Released in 1991, well after what is supposedly Rush's "prime", Roll The Bones became an instant classic. While some were turned off by possible over-use of synthesizers and a rap breakdown in the title track, many will agree that this album is up there with the great Rush albums like A Farewell to Kings, 2112, Moving Pictures and Hemispheres. What really separates the albums is a distinct lack of very long songs with a lot of instrumental breaks on Roll The Bones. However in my opinion the song quality is just as good.
This album is quite possibly Geddy Lee's best vocal work. Abandoning the hard rock shriek that he is known (and I love but many Rush fans and critics find annoying) for and taking to a more calm and laid back vocal style clearly seen in songs like Bravado, Ghost of a Chance and The Big Wheel, we actually see that...... OMG GEDDY LEE CANS SING. He's quite a good singer when it comes to softer rock.
The album could be called a concept album due to song names all related to gambling. Gambling is a metaphor for life because of the risks we all take in our lives. Some of the songs have brilliant lyrics. One from Bravado is, "we will pay the price but we will not count the cost" saying that even if we make some mistakes in our lives (relating it to loses in casino gambling. Which seems a little superficial but I think it works), we will persevere, take our loses and move on. Or in Roll The Bones, the title track:
We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That's the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones
Keeping with the theme of "circumstances" as in many previous Rush songs, Neil Peart is saying that lady luck is unpredictable and we can't dwell on the idea of fate.
Anyway, probably some of their best lyrical work.
The music, for the most part, is soft rock. There are some upbeat parts of songs but the album is very relaxing and pleasing to the ears. Geddy Lee makes use of his moog synth to fill up the sound and guide the melody. You won"t hear very many crazy drum fills from Neil Peart or screaming guitar solos from Alex Lifeson but instead, well written and put together songs.
Some notable tracks:
DREAMLINE: The first track on the album and one of the best. Begins with a trippy sounding guitar riff and breaks into a very melodic verse. You can clearly hear Alex Lifeson's creativity with basic rhythms. The song has some excellent drumming and bass playing as usual and an excellent, tasteful guitar solo. The song is about being young and free and following your dreams to all parts of the earth, much like some people do by gambling. However while some follow their dreams to Las Vegas, Neil Peart would rather follow his dreams to a recording studio.
BRAVADO: This song is absolutely beautiful. It has a very strong beat, melodic guitar playing, And who knew Geddy Lee could sing like that. This is definitely my favorite song on the album.
ROLL THE BONES: The title track and possibly the most questionable song on the album. In any review of this album, the only thing that they can knock about it is... the rap breakdown. I have no idea what they were thinking putting rap into a progressive album. I don't really mind it but it kind of ruins an excellent song. The guitar solo is beautiful but then it goes into the rapping. Geddy begins to sing after some rapping and you think "please, let him keep singing, no more rap" but then there's more rap. This song is still a 4/5 but without the rap part it would be 5/5. I really like the bits of synth; they aren't overwhelming and add to the mood.
THE BIG WHEEL: Begins with a keyboard riff that sounds pretty cool and goes into some typical rush rock and roll which is pretty sweet, especially some of the trademark Alex Lifeson major chord riffs which are welcome in any Rush song. The Best part of the song is the chorus, though. The contrast between the rock and roll verses and the chorus which is very melodic is very pleasing to the ears. Geddy Lee makes good use of synth throughout the song which enhances it but you don't really notice it.
GHOST OF A CHANCE: Most rock radio stations play this song at least twice a week, I"m sure you've heard it if you listen to radio. I really like the guitar riff at the beginning and really really like the song up until the tempo change. The song goes from upbeat rock to a slow, beautiful vocally driven part with some great clean guitar fills and extremely tight drums and bass. The guitar solo is spectacular. Not one untasteful part in it. Anybody would love this song.
The rest of the songs are good but I just wanted to list the most notable songs in my opinion.
I gave it a 4/5 because I love most of the songs on it but there is room for improvement. I was really leaning towards 4.5, though.