Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month transitions to an even bigger celebration with 'The Case for Christ'

I'm kind of sad that March is Mostly Mets Reading Month is coming to a close. There are still so many books to talk about and stories to tell.

But today's entry will help as we ease into the next celebration, followed by yet another on Monday.

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Published in 1998

Would you give your life to defend something you knew was a lie?

It was one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever covered. A missionary family from a Grand Rapids suburb was working in South America, flying in a small plane that the government mistakenly believed was being used by drug smugglers.

The authorities opened fire on the plane, and a shot ripped through the fuselage, killing the mother and infant daughter she was holding in her lap.

I was assigned to cover the funeral, and was amazed at how some of my fellow journalists were behaving and how well the church staff was handling the international attention, mourning in front of a wall of cameras.

A couple days after the funeral I wrote a note to the pastor, thanking him and his staff for being so helpful during what I knew was a very difficult and emotional time.

A short while later an envelope arrived in the newsroom with a nice note from the pastor and the book, “The Case for Christ, A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus,” by Lee Strobel. I was intrigued by the surprise gift, and was hooked.

Strobel was a cops and courts reporter for the Chicago Tribune and an atheist. His wife in 1979 became a believer and he was amazed by her transformation. Still a skeptic, he dove headfirst into an exhaustive investigation to prove whether or not Jesus existed and whether the details of his life that we celebrate this week were, in fact, true.

It’s a fascinating story as he travels the country, grilling experts and historians. Along the way he weaves in stories about events he covered over the course of his career, and how they might apply to the next line of questioning.

He comes to a startling conclusion – and you can consider this a spoiler alert:

“The atheism I had embraced for so long buckled under the weight of historical truth. It was a stunning and radical outcome, certainly not what I had anticipated when I had embarked on this investigative process. But this was, in my opinion, a decision compelled by the facts.”

I was moved by the gift and the story, and admire the way it was told. So much so, that I required it in the journalism classes I teach. I’m an adjunct at a Christian college, so this is OK. And if you want to make college students happy, tell them that you can find copies of their newly assigned textbook on Amazon for under $1. In classes where I don’t get to select the textbooks, I read aloud passages, especially the sections where Strobel describes the people he interviews and their offices.

I want the students to see how this acclaimed journalist went about his craft, and know that our work can have a tremendous impact on our readers – and, on a good day, ourselves.

Now, to get back to the question at the top of today’s post. One of the most fascinating interviews in the book looks at the disciples and their lives after the resurrection. If that resurrection, and all the other aspects of Christ’s life, were false, they would know. Nearly all were put to death after spending their days telling people about what they had experienced. No one, he argues, gives their life for something they know is false. 

Your reading list:

March 5: "Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century" by Marc Okkenon
March 4: "Clemente! The Enduring Legacy" by Kal Wagenheim 
March 3: "Mets by the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman
March 2: "Faith and Fear in Flushing" by Greg W. Prince

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rush R40 Countdown at No. 9: Was 'Hemispheres' remaster cover art given 'Smell the Glove' treatment?

We're in the Top 10 of our R40 Countdown of Rush's albums from "least-glorious" to "Moving Pictures," and we're starting to see some big differences of opinion. And, watch for "Spinal Tap" references.

No. 9: “Hemispheres”
Released in 1978

Highlights: “Cygnus X-1, Book Two: Hemispheres,” “Circumstances.”

Least glorious moment: The album cover

Cool Neil Peart lyrical moment:

“We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim

Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear sensibility
Armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united
In a single, perfect, sphere”
-- "Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres, Part VI The Sphere, a Kind of Dream" 

Like “2112,” “Hemispheres” is anchored by an epic, classic song that takes up an entire side of the album.

And also like “2112,” this release originally was ranked higher in my countdown but was passed by as others moved up as I listen to the albums all over again.

That’s no slight to “Hemispheres,” because we’re moving into the upper reaches of the countdown.

The epic continues the character “Cygnus X-1” from “A Farewell to Kings” with a story about conflict between the gods of love and reason as they battle for the fate of man. You know, typical Rush stuff.

The first of the song’s seven sections – “Prelude” – is as great as prog-era Rush gets. The part where Geddy’s bass seems to take over the melody is pure magic.
The more familiar cover.

