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There seems to be majority agreement that Rush's self-titled started their career off on one of its weaker notes. I wouldn't contest that notion either; compared to the heady intellectualism of their peak era, the bluesy, Led Zeppelin-influenced hard rock on this one can barely compete. Be that as it may, I think it is unduly overlooked by a lot of fans- myself included. Back in high school, I bought every album of theirs I could lay my adolescent hands on. 2112 and Caress of Steel blew me away, Moving Pictures even moreso. Even Counterparts (which I'll stand beside as one of the most underrated rock albums ever, let alone of Rush's career) struck a lasting note with me. After giving the debut a few listens however, I dismissed it, and the CD ended up at the back and bottom of my shelf where the U2 and Aerosmith best-of compilations dwelled.
While my music taste has only grown more perverse and alienating in the years since, I actually find myself enjoying Rush far more than I did at the height of my fandom. There's not a lot of depth to their songwriting. The lyrics are probably best described as pedestrian at best. But couldn't the same be said for Led Zeppelin's early masterpieces? Decades later, and there's still a primal charm to unpretentious, no-frills rock music. The problem is that so many of the bands (both then and now) that go that route failed to say anything memorable with such a limited palette. Even if they would quickly abandon it for bolder pastures, Rush had no problem expressing their personality with a basic rock set-up.
Love or hate the album, Rush stands out from many of its amorphous hard rock contemporaries. While their influences are active in colouring the band's performance, Rush's sound on the self-titled was already distinctive, thanks in no small part to the voice of Geddy Lee. His singing is unique to the point of being an acquired taste; that's virtually unheard of in hard rock. His high-pitched wail has always been the potential dealbreaker with new listeners, and none moreso than here. I think the impish shriek Geddy's vocals lean on works for the music they were making here, but it would be a couple of albums still before he learned to make the most of his voice. As it happens, there are moments where it sounds like he pushes himself further than he should; some of the inflections on "Take a Friend" and "Here Again" have always rubbed my ears the wrong way. Regardless, the fact that you could already pick his voice out of a crowd of a thousand this early on only works to be the benefit of the music.
The easy highlight on the self-titled is Alex Lifeson. The thoughtful restraint and feeling he put into his playing on albums like Hemispheres has long since made him one of my favourite guitarists (not to mention a major reason why I decided to pick up the instrument for myself.) He doesn't offer the same laid-back sense on Rush. With the debut, he's all about pure riffmaking. "Finding My Way" offers one of the best opening riffs to an album in hard rock history. And, of course, it would be nuts to go without mentioning "Working Man", Rush's first de facto 'hit.' Call me crazy, but I hear echoes of Black Sabbath in "Working Man"- just replace Geddy with Ozzy and it might have fit on Paranoid or Sabbath's own self-titled debut.
Even when the songwriting isn't always that great, Lifeson's riffs (and leads) are a joy to hear. This segues me to the biggest issue Rush faced at this early stage. When the song writing is good, it's really good. The rest of the time, they don't seem all that phased by mediocre writing. "Finding My Way" is a great opener. "In the Mood" is a memorable pop track. "Working Man" is a heavy beast of a closer. The rest of the tracks help me remember why I wasn't a fan of the album in the first place. None of it is bad songwriting per se; just audibly uninspired. Keeping in mind that they would be writing epics about shit like space and necromancers a few years later, listening to Geddy unironically wailing about 'needing some love' is pretty lame. Ditto that for singing songs about how great it feels to 'take'(?) a friend. Do these guys know they would be doing full-blown prog rock a couple of years later? Jesus Christ...
I also promised myself I'd bring up Geddy Lee as a bassist. The most common wasted opportunity in rock music is a bassist who sounds content to mindlessly follow the chords of the guitarist. Unfortunately, that's the case more often than not in this sort of hard rock. Not only does Geddy pave his own way independent of Lifeson's thunder, the aggressive tone of his bass is perfectly suited to the music they're playing here. Unsurprisingly, the would-be weakest link is the drummer John Rutsey. He had to leave after an album due to touring complications related to diabetes. Although he holds up a decent beat here, he lacked the presence to keep up with the already-distinctive personalities of Lifeson and Lee. Running into Neil Peart was the best-possible thing to happen to them; a drummer that could not only keep up, but take charge of any aspects Rush lacked in somewhat- namely, their lyrics.
