Rush: Classic or Dud?

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"Grace," "Power" and "Fire" ironically feature some of Lifeson's best guitar playing, IMO, a nice showcase for his lead rhythm player duties with some awesome solos tossed in. But yeah, when you combine synth washes with guitar designed to sound like synth washes, you're bound to get lost in the mix a little.

Saw this interview online:

In recent years, your albums have gotten a lot more guitar-oriented. The ’80s got a little synthy.


The transition, if you want to call it that, to more guitar-oriented albums — where does that come from?

It’s probably a reaction to what we were doing in the ’80s, when we started incorporating keyboards into our sound. It was still a very new thing, and that’s what really connected to us. But I think, once we got though the ’80s, we realized we went as far as we could with that. The real core part of the band is really in the three pieces — and really in the guitar. And in looking back, strictly for scheduling purposes, we put the keyboard down before we put the guitar down. So that made things a lot more restrictive for me and I had to work around a sound spectrum that was already occupied by keyboards. And I think, as a reaction to that, in the ’80s I went for a much wirier, thinner, clear trebly active pickup sound. In that period, I think that was just a response to the density of what the keyboard was doing.

Around the early ’90s, though, we all made this conscious effort to step away from keyboards, especially Geddy, which you would think would be unusual. But I think he’d had it and felt very confined in his area of the stage with keys and stuff. I mean, even with stuff we’re writing now, I have been the one kind of introducing some keyboard lines. Part of that reaction was replacing keyboard stuff with guitar parts — Vapor Trails, for example, has so much layered guitar stuff and it’s fun to do. And even Snakes and Arrows has a lot of layering and it’s great fun to do, and I love listening to it and I love doing it. But it makes it harder to really not depend on a lot of triggers and samples and stuff like that playing it live. But as I was saying, even now, where I want to bring some more keyboard back in, I am getting a lot of resistance from Geddy.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 2 July 2010 02:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

hey does anyone know anything about max webster?

― Q and Not Gucci (upper mississippi sh@kedown)

I saw Max Webster open for Rush in '79, but sadly I can't remember a single thing about them.

Lostandfound, Friday, 2 July 2010 05:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

"The real core part of the band is really in the three pieces — and really in the guitar."

Thank you.

Chicago to Philadelphia: "Suck It" (Bill Magill), Friday, 2 July 2010 14:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

Total agreement. I wasn't a big fan until I saw them live and realized that Alex Lifeson is the secret weapon.

Nate Carson, Friday, 2 July 2010 19:12 (eight years ago) Permalink


the reverend dr. william wiggins (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 2 July 2010 19:15 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm kind of surprised that Alex wanted to bring the synths back and Geddy shut him down.

Moodles, Friday, 2 July 2010 19:42 (eight years ago) Permalink

Well there's plenty of synth on the new singles. So obviously this has worked itself out.

Nate Carson, Friday, 2 July 2010 20:30 (eight years ago) Permalink

Finally got round to seeing this, glad I was watching it at home on my own so I could air-drum to my heart's content. Dunno why people on this thread are saying they come across as weirdos, a bit standoff-ish maybe but watching the RushCon footage who can blame them? Anyway, what a great film, I really can't think of another megaband where none of the members have drug issues / mental health issues / hate each other, it's nice to see a rock band doc that isn't essentially a Behind The Music horror show. Shame they didn't mention the Alex Lifeson new years eve arrest from a couple of years ago though.

A prog venn diagram for you to think about (Matt #2), Sunday, 4 July 2010 16:46 (eight years ago) Permalink

For a band currently touring for no good reason, I really wish they weren't playing "Moving Pictures" in its entirety and instead dusted off even more stuff they've rarely if ever played before. But nice to see "Marathon" back in rotation, even if I was hoping for a deep '80s cut like "The Enemy Within."

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 4 July 2010 20:00 (eight years ago) Permalink

I've never seen them live, but this looks like a fabulous sample of many of my favorites. Set List from June 29 show in Albuqurque:

Set One
The Spirit Of Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Workin' Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone

Set Two
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Drum Solo
Closer To The Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx
Far Cry

La Villa Strangiato
Working Man

Fastnbulbous, Sunday, 4 July 2010 20:08 (eight years ago) Permalink

Oh, it's a great setlist, a mix of old and new. I guess I'll see how it plays tomorrow night.

