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Retrospective II is the second installment of compilations that were released in 1997 to coordinate with the reissues of each album highlighted on this disc. This disc being a typical “Best Of” that provides assorted songs from 1981 to 1987.
Sadly, this compilation fails to deliver on a number of accounts. First, thematically, they left off Permanent Waves which fits the style of music much better than Retrospective I where it is was shoe-horned in, probably to boost purchases from new fans more familiar with the radio cuts. Second, for the discerning metal fan, this era is just not stacked with their best work. Half the album is wasted on material from the sub-par releases inhabiting Rush’s synth-pop late 80’s period, Power Windows and Hold Your Fire. At least for your money, you get three songs from the progressive epic pieces of Moving Pictures; four gems from the creamy synth-rock of Signal; but sadly only two from the neo art-prog of Grace Under Pressure.
The most important crime though, is the complete lack of bonus material. There is no booklet, just a fold out cover with the various album pictures and credits. No history or stories, band interviews. Hell, I would have been happy with a few pictures from the time period. Next is the music, here again there is nothing new for the Rush fan. No unreleased material – not even a lousy live cover song. In fact, there is a live album that was released in this period that is ignored! This compilation, while containing many fine tracks, contains not one reason for a Rush fan to pick it up. In the end it just comes off as a quick cash grab by the label.
Compilations follow different rules than a normal album, thus the rant on incidentals. On a normal album, it’s all about the music. Albums stand or fail on the quality of the music. Extras don’t matter. But a compilation is nothing more than a re-release of selected musical moments from each album covered. You don’t buy a compilation just for the aesthetics of the songs, for you are either an existing fan (In which case you already have these songs) or you are a casual fan (In which case you are not just listening to the songs, but getting a career retrospective); either way, extras are an essential method of hyping the band and giving value over the existing releases.
The music alone would make this compilation an 80, a rather sad commentary considering this is suppose to be a “Best Of”, but the sheer lack of any bonus materials or new songs makes this completely unnecessary for regular fans. As for new listeners or casual fans, unless you get a really good deal, you will be better off passing by this release along with its sister release Retrospective I and spend your money on Chronicles for a better retrospective on the band.