above the Led Zeppelin worship of the previous album, Fly By Night sees Rush create a first rough draft of their distinctive prog metal style. This is most apparent on the album's highlight, the multi-part epic By-Tor and the Snow Dog, which aside from a slow section towards the end is a great prog metal composition featuring some superb guitar work from Alex Lifeson.
Of course, the transformation in the band's sound is thanks mainly to the presence of Neil Peart, whose more technically proficient drumming allows the band to explore more complex musical territory. But both Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson give a superior performance this time around as well, the presence of Peart clearly boosting the band's morale and both founder members relishing the opportunity to show off their skills outside of a blues-rock framework.
It isn't a perfect album, though; it occasionally suffers from muzzy production values and a residual tendency towards lightweight rockers (such as the forgettable Best I Can or Making Memories), and the faltering acoustic piece Rivendell is an embarrassing slice of Tolkien worship that's best forgotten about - not least because it stretches about a minute's worth of musical ideas over five minutes. Nonetheless, the album brings the band appreciably closer to becoming the dominant force they would become, so major-league Rush fans will probably want to pick it up regardless.
“Fly by Night” is the second studio album by Rush. Neil Peart makes his debut here as lyricist and drummer making this album rather significant. With Peart in hand, the band proceeded to embark on a path of greatness. Even in this early release, you can find some legendary material.
This whole album (With the exception of By-Tor and the Snow Dog) is very upbeat and easy on the ears. Some songs such as By-Tor, Anthem, and “Beneath, Between, and Behind” feature an icy atmosphere to go along with this, which works extremely well. The album also features one of the first progressive epics in the rock/metal industry, which is an incredible listen. This said epic, By-Tor and the Snow Dog, is the album’s highlight and makes this release worth getting, even for the one song.
The band is as good as always here. Geddy Lee’s vocals are very shrill, for the most part and fit the music very well. Lee’s bass is also excellent, being very audible and working splendidly with the instruments. Peart’s debut is flawless and proves his masterful drumming abilities. Lastly Alex Lifeson’s guitars have the perfect sound for the album and are largely responsible for the album’s atmosphere. Lifeson’s rather frequent solos here are also very impressive.
Opener “Anthem” is what a NWOBHM Rush would sound like. The guitars project the old heavy metal feel, plus Geddy Lee sings very well here and provides some very high screams at points of the song. Peart’s amazing drumming skills are already apparent on this song, particularly near the end. The whole band works to give this song an icy atmosphere mixed with a heavy metal/hard rock sound. All in all, one of the album’s highlights. Best I Can is very basic hard rock. The song’s got pretty good solos, bass, and drumming, but the vocals here are only decent. It’s a fun song, but nothing special. “Beneath, Between, and Behind” is very average due to a lack of variety. The icy guitar is back, which is nice, but it’s not as impressive as before due to the song’s average quality, something I can say for all the instruments here. This is one of the weaker tracks on the album.
Moving on, we have By-Tor and the Snow Dog, a truly revolutionary eight and a half minute epic. The song begins as Geddy Lee describes the two characters of this story, By-Tor (villain) and the Snow Dog (hero). About two minutes in, the “battle” (The five and a half minute instrumental section) of these characters begins. The two combatants are at full strength at this portion of the fight; the instruments reflect this with some wild solos and interesting special effects (or are these effects some bass trick?). Either way the battle tires down after raging for two and a half minutes long, as the epitome of an atmospheric instrumental section begins. This passage consists of constant quiet chimes and a very subtle melody that successfully projects the iciest atmosphere I’ve ever heard in music. Lee provides one simple but very effective bass note every ten seconds or so that completes the atmosphere. The darkness of this section probably represents that the Snow Dog is losing the battle and hope is diminishing. About six minutes in, (The song not the section) short drum rolls begin to appear as the melody begins to build up, until finally a huge drum roll completely changes the mood and a slow but effective solo begins. This final section of the battle probably symbolizes that the Snow Dog has turned the table, and is finishing off By-Tor. The song then ends the way it began, except with Lee singing about the victory of the Snow Dog.