But what if that had never happened? Think of it this way: imagine a parallel universe where the Rush we knew never existed. Instead, three guys from Toronto had decided to make a bluesy, Zeppelin-influenced hard rock album before calling it quits, to start families and become high school teachers (or something.) If Rush was all we had to judge from what would become one of the strongest legacies in rock music, its qualities would undoubtedly be more apparent. Geddy's distinctive (if not always pleasant) voice and aggressive bass playing, Alex's energy and tone, and the riffs- by Gött- THE RIFFS! "Finding My Way", "In the Mood" and the almighty "Working Man" are great examples of mid-70s hard rock, and while it would take Neil Peart to elevate them to the next level, Rush's debut still stands as a pretty solid affair in its own right.
Every band starts somewhere, Rush started here, in 1974 with their self titled debut. Rush has had many run-ins with failure, but none as close as this. This album was a complete commercial failure. It wasn't until a few months later, in Cleveland OH, that radio station WMMS basically saved the band, by adding the song "Working Man" to their regular playlist. This led to the band becoming quite popular in the town, popular enough to make the album hit #105, giving the band enough money for a sophomore album.
Importance aside, lets talk quality, and in terms of quality, it's one of the worse albums to come from Rush. Not bad, but unimaginative and somewhat boring. It's little more than high-quality Led Zeppelin worship (Cactus anyone?), and despite the high-quality part, it's still an album that wants to be from another band. The tune "Working Man" shows what was to come from the band, but outside that there isn't much here worth mentioning.
The band has numerous songs such as "Finding My Way" that I can't listen to and NOT think of Robert Plant. What these songs lack is identity. A lot of the lack of identity come from the fact that this a debut album, but equally it comes from the lack of drumming god and lyricist Neil Peart. Once he joins, the band jumps in quality and finally has an identity, but alas this isn't their next album, and what we have is boring, generic songs.
However, two songs manage to escape this fate of being boring. "Working Man" and "Finding My Way" despite their Led Zeppelin qualities, are really good songs, and show off how good Lifeson and Lee are at their instruments. While they are unimaginative, they are really, REALLY good. This is what saves the album, the songs while Led Zeppelin worship, are good enough to carry the album.
If you are a hardcore Rush fan, or just a fan of hard rock in general, this album is a great addition to your collection. It is unoriginal but it's good, and that's what really matters. Every band starts somewhere, and despite its unoriginal traits, this was a good place for the band to start out. It gave them their first hit song, and showed that the band was competent, two things record companies really love, which allowed their following records to be made. As with A Farewell to Kings, this album is more important to Rush than to anything else. Without it, Rush's success wouldn't have come to be. That being said, if you aren't a huge fan of hard rock or Rush, there isn't anything here that you'll really need or even really want. If you aren't those two things, just download "Working Man" and "Finding My Way" and forget the rest of the album, because pretty much everyone else did as well.
If you're only familiar with Rush's big hits, their debut album will come as a surprise. Far from the epic prog-metal of 2112 or the more hook-driven pop-oriented stuff of their 80's and 90's, this self-titled beginning is steeped in the Zeppelin-infused classic rock sound of the early 70's, as many reviews here have stated. But there's a few important details worth mentioning about this little debut.
First of all, Rush might not be impressive, but it's definitely fully listenable, which can't be said for some of their later material (which is less generic but way more boring.) While the songs here are pretty standard rock n' roll, listening to them now reminds us that Lee & Lifeson were capable of more than what most critics give them credit for later on. The bluesy Here Again, for example, isn't exactly Blind Faith, but it's a legitimate blues rocker, and Lee's often-ridiculed voice actually manages a little soul (at least, "soul" for a nerdy Canadian.)
This is the only Rush album to feature drummer John Rutsey, which is essential to note as a contrast to human metronome drum god Neil Peart's contribution for the rest of the band's career. While Peart is obviously superior technically, Rutsey's drumming here has a warmth and youthful vigor Peart really doesn't ever nail- a key contribution to this album's success. Just check out What You're Doing and tell me Rush ever got that Zeppelin-funky again.