So here’s what confuses me: As far as I can tell, Rush stopped playing the song, other than a snippet during the “R30 Overture.” The classic first sections of “2112” have been concert staples. “Hemispheres,” has been relatively ignored for 20 years.

(I originally thought that the song hadn't been played since the Permanent Waves Tour, but the kind folks at The Rush Forum noted that it was last played in 1994 on the Counterparts Tour, which Geddy seeming to struggle with the high notes.)

The album has only three other songs and two of the three – “The Trees” and “La Villa Strangiato” – are played frequently, and they’re all strong. “Circumstances” was revived for the “Snakes & Arrows” tour.

So the mystery remains of why the band has continued to ignore what might be its best epic.

The album didn’t perform as well on the charts compared with other Rush releases, peaking at No. 47. The band resisted changing after “Caress of Steel” receded on the charts, but switched gears after “Hemispheres” with glorious results.

OK, now let’s get to the cover. There’s a naked guy on there. I get the whole right side/left side of the brain thing, with the stuffy suited guy on one side and the naked, creative guy on the other. Now, there is no more insecure being on the planet than a teenage boy.  And when 98 percent of your audience is guys, well, a design like that isn’t going to sell too many T-shirts.
Here's a great -- and rare -- live version of "Circumstances."

When the remastered edition came out years later, the CD came with the usual booklet, and also a second with a black cover, with just the distinctive wordmark and album title. Did some at the label think Rush needed to “Smell the Glove?”

And Will jumps in:

So what you're saying, Dave, is that if Rush had thrown a naked babe on there, it might have sold better with pimply faced youths from Long Gisland who can't reconcile the strange sensations they experience when they see a naked man? And how did the cover of All the World's a Stage strike you or was that OK because the naked man in question there was part of the 2112 logo and, thus, automatically acceptable, because it was badass cool? 

Dave again: All I'm saying was that the next album cover did have an attractive female on the cover, and it did sell better! But that's later in the countdown.

Back to Will:

Personally, I had a harder time with the photo on the back of the 2112 album cover, but we've already discussed that.

After a first half where our choices were very similar, we're starting to diverge more, like, well, two halves of a perfect sphere.

No. 9: Test for Echo
Released in 1996

While I would say that it's even money that we'll hear at least something off Dave's choice--my guess is part of "La Villa," but even a snippet of Hemispheres would be awesome--I further would bet that of any of Rush's albums, the one most likely to not be represented at all is my selection. Dave talked about a lack of Rush playing the title track of his album since its release, but since the Test for Echo Tour in 1996/97, Rush has played exactly two songs from "Test for Echo:" "Driven" in 2002 and an acoustic "Resist" in 2004. The ONLY Rush album less represented in the set lists over the same time is "Caress of Steel."

For a long time, I didn't get why this would be the case. It's a damn good album, although, I must admit, it slid a bit upon further examination--and only because everything I have above it is better. I liked "Test for Echo" almost in its entirety right away, and it marked a return to the more atmospheric sound that I loved so much before "Counterparts."

Now I know why (or I think I know why), and it's the same reason why I expect to not hear Afterimage on this tour as well: Neil doesn't want to have anything to do with it, and not unreasonably so. Yes, it's been almost 20 years, but "Test for Echo" was the last album Rush did before Neil's life fell apart with his daughter and wife dying with a span of a year. I can't imagine, even though things are much better for him now, that he ever feels like going back and re-examining these songs even if his anguish isn't as acute. It's not as if he has to. "Test for Echo" wasn't a huge selling album, so there aren't any songs they HAVE to play, and when you have a canon as large as Rush's, you can skip as much as like and not short-change anyone.

It's too bad, because this album makes me think of happy times. In fact, the first time I ever heard the title track was a great day I remember well. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1996. That year, my now-ex had a new job with little vacation time accrued, most of which was going to be burned up by a vacation to New England. I had a ton of time, so I was able to take extra days off. I decided one Monday to take a day off and hit all of the card stores in Columbus that I'd never visited before. (For the kids in the audience, card stores were actual stores where retailers sold baseball cards back before the Internet changed/ruined everything. If you're in a really big city, you might see one of these dinosaurs slinking off into the desert.)

