Reissue packs in remarkable performances
For those born in the ’60s and ’70s, guess what? Rush’s Permanent Waves turned forty this year. Don’t worry, it’s alright to feel old.
Permanent Waves marked a turning point in the music of Rush, a 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and consisting of guitarist Alex Lifeson, vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee and legendary drummer Neil Peart. The album can be viewed as a shift in the band’s production towards more radio-friendly compositions and away from their more progressive rock roots, a shift that is readily apparent in the first two tracks (aptly named) “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” These tracks embody the glamour and energy that would pave the way for the rock of the ’80s as bright riffs intermingle with pronounced vocals and crashing cymbals.
Despite this shift in the band’s sound, the latter portion of the album assures listeners to worry not and keep the faith that Rush can still break out the progressive tunes to which fans have become accustomed to. “Natural Science” is a long and intense testament to the beautiful experimental endeavors of the band, especially under the guidance of producer Terry Brown, and “Different Strings” provides a similar realization.
This reissue provides listeners with a gorgeously remastered version of the album itself, in addition to twelve live recordings of alluring performances. The live recordings are primarily from shows in the UK and one in Missouri. While the album itself has been remastered to draw deserved attention to the thoughtfully layered instrumentals and the observed shift in composition from the band, the 40th Anniversary release is most valuable for its inclusion of these live tracks which are a display of some of the most talented musicians to ever reach the mainstream. While other popular bands of the period relied heavily on big hair, pyrotechnic spectacles and loud persistence, Rush showcases in these live tracks the remarkable musical talent among all of its members.
The first live track is a performance of “Beneath, Between & Behind” from Manchester, and it is very much an instrumental marvel to behold. The winding riffs and handsome cohesion of instrumentals and vocals are some of Rush’s best, and Lifeson’s guitar playing is spectacular. Perhaps the highest point of these live performances is a Manchester rendition of “The Trees” from their 1978 Hemispheres album that preceded Permanent Waves. This rendition is an absolutely incredible display of instrumental prowess: Lee’s vocals are simply stunning, Lifeson’s measures are sharp and well-polished and Peart’s immaculate drumming and energetic fills leave no doubt that he is undeniably one of the greatest drummers to ever pick up a pair of sticks. This particular track shows Rush at their peak chemistry and could not be a better example of a group being on the same wavelength during a live performance.
This reissue is not only a revival of one of Rush’s most significant albums, but also a display of their unmatched instrumental ability. The live tracks serve as an homage to Lee’s vocals, which rival any of the great ’80s vocalists, as well as Lifeson’s brilliant strumming and Peart’s legendary drumming. Rush fans, rock fans and, frankly, any admirer of the musical craft will thoroughly enjoy a listen of this reissue. So sit back, relax and tap into the pinnacle of Canada’s finest.