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Presto! Rush makes musical magic again...
Pros: A lyrical masterpiece. Excellent production values. Jazzy and Groovy Rush.
The Bottom Line: A great way to end the 80's for Rush...
The year: 1989
It was time for Rush, the Canadian Power Trio, to enter the fourth phase of their career. The first three, which each consisted of 4 studio albums followed by a live effort, established the band as a force to be reckoned with - despite critical prejudice.
Now as the 90's were upon them, they set their sights for new sounds, new styles, new rhythms, new everything. But they never forgot the 'old' that brought them to where they were. And so, with a wave of their collective magic wand, Rush set forth to put out an album with a groove to it.
Rush? With Rhythm and Groove? Hey, all it takes is a little magic and Presto! - you can do anything...
Considered one of their strongest albums lyrically, Presto consists of 11 tracks that truly reflect the virtuoso range of this trio extraordinaire. Each song is perfectly produced without sounding indulgent or overly embellished with instruments on top of instruments. Instead, the music flows and inspires and moves to a rhythm and groove seldom heard before in any Rush effort. Rush purists didn't know how to react at first, but soon after they came to love and accept this album as they did all others.
And why not? Taking a look at the 11 tracks, you'll see how fans and non-fans alike could appreciate, enjoy and rock to the music of Rush like never before.
1. Show Don't Tell
Strong guitar riffs and powerhouse percussions, this track is classic later-day Rush. Geddy's vocals hit a full range of highs and lows as he interprets Neil's lyrics in his own fashion. A take on the paranoia of trusting someone, the lyrics shout show me, don't tell me in a pseudo court room drama. Intense music without being heavy-handed.
2. Chain Lightning
Akin to Natural Science or Prime Mover, this track takes some interesting lyrics and ads a (I can't believe I'm saying this) funky groove to them. Once again, some trademark Rush time changes coupled with Geddy's high-pitched vocals make for an interesting and entertaining pair. Once again, Neil puts out some great thought-provoking lyrics...
"Dreams are sometimes catching
Desire goes to my head
Love responds to your invitation
Love responds to imagination "
3. The Pass
One of Rush's most powerful songs to date, The Pass takes a strong look at the epidemic of teenage suicide. This is great music and song making and earned Rush some well deserved critical acclaim. Apologies for quoting a major portion of the song here, but there's no better way to explain the impact of the lyrics that by showing you.
"And now you're trembling on a rocky ledge
Staring down into a heartless sea
Can't face life on a razor's edge
Nothing's what you thought it would be
All of us get lost in the darkness
Dreamers learn to steer by the stars
All of us do time in the gutter
Dreamers turn to look at the cars
Turn around and turn around and turn around
Turn around and walk the razor's edge
Don't turn your back
And slam the door on me
It's not as if this barricade
Blocks the only road
It's not as if you're all alone
In wanting to explode
Someone set a bad example
Made surrender seem all right
The act of a noble warrior
Who lost the will to fight "
A great, great song masterfully put together and performed by Rush.
4. War Paint
After a powerful and emotional song like The Pass, Rush did the proper thing and followed it with another powerful, yet more optimistic tune called War Paint. A play on words, War Paint paints a picture of teenage angst riddled with the obsession of painting on a disguise to fit in a crowd or to attract a member of the opposite sex. But as the lyrics state, you can fool others, but not yourself - completely.
"All puffed up with vanity
We see what we want to see
To the powerful and the wise
The mirror always lies "
Excellent guitar work in this track.
One of my favorites on the album, Scars is as atypical a Rush song as you'll ever hear. Reminiscent of Vital Signs, this track truly has a great grove to it that's absolutely infectious. Geddy Lee, often scorned for his falsetto-like vocals, absolutely shines here and proves, once again, that his range is quite impressive. Great lyrics, great production values, Scars is something to behold...
"Pleasure leaves a fingerprint
As surely as mortal pain
In memories they resonate
And echo back again
Scars of pleasure
Scars of pain
Make them sensitive again "
The title track is another standout track that mixes some beautiful acoustics in the opening segments with some funky segments that then launch into a well done electric masterpiece. The lyrics are powerful and mystical with a pinch of 'love song/ballad' thrown in the mix. A great song that sounds like it came off of a Styx album.
"I had a dream of a winter garden
A midnight rendezvous
Silver, blue, and frozen silence
What a fool I was for you
I had a dream of the open water
I was swimming away out to sea
So deep I could never touch bottom
What a fool I used to be "
When I listen to Superconductor, I get the strong sensation of being whisked off to a distant land where Rush made music for people to dance to! Whoo-hoo. Okay, end of York's Peppermint Patty commercial, but that's what this song is like. A fast-paced, catch tune that you can't help but move to (If you are so inclined). 'That's Entertainment' What makes this so great, however, is that Rush planned it this way and poked fun at other groups and performers that are so obsessed with their image.
"Hit you in a soft place
A melody so sweet
A strong and simple beat
That you can dance to
Watch his every move
Watch his every move
Hoping you'll believe
Designing to deceive
That's entertainment "
Like this couldn't be attributed to 90% of the boy-bands out there today. :)
8. Anagram (for Mongo)
Some nice guitar works is apparent throughout this track that has some heavier lyrics than what you first might think. While the title is a take on a the humorous side of Rush, the lyrics clearly are not.
"Rose is a rose of splendor
Posed to respond in the end
Lonely things like nights,
I find, end finer with a friend
I hear in the rate of her heart
A tear in the heat of the art
The night turns thin
The saint turns to sin "
A good song, musically and lyrically. Just a bit heavier than the rest of the album, The Pass included.
9. Red Tide
A commentary on AIDS (as some see it) is another strong message and topic for Rush to partake, but one they do so with stellar quality and ability. Once again, Neil Peart pinpoints the problems of the era with some powerful lyrics. It's not surprise that Presto is considered one of his best lyrical efforts to date. The jazzy guitar work here helps make this a very appealing song, but listen and read the lyrics to get the full message here...
"Nature has some new plague
To run in our streets
History some new wrinkle
We are doomed to repeat
Fugitives at the bedroom door
Lovers pause to find an open store
Rain is burning on the forest floor
And the red tide kisses the shore "
10. Hand Over Fist
Love songs, despite what some might believe, make up a large percentage of the themes behind the music of Rush. Hand Over Fist isn't a love song per se, but it is a song about relationships and the pain of struggling through one in between fights. An 'okay' song, the lyrics once again are the highlight here.
"How can we ever agree?
Like the rest of the world
We grow farther apart
I swear you don't listen to me
Holding my hand to my heart
Holding my fist to my racing heart "
11. Available Light
If you've been reading most/all of my reviews of Rush albums, you'll know that I'll comment when a particular song is one of my personal favorites. Of course, I honestly enjoy and take extreme pleasure in just about every song that Rush has produced, but Available Light, for me, stands above them all. A strong jazzy mix of guitars, strings and piano married with some fantastic lyrics and Geddy Lee's vocals make this one powerful and moving song. Words alone here can not capture the feelings behind this song. It must be listened to to be appreciated. One of Rush's finest works of art - ever.
"Oh the wind can carry
All the voices of the sea
Oh the wind can carry
All the echoes home to me
Run with wind and weather
To the music of the sea
All four winds together
Can't bring the world to me
Chase the wind around the world
I want to look at life
In the available light "
Geddy has never sounded better. Rush has never been more profound or powerful. A great way to end the album and a great way to end the 80's.
Here was an album that a non-fan could easily enjoy.
Here was an album that showcased the talents of Rush.
Here was an album full of magic.
Here, was Presto.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the listen. You won't regret it.
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