I went to seven locations, two of which had closed, two of which became regular stops over the years (but since have closed). I was finding a lot of good stuff and having a pretty good day just being a little kid, although the weather was somewhat overcast and drizzly when I finally arrived at Hilliard, which is on the West Side of town and almost as far away as you could get from where I lived while still being in the Columbus metropolitan area. That's when the sky opened up.

I had just made a small buy when the rain came down in buckets. Even making the 50-foot dash to my car in the parking lot would've soaked me to the bone, and, more important, it would've soaked the batch of 1994 Fleers I'd just bought to fill in my Will Set. So I waited inside the door for the rain to let up, which it finally did after about 20 minutes. In the parking lot were puddles the size of Lake Erie, and I might have gotten a soaker or two before reaching my car.

I went to another store in Hilliard, and when I came out of that store--with hands empty, alas--the day was rapidly turning into a beautiful September evening. It was warm, with the sun beginning to set and huge white clouds of the storm that passed through framed against a bright blue sky. The roads were adorned with large puddles, but the sunlight shown orange through the green-leaf-bedecked trees. I had Q-FM on my radio, and Test for Echo came on. My ex had heard it once or twice already--she listened to the radio more than I did--but I hadn't. The shimmery tones of Alex's guitar seemed to represent precisely the change in weather, and as the song built--and I realized I loved it instantly. I called my ex at the next stop--she was home from work by now--saying I was about to head home, and I'd heard the new Rush song. We went out to dinner that night, and I remember feeling happy. I'd had a really good day, and Rush was definitely a part of it.

And no one will be more shocked than I if I get to relive it in June by Rush blowing the dust off the title track and giving it a go once more.

Your R40 Countdown so far:

No. 15: Fly by Night (Dave) and Counterparts (Will)

No. 16: Vapor Trails (Both of us)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month: 'The Happiest Recap' and shameful streaks

We're running out of days in March is Mostly Mets Reading Month. But today's entry reminds us that even the least-legendary Mets can create a memory of a lifetime.

The Happiest Recap, First Base: 1962-1973 by Greg W. Prince
Published 2012

Every game the Mets win is a treasure to behold.

Some are extra special, like the pennant clinchers or the two historic games that allowed the team to claim the title “World Champions.”

Some are also special, but not for obvious reasons.

Greg, who is celebrating the 10th anniversary the glorious “Faith and Fear in Flushing” blog he co-writes, is telling us about 500 interesting victories in the Mets storied history.

And as Greg explains in the book – the first of four in a series – the games he’s looking for could be highlighted for introducing us to a new character, be marked by an amazing team or individual effort, or “games that left behind images that defy erasure.”

The title, as any veteran Mets fan will recognize, comes legendary broadcaster Bob Murphy’s post-game summary when things went well. And because it’s Greg, you know it will be well-written and enjoyable and hit any true Mets fan right in the heart.

Alas, there was a long, dark stretch where there were no happy recaps for me, at least when I saw the Mets play in person. How long, and how dark, you might ask? Try a 17-year span between the July 21, 1991 victory over to the Dodgers at Shea to a momentous July 20, 2008 win over the Reds in Cincy.

It was heartbreaking and nearly unbearable. I’d watch the Mets lose at Shea and on the road, in Subway Series games at both New York Stadiums and Opening Day in Miami. I saw them get clobbered by the Tigers 14-0 at one Detroit stadium and 15-7 in another.

I saw them lose from a perch in the press box in Cincy and the upper deck at Wrigley.

This became known as “The Streak of Shame,” a period to be debated and chronicled. Pretty much, if I showed up, the Mets lost – for 11 straight games.

Finally, the streak came to its end in an unlikely place at the hands of an unlikely player.

The Baseball Truth gang got together for our annual baseball road trip on July 19, 2008, again in Cincy with the Mets in the house. The Mets lost of course, 7-2.

That was a Saturday night, and the Mets were in town the next day for a Sunday afternoon game. I decided to grab a ticket and attend, then make the six-hour trip home to Grand Rapids.

Unlike nearly all the other games, I didn’t attend with friends or family. This was just me and the Mets.

The team went ahead early, up 4-1 in the fourth inning. Of course the Reds tied it up, and then went ahead in the sixth. The familiar gloom was setting in.

