Hold Your Fire is not what most fans would consider classic Rush. However, it is a brilliant album, and perhaps their best. It meshes the rough, heavy sound of "old school" Rush with the advanced technical and melodic ability they displayed in the 80's.
The production is near perfect, indeed, Rush had never (and since have not) sounded better. Some pundits call the album "overproduced", but this is perhaps an unfair comment to make. It is true that the recording budget was large, but when you want perfection, how far would you be prepared to go? Neil Peart, not only the best drummer around, but also Rush's lyricist, is on top from, spanning many themes with grace and ease, as usual. Without further ado, however, lets' get on to the break down!
1) Force Ten
The album opens with this brisk rocker. The opening is atmospheric, before Geddy comes in with a bassline that picks up the pace. Immediatley evident is the one coming from his Wal bass, undoubtedly the best bass tone he has ever had. it's fat and punchy, yet smooth and bright. Lifeson excels with his guitar playing, and the keys in tune sprial in and out of the track, the whole thing is constructed with beautiful flair and grace. Brilliantly paced and constructed, both technically and melodically interesting, this is surely one of Rush's best songs ever.
2) Time Stand Still
This track opens with a catchy hook, and thats what this one is all about. it's almost laid back, yet the chorus bursts with such energy the feel of the song is anything but! Aimee Mann from he band "Tuesday's gone" also sings on this track, in the refrain. it perhaps demonstrates Rush's confidence, allowing someone else to guest on the track. The refrain itself is beautifully crafted, with hollow sounds and an odd "popping" percussive sound (listen to it to hear what I'm talking about!). Neil's lyrics deal with the feeling of getting old, and wanting to make the msot of every day. This track really is moving, in a way that words cannot descirbe.
3) Open Secrets
This track has a very "Power Windows" vibe to it. I'm not sure if it's the almost laid back feel to the groove, the keys that lay over this track. The whole thing just seems to roll in the most fantastic way. The chorus is brilliant, the sound of the bass is thick and full, it almost draw's ones attention away from the lyrics! The chorus itself reminds me of "Marathon" from Power Windows, it is mighty, slmost heroic sounding, but ot at all pompous. Lifeson, plays beautifully here, while Geddy snakes about with his bassline, Lifeson plays a perfect solo, pinch harmoincs squeal and and he chooses those notes with such precision, it's breath taking. He doesn't resort to pulling out the chops, he lets the few notes he chooses say all that needs to be said. Another very underrated track here, which gets very funky feeling in the last minute. Wonderful.
4) Second Nature
The irst real "ballad" of the album, but one which maintains it's inegrity. Opening with just paino, a restrained beat on the cymbals and geddy's beautiful voice, you know this one is going to be good before it's even gotten going! The highlight, other than the melody, are neil's lyrics, a brilliant cut indeed! The chorus is rocking, and in the verses after, the instumentation is laid back, allowing for one to hear Neil's expert drumming. The chorus is bombastic, as we've come to expect from Rush on this album. at 3:10 a beautiful, soaring passage comes in, it is uplifting, and builds into another uplifting chorus, with the line "Now I lay me down in dreamland, I know perfects not for real". Both thought provoking and touching, I can give this track no higher recommendation.
5) Prime Mover
In an album full of highlights, it might seem hard to pick a favourite. but here it is. This is perhaps the ebst song Rush ahve ever written, it defies words with it's grace and beauty. it rocks and pulses, it is both hard and soft, rough and yet smooth. Geddy shows his skills, with some of his most moving and inspiring vocals ever. The bassline is one that, without the melody overlaid by the guitar and the beat of the drums, makes little sense, but this is the beauty, the band come together in spectacular fashion and make mountains move. Near the end is particularly amazing part. Everything but the keys, drums vocals and Geddy's voice drop out, until his bass and the guitars return in the build up. Peart's bass drum mimcs the beat of a heartbeat, and the whole thing just rolls along. Words cannot describe this song. If you only hear one more song in your life, make it this, because, indeed, "anything can happen" ;)
6) lock and Key
The albums second single (The first being Time Stand Still) is an atmospheric piece, a dark, malevolent piece. The bridge and the chorus are particularly bombastic sounding, Lifeson's guitar tone is "rougher" than usual here, and contrasts with the smooth, almost creamy tone from Geddy's bass perfectly. Geddy lays down the fills as we have come to epxect, and sings beautifully. Peart once again exceeds all expectations with his lyrics. The solo from Alex is fast paced, moving aay from his melodic aspirations esewhere on the album, he cuts loose with a fast stream of notes that fits the tone of the song perfectly, it sounds frantic, scared, and reflects the themes of the song. A brilliant choice for a second single, and criminally underrated.
