Analog Adventures: A Farewell to Kings

Rush

A Farewell to Kings

(1977)

About the Artist

Rush humbly began as a hard rock band in 1968 in Toronto, Canada. The band became modestly successful on the radio with the song Working Man. The song received heavy promotion through Cleveland radio, who thought the band could be the next Led Zeppelin. This era of the band is an outlier, as the rest of their career takes a different trajectory. This is due to original drummer John Rutsey needing to retire from the band due to health complications. Guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee immediately began searching for a new drummer. This search opened the door for Neil Peart to join the band. His audition impressed the band so much that they felt embarrassed for the next audition since they had already decided that he would be the new drummer.

The bands shift from bluesy hard rock to literary progressive rock came as a surprise, but a pleasant one none the less. Their first album with Peart is Fly By Night, a mixture of personal memoirs and fantasy themes. Critics at the time did not understand the bands new direction and did not care for the record. Critics later began to understand the originality and creativity of the bands new progressive rock style. The band hit their stride with 1976s magnum opus 2112. The album describes a futuristic dystopia where individual expression is banned and only through the power of music can individuality be saved. Peart’s writing would guide the band to the top of the rock world with each album upping the expectations.

The Record Itself

A Farewell to Kings represents the band opening up their sound literally and metaphorically. Portions of the album are recorded outdoors to prevent the contained sound previous records contained. Instead of muffled and compressed effects, you have instruments that ring out and decay naturally. You also hear birds that populate the area around the studio on Xanadu. The songs themselves are a testament to the band and their most experimental, utilizing synthesizers, pitched percussion, medieval timbres on acoustic guitars, all while tying it back to the domineering power of progressive rock. This leads to many of the songs primarily being instrumentals; Xanadu takes five minutes before Geddy Lee joins the band with his voice. Lee’s keyboards soar through out the album, with variety being the strength of his synth selection.

Progressive rock can be rather difficult to get into, especially if the listener is not expecting it. Time changes, unusual song structure, and experimental timbres and tones can be off putting, but they can also reward the listener with surprise and depth that is not present in more traditional genres. The last track on the album is the first part in a concept that is resumes on the follow up album Hemispheres. Cygnus X1 is the tale of a space traveler that gets sucked into a black hole. This song is a pocket symphony, exploring different themes and movements in the span of 10 minutes.

Is it Worth It?

Rush is perhaps the best known progressive rock band of all time, and for good reason. Their literary themes, poetic lyrics, virtuosic performances, and just good music makes the genre accessible to everybody. The band strikes a balance of deep cuts and radio friendly songs such as Closer to the Heart on A Farewell to Kings. The influence of Neil Peart in particular is best remembered as a man who believed in the good of humanity, that when presented with a challenge of spirit and will, good will always win. His influence will live forever as an inspiration to not only musicians, but to fans forever. For a modest asking price on a decent used copy, this record is essential for any music fan.

Outstanding Tracks

  • A Farewell to Kings
  • Xanadu
  • Cygnus X1

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Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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