If you’ve been following my recent blog entries (or if you just care to scroll down the list of articles right now!), you’ll know I’ve been going through a bit of a “Rush Renaissance” lately.
I first got into these guys back in high school (of course), almost 18 years ago. My interest in them waned after I moved on to more obscure progressive rock bands, but by the early part of this decade, after I had bored of most prog rock, I actually found myself drawn back to Rush, and I’ve listened to them more than any of the other bands in this nebulous genre over the past five years. But something clicked a month or so ago, and I’ve rekindled an obsession with the band that may in fact be even stronger than it was at its peak when I was a scrawny teenager with a learner’s permit.
On Sunday, much to my surprise, I actually heard “New World Man” on KQRS. While it’s certainly not that unusual for Rush to be on the radio, I don’t believe I’d ever heard this particular track on the airwaves.
Inspired by this radio surprise, I started to think about what might go onto a CD of the band that I could use to introduce new people to their music. Personally, my first exposure was listening to the live A Show of Hands album in its entirety. Even though most prog maniacs generally consider the band’s 1977 to 1981 period (from A Farewell to Kings through Moving Pictures) to be its best, I think the end of that period, overlapping into the next, say, from 1980’s Permanent Waves through 1985’s Power Windows, is best for an introduction. The early ’80s songs are a bit more accessible to an unindoctrinated ear than what preceded, yet they are of higher quality than the weaker material of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
With that in mind, I’ve prepared a track list for a 79-minute CD spanning from 1980 through 1985 (with a nod to the earlier era at the end), that I think would serve as a near-ideal introduction to the band for a new listener. Here we go:
- The Spirit of Radio (Permanent Waves, 1980)
- Limelight (Moving Pictures, 1981)
- Subdivisions (Signals, 1982)
- Tom Sawyer (Moving Pictures, 1981)
- Distant Early Warning (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)
- Marathon (Power Windows, 1985)
- New World Man (Signals, 1982)
- YYZ (Moving Pictures, 1981)
- Freewill (Permanent Waves, 1980)
- Natural Science (Permanent Waves, 1980)
- The Enemy Within (Part I of ‘Fear’) (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)
- The Weapon (Part II of ‘Fear’) (Signals, 1982)
- Witch Hunt (Part III of ‘Fear’) (Moving Pictures, 1981)
- La Villa Strangiato (Hemispheres, 1978)
We start off with some of the band’s most accessible (and, once upon a time, popular) tracks. I’ve heard all of the first four tracks with some regularity on classic rock radio. Next we move into a few of the great but probably less familiar mid-’80s tracks. After a couple more “fan favorites,” I move into longer pieces that hint at what a new listener will discover if they go back into the extended late ’70s tracks, including the “Fear” trilogy that is rarely heard together in sequence.
OK, Rush fan(s). Let’s hear what you think!