Another "rocky ballad" in a similar vein to "Second nature". A quiet, uplifting and ulitmately moving opening from Geddy soon steps aside to bring in a thick, rocking beat.Geddy excels with his bassline, Alex uses his signature "sporadic"feel on guitar with his unique tones. The chorus once again uplifts, it inspires the inner being of the listener through it's melody, this is before one even contemplates the lyrics. The track seems to float, lifted by the keys that geddy plays, and the bassline locks with Peart's expert drumming to form the beating heart of the song. neil is very understated here, but just listen to his playing during Alex's solo and his "percussion solo" afterwards to get a feel for why he is considered the world's best. After this guitar and percussive solo. It comes back in with a massively moving section with Geddy singing again. Another track that cannot be done justice with mere words, just listen to it. Moving, uplifiting, it soars, just like a spirit with a mission.
8) Turn The page
This one starts with some two handed tapping from Geddy, a very rare thing indeed! Tis opening gives way to a pulsing beat from Peart, with geddy laying subtle fills over the top on his bass, as he often does. The chors is nother "Power Windows" style one, and when the second part of the said chorus hits, you'll know it! The strong beat returns and it just...rocks! Lifeson almost seems to hand back on this track, happy to lay his shimmering tones over the track as Geddy and Neil power on. His "hang back" stance leaves when he solos, he comes to the front and lets those pinch harmonics roar! The strong, towering melody returns, and sets the listener up for the next track, a stark contrast to this "old School" rocker.
9) Tai Shan
This song is a reprentation of Neil's visit to the mountain "Tai Shan" while on a cycling trip to China. The pipes in the into give it a very oriental feel, in fact, the whole track is oriental. The instruments that had been used to create hard rock sounds on previous tracks now sing with an oriental flavour, it is simply astounding. The lyrics are particularly moving, telling a tale of a visit to the mountain. It's a completley unique song for Rush, they take they signature sound and make it sound Chinese! Listen to the the beautiful synth melody that over lays the chorus, Neil's unique drumming, Geddy's feel on the fills, the unique, almost stuccato feel from Alex's guitar. The whole thing is amazing, beyond words, you ahve nit heard Rush until you have heard this astouding track!
10) High Water
Here is another astouding track, this one grooves and has a very "Erasure" type feel....it does indeed remind me of Erausre! It has a deep groove with the drums and bass seeming to roll back and forth. The synth sounds in the verses are very sublte but uplift the whole thing. Alex sits back, and comes in whn he is needed to "roughen up" the sound of this groover...it has a dark, warm feeling to it, but not a malevolent ones. The whole this is uplifting, especially the chorus, which pulses back and forth, it seems to rock in a way that words cannot describe, and the beautiful, airy sythns float over the track again. The whoel this is beautiful, in it's tone, lyrics, melody, structure, no matter what era of Rush you favour, you simply cannot love this song. Alex's guitar solo seems to drift over, his shrill tone emshing perfectly with the strng beat provided by geddy and neil, before dropping out to another warm, beating chorus. A brilliant track, indeed, it makes me think of Erasure, it has that sweet melody, but it rocks so damn much....
To conclude, this is a brilliant album, perhaps the ebst album ever. hats off the Peter Collins, who managed to capture the sound of Rush at this time, on top form. An album of almost pop tunes, it uplifts, it rocks, it inspires, it sings. Never before or since have Rush taken such care in crafting their songs, it is an album that keeps on giving. I have listened to it a million times and yet I notice new sounds every time I listen to it. When you listen to this album, there can be absolutley no doubt that Rush are indeed the best band ever.