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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.