Lyrically, the songs are pretty standard-rock fare- that is, they do their job, but I wouldn't exactly call them "poetry". While Peart's lyrics aimed to make much deeper points, they've also been much more pretentious and self-consciously clever, so it's a tradeoff. The notable exception is also the song that saved Rush from a premature death: Working Man is an honest, blue-collar song about, you guessed it, the struggles of the working man, a track that sonically and lyrically connected with enough salt-of-the-earth folks in Cleveland to make it a regional hit, which led to Rush's first major-label deal. It still rocks hard enough to have gained a spot in Guitar Hero's canon of rock n' roll greatness.
Other than that, the album serves as historical evidence that Lee & Lifeson had already honed their skills considerably, especially with Lifeson's hard rock guitar riffs (I'm not sure he ever got to rock out in a fun, cock-rock sort of way again.) While Geddy Lee's voice will always be a take-it-or-leave-it sort of thing, this is, at least, his best Robert-Plant-karaoke attempt. It lacks the chick-swooning testosterone, but injects some fun into their music that, again, is consciously missing from later releases.
While prog-metal fans will find this a disappointing work, it's a nice, and important, piece of the Rush puzzle, if only to showcase a side of Rush rarely seen again. Pop it into your car's tape deck and hit the gas.
Some bands come out of the gate swinging, while others gradually build momentum. Canadian prog rock legends Rush falls squarely in the latter category. Rush slowly cultivated both their progressive and hard rock elements over their first three albums before finally perfecting both on their 1976 classic, 2112. Just two years earlier Rush was simply one amongst hundreds of Led Zeppelin-worship bands—and save one song, it fails to distinguish itself from the pack. Generic songwriting, underwhelming drumming and clichéd lyrics make Rush a weak link within Rush’s otherwise stellar early discography.
Most of the elements of Rush are lifted from Led Zeppelin (though the influences of Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath are also apparent). Overall, Lee does a good job of filling the role of Robert Plant. He delivers high falsetto with some cutting screams and possibly even more “oohs”, “yeahs” and “babys” than you’ll find on any Led Zeppelin album. However, Lee falls comically short of Plant in sex appeal department. The lyrics replicate the sexual and amorous themes that pervade Led Zeppelin’s discography, but the delivery is just awkward. Lee’s voice can capture a lot of different moods and feelings, but “sexy” isn’t one of them.
Lee’s bass work and Alex Lifeson’s guitar work do a better job of emulating the Zeppelin sound. Lifeson provides numerous big, roaring, bluesy hooks and several ear-grabbing solos while Lee provides bouncy, bluesy bass-lines. Nothing on this album hints at just how talented these two musicians are, but for the type of music they are playing, the performance is solid. Where the debut really falls short is the drumming. It’s hard to pull off the Zeppelin sound without someone to fill the role of John Bonham. Rush would actually one-up their icons when Neil Peart—arguably the greatest drummer in the history of rock—joined the group on their sophomore release, Fly by Night. However, John Rutsey’s performance on the debut is way too safe and pedestrian. There’s a scarcity of interesting fills and the execution lacks power. Part of this is due to the mediocre production (all the instruments have a fairly flat sound to them) but Rutsey’s musical limitations are part of the problem as well.
The song structures are predictable and the hooks and choruses are unoriginal. The lyrics are pretty shallow and generic, dwelling mostly on romance and sexual desire without articulating those feelings in a seductive or visceral manner. Still, there are enough catchy moments to make Rush a listenable album. “In the Mood,” “Take a Friend” and “Need Some Love” have memorable choruses and Lifeson’s solos are strong throughout.
The one truly standout moment is the hit single “Working Man.” For one song everything comes together: Rutsey steps it up on drums, Lee provides quality lyrics and the trio finds excellent chemistry. “Working Man” laments the banality and redundancy of the blue collar lifestyle and the unrelenting desire for something more fulfilling. Lee wails dissatisfaction over his thankless 9-5 job while Lifeson’s guitar roars big, ravenous riffs that allude to the working man’s yearning for thrill, excitement and meaning. During the extended bridge Lifeson delivers some killer soloing before the trio enters a tight-knit, fast-paced passage where they finally shows off their chops.
Fans of Rush should give this album a listen, specifically to hear the fiery “Working Man,” but make no mistake about it, this album is significantly inferior to the group’s next ten albums.
