Review Summary: Rush keeps the flame from 2112 going, with a new concept, and some success.
Rush often had the ability to make up for mistakes, which is why 2112 became a platinum hit and Caress of Steel was deemed insignificant, both by fans and by critics. With that success, the band knew that the next album still had to be good, but whether it would better than, as good as, or not as well as 2112 was still but a mystery. The arrival of A Farewell to Kings was the subject of another good case of both concept and commerciality. The first great example is the title track itself.
The title track, a Farewell to Kings, is a perfect example of Rush’s transition into Hemispheres, starting with the beginning. Alex Lifeson does a great job with the guitar styling, bringing more feeling to not just this song, but also most of the album. His effort is perhaps almost better than what it was on 2112’s commercial side, a new strength he wields in hand (or when playing the guitar too.) When getting further into the song, you start to get the feel of what could possibly be another concept album. The best examples include this track, Closer to the Heart, Xanadu, and Cygnus X-1. After all, they all take the concept of the past and the future and mix them together. A Farewell to Kings tells the past tale of a fallen kingdom and its fated and fatal flaws it suffers. The concept carries rather well into the next track, Xanadu.
Xanadu is a more traditional sounding, more ancient toned song, with a native cult aspect. It can be heard in the vibrant sound that echoes throughout the piece and creates a very unique flow and feel to the piece. The peace and tranquility of the song itself is almost magical, and it creates wonderful scenery of nature. And it’s the nature of the album, but more specifically of this song that really transfers well in form throughout each song. Plus, Alex Lifeson’s guitar patterns in the song haven’t sounded beautiful before in the band’s career (not in the same way, to put it, thank you very much, folks.) The common return to a commercial is noticeable near the end in the song. Another great turnout is the balance between Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart. There is no place in the song where the guitar outweighs the power and the technicality of Lee and Peart and works out very well. Another improvement is the fact that Geddy Lee doesn’t overdo the vocalizing either.
Closer to the Heart continues the traditional concept idea that started from the self-titled track. Unlike certain songs such as the almost pseudo emotive Tears, Closer to the Heart isn’t really that boring or depressing either. It also provides another great simplistic tale that gives the listener a break from Xanadu. Also, Geddy’s vocalization delivers so well, only making the album better. And it’s really the simplicity of the lyrics and the song that only makes it easier to listen to. Lastly, the balance done between the acoustics and the electric guitar is done very well.
Cinderella Man gives the listener more a commercial feel to the album, telling an entirely different story from the original concept, sort of confusing at first, but the listener is bound to get used to it eventually. It for one reason sounds richer than the Twilight Zone or Something for Nothing, and it still is exciting and once again. Lee also doesn’t jack up his lyrics to uncontrollable sound, nor does he chicken out into the quiet, mellow sound. Once again, it’s a little different from the rest of the album, but still a fairly well done effort.
Madrigal is perhaps one of Rush’s shortest and mellowest songs, but also, one of the better mellow songs done by them. While some of Rush’s past songs are mellow, they can also be less rich and perhaps less significant to the album, which Madrigal is not. It once again, slowly carries you away from the commercial style and slowly brings you back in the concept style, which started the album.
Cygnus X-1 is the apex of the concept album, embarking into darker, more mysterious boundaries. The concept of this song is carried over onto Hemispheres, something that new that would bring the concept “Meta Album” to life. The futuristic themes of going into the Cygnus Black hole, a theme very similar to space. This is a very different look at what Rush is as it begins to be more influenced by punk and new age music. It isn’t very noticeable, but it certainly provides the every requirement a good concept song needs.
A Farewell to Kings marks the midpoint of the classic Rush prog rock age and will end with Hemispheres, but not on a bad note. This should be classified as another win for Rush, once again winning back their fans and reaching gold status and higher. While it may not be nearly as good as 2112, it certainly did make another good impression.