Anyway, the title track is a very catchy song that’s great for the road. Geddy Lee sings very well, and some good soloing is also present. The song is ultimately, very adventurous and upbeat. “Making Memories” is another catchy song, this time with some upbeat acoustics. Electric guitar is heard during the solos, which, like most of Lifeson’s are very good. This song is definitely very much like the title track. Next up is Rivendell a ballad based off of the respective fictional Elvin city. This song contains completely acoustic guitar, and no drums, making for a very soft atmosphere. Listen to this one when enjoying nature. “In the End”, the album’s closer, is a pretty good mid-tempo song. There are acoustic and electric guitars present, and the song is ultimately very ideal as a closer, especially when you consider that it’s main riff is the same as the title track’s except slower.
Summed up, this release is a tad inconsistent, but features some outstanding tracks like By-Tor and Anthem. If you’re a fan, get this album, but people not familiar with Rush should hear some of their other releases like “Moving Pictures” before checking this out. Don’t expect “Fly by Night” to be one of the greatest progressive albums, just expect it to be a very good one.
This is the album that defined the path that Rush would take in the decade to come. Adopting soon-to-be-drum-legend Neal Peart as percussionist and lyricist, Rush blended a fine progressive edge and memorable lyrics to their otherwise carefree 70's hard-rockin' sound and proceeded to alter the course of history. Fly by Night, though only a shadow of what would follow it, still stands as one of the band's defining albums and an easy favorite for fans of 70's classic rock and progressive.
Most Rush fans are familiar with the easily recognizable though admittedly straightforward title track, but this album is considerably more diverse and intricate than that. Peart's influence is immediately apparent in the first minutes of "Anthem," a complex and catchy tribute to the novel of the same name. Listen to this after say, "Working Man," and hear the sheer difference in playing style from debut drummer John Rutsey. This is still Zep-influenced 70's rock for sure, but deeper and far more focused musically and lyrically. As good as Peart's drumming is, it is his lyrics that complement this the best, weaving tales of fantasy and personal reflection as a master poet would. Tales that are expertly sung by Lee and fantastically accompanied by Lifeson's much-improved guitarwork.
The song structures are just as diverse as the lyrics. The album starts off in typical Rush fashion with a few quick rockers that are just a tad too complex to be confused with songs off their self-titled debut. "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" is their first attempt at an epic and a good one at that, interplaying instruments, mood, and subtlety as potently as they would on A Farewell to Kings. Then there is the classic title track, which I'm happy to say still gets occasional radio airplay. The final tracks of the album shift towards the mellower end, letting Getty Lee show off his expressive side and Alex Lifeson show off some fantastic clean tones. All in all, it's as consistent as it is varied, with the only hints of cheese manifesting themselves in the 'battle' section of "By-Tor" in the form of some really weird vocal/sound effects (these are annoying as hell, though only amounting for a small portion of the total track).
Like much of Rush's output, this is to be recommended, with the added weight of it being among their best works. Enjoy.
A somewhat awkward title with this being Rush’s second release, but the title is in the content; for while the actual self-titled debut was a worthy album in its own right, it is not the style of muse that would become these godfathers of prog. This release is the first full step in that direction, with Fly by Night the unfurling of new drummer Neil Peart and the music that would define the band, and eventually a whole genre of metal.
Neil Peart’s introduction is seen in the sound of the drums and the content of the lyrics. Peart’s vast literary background being quickly noticed and appreciated by both Lee and Lifeson who cared little for the job of lyricist. And the impact on content is noticeable, for the typical Zeppelin rock of the debut has been replaced by tales of Middle Earth, classic tales of good versus evil, and homage to the literary classic Anthem of Ayn Rand. The percussion is technical in a manner that emphasizes intricate precision versus simple beats or needless execution. The man would become known as “The Professor” for justifiable reasons.
