Review Summary: In a final flash of glory, Nevermore to grace the night
A Farewell to Kings is, easily, one of the single best progressive albums of all time. The elements to a professional prog rock albums is featured here perfectly: a dynamic display of quick-paced drums and percussion, powerful guitar melodies, catchy bass riffs, great representation of keyboards, and incredibly unique vocals of Geddy Lee. This album and band had such an impact on the progressive scene that they were probably the only "Big Four" prog band to still make it big, decades later. But A Farewell to Kings
shows the illustrious group's potential completely met here, with no more filler, no more exceptions. Easily a classic.
Rush was formed in mid-1968 by front man Jeff Jones
and drummer John Rutsey
. They were close friends growing up in the hood of Willowdale, in Ontario. After Jones left the band out of his own decision, close friend Geddy Lee
soon replaced him. After gaining enough popularity in the club circuit in the north, and enough money to buy a tour bus, truck, and lighting rig: the group made an independent label, Moon Records, and made Rush. Soon after, Rutney was fired just months after their self-titled debut's success, and soon Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, who then played guitars and drums.
The band got considerable success with the release of Fly by Night
, and to a lesser extent, 2112 and Caress of Steel.
Recording to this album was highly anticipated after the release of the latter two, and once A Farewell to Kings was released, Rush's fifth magnum opus attempt was widely considered as the breakthrough point of their career, where the three-man group finally found the sound they had been searching for. It has know been certified platinum, and on its way to 2x platinum.
So, screw you Robert Chrtisgau.
That could be the single best word to describe the elemental qualities in A Farewell to Kings: this expanded on the group's progressive rock sound. They had been inspired by groups like Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Van Der Graff Generator
and their unique soundscapes, and used more complex methods during the recording sessions. Lifeson began to experiment with the tuning of his guitar, switching notes consistently. Peart's percussion became a lot different, using triangles, some glockenspiel melodies, cowbell, chimes, bells, and some gong / psychedelic here and there. More guitar and bass synthesizers were included, giving it more of an electronic sound in some places. The cataclysmic sound of each instrument proved to be some of the most dramatic in history: something majestic happens in each track.
Regardless, Rush's fifth studio attempt proves to be a creative one, the storytelling is incredible. Lyrical topics generally face around dystopia and fantasy, some adventurous feel is taken here. Lyrics in Xanadu deal with the want for immortality, Cygnus X-1's brilliant tale of dystopia, and the title track's overall feel.
And the patterns are increasingly difficult as time grows. The softer tracks on the album are covered here less extensively, but they work in the end. Madrigal
is one of the shortest songs on the album, and it shows pure bass genius. Each note is different, it is rarely played again, with some other instruments showing a more dynamic feel as well. Closer to the Heart
is a bit more cliche than the rest of the album, with some instrumentation feeling more straightforward this time around, with varied percussion showing up. At three minutes, though, this is a nice dose. The best tracks are easily the longer ones, which feature more phenomenal instrumental sections and thought-provoking vocals, which can be identified next to the 2112 and Fly by Night
days. Xanadu and Cygnus X-1
are excellent tracks from beginning to end, they're next to flawless. The epic instrumentation and high vocal notes come full circle in those two titles. The title track is probably the most impressive, but here you can't exactly pick a standout: the tracklist here is near-perfect.
The only real noticeable flaws here are two: the production and shortness. As for the former, it feels more outdated than before, you can tell there could of been more work done on mixing and mastering. Although this is an album where you can't ask more of the group, six tracks and under 40 minutes is a bit of a doozy, despite the dramatic feel of it. I can recommend this album to anyone, it's definitely one you can enjoy no matter what genre you prefer. And this album proves that, even after just four years, the band has proven their worth once again.
(*** you robert christgau)