Review Summary: Rush hit hard with a great, rocking debut album full of spectacular guitar solos, demented vocals and a surprisingly strong bass performance throughout. What more could you expect of Rush?The Rush Discography-Chapter 1
Rush are just one of those bands that everyone has heard of. Their majestic gaze over the music industry is inescapable, and they have helped father so many of the modern bands in the rock genre, none who have ever come close to many of their works. No matter what your opinion on them in general, they are a band that you are guaranteed to have heard of and most likely you have experienced one of their albums. It took six years from their 1968 inception for them to release their eponymous debut and whilst this album is nothing like what would come later on in their discography, it is a fantastic place for a band to start. Rush's first album began a discography that few could forget, and is a stellar place for them to begin.
This album is far more in line with a traditional hard rock sound, with a groovy tempo kept throughout, a fantastic instrumental performance across the board and an air-tight show behind the microphone from Geddy Lee. It is Geddy's vocals on this release that are most often debated about it, and I am happy to come right out and state that they are among the best he ever did. Geddy's voice on their 1974 album is extremely high pitched and shrieky, and it just sounds like the man is full of youthful passion and is having a good time recording. Each of these songs is pretty much the same mid-tempo speed with some entertaining and enjoyable riffs and cool drumming and bass lines, although this is far different from what the band sounded like after embracing a progressive nature to their music.
The production here is as crisp and tight as one could hope for. The guitar tones are all clean and have a very fun edge to them, carrying the songs forward at a bounding pace. The bass is not quite as audible as on other Rush albums but is definitely still there and easy to hear, whilst the drums all have a lovely sound to them, and the cymbals do not drown out the mix as with other bands. The vocals are neither too loud nor too quiet, and are very well placed in the mix so that one can enjoy Geddy's manic yelping without ever being distracted from the masterful compositions that the rest of the band create with their respective instruments.
The album starts off with Finding My Way, a song that kicks off with a fade-in guitar riff that really works well to kick the album off. For those unexpected, this album may catch you off guard if you are more familiar with albums such as Moving Pictures, or perhaps with their synth-era or maybe the harder edge that Clockwork Angels shows off. The best way to describe the sound of this album is perhaps a less camp and more straightforward Motley Crue (Shout At The Devil-era) with less of a hard feel to it. Finding My Way shows how good the lead work here is with a solo that does not rely on being lightning fast but is instead very well performed and suits the nature of the song. This is one of the faster cuts in the band's discography, and the riff after the solo is probably the one that God plays when you first enter Heaven.
Need Some Love follows on from Finding My Way with a great blast of speed and Geddy singing in his over-the-top high-pitched voice. The songs here are primarily about going after girls and friendship and they really work, and whilst the lyrics are not quite on the standard they would hit with their concept records, they are well written. This song in particular has some great use of speed changes, with the verses being the aforementioned faster parts whilst the chorus slows the tempo down a little, plodding along with a lot of energy in the vocals to carry it. The vocals after the solo are some of the best here, coming right to the front of the production whilst an enjoyable and fairly intricate guitar riff backs them up and then a great drum fill is played before the song comes to a close.
The surgically precise instrumentation is best displayed following what sounds like a brief jam section that starts up Take A Friend. The way the bass and the guitar work play off each other here with some great hi-hat usage in the background carries the verse really well, before Geddy's vocals during the chorus obliterate any doubt as to the quality of this album. The guitar work on this track is arguably the strongest on the album and is continually weedling around in the background. The soloing that is present on every song hits its pinnacle here with a masterfully played solo that never threatens to be out of control and fits nicely in among the almost-blues sounding bass work.
The album then takes a much longer turn with Here Again. This track is over seven minutes and makes great use of that time with a much slower introduction that takes the time to build up as with the material that would follow this album, although never quite sounding like that. This song is one that takes more of a minimalistic approach to the instrumentation, with a very simplistic carrying the verse, and Geddy's bass rumbling away. At times, this song does start to get louder, but for the most part it is a very quiet track with only Geddy yelping his lungs out at times such as the "can you see what im feeling" part which is guaranteed to make any Rush fan's jaw drop directly to the ground. This is the reason why Geddy's vocals are the absolute highlight of Rush's eponymous first album, with them being absolutely manic and demented. The soloing to this track is extended in length and glorious in nature and will take multiple listens to fully appreciate, blending perfectly in with the softer side to this track and leading beautifully back into the chorus.
What You're Doing kicks the album back off with a very energetic vocal performance from Geddy and a bouncy and fun riff during the verse. The drum fills here are perhaps the strongest on the album and show John Rutsy off to be a rather good drummer. Sadly, this was the only Rush album to contain him, but his performance on this track is likely to make one wonder why. The guitar fills that clash with the cymbals really work well as well, and as this song builds up during its mid-section it is a good inclination as to where the band would later go, although it was still really only a hint. This track is still nowhere near the progressively oriented mentality that would bring albums like 2112 into existence later on. The drumming gets more frantic during the solo as the solo picks up, and the use of the hi-hat and cymbal right at the end is really well placed
The song that follows this has always been a personal favorite of mine, entitled In The Mood. This track is very bluesy-sounding song that opens with a beautifully composed riff and a steady beat, with some brilliant vocals. The lyrics here are rather cheesy, which many should be accustomed to by the time they get this far into the album, but they only add to the charm that is found here. Whereas many of Rush's albums are far more intricately written, this album is just a plain old-fashioned album with lots of fun to be had, and some of this is harnessed by the ridiculous but great lyrics found on every song. "I'm just trying to make this good time, trying to make it last" will not win any literature awards at any point, but it certainly does work within the context of the track.
Before And After is another track that really gives an idea as to where the band would go with their sound after this. It begins with a very mellow introduction including some beautiful clean guitar work and a great bass line, before eventually igniting into a red-hot rocking track. Of course, this is not before we are treated to a scintillating instrumental segment with some fantastic guitar work that is rather well mixed into the background so that it does not completely overbear the rest of the instrumentation. Alex really does put in a stellar guitar performance here, including with the riff that fuels the verse where Geddy truly gives his all behind the microphone.
Working Man closes the album off and is often seen as being the best track here, and not without any real reason. The guitar work that kicks it off is nothing short of spectacular, and this is only built upon with some of Geddy's better lyrics and vocals on the album that really compliment the sound of the song. The chorus riff is quite morose sounding whilst Geddy sings "they call me the working man, well I guess that's what I am". The drumming is quite pedestrian but that does not really detract from the quality of the song, and the brief bass fill that leads into the furious guitar solo is possibly the finest moment of the entire album. The solo will absolutely positively blow your mind with its sheer speed - Alex must be shredding his fingers off on this song. This was overall the best way the band could have chose to finish the album.
Rush really did put together a fabulous outing for their first album and it set a bar that they would not really topple for some time. The guitar work is nothing short of incredible, with some masterful soloing all the way through and some of the best riffs in their career. This is Rush at their most straightforward and basic, but also is one of their best albums.