But the Mets tied it up in the seventh, and the game marched into extra innings.

Perhaps few of us remember Robinson Cancel, the Mets pudgy third-string catcher and pinch-hitter of last resort.

He led off with a double.

Jose Reyes dropped a sacrifice bunt to get him to third and beat the throw.

Few of us remember Argenis Reyes, a light-hitting backup infielder. He tapped a grounder that the Reds threw away, allowing Cancel to score. The first and more familiar Reyes later came around to score on another play.

To say I was excited doesn’t do justice to the pacing and weeping that was going on as Billy Wagner stepped to the mound.

Billy struck out the side, lifting his hands in the air and an enormous weight off this fan’s back.

I know the July 20, 2008 7-5 win over the Reds won’t make a future volume of Greg’s book, but it was the happiest recap for this fan.

Streak of Shame 1991-2008
1991 July 21, Mets 9, Dodgers 4
1993 April 18, Reds 3, Mets 2
1995 July 26, Cardinal 3, Mets 2
1995 Sept. 24, Marlins 4, Mets 3
1997 June 17, Yankees 6, Mets 3
1997 June 30 Tiger 14, Mets 0
1999 April 5, Marlins 6, Mets 2
2007 June 10, Tigers 15, Mets 7
2007 Aug. 4, Cubs 6, Mets 0
2008 April 21, Cubs 7, Mets 1
2008 June 28, Yankees 3, Mets 2
2008 July 19, Reds 7, Mets 2

2008 July 20, Mets 7, Reds 5

Your reading list:

March 5: "Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century" by Marc Okkenon
March 4: "Clemente! The Enduring Legacy" by Kal Wagenheim 
March 3: "Mets by the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman
March 2: "Faith and Fear in Flushing" by Greg W. Prince

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month: 'New York Mets, The First Quarter Century' as one author but many writers

Some books start out great and get even better. Today's March is Mostly Mets Reading Month entry in a way features many, many writers.

“The New York Mets, the First Quarter Century” by Donald Honig
Published in 1986.

I’m not sure which autograph came second. But the first came from my Mom.

“The New York Mets, the First Quarter Century” was a Christmas present from my parents in 1986, and Mom inscribed the first page.

In the nearly 30 years since, the book has been a constant companion to ballparks, spring training complexes and anywhere else I might encounter a current or former Mets.

It started with when we lived in Connecticut in the late 1980s, when baseball card shows started popping up with regularity and players appeared to sign autographs for a fee.  It was pretty reasonable at the time. For a couple dollars, you had the opportunity to meet Keith Hernandez, or Tommie Agee and have them sign a ball or photo.

I figured it would be neat to have players sign the book, which, as you can guess from the title, is the story of the team’s history, released during the 1986 season.  It’s branded the “official 25th anniversary book” and has lots of nice photos.

I started asking players to sign some of the title pages in the front, and it’s filled up over the years. Tom Seaver has a place of honor, and was the only one asked to personalize the signature.
Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, HoJo and other many others
are in the book.
Some pages have been reserved for special events. Members of the 1969 championship team appeared at a show on a pier in Manhattan, and a large number of players from the 1962 original Mets were at a show in a New York hotel.

After seeing the behavior of some of the professional autograph hounds at the ballgames, I liked bringing the book with me to spring training, when it seemed less imposing to approach players.

I actually met one of the former players in the stands in St. Lucie.

I noticed a gentleman standing behind the dugout during batting practice. I noticed that several coaches and team execs would come to the dugout, shake hands and chat with the guy.

I suspected he might be someone important, and slinked over with my Mets history book. I slipped a peek at the credential hanging around his neck, and saw this name.

"Are you Jay Hook, as in first-Mets-win Jay Hook?" I asked.

His face lit up, seemingly pleased that someone recognized him. He said he’d be happy to sign my book. We found a spot to sign, and I recalled that show with the 1962 team and wondered if he was there.

Hook said he didn’t recall such a show, and together we turned to the page and he went down the list, reading the names and talking about his former teammates.

When he realized for sure that his name wasn’t on that page, he said, "Well, we’d better take care of that!" and signed that one, too.
The 1962 page with both Bob Millers, "Marvelous Marv" and
other heroes from that inaugural year.
I’d guess there are more than 200 signatures in it now, from Hall of Famers like Gary Carter, Warren Spahn, Duke Snider and Richie Ashburn. It’s got owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon – met at a spring game in Vero Beach – and general managers, managers, coaches and broadcasters.