Orignally written for deinoslogos.wordpress.com
Rush's sole album with founding drummer John Rutsey is an object lesson in how much a change in lineup of a tight three-man unit like Rush can change the character of a band. More or less everyone with an interest in progressive metal knows Rush as a technically proficient band who are constantly experimenting with different directions to take their sound in, are blessed with one of the scene's most technically proficient drummers in the form of Neil Peart, and feature the instantly recognisable high-pitched vocals of Geddy Lee. Aside from Geddy's vocals, none of these qualities are in evidence on their debut.
Steeped in Led Zeppelin worship, the album showcases a band which clearly have potential but just aren't pushing themselves to realise it. The point of interest for most Rush fans will be how Rutsey compares to Peart. The answer: not well. It's impossible to tell whether he was simply a less talented drummer who was holding the band back due to his inability to play more technically complex material, or whether the band as a whole were simply not making use of their talent at this point in time, but the overall effect is the same: Rutsey snoozes through all the usual hard rock cliches (complete with cowbell) and does nothing particularly spectacular.
Alex Lifeson turns in the most distinguished instrumental performance here - particularly his solos on the extended numbers Here Again and Working Man - but again he's simply running through the hard rock playbook rather than making any new contribution on here. As for the vocals, whilst Geddy's distinctive voice is in place it is jarring to hear him try an unconvincing impersonation of Robert Plant, and he's hampered by the lack of the witty and articulate lyrics Rush are usually known for (except on Working Man). Again, this is probably a consequence of the different lineup, since Neil Peart would take on primary lyrical responsibility once he joined the band.
Overall, the album's a bit of a disappointment, and the only genuinely memorable song on here is Working Man - which has been given superior live renditions by the current lineup, particularly on All The World's a Stage and Different Stages. Quite simply, unless you are burning with curiosity over Rush's origins, there's no compelling reason to own this album.
Originally released in the spring of 1974, Rush’s debut album provides a solid start that is unlike the various personas that the band would take on in the future. Instead of being faced with extensively layered keyboards and intellectual lyrical themes, we are treated to a harder style based on the likes of Led Zeppelin and Cream with lyrics based on more typical rock topics of the time. The album is also noteworthy for being the only one to feature the late drummer John Rutsey, who was unable to extensively tour with the band due to health problems and paved the way for drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart.
As previously stated, the music often sounds like something that would’ve been recorded by Led Zeppelin in the time period that their first two albums were released. Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee often sounds like Robert Plant on helium and even outdoes him with the wails on such tracks as the aggressive "Finding My Way," the guitar riffs have a muddy touch often associated with Jimmy Page (The main riff to "What You’re Doing" in particular sounds eerily similar to Zeppelin’s "Heartbreaker"), and they included a few blues jam in the forms of "Here Again" and "Before and After." Fortunately the songwriting is done in good taste and the similarities are done in tribute rather than plagiarism.
Given that Peart had nothing to do with the writing of this record, it’s certainly obvious that the lyrics on this album are drastically different than that would appear on later efforts. The themes on the album seem to hit closer to home and include ideas related to “love” and the pursuit thereof ("Finding My Way," "Need Some Love," "Before and After," "In the Mood"), friendship ("Take a Friend"), music in general ("Here Again"), critics ("What You’re Doing"), and the blue collar lifestyle ("Working Man"). I don’t think they’re as bad as some listeners think they are, but it is a little creepy to hear Lee wail about how he’s “gonna get ya” in that sense. There are just some people that never should write about sex. If it makes you any better, I’m one of those people...
Despite being a little derivative, this may be one of my personal favorite Rush albums and is worth checking for fans of the band and heavier classic rock.
1) Accessible songwriting and good variety
2) The band members are already good at their crafts
1) Slightly primitive lyrics
2) Occasionally derivative of other bands
My Current Favorites:
"Finding My Way," "Here Again," "What You’re Doing," "In the Mood," and "Working Man"
RUSH. Their debut’s cover emulates the same simplicity and energy that Yes’ debut did back in ‘69. Oddly enough, as that giant of a progressive rock band reached their peak, another giant was just starting to emerge. But Rush in 1974 was not the same Rush that had resurrected the progressive spirit at the end of the 70’s and through the early 80’s; rather, this was a band that had more in common with classic rock than with prog. This is Rush in a stripped-down, lighthearted rock ‘n’ roll format, that while certainly inferior to the masterpieces that would shortly follow it, has plenty of merit in its own right that fans of 70’s music are certain to embrace.
