Friday, April 15, 2016

Rush- Live in Passaic 1976

Rush- Live In Passaic 1976: Released in 2014 (But recorded in 1976) for Zoe Records
Best Song: 2112

Absolutely amazing, that's what this is. This is another archive release, a video of their December 10, 1976 performance at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ during the All The World's A Stage Tour, as the support act for Foghat (Remember them?) After circulating as a bootleg for a long time, it would be officially released in 2014 on the R40 Box Set. 

Before getting into the long list of things I love about this, I will now name the two things I DON'T like. The first is that the album is VERY short, only 35 minutes long, and consisting of 6 songs ("Bastille Day" from Caress of Steel, "Anthem" from Fly By Night, "Lakeside Park" from Caress of Steel, "2112" (Excluding Oracle and Discovery) from 2112, "Fly By Night" from Fly By Night, and "In The Mood" from the debut, with the latter two Performed in a medley.) as they were only supporting, and couldn't play a long set. 

The headlining sets would be much longer, with the opening quartet followed by "The Twilight Zone" and "Something For Nothing" from 2112, "Best I Can" and "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" from Fly By Night, an abridged version of "The Necromancer" (Cutting out Into Darkness) from Caress of Steel, "In The End" from Fly By Night, and "Working Man" and "Finding My Way" from the debut before the Fly By Night/In The Mood medley. However, we have live renditions of all of those songs on All The World's A Stage, (Except "Best I Can" which can be found on Live at the Laura Secondary School and ABC 1974, and The Necromancer, which can only be found on bootlegs), and we don't have to sit through an endless drum solo! The second flaw is that the footage is in black and white, which makes no sense (This is 1976, not 1926!). 

However, EVERYTHING ELSE in the concert is great, and this is easily my second favorite Rush live album (Different Stages Disc 3 has more songs, and more Rush is better Rush, as well as the fact that it has Xanadu, Cygnus X-1, AND By-Tor And The Snow Dog, all of which are in my top 10 Rush songs, with Xanadu and Cygnus in my top 5). The performances are not just good, they're AMAZING. EVERY song is played with incredible energy, power, and passion. Geddy's voice has reached the peak of his vocal powers, and sounds absolutely fantastic on every song. Alex Lifeson's guitar tone is AWESOME, quite possibly his best tone ever, incredibly raw and powerful. And Neil Peart's drumming rounds it out perfectly. And there's no overdubs! Now, on to the songs themselves.

The opening barrage of "Bastille Day" is played with much greater speed and intensity then the studio, and Geddy's singing sounds AWESOME, screaming out the words like only he can. "Anthem" is also played with greater speed and intensity, and Geddy sounds great again, singing even higher than the studio! The guitar solo also has some great shredding, and the phasing on drums sounds cool.  And "Lakeside Park" is also played with greater power and better singing, and also features synthesizers! A great start to this concert. 

All this, however, is merely a lead up to the real highlight of the album, the track that is worth buying this all buy it's lonesome, and makes the performances here look like "Available Light" (My least favorite Rush song). I'm talking about, of course, the ABSOLUTE GREATEST PERFORMANCE of "2112" EVER, which (Despite cutting out Discovery and Oracle) is MILES above the studio, and quite possibly the best officially released Rush live performance EVER. The "Overture" doesn't have the incredible tension-building intro of the studio version, but the rest of the performance MORE than makes up for it. The riffs at the 1:30 mark absolutely BLOW AWAY the studio version, and Geddy's screaming is INSANELY powerful in this part. The rest of this chunk is also played with much more power, especially the heavily distorted riffs around 2 minutes in, and the part around 3 minutes in. 

The "Temples of Syrinx" section is played with more intensity than the studio, and Geddy's singing is much better. (Are held, within these WALLS!) The drumming is also much better. The "Presentation" section again has a much better raw guitar tone, but what really makes it is Geddy's singing in this part, which is INSANELY powerful, absolutely blowing away it's studio version far into the distance, sounding absolutely GODLY. And we then go into the crazy shredding guitar solo, which is amazing, again. The "Soliloquy" section is also performed with more power, intensity, and has better singing and all the other things that make this the definitive live version, and the "SPILLS OOOOOOOOOOOVER" scream is quite possibly the best he ever did it. 

We then finally go into the "Grand Finale" section. The opening riffage blows away the counterpart on the studio album, and then when we go into the intense part, the power and tension is escalated to "INTENSE" to "SO INTENSE IT FEELS LIKE THE WORLD WILL COLLAPSE AROUND YOU ANY MINUTE", and the explosion into chaos at the end is just mindblowing. A performance which simply defies description.

The band then returns to the stage for a performance of the "Fly By Night/"In The Mood" medley. And it sounds great, with great singing, and great guitar tone yet again. The "In The Mood" section features Lee's best official performance of the song, screaming and screeching away. A great way to end a mindblowing show.

Overall, If you love Rush, or even if you don't, buy this immediately (But since it's part of a box set, maybe not). This performance is absolutely stunning, showing the band as an incredible machine with the intent to rock out and capture the audience. Amazing. 5/5. It would be the best Rush live album ever, if not for what comes next...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rush- ABC: Live From Cleveland's Agora Ballroom 1974

Rush- ABC: Live From Cleveland's Agora Ballroom 1974- Released in 2011 (But recorded in 1974) for Back on Black Rock Classics
Best Song- Working Man
The live albums go on. This is another archive release, a recording of their show at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland on August 26, 1974 during their Rush tour, just two weeks after Neil Peart joined the band. The concert was a popular bootleg, and was finally released in 2011. 

