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Rush - Red Star: Tribute to Rush

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Album Review

All reviews are (c) Patuto Enterprises and originally appeared at Epinions.Com

Red Star: Tribute to Rush - An Absolute Abomination

Pros: Some standout tracks...

Cons: ...but they're surrounded by utterly disgraceful renditions of Rush classics.

The Bottom Line: No band, especially one of Rush's caliber, should be treated to such a callous tribute as Red Star. Absolutely criminal.
There's an old saying that I'm sure you've all heard of.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

And while that may be true, in the music world, imitation is the quickest road to a law suit. So, how does a band imitate another without getting into trouble and yet not going through the hastle of obtaining the rights to a particular song? Simple - call it a tribute album.

It's surprising, but in all the years that Rush has been in existence, there have never been any tribute albums officially created for them. Then, in 1996 came 'Working Man' - a collection of Rush songs sung diligently and respectfully by various artists. While it didn't receive much attention, it was still nice to see other groups honoring Rush with this sincerest form of flattery.

Then, in 1999, a second tribute album to the music of Rush was released. Titled Red Star: Tribute to Rush, no doubt taking its name from the liner notes of '2112'. My brother, the person responsible for introducing me to Rush oh so many years ago (there - blame him for all of my Rush-related reviews ;) decided to give me this latest tribute album as a birthday present. I was anxious, upon unwrapping the gift, to throw this baby into my CD player.

What I heard had me convinced that my CD player was malfunctioning. So convinced was I that I proceeded to eject the CD, walk over to my car, insert it there - and was immediately blasted by the same results.

It honestly took me a few minutes to realize that there was nothing wrong with my CD player. The songs were that - unbelievable.

And not in the good sense.

This CD is an absolute travesty to the musical talents and history of Rush.

In fact, I seriously question the true tribute-nature the performing artists had when rendering their versions of Rush classics. While a couple songs are tolerable, the vast majority are atrocious speed-metal versions of beloved Rush tunes. So warped is the musical playing and vocalization that I challenge anyone to identify half of the songs without referencing the CD jewel case.

Again - it's that bad.

But let's look at each track, along with its associated artist.

1. Anthem - Artist: Engrave Speed Death
This song, which opens up the CD, actually starts off sounding pretty good - instrumentally. It's quick and harder than the original, but still somewhat interesting. Then the vocals cut in, and the song is immediately spoiled. You can't call this singing - its more like barking and growling. Geddy Lee is sometimes accused of singing unrecognizable lyrics from time to time. But that's nothing, and I mean nothing compared to what's going on in this song. A shame since the music behind the growling actually isn't half bad.

2. Working Man - Artist: KillingField
Once again, beginning musically, this song takes a different approach to the original, but it's at least interesting. Then, again, the vocals come in - which start off somewhat subtle and grow annoying after that. Less barking than Anthem and more screaming, angry vocalizations. This isn't what Rush intended when creating these songs. That's probably what fails this version more than anything else. Instead of a positive song that actually launched Rush's career in the U.S., we're treated to an angry band that's taking their frustrations out - on Rush.

3. Bastille Day - Artist: Shallows of the Mundane
Where the first two tracks opened up respectfully from a musical point of view, this one doesn't. It matches the atrocious vocals perfectly (that's not a compliment). Once again we're treated to screaming, undecipherable lyrics that would take the FBI code breakers the better part of a year to translate. Plain and simple, this is just noise.

4. Subdivisions - Artist: Hostile Intent
The artist's name says it all - for this track and the entire CD. Instead of opening synthesizers like the original, harsh electric guitars attempt to capture the stage-setting musical opening that made this song famous. The guitars fail - miserably. Ah, but then the lovely (sarcasm) vocals cut in. This might be the worst track on the entire CD. Just plain awful.

5. What You're Doing - Artist: Hate Theory
This song opens up with 5 seconds of good music. After that, we're treated to stereophonic screaming lyrics. The stereo separation is done well, but again - the lyrics are screamed and, thus, unintelligible. Sigh. It kills me to listen to this early Rush classic get utterly destroyed.

6. Tears - Artist: Capital 2
I absolutely cringed when I saw that Tears was included on this dreadful tribute. As one of my favorite tunes by early Rush, I was regretting playing this song. Remarkably, this version isn't bad - it's actually not bad at all. Capital 2, whoever they are, made Tears sound a little harder with stronger guitars, but they vocalized it in such a way that it complimented the music, not hindered it. It's a shame the rest of this CD wasn't on the caliber that Tears is. But a few do come surprisingly close.

7. A Passage to Bangkok - Artist: Scary German Guy
Guitars open up this song in an interesting fashion, but once again, as is typical with this CD, the vocals come crashing in and then some wild warped speed music takes over. With just a hint of the original melody playing in the background, you can try and listen to this 'song', but it's in no way a tribute to Rush. It's a smack in their face.

8. Tom Sawyer - Artist: Disarray
Wow. This is horrible. Speed-metal at its 'best' is what some people might say, but this type of genre music just doesn't fit with the intelligent lyrics and songs crafted by Rush. Taking their staple song and treating it with such disrespect is an absolute crime. It's because of songs like this that this 'Tribute' CD received little, if any, attention. Thank God for that.

9. The Temples of Syrinx - Artist: Blood Coven
Oh dear God, is this awful. I don't know how many more adjectives I can come up with to describe these songs. Terrible. Awful. Horrible. Disgusting. The list goes on and on, and so does this 'version' of 2112's opening vocalized track. Another abomination to the concept album that put Rush on the map.

10. Freewill - Artist: Mythiasin
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it actually doesn't. Freewill opens up like the original, which had me cringing waiting on the vocals. Suddenly, when the vocals hit, I thought it was Geddy Lee singing. Yes, the lead singer of Mythiasin sounds remarkably like Geddy. This is what a tribute song should sound like. So much like the original in every way that it's almost scary. Enjoyable - if only it wasn't surrounded by atrocities.

11. Red Barchetta - Artist: Prototype
Is it possible? Two good songs in a row? Yes, someone finally smiled down on this CD. Too little, too late, but at least Prototype made an effort to pay homage to one of Rush's classic tunes from their 'Moving Pictures' album. Musically inspiring with some interesting time changes and power-riffs, Red Barchetta is as solid as the original. Well, almost :)

12. The Spirit of Radio - Artist: Premonition
We have ourselves a hat trick. The final track on this tribute CD ends with moderate respect for another Rush classic. The opening guitar riff isn't as precise as the original, nor as quick, but it's respectable. Vocally, the singer has a far deeper voice than Geddy Lee, but he enunciates the lyrics quite well and makes the song, if anything, listenable. Not great, but considering most of its company, it's an genuine stand out.

Sigh. And there you have it. My first Rush-related review that I can not recommend. Thankfully, Rush had nothing to do with this disgrace. And even though some tracks stand out, in whole this CD should have never seen the light of day. Please - if you are any type of music fan, do NOT purchase this CD. I know you might be tempted to hear just how bad it really is. Trust me, save your money and your brain cells. You'll thank me later.

Note: For those of you who enjoy speed-thrashing-metal music, I have nothing at all against you or your music. My statements here reflect my opinion that the music of Rush is too complex and intricate to ever be treated to a genre that depends on shock value more than anything else.

Thanks, as always, for reading.


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