This album shows Rush’s influences more so than any other album they would go on to release. This is 70’s rock without a doubt, like Led Zeppelin if they were better at their instruments with a twinge of AC/DC to add flavor. The songs are simple and catchy with solid performances from all the members. Alex Lifeson does a hell of a job channeling the energy of his predecessors, sporting the bluesy riffery of Jimmy Page, showcasing the heavier-than-thou guitar tone of Tony Iommi, and even calling to mind the soaring leadwork of David Gilmour from time to time, especially in “Here Again.” Getty Lee is just as phenomenal as always. While his playing is a bit simpler on this release, it still comes out strong on the recording. His vocals are solid as well, at times reminiscent of Robert Plant (undoubtedly one of the reasons this release often gets compared with Zeppelin). In fact, most of the songs are very Zeppelin-ish, consisting of straightforward classic heavy metal rhythms and catchy vocal lines, deviating only in the longer, bluesy “Here Again.”
The only real downside to this release is that it’s the only album released before drum legend Neil Peart was in the band. Not that John Rutsey doesn’t deliver a worthy performance on here (he does), but this release really suffers from the lack of Peart’s lyrical contributions. Again, think rehashed 70’s rock, with lots of “oooo baby’s,” “oh yeah’s,” and classic rock clichés.
Fans of later Rush might have a hard time going back in time to get into this album. There’s no deep philosophical exploration here, nor is there any extended epic tracks. Just a handful of fun, rocking tunes that still stand strong among the lot of popular early 70’s rock. Some of this even overshadows Deep Purple in terms of sheer heaviness and it’s definitely worth checking out if only to give “Working Man” a couple of spins.
The year is 1974 and so begins the carrier of progressive legends Rush, in what would become a discography celebrated for creating and inspire progressive metal. But before those days would come, this unknown Canadian band serving time hoping gigs in their van would release this self titled debut. Rush was originally released on the bands self-made Moon label after being rejected by the major labels. Irony considering this release would eventually become the largest selling debut in Canadian history.
First of note is the absence of drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. The bands original drummer was Alex Lifeson’s long time friend John Rutsey, who also “wrote” the lyrics for the songs. I quote that do to the fact the lyrics were always changing, leaving Lee in a position to sometimes just wing it on stage. By the time the debut was recorded, Rutsey failed to deliver the final lyrics, forcing Lee to recall all the lyrics he had performed live or just write new ones. To this, Rutsey had a dislike for heavy touring. Further, Lifeson and Lee wanted to pursue songs in a progressive/technical way which didn’t settle well with the traditional rock persona of their drummer. With the group signing to Mercury and the U.S tour beginning Rutsey called it quits. Not that the drumming is bad, for they actually work well for the style of music presented. They just sound weak compared to later releases. Listen to All the Worlds a Stage to hear these songs with better drum work to see what I mean, including Peart’s drum solo lovingly nestled into the middle of Working Man.
History lesson aside, how does this album stack up to the massive discography of the godfathers of prog? Rush is an interesting amalgamation of hard rock and tantalizing hints of what was to come. And this is certainly hard rock with a large serving of Zeppelin love sans the acid moments. This is quite understandable in light of the fact the band wrote and performed these songs live over the five years leading to this release, creating classic hard rock designed to be performed in halls and bars from ‘69 to ‘74.
“Finding My Way” opens up the album and already you know this is a different Rush. Lee’s “Oh’Yea”, “Whoa, babe I’m coming to get you…” vocal puts you on notice. This is certainly not the lyrics of master muse Neal Peart. But the guitars kick and drag the listener along in a festival of riffs married to 70’s guitar rock done damn well. This song, with the album, wares the test of time well with only a few moments of dated rock creeping into the mix, but overall certainly sounds less dated than the material the same group put out in the late 80’s. “Need Some Love” is atypical of several tracks (“In the Mood, “Take a Friend”) in giving the listener a fun romp through the toe-tapping of bar room hard rock. This is the nature of this album. It’s got some good catchy riffs and for the astute listener deeper moments (The guitar work in “Here Again”), but at the end of the day this is rock, albeit heavier, and the kind of fun you have listening to tunes while having a drink at the bar. Not a bad thing, and certainly a lost art form in its own right, just surprising to associate with the group that wrote “Xanadu” and “2112”. As far as that style of hard rock goes, this album bashed the competition.