As for the album's quality, it is another spectacular live album, and part of what I would consider the "holy trinity" of Rush live albums (Live In Passaic 1976 and Disc 3 of Different Stages are also in there) Geddy's voice is in one of it's best shapes ever,  with incredible power and range, and he pulls off insane screams throughout. A great showcase of his early, raw voice. The band plays great as well, as pretty much every song exceeds the studio! The set list is also strong, consisting of 6 songs from the debut ("Finding My Way", "Need Some Love", "In The Mood", "Here Again", "Working Man" and "What You're Doing") 2 songs that would later appear on Fly By Night ("Best I Can" and "In The End") 2 unreleased songs ("Fancy Dancer" and "Garden Road") and a cover ("Bad Boy"). No overdubs are also made, and it's a complete show, unlike other albums (I'm looking at you, Exit Stage Left!)

After a brief band introduction, we start off the show with "Finding My Way", whose opening riff makes it a GREAT choice for an opener. And it sounds great! The guitar tone is much more raw than the studio, and Geddy pushes his voice to the limit, screaming and shrieking away, sounding incredibly powerful. An amazing vocal performance. Lee forgets some of the words (Singing the second verse twice) but a great performance otherwise. The guitar solo also is great. 

We then go into another pre-release version of "Best I Can" and it once again exceeds the studio, with more power in the instrumental parts and no overly-masculine singing, with Geddy instead pulling off some KILLER screaming. The guitar solo also rocks out. 

"Need Some Love" is next. It rocks like mad, with powerful instrumentals, and great singing. It's also nice to hear Alex singing along in the choruses. Afterwards, we get an early, pre-release version of "In The End". It's not much better than the original (Which means it's great) except for a boost in the intro section with a neat chorus effect on the guitar. The highlight however, is when the hard rock section is introduced by an absolutely crazy scream by Lee! Next, is a real treat, a previously unreleased track! "Fancy Dancer" it's called, and it's a great one, with insane screaming by Geddy over a great stomping drum beat and great guitar lines. The guitar solo in the song is also stellar. A fascinating early song. 

Next on the set list is a performance of "In The Mood" and it's just as great as the studio version, and a bit better, performed at a slightly faster tempo. Another cover of "Bad Boy" follows. It's not any different from the Laura Secondary School version, but it's not much worse, either. The shredding section is really nice here. Unfortunately, we go into another bland "Look how fast I can play!" guitar solo, and it's much longer than the Laura Secondary School version, lasting 1 and a half minutes instead of 30 seconds! (Some lasted as long as FIVE minutes, dear god) Thankfully, after the horror ends, we go into a real rarity, a live version of "Here Again" which wasn't played live much. It's pretty standard, with the exception of Geddy's singing once again being a big boost from the studio. The solo is also a big improvement, really great. 

The highlight of the album, coming up next, is once again "Working Man". The song is extended to over 12 minutes, courtesy of a early bit of "By-Tor And the Snow Dog" (yay!) and a drum solo (boo!) The main song is just as good as the studio version, with an added vocal boost. We then go into the killer jam session, which might be the best version of the jam EVER! Alex's guitar, pulls out great guitar line after guitar line, Geddy's bass tone is also magical sounding, i'd say it's one of his best bass tones, and Neil's drumming holds it all together. The soloing lasts very long, epic guitar riffs keep on coming, and it never gets tiresome! We then go into a bit of the 7/4 War Furor section of "By-Tor And The Snow Dog"! It's a work in progress, but it sounds great. We then return to the main song, where Geddy pulls off some good screams. Unfortunately, after this epic jam, we go into the drum solo. And like most drum solos, it's really bad, as instead of trying to create a melody, Neil just bashes away mindlessly, showcasing how fast he can play, and it gets really, REALLY tiresome. And of course it has to last 3 minutes.

Thankfully, once the solo ends, we go into a great performance of "What You're Doing". It's performed at a faster tempo then the studio, and Geddy's singing is much more powerful. The bass is also much more prominent, which adds a lot. The main show finally closes out with an unreleased number, entitled "Garden Road". And it's another great, bluesy stomper, driven by a very "How Many More Times"-esque riff, over which Geddy pulls out some of the most powerful screams he'd ever do.  ("Beauty flashing in the AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR!") The guitar solo is also nice. A great closer to a great set.

But wait, there's more! The album also has three bonus tracks, recorded at the Agora Ballroom again, on May 15, 1975, during the Fly By Night tour. They are "Anthem", "Beneath, Between, and Behind", and "Fly By Night" "Anthem" is a great performance, with Neil's drumming and Lee's bass much more prominent in the intro, to great effect. Geddy also replicates the singing of the studio absolutely dead on, so much so that you'd think it's the studio! "Beneath, Between, and Behind" is a great performance of the song, not much better than the original, but not much worse. Geddy's voice sounds a bit strained, though. Finally, "Fly By Night" is much better than the studio, performed at a faster tempo, allowing for more intensity. Singing is also better. A great closer to a fantastic live album.

Overall, this live album, as mentioned above, is fantastic, and one of their best. If you don't have this yet, get it now. 5/5.