The music has also advanced from the debut, and while it is still hard rock, the style is steeped in the burgeoning form of progressive. At the time, this was represented by such bands as Yes or old Gabriel era Genesis, both group’s inspirations of complexity to the band, but transformed herein into something heavier. Lifeson chops are on and his solo’s strong and Lee continues to be a great bassist whose presence is not an after thought or plays second string to his vocal duties.
“Anthem” begins and the guitar’s crunch combined with the percussive precision heralds the new era of music. This song represents side one well with good chops, hard solos, and Lee’s patented early shrieks. The name itself representing the short novel by Rand and in content a clarion call of individualism versus collective, charitable atrophy; the lyrics, “Live for yourself - There's no one else more worth living for. Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more” is a long distance from “Baby I’m coming to get you.”
“Fly by Night” headlines side two and is the better known song herein, a classic that still smuggles its way onto the airwaves to date. “Making Memories” is an acoustic jam that was literally written while the trio was lost on the back roads of Indiana, and seems out of pace with latter material, but is a solid track and nicely changes up the albums tempo. Finally, “In the End” threatens to continue the softer second side’s persona into the finish but blisters open into anthems of catchy guitar riffs, the sum being a total of several guitar textures and fine
Seemingly the odd man out, “Rivendell” is a dreamy acoustic ballad of all things Tolkien. It is slow, and would probably work better with the same level of smoke inhaled by the artists performing it. More of a mood song and I sometimes hit the skip button. Same can be said of “Best I Can”, a holdover from the previous tour that falls short in moments. Neither is a bad song, just average.
But the true master piece and blue print of metal prog is self contained within “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”. As “Working Man” represented the self-titled debut’s look at the future of Rush so does this masterpiece predict the groups direction to many signature classics to come, all while arguably being the first truly metal progressive piece to hit vinyl. Its 8:39 minutes are even broken into movements as if to slam the point home. Further, the song just kicks ass through all nine of Dente’s cursed layers. “By-Tor” is the story of an epic battle between good and evil in verse with the actual battle represented by instrumental axe work. This song does a rare feat in music and ends without seeming as long as it is, for it does not possess a dull or repetitive moment - It succeeds in captivating the listener and holding their interest. This is the ability of the lyrics, but more importantly the music itself to project a story from beginning to end, and makes Fly by Night worth picking up for this track alone.
Collectors Factoid: For those who have the vinyl version, the chimes at the end of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” are actually imprinted into the groves at the end of side one, after the actual track and not the record proper. On older record players that don’t automatically pick up the needle, this causes the chimes to continue forever until the record is manually stopped.
This album, while Rush’s second release, is in reality the debut of Rush the progressive band and the first album to carry the modern line-up. It is a solid album with enough outstanding moments to call it a classic and a worthy addition to your collection.
The only reason I don't give this album a perfect score is that their following stuff is even better (and because of that stupid sound effect passage in the middle of By-Tor and the Snow Dog). From the opening unison salvo, you can hear where bands like Dream Theater draw tremendous influence from far as chops go, and you can also hear the infinite difference between previous drummer John Rutsey and current god Neil Peart, with his terrifically accented snare work. After the opening shredding, everything pauses and they go into this soaring riff in case there was any question about whether this band kicked ass or not. From there, it's a roller coaster of diverse & memorable riffs and solos from Mr. Lifeson, Peart's godly drumming and interesting lyrics, and Geddy's banshee wails and monster bass work (that's right, you can hear the bass in this band). The rhythmically unique "Beneath, Between and Behind" is one of my favorites, and that groovy riff in the middle with the whole open-closed hihat pattern will silence any naysayers who put down Neil as having no groove (or maybe he doesn't, I wouldn't know, but the band rocks pretty fucking well and grooves here). "Rivendell" is, as the name implies, about all things fantasy-related, and is actually a quiet acoustic number with some downright beautiful classical guitar work. Not a weak track on here, some terrific and revolutionary progressive rock/metal/whatever, and a good starting point for a band with a huge discography full of great albums.