Saturday, March 5, 2016
Rush- All The World's A Stage
Rush- All The World's A Stage- Released in 1976 for Mercury Records
Best Song- 2112, By-Tor comes very close
Aside from the five studio albums released from 1974 through 1977, Rush had many live albums in the same period, and I will now go through them. First, In between 2112 and A Farewell to Kings, Rush released their first of many live albums, All The World's A Stage. This album consisted of the band's full performance at Toronto's Massey Hall in June of 1976. The album would continue Rush's rise to fame, charting number 40 in the US, and the "Fly By Night/In The Mood" medley would be a top 100 single.
As for the quality of the music itself, the performances are outstanding. Material is culled from each of the band's first four albums up to that point ("Finding My Way", "Working Man", "In The Mood" and "What You're Doing" from Rush, "Fly By Night", "Anthem", "By-Tor And The Snow Dog", and "In The End" from Fly By Night, "Bastille Day" and "Lakeside Park" from Caress of Steel, and "2112" and "Something for Nothing" from 2112). All of those songs were great in the studio, and they mostly sound just as good, if not BETTER than, the studio versions. Geddy's voice is in top form, (Most songs sound miles better, vocally, than the STUDIO VERSIONS) and the instrumental machine is cooking.
The opening "Bastille Day" kicks the performance off to a great start, sounding just as good as the stellar studio version, and a bit better in some places (Geddy pulls of some SICK screams here). "Anthem" is performed by the book, and is not really significantly better but since I loved the original, I love it here. We then go into "Fly By Night" which is just as great as the studio version. However, after two verses, we segue into "In The Mood". The transition works extremely well, as both songs have a similar sound. To make matters even better, "In The Mood" is a significant step up from the studio, with Geddy's mid-range singing in the original giving way to powerful screaming.
Next on the agenda is "Something For Nothing", which is another significant improvement from the original. Geddy's singing is leaps and bounds above the studio, and the guitar tone is much rawer than the studio, which rules. (Also, Geddy hits his highest note EVER in the first chorus, a B5). The song also gets a great extended outro, with great guitar lines. "Lakeside Park" is just as good as the very underrated studio version in the playing, and Geddy's singing is a significant improvement.
However, after all of these short songs, we then go into the main attractions, with four of the band's big epics closing out the disc. "2112" is first. It does have a few problems. It's much shorter than the original, as "Discovery" and "Oracle" are cut out, shortening the song by 5 minutes. The vocals also aren't as hot. But it does have lots of plusses. First, the beginning is INCREDIBLE. At the end of "Lakeside Park", Lifeson plays a few notes on guitar, and lets the last one hold out. It continues to echo, while Neil's chimes come in, and then the famous synth wooshing noises enter, while Alex continues to play heavily delayed notes.The tension at this part of the song is AMAZING, and further amplifies the impact of the opening song. We then go into the regular song. The opening riffing of "Overture" is played with far greater intensity, with Geddy's heavenly climb from the original giving way to a powerful scream. The vocals in the "Temples of Syrinx" section don't really sound as good as the original, but it doesn't harm the song. The "Presentation" section isn't much different from the original, but it sounds just as good. Lifeson's solo is also killer as ever, maybe more so. "Soliloquy" is just as good as the regular version as well, and Geddy's scream on "Spills OOOOOOOOOOOOVER" exceeds the original. And finally, "Grand Finale" is a bit weaker, as it doesn't have the doubled guitar tracks of the original, but it's fine. Overall, this is a great version of "2112", which you should definitely seek out.
Next is "By-Tor And the Snow Dog", which is extended from it's already lengthy 8 and a half minutes into a 12 minute monster. And it absolutely DESTROYS the original, and is easily near the best song on the album. The verses are stronger than the original, with much more power in the singing. We then go into the significantly extended "7/4 War Furor" section, which is the absolute centerpiece of the song. The jamming here is utterly FEROCIOUS, with INSANE riffs and licks being pulled off time after time. Lifeson shows that he could shred his ass off, and Lee's bass supports well. We even get riffs that would be included in "The Spirit of Radio" and "Cygnus X-1"! The drum sounds in this section are extremely cool as well. We then go into the "Aftermath" section, which is also MUCH better than the original, with absolutely CRAZY sound effects (Almost sounds like a SOLID WALL OF NOISE at one point), which have to be heard to be described in words. The reverbed guitar lines are also wickedly cool. "Hymn of Triumph" is also exceeding the original, as well, with so many great guitar lines pulled off. We then end off strong as ever. Overall, if you had to hear just one version of "By-Tor and the Snow Dog", pick THIS one.
Afterwards, we get "In The End". The beginning is played significantly differently from the original, with a quiet version of the main guitar sequence being played over Lee's significantly different singing. It's not as pleasant as the original, but it's nice. We then get into the funniest moment in the album. With heavy reverb applied to his voice, Lee introduces the heavier section with... "one...two...buckle... my... shoe". Comedy gold! And of course, this main body section is performed just as strong as the original. The ending features some really cool echo effects, as well.
The last of these four epics is 15 minutes of "Working Man", including "Finding My Way" (yay!) and a drum solo (boo!). Working Man's main section is performed much better vocally, with Lee once again singing much higher than the original. We then go into the jam section of the song. The jamming is ferocious, similar to By-Tor, with Lifeson playing insanely fast shredding. We then go into "Finding My Way", which is performed just as nicely as the great original. Geddy's screaming is also AMAZING, as he pulls off some INSANE highs (Topping out at G5) near the end. Then, it's back to the "Working Man" jam. The riff that plays in this section is great, and I can fist-pump to it any day. We then go back to the main song. The transition is effective as can be.
Unfortunately, we then go into the low point of the concert, the drum solo. I HATE drum solos. I'm sorry, I don't see the appeal of someone mindlessly bashing the kit for minutes. And this drum solo is no different. It's just Neil showing off how great he is by bashing the drums really fast with no structure, rhythm, or melody whatsoever. It's 3 minutes of boredom, and just wanting it to end. The woodblock section is cool, but that's it.
The show finally comes to a close with an encore, "What You're Doing". This song is much better than the original, with Geddy screaming his lungs out ("YOU SAY THAT YOU'RE FOOLING, WHO YOU THINK YOU'RE FOOLING NOOOOOOOOOOOW!") and a amazing groove.
Overall, this might seem like the recipe for a great album. The performances is great, the singing is great, and the set is great. So why do I give it a low grade? Well...
In my review of A Farewell to Kings, I mentioned that the album was really "ostensibly" live. The reason why is clear. ALMOST NOTHING REALLY IS LIVE. Pretty much ALL of the vocals were overdubbed in the studio (You can hear obvious double tracking throughout, sometimes you can hear them sing different notes!) and some instrumental parts too. (TOO studio perfect!)
I'm sorry. I really am. But as great as the performances are, a live album is only great if it's truly "live", not in the studio. And thus, I only give this a 3/5.