Review Summary: My ship isn't coming and I just can't pretend...
Let's start this review with a picture: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/500/2207650/Rush.jpg
When Neil Peart auditioned for the drummer role in Rush back in 1974, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee were initially skeptical. Peart didn't seem to have the charisma - he had a hideous-beyond-reason haircut, worshipped Ayn Rand and wrote songs about Tolkien novels. Meanwhile, Lee and Lifeson were self-proclaimed beacons of 70's zeitgeist - the leather jackets, the glimmering shirts and the bug-eyed glasses in the picture speak lengths about this testament. Yet as alluded to by Lee in a recent interview, there was something immeasurably promising about Peart's audition that made him and Lifeson think twice before disposing him. In hindsight, most people would argue that Peart was the best thing to happen to Rush. Peart's debut on Fly By Night
showcases remarkable progress in terms of songwriting and drumming when compared to Rush's self titled debut and the album is only a precursor to much greater, more ambitious things to come.
Instrumentally, Fly By Night
isn't much of a far cry from Rush's debut (besides the obviously improved drumming). 'In the End' is a slow-churning ballad-turned-epic much in vein of 'Here Again', 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' is a jam-based extended-piece much akin to 'Working Man' (albeit a slight bit proggier) and 'Making Memories' is just as Zeppelin-influenced as anything found on the self titled. While Lee has gotten unfortunately a little more confident with his vocals and has harnessed an inexplicable affection for screeching on songs like 'Anthem' and 'Best I Can', his performance on Fly By Night
is distinctively Geddy Lee and is perfectly suited for the band. Lifeson takes a slightly less riff-based approach on most of the songs and his performance is dampened slightly by this decision but it's an ineffable fact that the solos in 'Anthem' and 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' are among the best of his career. That being said, 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' is quite the song indeed. The song is arguably the band's first genuine progressive song, as it is split up into "chapters" throughout it's 8-minute reign and is tied to a concept (about a snow dog and a lord of evil, no less). While it's story is kitschy and post-production snorting seems to ruin much of the jam-section, the song is a standout track and an interesting bundle of foreshadowing when considering the band's later progressive tendencies.
Yet it's impossible to deny the handful of faults on Fly By Night
. Rush were still a band maturing at this point (one could argue that they never really
did get it down perfectly) and hadn't settled in with a sweet spot quite yet in regards to Neil Peart. The song 'Fly By Night' - although often a fan favorite - contains an immensely irritating chorus and 'Best I Can' sounds like a b-side from the band's debut (only considerably worse). Ultimately, however, Fly By Night
is an intriguing precursor to Rush's later progressive indulgences and is a worthy component in the band's near-infallible discography. While not an essential, the album certainly warrants repeated listens and ultimate respect from Rush fans and casual music listeners alike.