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Power-Trio Rush Showcases Power Windows
Pros: Excellent musical and lyrical showcase of Rush's talents.
Cons: Takes a listen or two to fully appreciate.
The Bottom Line: Another 'theme' album by Rush that has as crisp and clean a sound as any of their previous or future works.
Rush started off the 80's (literally) with one of their most popular albums ever - 'Permanent Waves'. They followed that masterpiece with their best-selling album of all time - 'Moving Pictures'. Then after releasing their second live album, 'Exit...Stage Left', they introduced a slightly new sound, laden with synthesizers. 'Signals' was another bona fide hit for the boys from the Great White North. Shortly thereafter, as the digital age was rapidly approaching, they created 'Grace Under Pressure'; a conceptual album as significant and explosive as their 1976 staple '2112'.
Now, as the 80's are halfway over and CD and digital recording technology are hitting their stride, Rush produces one of their most technologically-oriented albums yet; aptly named Power Windows.
Power Windows continues Rush's use of heavy synth sounds, but they're now more melodically joined with the powerhouse guitar, bass and percussions that the trio has been made famous for. Additionally, the production values of PW are incredible. As tight and crisp a sounding album as you'll ever hear, PW makes full use of the digital age.
1. Big Money
The album starts off with a huge hit and fan favorite - especially in concert - called The Big Money. With a perfect blend of guitar, synths and percussions, this song, which is a commentary on the powers and corruption that money brings to the world, is a fast paced tune that showcases Geddy Lee's sopranic singing. Just listen to him belt out the final lyrics;
"Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul "
...and you'll see what I mean.
And so begins one of the recurring themes in Power Windows. Power, money, politics, corruption. Lyricist Neil Peart is now masterfully stringing together multiple songs in each album to create more than a theme, yet less than a concept work of art.
2. Grand Design
Track 2 follows along those lines as Grand Designs slows down the pace a little and emphasizes on synth sounds and strong lyrics like:
"So much poison in power, the principles get left out
So much mind on the matter, the spirit gets forgotten about. "
Again, Geddy Lee's vocals are in excellent form as he hits highs and lows with amazing ease and grace.
3. Manhattan Project
This song, a personal favorite, starts off with strong militaristic percussions and simple guitar work. It's the beginning of a story-telling masterpiece called Manhattan Project. Detailing the WWII project that created the first Atomic Bomb, Neil Peart and Rush masterfully put together a 5-minute lesson on the subject. One that ends with a harrowing lyric that sums up how history and man would be changed forever from this technological discovery.
"Imagine a man when it all began.
The pilot of "Enola Gay", flying out of the shockwave on that August day.
All the powers that be, and the course of history.
Would be changed for evermore... "
Great lyrics and great music - another classic Rush mini-epic tune.
This track appears to be a song about just that - running a marathon. With the need for endurance, strength, desires and drive, you can win the race. But it's really a deeper song about the triumphs one can achieve in life. The last line in the song seems to exemplify this:
"You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last "
There's some great bass work and fill-in vocals on this song that can really lift your spirits - especially with the positive nature of the lyrics. This was a nice side-bar effort for this album that takes the strong edge off of the first three tracks.
Here, we have Rush commenting on the nature of man and his territorial conquests. Always striving to gain more land which, in turn, assures him more power and money. Another song that adds to the running theme on this album, Neil Peart once again puts together some strong and though-provoking lyrics:
"They shoot without shame
In the name of a piece of dirt
For a change of accent
Or the colour of your shirt
Better the pride that resides
In a citizen of the world
Than the pride that divides
When a colourful rag is unfurled. "
It's a shame more of our political leaders don't read, if not listen to, the songs of Rush. They might actually learn something...
6. Middletown Dreams
A more relaxed song that deals with the dreams we all have. This song couples nicely with the song from Rush's Signals album called Losing It. In losing it, we're shown how one can lose their talent over time. Middletown Dreams shows how many people just dream of the day when they can leave their drab existence and their small home town behind and chase their dreams.
"Dreams flow across the heartland
Feeding on the fires
Dreams transport desires
Drive you when you're down
Dreams transport the ones who need to get out of town "
7. Emotion Detector
This track attempts to delve into the realm of human emotions. A tall task indeed, but one that sheds some interesting light on the subject. With only three lyrical sections, this songs is more of an instrumental than anything else, but that's what makes this song so special. The music, coupled with the lyrics, invoke the emotions within the listener. While I can't speak for everyone, this song certainly opened my eyes. How could it not with lines like:
"It's true that love can change us
But never quite enough
Sometimes we are too tender
Sometimes we're too tough
If we get too much attention
It gets hard to overrule
So often fragile power turns
To scorn and ridicule
Sometimes our big splashes
Are just ripples in the pool "
I'll step aside for a moment to mention that an early review of Power Windows when it first was released in 1985 stated that Rush had lost its way and that both the music and especially the lyrics were sub-par. Every time I enjoy this album, I remember reading that review and wondering just what that person was thinking of. Oh well, to each his own I guess...
8. Mystic Rhythms
Power Windows ends with an interesting and mystical tune called Mystic Rhythms. Off all the songs in Rush's extensive catalog, this one is the more appropriately named. The best way to describe this song and the feeling it generates is that of a mystical rhythm. Where Middletown Dreams explored the dreams and desires we all have and share, Mystic Rhythms looks instead to the exploration of new ideas and the knowledge of the unknown. The opening lyric sets the tone:
"So many things I think about
When I look far away
Things I know, things I wonder
Things I'd like to say
The more we think we know about
The greater the unknown
We suspend our disbelief
And we are not alone "
But the music truly shines on this track - giving Rush a whole new sound to explore and exploit.
And there you have it. Power Windows, Rush's 11th studio album paves the way for continued success for the Canadian band. Once again we are treated to exceptionally thought-provoking lyrics by Neil Peart married with the god-like musical performances from their 3 masters of their professions. This is one to enjoy and rediscover over and over again.
Thank you as always for visiting and reading...
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