Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rush- Live At the Laura Secondary School 1974

Rush- Live at The Laura Secondary School- Released in 2014 (But recorded in 1974) for Zoe Records
Best Song- Working Man
Though All The World's A Stage was the only live album released from 1974-1978, Rush had 4 live archive releases from that time, that weren't released until much later. The first of these was Live At the Laura Secondary School 1974, a live video (Yes, a professionally recorded video at a Middle/High school) recorded in April of 1974 for a TV program called Canadian Bandstand (likely a Canadian version of American Bandstand) and released in 2014 as part of the R40 boxset. 

This is the earliest known live recording of the band, released before Neil was even a member, and when their debut album was only a month old. The band, however, still featured great playing skills even at this early age. Lifeson still rocked it on guitar. Lee's vocals are still not fully developed (He was just 20 at the time, they would come into his own around 1976, and stay at the top through 1978) but they still sound youthful and raw, and it works. John Rutsey's doesn't have the style of the "Professor", but his straight-ahead rock fit with the music they played at the time. And the performances themselves are excellent, featuring 4 songs from the debut ("Need Some Love", "Before and After", "Working Man" and "In The Mood"), one song that would later appear on Fly By Night ("Best I Can") and more interestingly, 2 unreleased songs ("I've Been Runnin'" and "The Loser") and a cover song ("Bad Boy"). The video quality is a bit fuzzy, but it doesn't harm the songs.

The album starts off with "Need Some Love" from the debut. This song is a vast improvement from the original, with an extended intro, much more power in the playing, and a faster tempo. We then get a real rarity, a live version of "Before and After" from the debut (The only known live performance of the song) and it sounds great, just as good as the nice studio version, with added rawness in the playing in the soft intro which sounds nice. The main rock section sounds good, too, as does the instrumental break. 

We then go into an early, work in progress version of "Best I Can" which would later appear on Fly By Night. This version is a significant improvement from the original. The playing is the same, but Geddy sings in his natural voice, and not the comically masculine vocals of the original. 

We then go into three real treats- three previously unreleased songs! The first is called "I've Been Runnin'",  a great, if very generic, high-energy rocker, driven by a great riff and good singing. We also get some great shredding in the guitar solo, and a nice soft bridge with Geddy's getting the audience to clap along with him! Overall, a great treat, and it's worth buying this release for it.

The second is a cover of the Beatles' "Bad Boy". Their version of the song is a great, laid-back, bluesy take on the song, even if (Like most early Rush) it's pretty generic. The acapella choruses are also a nice touch, even if they're a bit silly. The song picks up near the end, with some more wicked shredding underpinning Geddy's screeching vocals. Unfortunately, we then go into a guitar solo. Why unfortunately, you may ask? Because unlike Lifeson's other guitar solos, which fit in with the song and are accompanied by the other instruments, this is all by himself, and is just a pointless, messy shred-fest. Bo-ring. Thankfully, this only lasts around 30 seconds, before the song comes to a close. 

The third and final unreleased rarity is another original song, "The Loser".  And it's another great one. The riff is solid, almost reminding me of "I Can't Explain", and Geddy's great singing accompanies a great melody. John Rutsey's drumming is great too, and we then get a nice guitar solo. Another great out-take. Shame there was never a studio version!

We then reach the highlight of the album, "Working Man". It's great! The opening riff is slower and heavier than the original, Geddy's raw singing adds roughness. The song gets much faster after the first verse, adding more intensity. We then go into another great jam section, with nice shredding over solid drumming. We have a SICK guitar/bass duel section in the middle, with KILLER bass lines. Overall, the jamming is excellent, never growing tedious. Sad Rush didn't do this sort of thing more often! The transition back to the main song is seamless, and we close out with a KILLER ending! Overall, a top-notch version of a Rush classic. 

The band finally come back for an encore of "In The Mood". Geddy sings close to the studio arrangement this time, and the band plays the same, so it's not a big improvement, but it isn't any worse either. Overall, a solid close. Sadly, it cuts out near the end.

Overall, this live album is a must get. A fascinating document of early Rush, with great performances. An easy 5/5. 

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