BTW, the shift in guitar sound through the '80s no doubt had a lot to do with Alex's switch to Strat (like every other effects monster in the '80s). These days he's back to Gibsons and a thicker sound. Same with Geddy, for that matter, who is using good ol' Fenders rather than those sci-fi basses he favored in that decade.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 4 July 2010 20:45 (eight years ago) Permalink

Not to be gear dude, but "those sci-fi basses" were Wals, which were fantastic-sounding (in a Fenderish vein) instruments and not fusion toys, and Geddy only switched 'cause Mr. Wallace died.

Three Word Username, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 12:23 (eight years ago) Permalink

I liked the Wals at the time, but I far prefer the rich, growly tones he gets from his Fender basses, and I love his classic Rickenbacker as well. The Wals and Steinbergers, in retrospect, were a bit too punchy and thin for my taste.

Moodles, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 12:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

The show last night was incredible. I think I need to find a way to go back on Wednesday

Stormy Davis, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 18:10 (eight years ago) Permalink

Finally bought the movie this weekend, will be digging in on my day off tomorrow.

Certainly have to offer a big "fuck off" to B3st Buy over this, btw. That was the only local place that had it (other than B@rnes & Nobl3 where it was thirty bucks!) and it was to be on sale for like 15 bucks first week of release. Stopped by on the day of release, said they'd only got one copy in and it sold right away. Since it was right next door to where I was working, I stopped by several times to see if it was in yet. Never showed up, until the day AFTER the sale price ended and suddenly they had 30+ copies. I hate when places pull stuff like that.

[end rant, back to Rush talk]

he's always been a bit of an anti-climb Max (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Tuesday, 6 July 2010 18:35 (eight years ago) Permalink

Plus those superstores buy product at a discount so the filmmakers get an even smaller cut when you buy that way. Amazon is the same deal. Buy direct whenever you can.

Anyway, yes I studied the set list from opening night and have to say I could not be much more excited. I don't care about seeing Moving Pictures particularly but the rest of the set is an outstanding selection.

Nate Carson, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 20:09 (eight years ago) Permalink

Alex Lifeson talks about his new amp and the "steampunk" look of the Time Machine stage show.

Nate Carson, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 20:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm loving the Steampunk look. I can't believe I have to wait until September to see this show! Too long!!!

Moodles, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 21:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

Show last night was pretty good! Alex was a tad sloppy, but I was shocked by how many more fills and licks Neil and Geddy were fitting into the arrangements. Geddy in particular has gotten better than ever. Neil is so rudiment oriented now that he's super-efficient around the kit, which in turn makes all his extra kit seem that much sillier. Only time he used the electric half was for the solo, and my attitude is: if you have pieces that you just need for the solo, then you don't need it.

End of the show "I Love You, Man" sequel short is really funny, too.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 22:15 (eight years ago) Permalink

I wish they'd come to the Canadian prairies, but they rarely if ever do. Maybe it's because we don't have sheds.

And wow, are those amps ever cool.

A. Begrand, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 22:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

Seems like they slavishly tour the US and hit a few Canadian mega-markets and that's about it. Like, UK every 8 years, Brazil once ever. Japan once, ever. How weird.

Lucky for me anyway! :)

Nate Carson, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 23:36 (eight years ago) Permalink

Well, they play Chicago TWICE ... lucky me indeed :)

I am definitely going back tomorrow, by hook or by crook, I'll eat ramen for a month i don't care...

shocked by how many more fills and licks Neil and Geddy were fitting into the arrangements. Geddy in particular has gotten better than ever.

^^ this. of course I've always considered Rush a "musicians" band -- and last night was the third time I've seen them live -- but there was something about last night's show that was particularly, I dunno, "musicianly". Geddy in particular, not so much Neil. But yeah, Geddy was all over that bass in a way I don't really recall him being live. But it wasn't just flash for the sake of flash, it just was super neat playing. At times I thought I was at a Weather Report concert with Jaco or something, not a Rush show .. but all in a good way

Stormy Davis, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 00:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

"Marathon" was totally the highlight for me. pure bliss

(btw, I didn't even look at that setlist that Fastnbulbous posted ... No spoilers!!)

Stormy Davis, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 00:23 (eight years ago) Permalink

also, I was sitting directly behind the most awesome family, they'd driven up from mid-Indiana for the show. A couple and their 8 year old daughter. The girl was totally into the show and dancing and singing the whole time.. And she knew most of the words!! it was awesome...