But we are not done, as the album ends with the critical mass of “Working Man”. In the epic story of Rush with this release being chapter one, “Working Man” is the foreshadowing of what is to come. Essentially, this is heavy metal’s answer to Styx’s “Blue Collar Man”. “Working Man” ignites the airwaves with a driving riff, pounding rhythms, and guitar solos married intricately and artistically in the key of heavy. Sorry to all of you 70’s bar-rock bands, your groovy jam-tunes just became the artistic equivalent of children drawings hanging from the refrigerator. This song is the driving force that put Rush on the music map and still holds its own as a classic to this day. Assuming you don’t happen to own one of the gazillion “Best of…” compilations Rush has put out, this album’s purchase is worth this song.
Less identifiable at first, the real spirit captured in this album is the natural love the band has for playing live, and it shows in each song. This spirit would continue through the next three releases and reach its zenith with their first live release All the Worlds a Stage before conceptual structures and artistic composition would completely occupy the group’s muse. But that is another review.
If you are not a fan of late 60’s to 70’s Zeppelin style hard rock, then you should just keep moving past this release. If you are looking for early prog, then you might want to check out everything Rush released after this album up to the early 80’s. If you want a great 70’s hard rock album then this is a worthy addition to your collection.
For those of with an anecdotal knowledge of Rush’s long and illustrious career producing high-IQ progressive metal cum rock, this review might be a touch disconcerting. Because before they adopted the style of long, complex, thoughtful, technically advanced and technologically enhanced rock, Rush were a power trio nearly as hoary as Mountain, Cactus or good old Led Zeppelin.
Yup, on their self-titled debut, the Canuck trio let loose with Sabbath like brooding (“Working Man”) up-tempo blues stencils (“What You’re Doing”) and just plain old basic hard rock (“Finding My Way”). This is not to say that this material is better than the band’s later work, but it’s most assuredly more in step with what’s bands of their ilk were pursuing back in the day. And they do a damn good job of it to boot. Geddy Lee, sounding for all the world like Budgie’s front-man Burke Shelley, lets loose a horny, highly out of character performance on lustful cuts like “In The Mood,” while Alex Liefson provides his usual economic guitar support. Even in this potentially show-off friendly matrix, Alex hangs back most of the time, offering competent though hardly overstated solos performed with a conservative amount of effects.
Drummer John Rutsey would be evicted after this album, allowing the arrival of the far more technical and cerebral Neil Peart. And shock, surprise, that’s where the Rush tale diverts from bawdy roughneck rock to intellectual progressive mucking about. But here in sainted ’74, Rush were just looking to rock out and party. Just like the rest of us, man.
It is hard to say that Rush's really early stuff is considered heavy metal. Some people don't consider any Rush albums to be metal! Rush's self titled album and debut is not metal, but it is an excellent piece of classical rock. The first album also starts to push a familiar Rush theme of progressive guitar writing. Although the progressiveness comes out more later in Rush's career.
It is easy to see that Rush was fueled by Led Zeppelin. The riffs and drum beats really sound like they belong in a Led Zeppelin song. Like What You're Doing's main riff and Lee's vocals on Finding My Way are very Zeppelin influenced. Even the seven minute blues like song Here Again is similar to Zeppelin's Since I've Been Loving You.
Having only eight songs, this album isn't really that long. The only Rush hit from this album is Working Man. However, most of the songs on this album are worth listening to, including What You're Doing and Need Some Love.
The production is alright, but not the best -unless you got the re-mastered version. Geddy Lee's singing is bright and brilliant like on all the Rush albums. Sometimes he tries some weird screams and moans like Robert Plant. That's just not his style though. Lifeson adds some pretty interesting riffs, but the technical riffs that Rush is known for is hardly seen on the debut. The drumming flows good with the music, but it isn't Neil Peart. There are no crazy drum fills or syncopated rhythms. Over all it isn't a bad album, but it isn't the best Rush album. I would really get it if you were trying to get all the Rush albums or you were a huge Rush fan. For metal heads, I wouldn't recommend it, you need one of the late 70's early 80's albums, unless you like classical rock.