Often overlooked when it comes to arguments about what album should be considered the finest hour of Rush, ‘A Farewell To Kings’ sometimes suffers from the “2112 or Moving Pictures” debate. There’s no denying it is a class album, and here it celebrates forty candles on the birthday cake with many new bundles to keep Rush fans arguing for years to come.
Featuring a handful of tracks that best show the variation in the Rush sound, from the eleven minute suite that is ‘Xanadu’ to the crowd pleasing sing-a-long ‘Closer To The Heart’, ‘A Farewell To Kings’ has something for everyone. The two aforementioned tracks are so steeped in Rush folklore that other lesser-known tracks go begging. The guitar work on ‘Cinderella Man’ still sounds staggering today, specially tarted up for it’s big day, and the whimsical ‘Madrigal’ makes quite an impression, although it doesn’t hang around for long. The ten minute opus ‘Cygnus X-1 Book One – The Voyage’ features Rush at their expansive best, book two would, of course, open up the following album ’Hemispheres’. Beginning with a five minute musical introduction, it soon develops into a well structured masterpiece with what I consider some of Alex Lifeson’s finest guitar playing. Here, for the first time digitally, the Abbey Road remastered versions (previously only available on vinyl) sound amazing, especially the ever incredible playing from Neil Peart.
What about the extras? As expected, there are numerous different versions, ranging from a triple disc CD to a super-deluxe, bells and whistles box set. The complete (previously unreleased) live gig from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978 is crystal clear, and it’s great to hear the likes of ‘Lakeside Park’ and ‘Fly By Night’ sound so fresh. The four cover versions include Dream Theater in full flight on ‘Xanadu’ with James LaBrie offering up a different vocal approach to Geddy Lee. The high vocals from Lee would trouble most vocalists, so LaBrie wisely doesn’t attempt them. Big Wreck take on ‘Closer To The Heart’, and deliver a more straight forward rock n’ roll version that took a few listens to grow on me, but on listen three, it started to work. When you are so used to the high pitched vocals from Geddy Lee, anything else is strange to begin with. The Trews do well on ‘Cinderella Man’, whereas multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes delivers a truly hypnotic take on ‘Madrigal’. The vinyl edition is a special, quadruple 180-gram vinyl, LP size booklet, turntable mat, special liner notes… basically, sex on a stick.
Available now, more information here.
Review: Dave Stott