Stormy Davis, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 00:42 (eight years ago) Permalink

the dad is in the white shirt top-right, looks like I missed him in my pic, oh well ... swell dude, he knew all of the lyrics too. the whole fam had pasted-on smiled for the whole three hours, as did I. good times

Stormy Davis, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 00:43 (eight years ago) Permalink

I can't believe I get to see Weird Al, Air Supply, and Rush all in the course of 5 days. I am blessed.

Nate Carson, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 02:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

Sorry, didn't mean to spoil. Here's setlist from 7/3 in Milwaukee, slightly different. I think of it more like having the program to a classical concert that rocks! I also downloaded the songs from the 90s on the setlist that I didn't know. Hard to get into them, but maybe I'll appreciate them more live.

Fastnbulbous, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 12:33 (eight years ago) Permalink

Plus those superstores buy product at a discount so the filmmakers get an even smaller cut when you buy that way. Amazon is the same deal. Buy direct whenever you can.

Yeah, I know I should have done this, but I was way too impatient for mail order on this one.

he's always been a bit of an anti-climb Max (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Wednesday, 7 July 2010 13:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

I can't believe I get to see Weird Al, Air Supply, and Rush all in the course of 5 days. I am blessed.

― Nate Carson, Tuesday, July 6, 2010 9:02 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark

How are you wrangling such a monumental feat? I had a fleeting thought of Weird Al and Air Supply collaborating on "All Out of Gloves"

an outlet to express the dark invocations of (La Lechera), Wednesday, 7 July 2010 13:44 (eight years ago) Permalink

Air Supply is at Spirit Mountain Casino. I'm taking my Mom for her birthday, but also the guitar player of Witch Mountain is equally excited and going with me.

Weird Al is a the Roseland.

Rush is up in the greater Seattle area.

So there's some driving to be done on my part (and I do have to spring for the Air Supply tix). Otherwise, it's just good timing!

Nate Carson, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 19:19 (eight years ago) Permalink

So it rained really hard from 6:45 to 7:30, then it stopped or sprinkled. Bought an $11 can of beer, got our seat, and at 8:00 they canceled the show, saying the forecast saw thunderstorms in another half hour. That's not what we saw on the weather radar. Sure enough, it's after 10 and still no storms. I thought that venue's policy was rain or shine. They said they would reschedule, but I don't know when they can. What a let down.

Fastnbulbous, Thursday, 8 July 2010 03:15 (eight years ago) Permalink

That's a real shame...I'd be devastated.

A. Begrand, Thursday, 8 July 2010 03:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

"I liked the Wals at the time, but I far prefer the rich, growly tones he gets from his Fender basses, and I love his classic Rickenbacker as well. The Wals and Steinbergers, in retrospect, were a bit too punchy and thin for my taste."

Not to be gear dude again, but I'm guessing that you've never played a Steinberger or Wal bass. I suggest that the less impressive bass sound you're hearing was more a result of the synths bogarting all the good frequencies.

Three Word Username, Thursday, 8 July 2010 06:59 (eight years ago) Permalink

It certainly may have a bit to do with the production of the time. Those late 80s/early 90s Rush albums have a distinctive lack of low-end compared with their more recent recordings.

However, there was definitely a trend at that time toward basses with active pickups, very clean tones, graphite basses with no bodies (Steinbergers), and a twangy/punchy quality. It was all about a sharp clean tone with little or no distortion.

On their last bunch of albums, the bass really fills out the low-end, it sounds fuller and somewhat distorted. Part of this has to do with changes in the way Geddy Lee plays. He used to pick each note with individual fingers, in a more traditional bass style. Now you'll see him strumming the notes in an up and down motion using his whole hand a lot of the time. However, I still contend that the move to Fender basses is a major contributing factor in the overall improvement of the bass sound over the last 10-15 years.

Moodles, Thursday, 8 July 2010 12:39 (eight years ago) Permalink

Don't know why I know this, but Geddy used to use "Funkmaster" strings, in the '80s, and now I presume does not. Plus, he uses Fender jazz basses, which I also presume it what helps him boost the bottom rather than ride on top.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 8 July 2010 12:48 (eight years ago) Permalink

Taking that as confirmation on never having actually played a Steinberger or Wal, then.

