Review Summary: Rush build off but simultaneously regress from their landmark debut with some improved drumming but far worse guitar work.
As one of the most influential and well-known names in progressive rock music, chances are that you have either heard of or experienced Rush, probably through albums such as 2112. However, a fact that a lot of people aren't aware of is that the band started out as a straightforward, safe blues-rock band with their eponymous debut, and this continued to some degree onto Fly By Night. Their sophomore album was released in 1975 and whilst it was not particularly successful, it gave more hints as to the direction they would be taking their music in future. However, at heart, Rush continued the traditions they set with their first album on this release to slightly less effect.
The most obvious change in Fly By Night is the lineup change. John Rutsey was forced to opt out of the band's first tour due to a problem with diabetes and in came Neil Peart. Whilst many people love to blast the drum performance on their first album as being overly samey, boring and dull, it certainly kept a solid rhythm for the music. However, Peart completely demolishes any drum moments on that particular release within minutes of first loading up this album on any music format of your choice. The drumming is consistently full of power and energy. The album opens with some precise drum rolls and this continues to build up throughout the song and the way it does so is likely to drop any listener's jaw directly to the ground. Beneath, Between And Behind also has some great drumming in the verse and some awesome use of the hi-hat all the way through and stands out as some of the best drumming on the album.
The one place where this really falls behind their debut is the guitar work. The riffs that fueled that album were both enjoyable and all over the place, whereas By-Tor And The Snow Dog in particular shows off how much more streamlined the music here is. Certain moments of the guitar work here is awesome, especially the solo to the title track, but for the most part it is quite dull, pedestrian and uninspired for many of the tracks. Geddy Lee also does not boast quite as commanding a presence as he did on songs like In The Mood, despite the fact that his high-pitched yelps are still there. Many of these songs feel a little too formulaic, as though the band were just taking what they did on their debut album and trying to make them even more accessible, but it does not work.
The best song on Rush's sophomore album would be the penultimate track, Rivendell, which stands out among the best they have put out and is the one song here that trumps their debut. This is a surprisingly mellow track that shows off a completely fresh side of Rush to the rest of the release, and also marks another piece of the puzzle that they would put together on the next album. Sadly, the song that follows, In The End, is the weakest track here. It is a dull number where the soft moments do not fit well among the louder parts of the release and the vocal performance feels as tired and strained as can be. It was clear on this track that Rush had pretty much exhausted all the ideas they had for their blues rock era, and the guitar riffs showcase this with their boring chord progressions. This album is nowhere near as well put together as their debut, but definitely paved the way for what would come with some fresh ideas and better drumming, and therefore it is still highly recommended.