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Humble but merry beginnings - 65%

Xyrth, July 12th, 2015

There's no doubt that Rush is one of the most respected institutions in rock music. Their near-five decade career has produced a lot of amazing music, part of which has inspired and influenced a lot of other bands across the globe, many of which have also become successful, respected and influential in turn. In out beloved metal world, they've been particularly influential on the progressive metal genre, being one of first and most consistent acts to blend hard edged rock with the complexity and ambition of progressive rock. As I've mentioned in another review, I think their finest years happened from the mid-70s 'til the mid-80s. Just as they snuffed their progressive side flame and went for simpler synth rock, metal bands such as Watchtower, Fates Warning and Voïvod decided to pick up the torch, taking the Rush sound to heavier heights.

Rush themselves, as it happens with virtually all rock acts, started as a band influenced by sounds that predated them. They were young and impressionable. For their debut recording, they chose a couple of tunes which are a far cry in both format and style from what they'd do later in their career. The first single of this legendary Canadian (emphasis on) power trio consist in a Buddy Holly cover, “Not Fade Away”, a song which was made into a successful cover some years before by The Rolling Stones. Rush's version is closer to Holly's original, albeit discarding the emphasis on the famous Bo Diddley rhythm in favor of a more hard rockish feel. Alex Lifeson's simple picking opens the song, and Geddy's characteristic high pitched vocals kicks in, its joyful tone immediately recognizable. Around the 40-second mark, the rhythmic section finally appears. John Rutsey's beats are pretty straightforward rock 'n' roll in this one, steadily propelling the song at a youthful pace. You can hear Geddy's bass guitar escaping the norm from time to time, already showing his stellar presence in the band, though in the mix his instrument is a bit muddied, unlike the vocals and the guitar, which are given great presence. Around the two-and-a-half minute mark, Alex starts to solo away as Geddy continues to sing the chorus, until the song concludes. Quite a nice cover version, though I actually prefer the Stones rendition.

The B-side of the single is an original tune, their very first. “You Can't Fight It” is an under three minute energetic hard rock number, pretty similar in style to “Not Fade Away”, or to what they'd do next in their eponymous debut, a year later. Again, emphasis is placed on Geddy's signature vocals and Lifeson's explosive soloing, both the highlights in this release. Alex fires his solos like a molten ball of equal parts Eric Clapton/Tony Iommi out of a volcano. The track also displays those distinctive melodic peaks which the band uses between rhythmic segments in many of their compositions. Rutsey's playing is pretty conservative here as well, but he shows his skills with some rapid fills from time to time. While he never had the chance to really prove what he could do behind the kit, or how we would have evolved with the rest of the band, he was a very solid drummer. Of course, his replacement would take drumming to a whole new level, so it's difficult to compare given the disparity in the two musicians' time spent with the band.

While this release already showed competence in their abilities and a good cohesion as a band, it serves as a poor introduction to Rush's musical universe. Their pink lettered self-titled album would further develop this primitive hard rock sound, showing some of the band's versatility with more blues oriented tracks and different song lengths. Musically, there's not much here but a jubilant, hopeful effort. Nowadays, this single is a collector's item and really valuable due to its rarity. So, if you can get it, you will automatically enter the Rush fandom elite.