Three Word Username, Thursday, 8 July 2010 14:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm not exactly sure what your point is. Are you saying Wals and Steinbergers sound exactly like Fenders? Or even like each other? They all have distinctive sounds.

FWIW, I haven't played those basses, although I'd say that my Modulus has a lot in common tonally with Wals. But I'm not really sure why it would matter either way. I have ears and I can tell the difference between these various basses.

I think that both the Steinbergers and the Wals sound good. I prefer the Wals over the Steinbergers and I prefer the Fenders over both. It is my personal opinion that Fenders are better suited for a rock sound. Geddy Lee's move back to Fenders coincided with the band's move back to a more hard rocking sound. I believe he changed for exactly this reason, but feel free to disagree.

Moodles, Thursday, 8 July 2010 14:30 (eight years ago) Permalink

My point is that your idea of what these instruments sound like is based on reading magazines and listening to records and not on any actual experience with the instruments. I was startled by how "old fashioned" (in a good way) and, well, ROCK the two Wals I have played sounded -- not at all like the Modulii (an M-92 and an old Quantum V) I have played did. Similarly, Steinbergers are not TURBOTWANG IN YER FACE instruments, as their continued use in reggae (and nearly nowhere else) will indicate. Steinberger and Wal no longer make new instruments and no longer have marketing departments, and the availability of a well-made instrument and the strength of a marketing department have much more to do with what instruments a star bassist says he uses or actually uses than you would believe.

Three Word Username, Thursday, 8 July 2010 15:17 (eight years ago) Permalink

i just saw DEVO last weekend, first time i'd seen a steinberger in a LONG time

the reverend dr. william wiggins (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 8 July 2010 15:25 (eight years ago) Permalink

I get that the sound that ends up on record is a combination of instruments, amps, and recording techniques, and that perhaps in "real life" these basses can sound much better. However, I think there is no denying that the basses on all the Rush albums from Grace Under Pressure through Roll The Bones have a very clean and twangy sound and often lack depth. The fact that these were the albums on which Geddy used the Steinbergers and Wals, leads me to make the (possibly spurious or just plain ignorant) assumption that those basses have something to with the sound as recorded. Am I really off-base here?

Likewise, Alex Lifeson played Signature guitars on a bunch of these albums. I have in fact played these, and they did actual sound every bit as thin and terrible in "real life". I think his change back to Gibsons, PRSs, and Fenders helped fix this. Maybe I'm just smoking crack...

Would their last bunch of albums have sounded better if they just stuck with their late 80s gear?

Moodles, Thursday, 8 July 2010 15:34 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm glad DEVO came up on this thread. I wore my 2112 backpatch at the DEVO show last year and got A LOT of love from that crowd. Big-time nerd crossover between those 2 bands.

As for all this bass gear talk--way to take a nerdy thread to new depths. Fancy a game of Magic, anyone? ;)

Nate Carson, Thursday, 8 July 2010 20:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

I can't help it. I'm a bass nerd and I basically learned how to play by being in a Rush cover band in the late 80s/early 90s and trying to immitate Geddy Lee's sound as much as I could, so it is a passionate topic for me, boring to everyone else.

Moodles, Thursday, 8 July 2010 20:56 (eight years ago) Permalink

As for another nerdy intersection, I hail from Akron, the not very fabled land of DEVO and former Akron mayor Tom Sawyer, who is...wait for it...

my father.

ghee hee hee (La Lechera), Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:11 (eight years ago) Permalink

So much for his mind not being for rent by any government, then.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

you make the joke, i've probably heard it

ghee hee hee (La Lechera), Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:13 (eight years ago) Permalink

wait La Lechera, I was born in Akron and go there almost every year for the holidays

"Don't forget to bring a juggalo towel!" (HI DERE), Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:21 (eight years ago) Permalink

You are all part of a secret government project to create Rush/Devo fans.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:22 (eight years ago) Permalink

Really? He was mayor from '83-'86 iirc. The guy who was mayor after him has been mayor ever since.
uh oh someone has figured out my secret plot.

ghee hee hee (La Lechera), Thursday, 8 July 2010 21:24 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm kind of uncomfortable with Rush new status as a cool band

Shin Oliva Suzuki, Thursday, 8 July 2010 22:13 (eight years ago) Permalink

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