Rush is without a doubt one of the biggest bands to come out of Canada. By the dawn of the eighties, they were not only the biggest bands in Canada, but have found world wide success with early masterpieces such as 2112
and A Farewell To Kings
. Their 1974 self titled debut album showed their influences as they played bluesy hard rock similar to Led Zeppelin, but as time went on, they continued to change, adapting more of a progressive side with frequent use of synthesizers among other instruments while still maintaining their original hard rock sound. When the eighties approached, they seemed to adjust to the new decade, where synthesizers would play a dominant role in lots of their music. Rush showed this with their other previous eighties releases such as 1981's Moving Pictures
, 1982's Signals
and 1984's Grace Under Pressure
, which featured the heaviest use of synth out of the three, as each one gradually used more as time went on. Power Windows
, which is Rush's eleventh studio, album falls right in the middle of Rush's electronica synth era.
contains eight tracks, each one very different in its own way, spanning over a duration of almost fifty minutes with no song being under the five minute mark and two over six minutes (Marathon
). These lengths are not like their older records like 2112
and have a tolerable length and most have continuous changing riffs and tempos, making it seem almost like a couple of songs into one, although some may feel some do go on for too long. Power Windows
's recording is as good as it gets, as every instrument is clearly audible with the overdubbing working well. However, some may find the record sounding too polished or clean sounding. As previously mentioned, the synthesizers are dominant here, and no song goes without it, but the famous trio still gives solid performances in their respective instruments.
Geddy Lee, singer and bassist, delivers some his best and creative bass lines, even if they are different from older work, and his signature high-pitched vocals are top notch as well as he sings with energy and intensity on tracks such as The Big Money
while others contrast that with his soft, emotional voice on songs like Middletown Dreams
and Mystic Rhythms
. Most of the songs see Geddy singing with a calmer tone though. Alex Lifeson, who has shown in past work his ability to play technical guitar solos, does a respectable job here, but doesn't top his earlier work. However, his solo in Middletown Dreams
is fantastic. And finally the backbone of Rush, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. Neil, like usual, conveys a solid outing musically and lyrically. Known to many as one of the most talented drummers ever, Peart shows just a potion of his skills as the keyboards take the main focus, which I thought was somewhat of a downside to the album. He is still far better than the average drummer here, obviously, and still shines. Some of his best pieces are displayed on The Big Money
and Mystic Rhythm
, the albums opener and closer respectively. His remarkably fast drum fills highlight each song. Power Windows
also has some guests on the album including Ann Dudley who did the string arrangements, Jim Burgress, who with Geddy did the synthesizers, and Andy Richards who contributed with the keyboards.
Ever since Neil Peart joined the band in 1975 and made his debut on Fly By Night
of that year, Rush's lyrics have been a step up shifting from the simple and fun lyrics of their debut about women and a days work, to Ayn Rand inspired words, and messages hidden in clever metaphors about politics and the issues in the world, as well as motivational expressions. Marathon
s demonstrates his inspirational lyrics best as Neil writes and Geddy sings "It's not how fast you can go; The force goes into the flow, If you pick up the beat, You can forget about the heat"
in the opening lines as well as "You can do a lot in a lifetime, If you don't burn out too fast, You can make the most of the distance, First you need endurance, First you've got to last"
. On the world issues side, Manhattan Project
's lyrics refer to the title which is the project that first introduced nuclear weapons in the 1940's and about the penalties of them. Territories
talks about the many regions of the world while The Big Money
refers to the greed and self-indulgence in the world with lyrics like "Big money goes around the world; Big money give and take; Big money done a power of good; Big money make mistakes"
. Even if the music itself may seem out dated, the lyrics are still relatable and significant, and Neil does a good job writing them intelligently making them a strong point of the album.
The majority of Rush fans will say this isn't the bands best album (nevermind best, not even top 5), and I won't argue with that, but Power Windows
does have some of Rush's better songs, especially from their 80's synth period. The album opener The Big Money
gives an immediate feel of the album with the opening Alex's guitar riffs clashing with the heavy synthesizers over Peart's impressive drumming. The song is mix of fast and slow tempos and interludes, with a very poppy feel to it, something that is present throughout most of the album. The Big Money
was also a relative hit for the band and received some air play back in the day. Manhattan Project
is a gem of a song that lies just before the middle of the album at number three. Its is one of the songs with a very laid back feel to it, but as the song progresses it gradually gets a little heavier. Geddy gives one of his better vocal performances here as he manages to keep a steady voice, but still is able to keep everything interesting and suspenseful, making it a highlight of the record.
is the most synthesizer driven track here, and has that 80's vibe more than any other song. Like Manhattan Project
, this is a mid-tempo tune, but even more so, and Alex gives an excellent solo here which is his only real standout part in the song guitar wise, but it just feels like something is missing from the song. Grand Design
is another solid track, but nothing that sets itself apart too much from the others. It blends the keyboards with guitars nicely, but its Neil's drumming brings this one up a lot. Territories
, the longest track here at over six minutes, begins as an ambient type song until Lee?s singing echoes over it. The guitar riff here is a memorable one, and so is the song, but I feel it goes on for a bit too long. The song turn into more of a rock one towards the end and it takes away from the synths, which is good for a change. The album ends on a strong note. Mystic Rhythms
is one of the better songs here and a smart choice to end the album. The opening minute or two has almost a dark feel to it, and it remains consistent for the most part of the song. I think the synthesizers are used to their potential here and compliment the song quite well. The song is probably the most intense on the album. Thought the song keeps the same rhythm or pace, it does as well as any other one would. Needless to say, Mystic Rhythms
is a suitable ending to a great album.
Rush's Power Windows
is a perfect example of them in the prime of their 1980's daze. It may not be the most accessible Rush album or may not be the best to get if you are a new comer to the band, but with time, this album will grow on you. The lyrics are intelligent, the music is powerful, and the songs are well put together, even if a little polished. It may seem a bit outdated as it has that classic eighties feel to it, which is a good or bad thing, depending on what you like. I don't mind it. If you don't let the heavy use of the synths and the whole 80's deal get in the way, it is actually an enjoyable album. It blends a nice mix of hard rock, progressive rock, pop, techno and other types as well making for great variety, as well as the showing the different styles of the band. Although it may not be the best Rush has to offer, Power Windows
is a solid album, and one that is often underrated in the Rush catalogue.
The Big Money