“Classic” Rush, Ranked
I love Rush, especially what I consider their “Classic Period” from 1974 (the debut) through 1982’s Signals. These are the Rush albums that mean the most to me, and while I am becoming more familiar with the rest of their discography I will always look at these 11 albums as prime Rush. Many later day albums would knock a few of these down a few pegs (Clockwork Angels, Grace Under Pressure and Vapor Trails especially), but that’s a list for another day. I haven’t spent enough time with the others to consider myself qualified in that regard.
I’m sure there are a few Rush fans out there that may disagree. If you feel like it I’d love to hear your top 5 (or 10, or 20!) in the comments section. And away we…go.
#11. RUSH (1974): The only record to not feature drummer Neil Peart. Rush’s first drummer, John Rutsey, was always going to pale in comparison to Peart, so I think it’s helpful to consider this apart from what went after. Listening again to RUSH now I kind of like the workmanlike approach of Rutsey, and for the songs the boys were writing at the time his style was just fine and dandy, thank you. Working Man and Finding My Way are the two standouts.
#10. Caress Of Steel (1975): As Geddy Lee says in the awesome documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage”: “I think we smoked a lot of weed when we made that one…, and it shows.” I love Bastille Day, and Lakeside Park is a great, if underrated, song and, hey, I even enjoy the weirdly un-Rush-like I Think I’m Going Bald! Some die-hards will tell you the two Tolkenesque epics are the bees knees, but I have little use for ‘em.
#9. All The World’s A Stage (1976): Their first official “Live” release and also Rush at their rawest. Featuring songs from their first 4 albums, ATWAS is a wonderful document of the bands early phase and contains a pretty spanking version of 2112 to boot! As I have grown older I find myself gravitating towards the mid-late work of the band, and here Lee’s vocals were at their, um, screetchiest.
#8. Fly By Night (1975): This is their first real classic album, as it contains some of their very best work in the title track, By-Tor and the Snow Dog, the amazing Anthem and the underrated Beneath, Between and Behind. Cover is a tad dated, though.
#7. Exit…Stage Left (1981): Their second official live album and the one that does the best job documenting their ‘second phase’, which includes songs from Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves. Red Barchetta is a standout, as is the live rendition of La Villa Strangiato, but all the songs are terrific. Some will state that they believe the production is muddy, or that the songs are too similar to their studio counterparts, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it as it’s the concert I was lucky enough to see live at Maple Leaf Gardens (R.I.P.).
#6. Signals (1982): The songs Subdivisions, The Analog Kid and New World Man are enough to include this as one of Rush’s best albums, but Chemistry, Digital Man, Losing It and Countdown are all worthy numbers. Only The Weapon pales, I think.
#5. 2112 (1976): If Rush never released this album we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. The success of this album gave the band creative ‘carte blanche’ with their label for ever and ever, amen. They were now free to follow their muse, and they certainly did. It’s still a stunningly great album, musically, even if the album’s lyrics today feel a tad naïve and even silly in places.
#4. Hemispheres (1978): The last real ‘progressive’ album( in the classic sense of the word) Rush would record. This one contains what is perhaps my favorite Rush instrumental of all time in La Villa Strangiato, and Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres (yeah, really!) is one of their best side-long epics, and also their last.
#3. A Farewell To Kings (1977): Closer To The Heart from this album is the closest Rush ever got to a bonafide power ballad hit record (in Canada, at least), but how can you fault an album with such great songs such as Xanadu, Cygnus X-1 (Book I), Cinderella man and the title track? A great, great album.
- Permanent Waves (1980): Where Rush says good-bye to their proggy ways and pen some honest to goodness pop tunes in The Spirit Of Radio, Freewill and the bilingual Entre Nous. There was still a hint of prog, though, with Natural Science. Influenced by The Police and Talking Heads in addition to other new wave bands of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, this was the beginning of Rush Mach II, as it were.
#1. Moving Pictures (1981): What else could #1 be? This is not only the best album by Rush it’s one of the best albums of all time. It appeals to fanatics and haters alike, and it’s responsible for making it ‘ok’ to actually listen to Rush in public, instead of only at all night Dungeons and Dragons marathons.
And can I hear it for the cover art? Pretentious as hell for a while there, but still creative and extremely well executed (except for the debut and Fly By Night, maybe).