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Both Hemispheres will love this one...
Pros: Dazzling lyrics, powerful music. Rush does it again.
Cons: Slightly grainy-like sounds on the final track.
The Bottom Line: It's Rush, once again, at their finest. Epic and intense, this is one that you can not miss.
It was like a cinematic cliffhanger of sorts.
Rush's last studio album - 'A Farewell to Kings' ended with the powerful and epic song/adventure Cygnus X-1: Book One: The Voyage where the valiant ship "Rocinante" flew dead-fast into the heart of Cygnus X-1; a deadly black hole.
Was the ship destroyed?
Did the occupants make it to the other side?
All we were left with was the sound of a beating heart slowly fading away.
Musical and entertaining genius - that's what 'A Farewell to Kings' was.
But now we move onto Rush's next studio release, Hemispheres where the first track turns out to be another epic effort from this power trio extraordinaire.
1. Cygnus X-1: Book Two: Hemispheres
It's not quite a continuation of Book One: The Voyage. Instead, its more of a Greek mythological story telling saga that ties nicely into the story told by Book One: The Voyage. This first track takes up the entire first side of the album (or did before the CD version came out) and it's well worth the length. This is a fantastic romp which exploits the talents of these three Canadian icons. Time changes galore, you'll get some masterful guitar play from Alex Lifeson, incredibly laid-down bass lines from Geddy Lee, and percussions ala Peart that continue to be inhuman in their perfection. Add to that Mr. Lee's falsetto vocals and you have yet another masterpiece that intensifies both musically and lyrically as it goes on by.
Although Book Two: Hemispheres is made up of six chapters; Prelude, Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom, Dionysus: Bringer of Love, Armageddon: The Battle Of Heart And Mind, Cygnus: Bringer of Balance, and The Sphere: A Kind of Dream, it plays beautifully together, revealing nuances that can easily be missed after only a few listens. This is more than a song. This is story telling at its finest. Once again, Neil Peart, largely ignored for his lyrical genius, shows why Rush is the thinking man's band.
Once you've experienced side one enough (which, actually, you can never truly do) you'll find three more tracks to delight you on side two.
This is a nicely paced, short tune that I find very enjoyable. It's about coming face to face with the reality of life (at least that's my take on it). Deep lyrics abound like Now I've gained some understanding of the only world that we see. Things that I once dreamed of, have become reality. can be a real eye opener when listening to a song like this. Thinking man's band - remember :)
3. The Trees
This is another personal favorite that absolutely sounds fabulous when performed live. The Trees still gets some air play today, and for good reason. It's more of a hard-rocking instrumental with some lyrics thrown in for fun. But those lyrics have sparked much debate over the years as to their true meaning. Is this truly a song about trees battling for sunlight in a far-off forest, or is this more of a political commentary on the power hungry bureaucrats of the government? Either way, it makes for an excellent song with some powerful guitar work and some classic percussions.
4. La Villa Strangiato - An Exercise in Self-Indulgence
Hemispheres ends with an absolute blast with the first true instrumental that Rush has ever put out. La Villa Strangiato sub-titled An Exercise In Self-Indulgence is just that - an absolute self indulgent romp that truly highlights the instrumental capabilities of Rush. As rumor goes, this track had to be recorded several times over because Rush insisted on recording it in one take. In other words, it wasn't recorded in a conventional fashion where each instrument is laid down on a different track. No, it's more of a 'live' version since all three jammed simultaneously until they got it right.
Interestingly enough, and especially on the album and original CD versions, this song has a lot of background static on it. Perhaps due to the re-use of the original recording tape, or perhaps for some other reason. The remastered version does an exceptional job of cleaning up the song, but it still does suffer from a little noise.
Noise not withstanding, this track absolutely rocks and should not be missed. From its gentle beginnings to its warp speed ending, La Villa Strangiato is perhaps one of the best Rock instrumentals of all time - Rush or otherwise.
Rush really knows how to end an album - again. Leaving the listener begging for more.
And more they would get on the next studio release...but that's another story...
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