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Rush studio albums ranked

I've been a certified and incorrigible Rush fanatic since I first heard them way back in 1982. Even though I've never met him, Geddy Lee was my primary bass guitar teacher. I don't hate any of their albums, but there are a few that fail to inspire an unearthing more than once every 5 or 6 years.
Moving Pictures

Yeah, this was the first Rush studio album I ever heard (someone turned me on to Exit Stage Left first), and it cemented their position as my favorite band until Voivod came along with their Nothingface album to shake things up a bit. The riffs and grooves are phenomenal. The songs, life-changing and unforgettable.
Clockwork Angels

They won me over right away (something which Rush hadn't done in a very long time) and it's only grown in importance over the last 7 years. Every song hits just right. It was probably a wise decision to call it quits after this.
Permanent Waves

Not one second is wasted on this album. Everything great about progressive rock compacted into 36 minutes of pure intellectual fun.

Pretty much tied with Permanent Waves for the #3 position, for the exact same reasons. I used to love playing bass along with Side One. I was determined to learn every last lick.
A Farewell to Kings

Put into the musical context of 1977, this album stands out as one of the most “out there” prog-rock albums of the year. It begins with Alex’s classical stylings; then visits ancient Manchuria via Samuel Taylor Coleridge via Yes; presents a couple of anthemic, AOR-friendly tracks and a lovely acoustic number; then they almost invent cosmic black metal in the second half of “Cygnus X-1”.

This initially felt like a left-down from the stellar heights of Moving Pictures, but the emotional punch of “Subdivisions”, “The Analog Kid” and “Losing It”, the crazily shifting grooves of “Digital Man”, and the overall stripped-down feel made the album more and more compelling over time.

A 20-minute space epic about wanting to share something beautiful, inspiring, and thought-provoking with everyone against the wishes of the State? I’m all in. Side 2 doesn’t quite measure up to Side 1’s hard-rockin statement, but there’s nothing at all wrong with it. And it closes with the furious “Something for Nothing”.
Power Windows

Yeah, Signals had a greater emphasis on keyboards, and they totally took over on the next record. But Power Windows has a good balance of guitar vs keys, I think. And, fortunately, 7 of the 8 tracks still rocked out nice and hard. “Marathon”, “Territories”, and “Emotion Detector” remain in my Rush Top Twenty 35 years later. The last track was the first Rush song I really didn’t like. Still don’t.

This album marked the triumphant return of guitar to the forefront of Rush’s sound. The songs were also slightly stripped down from the production excesses of Hold Your Fire. There’s nothing with the impact of their early ’80’s material, but the songs all have their own catchy appeal. And I never skip any of them. Sometimes I play the title track two or three times in a row.
Fly by Night

Their first steps into the progressive universe with “The Professor” manning the drum kit still hit me hard, even after I had been fully immersed in their late ’70’s output. “By-Tor & the Snowdog” is a proto-metal, epic, maniacal prog-rocker. “Beneath, Between, and Behind” is overflowing with punk energy. My only beef is the delicate “Rivendell”, which could have been 1000% more effective with a guest female vocalist.
Roll the Bones

Similar in style and sound to Presto, this album has good songs too. “Face Up”, “Where’s my Thing?“, “Heresy” and “Ghost of a Chance” are great. “Bravado” is one of my Rush Top 5 tracks. Nothing else is disappointing, just safe sounding…well, except for the title track.
Vapor Trails

A big step up in quality from their dull ’90’s material, this album should have lost a couple of tracks to tighten it up. The production was uncharacteristically bad for some reason. This didn’t help things at all. The 2013 remix was a huge improvement.

Their debut album didn’t venture into any new musical territory, but it was 100% honest and it rocked the eff out.
Caress of Steel

This record is quite a mixed bag. Some parts are incredible (“Bastille Day”, “The Necromancer”, and sections of Side 2 like “Didacts and Narpets” and “No One at the Bridge”) while most other parts are… meh. They bit off more than they could chew, but it was a necessary step to the unbridled brilliance of 2112.
Hold Your Fire

This album has a lot of excellent songs, but it’s just so overblown production-wise they lose much of their impact. “Force Ten”, “Mission” and “Turn the Page” are favorites from this era, and the impossible corny “Tai Shan” never gets played. Ever.
Grace Under Pressure

Another mixed bag. “Kid Gloves” is amazing with its main 5/4 groove. “Afterimage” is definitely in my Top 5 Rush Songs for its palpable sorrow of losing a friend, while “The Body Electric”, “The Enemy Within” and “Between the Wheels” leave me blah.

Generally unimpressed on first listen, I wanted to like this but most of it never grew legs. I did come to like the last four tracks eventually, but I rarely ever dig them out.
Snakes & Arrows

There aren’t really any particularly memorable tracks here, although “The Main Monkey Business” and “The Way the Wind Blows” are alright. The whole album sounds like they switched on the auto-pilot. This album beat Test for Echo for the final position as its length offered a few more interesting moments. A few.
Test for Echo

Their most mainstream (at the time) sounding record, to my ears anyway. This was their first album to truly disappoint on first listen. “Half the World”, “Dog Years” and “Resist” have made playlists now and then, but that’s about it.
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