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)

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