But some of my favorite signatures are the players whose time in the Mets universe was brief, Brent Mayne, Eric Cammack, Jorge Sosa and Scott Hairston. They’re all a part of our Mets history and in the book.

The rest of your reading list:

March 5: "Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century" by Marc Okkenon
March 4: "Clemente! The Enduring Legacy" by Kal Wagenheim 
March 3: "Mets by the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman
March 2: "Faith and Fear in Flushing" by Greg W. Prince

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rush R40 Countdown at No. 10: 'Presto,' 'Power Windows' and taking time to play all the songs

Will and I are continuing our countdown to what will be an epic Rush concert in June by ranking Rush albums from the least-glorious release to "Moving Pictures." Our selection of "2112" as pick number 11 was not well-received, Let's see what happens with No. 10.

No. 10: “Presto”
Released in 1989

Highlights: “Presto,” “The Pass,” “Superconductor”

Least-glorious moment: The last four seconds of “Chain Lightening.”

Cool Neil Peart lyrical moment:

“The evening plane rises up from the runway
Over constellations of light
I look down into a million houses
And wonder what you're doing tonight "
-- "Presto"

It’s so easy to skip through songs these days.

I think that ability might affect the way we listen to, and relate to, albums.

It used to be that I would think of music in terms of album “sides” instead of individual songs.

At first, skipping a song I didn’t care for required getting up, carefully picking up the needle on the spinning record, looking for the groove for the next song and carefully placing it down to avoid scratching the disc forever.

With the advent of cassettes, it meant clicking the “fast forward” button, guessing when it might have skipped through enough tape to get to the next song, then rewinding or fast forwarding again until I hit the beginning of the song I wanted.

Here's an amazing live version of "Presto."

But CDs require just a tap of a button on the stereo -- especially in the car, where I can flip through songs with my thumb on the steering wheel console. IPods demand even less effort after I’ve adjusted the playlist to stack the songs I like best up front.

In retrospect, the extra effort resulted in listening to songs that might not have appealed at first. You get to know them a little better through the repeated plays. Some songs required a little extra time to grow on you and allow their magic to shine through.

That might be one reason many of the 1980s era Rush albums are bunched in the top half of our countdown. And maybe I would have enjoyed later releases like “Vapor Trails” had I been forced listen to all the songs before skipping to “Earthshine.”

I think “Presto” was the last Rush album that I listened to primarily on cassette, and it’s not a surprise that I know all the songs well and like them a bunch – especially since my favorite song is all the way at the end of Side One.

Some of my new friends in The Rush Forum were aghast not only that we ranked “2112” at No. 11, but that we also both ranked it below “Presto.”

It’s a quirky transitional album, to be sure. There’s more of Alex’s guitar and less synths. It might not have many great songs, but it has a lot of really, really good songs.

There are some deep themes – “The Pass” deals with tragedy of teen suicide – but overall it’s a lighter feel than “Grace Under Pressure.”
"Presto" on cassette!
There is some interesting experimentation, too. “Scars” sounds like the boys were listening to some Frankie Goes to Hollywood. “Superconductor” is a rocker with a soaring synth chorus and I don’t understand why it’s not a concert staple today.

Even more surprising is that the title cut, which I think of as the centerpiece for the entire album, wasn’t played live until the 2010 “Time Machine” tour. It’s an amazing song; probably in my Rush top five. I was overjoyed to finally have a live version.

It’s a little different lyrical structure for Neil. He’s not telling a story or making a point, but instead offering a series of little, first-person vignettes that don’t seem to be connected. You see them all above because I couldn’t pick a section I liked best. Alex alternates acoustic and electric guitar parts, and Neil cracks the snare with loud snaps seemingly at random in some parts.

It all comes together in a special way, kind of like the album as a whole – as long as you take the time to listen to it and not skip ahead.

And Will joins the discussion:

Well, if they find it shocking that we have it above 2112, they'll really be shocked when they see my how the rest of my list shakes out. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I don't have it at No. 10.

