Monday, April 06, 2015

Rush R40 Countdown at No.8: Complicated 'Counterparts' sounds superior

It's been a pretty good day. The Mets won, the Reds won, the Yankees lost and we get to resume our R40 Countdown with the No. 8 spot.
No. 8: "Counterparts"
Released 1993

Highlights: “Cold Fire,” “Animate,” “Everyday Glory.”

Least-glorious moment: “Double Agent.”

Cool Neil Peart lyrical moment:

“It was just before sunrise

When we started on traditional roles

She said, ‘Sure, I’ll be your partner

But don’t make too many demands.’

I said, ‘If love has these conditions

I don’t understand your songs you love’

She said, ‘This is not a love song.

This isn’t fantasyland.’”
-- "Cold Fire"

“Counterparts" is an unusual Rush album, for a variety of reasons.

In what’s been called Rush’s response to grunge, the band continued scaling back the keyboards and amped up the guitars with a ferocity not heard since “Permanent Waves.”

And Rush love songs are about as rare as, well, a female at a Rush concert. Yet here we even have a song with “Love” in the title. I think you have to go all the way back to the debut to find another one.

Here's "Cold Fire" from a concert at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

As you can imagine by the title, the album’s theme is relationships, focusing on how complicated they can be.

I originally had this one lower in the countdown, but listening to it with fresh ears led to some new discoveries.

For one thing, this is the best-sounding Rush album ever. I don’t know what they did differently or why they haven’t done it since, but this album is crisp. Neil’s drums hit you in the chest. There’s space between the instruments. Geddy’s vocals aren’t dubbed into mush. It’s fantastic.

“Cold Fire” is a highlight, with Neil writing about one of those all-night conversations between a guy and an appropriately determined woman in a new relationship. And “Nobody’s Hero” deals with HIV and a call for understanding. “Everyday People” focuses on family struggles.

The one I can’t figure out is “Double Agent” that features some odd spoken word sections. Geddy’s rap in “Roll the Bones” was cool. But I can’t figure out what‘s going on here.

The first two cuts – “Animate” and “Stick it Out” – seem to make it to playlists since then, joined occasionally by “Nobody’s Hero.”  I’d love to see some of the others, especially “Everyday Glory,” which has never been played live.
Will jumps in:
They also roll out "Leave That Thing Alone" on occasion, and they debuted "Between Sun & Moon" in 2002 in honor of John Entwistle, so they definitely like playing this album.
No. 8: Hemispheres
Released in 1978

Now THIS is what a Rush album that has more than just one epic song sounds like. Of course, "Hemispheres" the song isn't as good as "2112" the song, but this album has way more going for it.

Hemispheres also is the only Rush album that I've heard them play every song live aside from Moving Pictures, which doesn't really count, because the whole point of the 2010 tour was that they were going to play the entire album. Of course, when an album has only four songs on it, like Hemispheres does, that's easier to accomplish.

My guess is we'll get at least part of "La Villa Strangiato" in June and, very hopefully, a little of Hemispheres. They last whipped out the “Prologue” in its entirety in 1994--a search of YouTube will find you a pro video of them doing it at The Palace the night I was there--and if Geddy is scared of doing "Fly By Night," the thought of doing the Prologue again probably would cause sheer terror. They've said they wrote it intentionally high, so Geddy has to really reach to unleash his Witchiepoo shriek to get there. They prefer playing 2112, so it's questionable whether he could do it twice.

For reasons that shouldn't be too difficult for a Rush fan to understand, Hemispheres sounds to me like it's the second record of a double album and not just because Hemispheres the song is listed as Part II of "Cygnus X-1" from A Farewell to Kings. It's hard for me to not think of "The Trees," "Xanadu" and "La Villa" intertwining--particularly the first two songs--because of Ext, Stage Left ..., which would be the one Rush album out of my collection I would save if I only could save one. The songs all seem to have come from the same place, even if they weren't recorded, or even written, at the same time.

Your countdown so far:

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

No. 16: Vapor Trails (Both of us)

1 comment:

Will said...

Nice video: If you squint and look over Geddy's left shoulder, up in the nose-bleed seats, you'll see me pledging allegiance.