Review Summary: A fun little debut that showed Rush's hard rock influences; just be aware that this is nothing like their future progressive rock cornerstones.
Chapter I: The Start of Something Special
Canadian rock trio Rush have become a household name in the music world, garnering an exceptionally faithful fanbase and boasting more platinum-certified records than most bands could even dream of having. However, while the better part of their career has been spent making universally-celebrated progressive rock records, the beginning of their musical journey was a bit different. Since drummer Neil Peart wasn't in the band yet and thus didn't influence the band in a more sophisticated direction yet, this line-up of the trio happened to be more influenced by their blues-rock roots. In this debut record by them, you'll hear plenty of Led Zeppelin in Cream riffage throughout their compositions. So how does this record hold up? Surprisingly, it's pretty damn solid.
Okay, it's not even close to the band's best work, but there are a few glimpses into the band's future. The biggest praise would have to go to the band members' individual instrumental talents. Even drummer John Rutsey does a really above-average job on the record and pulls off some great fills in the album's more complex (or fast) songs. Even before their prime, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were rife with talent, especially on the closing highlight "Working Man." The extensive solo section of this piece is wonderful, showcasing a mix of blues, 70s hard rock/metal, and a few hints at the band's future prog-rock suites. Speaking of which, that whole song completely blows most of the album out of the water. The verses are extremely heavy for 1974, and the alternately ascending and descending guitar/bass work going on in the chorus is infectious. But fear not, there are other great moments on here. "Need Some Love," despite being only about two-and-a-half minutes, packs quite the speedy hard rock punch in that amount of time; meanwhile, the song "What You're Doing" has a bluesy riff that would make the aforementioned Led Zeppelin proud, while containing punchy drum work from Rutsey and a nice meaty guitar sound from Lifeson. There are a few interesting experiments on this record too; the biggest one is the intro to "Before and After." The song starts out in a very serene way, almost as if you're entering a garden or a forest of sorts. The clean guitar work from Lifeson really highlights this tune, and once the bass and drums enter the picture, they only further illustrate this image of peace and quiet joy. However, all of this is halted once the song erupts into one of the best rockers of the record. Geddy Lee's vocals sound especially loud and dominant, and the syncopated rhythm adds to an already-solid hard rock song.
Unfortunately, the problem with all of this is that, by the fifth or sixth song on the album, it gets a little boring. Most songs sound very similar after a while, and there's not much variation on the blues rock sound. On top of this, there's no extra instrumentation on top of the normal guitar/bass/drums line-up, so there's not much to speak of in terms of additional ornamentation throughout the record. Especially around the middle, a few throwaway tracks like "In the Mood" and the aggravatingly long power ballad "Here Again" pop up. Also, I hate to say this, but Neil Peart's absence on this record is truly felt after some time listening to it; after about the second or third time hearing the record, you start to think about how much Peart's future inclusion into the band benefited them in the end. That's not to say John Rutsey's a bad drummer by any means, but he does lack the charisma and technical ability of Rush's future bandmate.
However, I'd still consider this a great album because the songs that work do really, really work. This is the sort of record you spin when you want to just have a good time and not worry about super-technical progressive rock anthems. If you enjoy Cream, Led Zeppelin, or early Queen, then you'll really enjoy a lot of the material on this album. However, with Rush's next effort Fly by Night, Neil Peart would enter the picture and the rest would be rock history.