No. 10: Power Windows
Released in 1985

Power Windows came out just as my departure from Rush began. It was the first album I didn't buy after Moving Pictures. I was already off Rush a bit from Grace Under Pressure, and when The Big Money hit MTV, and it sounded just like Distant Early Warning (or at least enough in my mind at the time), I said buenas noches, mein froinds!

Here's a killer live version of "Grand Designs" from "Power Windows."

In 1989, I was living in the suburbs of Chicago and slowly coming back to life after a brutal breakup the summer before. I had next to no money, so what little I had to spend on music had better be to my liking.

I couldn't afford to throw away $7 on a cassette tape, let alone $17 for a CD. (Records were gone from the suburban record stores.)

I was in Musicland one day when I saw that Rush--yes, they still were around after all--had released a live album: A Show of Hands. I perused the song list carefully and saw a few things I recognized: Witch Hunt, Closer to the Heart and Subdivisions. I also saw a lot I didn't, so I put the tape back down ... that day.

Not long after that, I really was in need of new music. All my favorite bands were dead, and what was going on with the rise of folky alternative rock, like 10,000 Maniacs and Fine Young Cannibals and Edie Brickell &New Bohemians, did nothing for me. I needed ... something!

So I went back to Musicland and bought A Show of Hands. What the heck: I'd gone to the live album well with Rush and it paid off each time. What could be the worst that happened? I'd have a live version of Subdivisions, one of my most favorite songs. It could be worse.

I don't remember the day, but I remember the song: Marathon. The song, of course, comes right after Subdivisions, so it was easy to just let the tape run through and ... hey, this is a pretty good song. I started listening to the Subdivisions-Marathon pairing a lot. From there, I decided to go deeper into the tape. Then I found Mystic Rhythms.

Woah! This was a Rush I'd never heard before: mysterious, atmospheric with a world beat underneath. I loved it. Mystic Rhythms became the song of the summer of 1989 for me.

Completing the trio, appropriately, was Manhattan Project. Rush was three-for-three on songs I'd never heard before from Power Windows, and when Presto, Dave's selection here, came out, I bought it almost instantly.

The next summer, my brother asked if I wanted to see Rush--more accurately, he asked if I wanted to see Rush from the 10th row at Cooper Stadium. This was a huge deal. At the time, Columbus, where I grew up, just wasn't getting anybody. In 1988, Pink Floyd went to Columbus and played Ohio Stadium, which was as big as anything I'd ever recalled happening to my hometown. (Naturally, it caused much consternation for folks who were outraged that some heathen rock band was going to trod the same hallowed ground where Saint Woody used to don shirtsleeves in the snow in November while beating That Team Up North. I kid you not.)

Rush at Cooper Stadium? 10th row? Hell yeah I'll go! The Boys started with Force Ten while the June sun was still high in the sky, so you couldn't see any lights or videos. It didn't matter. I was 50 feet from Alex Lifeson, and I was going nuts. Four songs in, they played Subdivisions followed by ... Marathon! It was the same pairing that I was loving a year before, the same pairing that drew me back in to Rush. My love of Rush was reaffirmed and, from then on, unwavering.

So, why isn't Power Windows higher? I never went back and listened to the rest of the album for one thing. (I happen to like the other albums better for another.) It was only on the last tour that I heard Grand Designs and Territories for the first time. But Power Windows birthed the songs that rekindled my love for Rush in a summer when I was struggling to find myself, so it always will hold a special place in my heart.

Our countdown so far:
No. 15: Fly by Night (Dave) and Counterparts (Will)

No. 16: Vapor Trails (Both of us)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rush R40 Countdown at No. 11: Truth or blasphemy? Half of classic '2112' just hasn't aged well

This will be a startling development for may Rush fans.
No. 11: "2112"
Released in 1976
Highlights: “2112”
Least-glorious moment: “Twilight Zone”
Cool Neil Peart lyrical moment
“We’ve taken care of everything
The words you read
The songs you sing
The pictures that give pleasure to your eye
One for all and all for one
Work together
Common sons
Never need to wonder
How or why”
-- Temples of Syrinx

I don’t think “2112” – the album, not the song -- has aged well.

There, I said it.  Here’s where I start getting in big, big trouble.

A big question when you compile a historical countdown is whether you rank the albums on how much you love them now, or fully place them in the context of their times.

