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Review: Rush – ‘2112: 40th Anniversary Edition’

Rush - 2112Perhaps no band in rock history polarises opinion the same way that Rush does. For every person that prays at the altar of ‘The Holy Triumvirate’, there is one turned off by ‘the biggest cult band in the world’. That said, I’m somewhere in the middle. Early Rush still renders me speechless (in a good way), but to an extent, I struggle with the output post ‘Permanent Waves’. One thing everyone should be in agreement of is the fact that ‘2112’ is an incredible piece of work. Saying that it’s their best album is a matter of opinion, some will go for ‘Moving Pictures’, but for me personally ‘2112’ was a band at the top of their game, and I’d include it in the top ten rock albums of all time.

‘2112’ is, and isn’t, a concept album. It is the proverbial tale of two halves, but the track ‘2112’ that originally took up the entire side one on the vinyl, is a concept. If I was to tell you the concept, then basically I’d be copying it from that fountain of all knowledge – Wikipedia, but one thing I do recall is the accusations of Nazism that were thrown at the band by the NME. Drummer and lyricist Neil Peart credited novelist Ayn Rand in the liner notes, which some took as a sign of right-wing extremism. It was the Nazi accusations that stung the most, considering that bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee is the son of holocaust survivors. Guitarist Alex Lifeson gave an interview to Rolling Stone earlier this year where the subject was brought up, and it still (rightly so) pisses the band off. But enough of the background, what’s on offer to celebrate its 40th anniversary?

The twenty minute suite that opens the album still has the ability to transport the listener to another place. The musicianship is staggering, and in places, simply unsurpassed. During the opening part, ‘Overture’, it’s Peart’s mind blowing drumming that benefits the most from being remastered by the boffins at Abbey Road Studios. Lifeson’s guitar work is incredible, and it’s easy to see why he is held in such high regard by his peers. My favourite part has to be at 4’30”, when Geddy utters the immortal words “And The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth…”, before the band come crashing in and go straight into ‘The Temples Of Syrinx’. I’ve seen grown men burst into tears when this happened live. Grown men hugging strangers, openly weeping tears of joy. It is that powerful. What follows is 16 minutes of prog rock heaven. I defy anyone not to break out the air guitar.

The remastered version originally appeared on the much lauded 2015 hologram vinyl version of the album. This marks the first time it’s available on CD format, and Abbey Road Studios certainly earned their crust. When ‘side two’ kicks off with ‘A Passage To Bangkok’, the sound is crystal clear and every nuance can be heard, especially when Peart takes a journey around his toms. Lee’s subtle bass work is given a new lease of life. The songs are shorter on this side, more of a traditional rock sound, as the band tear through ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Lessons’, before slowing things down with ‘Tears’. ‘Something For Nothing’ rounds the album off, then things get interesting…

Disc two features many, many fanboy moments. Remember when Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins dressed as Rush to induct them into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? ‘Overture’ is featured here as Hawkins goes full-on Peart. Fellow Canucks, Billy Talent, offer up a surprisingly cracking version of ‘A Passage To Bangkok’. Not a band that I’d associate with Rush, but it works. Steven Wilson, I would associate with Rush however, and he pops up with a softer version of ‘The Twilight Zone’. Laid back and mellow, listen to it through a half decent set of cans, and there is someone whispering in your ear. Alice In Chains take on ‘Tears’. The vocal interplay between William DuVall and Jerry Cantrell is sublime. The arrangements on the song are massive, and the end result is beautiful and haunting. Canadian folk singer Jacob Moon offers up his version of ‘Something For Nothing’, and it takes a few listens before I warm to it. From here, it goes back to a few live tracks from a 1976 Toronto gig, and a radio ad from the same year, advertising the album. The third disc in this bundle is a DVD, featuring a newly restored live gig from 1976, videos of Grohl and Billy Talent, then an extended interview with Lifeson and long-time Rush producer Terry Brown. As well as this, there is a vinyl version, and a super deluxe edition, which has everything but the kitchen sink included. Anyone would think it was Christmas…

Review – Dave Stott

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