My process when starting this was to rank the albums, then go back and play them again. Some albums I fell in love with all over again, others I just remembered fondly, bringing back memories, like flipping through a photo album.

That required me to keep adjusting the rankings, with some albums moving up, forcing others down. “2112” started higher than No. 11.

“2112” is the album that saved Rush. Legend has it that the label wasn’t happy with the disappointing sales of “Caress of Steel” and wanted the boys to return to shorter, more accessible songs.

Here's a clip of a classic performance "Overture" and "Temples of Syrinx."

The band instead doubled down with the prog rock elements, with a seven-part, side-long epic about an Ayn Rand-inspired dystopian society.  The first two parts, especially, are Rush classics that have been played on most tours since.

It was the band’s commercial breakthrough, and without “2112” there would be no “Moving Pictures,” “Permanent Waves” or any of the other great works to follow.

The first side still sounds wonderful, and as long as Geddy, Alex and Neil are on a stage, there will be demands for “Overture” and “Temples of Syrinx” before they are allowed off. The band played all seven sections for the first time on the “Test for Echo” tour, and I – and everyone else at The Palace of Auburn Hills on that magical night – went nuts.  The first live version is the highlight of “All the World’s A Stage.”

The second side, not so much. “A Passage to Bangkok” still appears in shows once in a while, and it’s the band’s only overt stoner song.  “Twilight Zone” sounded like filler then and now. “Lessons” and “Tears” are OK, though “Something for Nothing” still packs a punch.

Playing these songs in the car this week, I realized I had not played this side in years – lots of years. It was fun playing them again, instantly transported back to my teens, buying vinyl at The Wax Museum record store in downtown Massapequa Park and blasting Rush out of my bedroom speakers. But it might be a while before I play them again.

It now is dawning on some Rush diehards that I’ve ranked some of the late ‘80s and ‘90s albums, which are not always beloved, ahead of the certainly loved “2112.” But hey, we’re in the middle of the countdown, and there are no bad Rush albums. The higher we go, the tougher the choices get.
And Will says:
Dave, you ignorant slug. How could you possibly, POSSIBLY place this hallowed album so low on your list?

Sigh ...

Which leads me to MY next selection, ahem:

No. 11: 2112

Released in 1976

Yes, dear Reader--or even Readers--Dave and I have Rush's most important album, for reasons Dave mentioned, in exactly the same spot and for almost entirely the same reasons. For what it's worth, I also started my list with 2112 higher before moving it down upon closer consideration.

I yield to almost no one in my admiration of the song, "2112." It isn't my favorite song of all time or even my favorite Rush song of all time. It was in my top 100, No. 96 to be exact, and that's saying enough as is. On a very short list of absolutely breath-taking concert moments is the instant in November 1996 at Your Name Here Arena in Cleveland when I realized that not only was Rush not stopping after playing Temples but that ... OH MY GOD, they're going to play the WHOLE SONG ... as Alex lerxst into Discovery. When it was over, with the final feedback drenched notes fading off above the cacophonous crowd, in jubilation I turned to my now-ex as the boys headed off for a break and said, "Aw, let's just leave now." We were only halfway through the concert, but no way anything else was going to top hearing "2112" all the way through. It didn't, and, of course, we didn't leave.

So why isn't this album higher? It's for the same reasons as Dave cited, but I'll do so more succinctly: “2112” is only half an album. If we were doing album sides, “2112” Side 1 might be No. 2 on my list behind only “Moving Pictures” Side 1. I never owned 2112 when I had a record player, but if I had, I'm certain I would have worn a groove in Side 1 while Side 2 remained almost as pristine as the day I would've pulled it from the sleeve that featured a picture of grown men wearing kimonos. (Google the Dave Grohl HOF induction speech for the quintessential description.)

Here's the Dave Grohl induction speech Will mentions. It's a classic!

Don't get me wrong: It's Rush, and “A Passage to Bangkok” is good, but, well, you have to have more than one epic album side and one good song to make it into my top 10. Obviously, Dave and I are of one mind on this, and I offer no apologies.

Our countdown so far:

No. 15: Fly by Night (Dave) and Counterparts (Will)

No. 16: Vapor Trails (Both of us)