Sunday, June 5, 2016

RUSH - 2011 "Sector 1" [5 CD Box]

Limited six disc (five CDs + DVD) box set from the Canadian Rock trio. Contains the albums Rush, Fly By Night, Caress Of Steel, 2112 and All The World's A Stage plus the DVD-Audio mix of Fly By Night. Each Sector contains five of their 15 Mercury albums in chronological order, all transferred to high resolution 96kHz/24-bit and digitally pre-mastered for optimal quality. In addition, each volume includes an exclusive booklet packed with unpublished photos, original album lyrics and credits, and features one album specifically remixed on DVD in high resolution 96 kHz/24-bit, 5.1 surround sound and stereo, compatible with both DVD Audio players and DVD-Video players. Each album is packaged in a replica vinyl mini-jacket of the original album release with all 3 sets forming a Rush CD road case.

Rush has long been my favorite band, and I have more or less owned every iteration of these albums that Rush has released: cassettes, then vinyl, then the initial Mercury CD pressings, and the 1997 remasters. But even my "fanboy-ness" knows its limits, so when these box sets were first announced, I was a bit sceptical. Was this another desperate Mercury cash-grab, as has been alleged on so many Rush fan sites?

My reservations disappeared as soon as I held this set. First, the packaging is very nice. Each album is done as a replica of the original vinyl release. Having spent hours upon hours in high school looking at the gatefolds for the vinyl versions, this was like coming home to an old friend. A booklet is also included with printed lyrics, rare photos, album credits, etc (apparently just in case the album replica writing was too small.....)

But I was most pleased with the sound. In a side-by-side with the '97 releases (which as a whole I thought were very well done), these new remasters do present a very clear, if subtle improvement. This batch of albums especially have always suffered from murky sound. These remasters FINALLY fix that problem -- it's as if a layer of murk has been removed from the sound. The effect is most noticable in the crispness of the drums, but there are sonic improvements to be noticed across the board. And it's not just a matter of louder mastering either. In fact, the volume here is nearly identical to that of the 1997 remasters. These versions really do sound better.

Well, not a newbie, really. I always liked them, I saw them once back in the 70s, and I had a copy of 2112, but other than that I'm really only familiar with what's gotten radio airplay. When these box sets came out, it seemed like it was time to catch up. I've been reading that some of these discs had problems, so I figured I'd just sit down and play the box to make sure it's ok, and hear a lot of new-to-me Rush.

Disc 1 - Rush - I think the last time I heard this all the way through in one sitting, it was a 8-track... The remaster sounds great to my ears. Very clear sound, and really, quite a bit better music than I thought it would be. Good stuff.

Disc 2/3 - Fly By Night - WOW! The 5.1 channel DVD audio disc is amazing. Channel separation is very good, and Lee's vocals sound just like he's in the room. "Fly By Night" "In The End" and "Rivendell" especially stand out... Still getting used to music mixed in 5.1 rather than two channel stereo. I'm accustomed to crowd noise and building echo from the rear channels, if anything. Wickedly cool to hear a guitar come tearing out of the back corner of the room. I think with this DVD, the CD won't get played much :)

Disc 4 - Caress of Steel - "Bastille Day" is a familiar tune, and sounds great, and "The Necromancer" is appropriately spooky. I'm really impressed with the clarity of the sound on this set so far, but then I'm not familiar with the previous issues to compare them to...

Disc 5 - 2112 - The 2112 overture makes me smile every time I hear it. This is the first Rush album I remember listening to, and probably still my favorite one.

Disc 6 - All The World's a Stage - The live release from 1976. Very good performance, with live versions of songs selected from the above releases.

I guess I got a glitch free copy. I have no complaints, and will definitely be picking up the other two "Sector" sets. A word about the packaging. I like this trend toward a plastic sleeve in an old-school LP type cover. They take up less space, and they won't arrive damaged as often as jewel cases do. Overall, I don't have any complaints here. Great!

1974 [2011] "RUSH"

RUSH is the eponymous debut studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on March 1, 1974 and later remastered in 1997. Their first release shows much of the hard rock sound typical of many of the popular rock bands emerging earlier in the decade, and it is the only album to not have Neil Peart as drummer. Rush were fans of such bands as Led Zeppelin and Cream, and these influences can be heard in most of the songs on this album. Original drummer John Rutsey performed all drum parts on the album, but was unable to go on extended tours because of complications with his diabetes and was let go by the band after the album was released. Rutsey contributed to the album's lyrics, but never submitted the work to the other members of the band. The lyrics were instead entirely composed by Lee and Lifeson. Rutsey was soon replaced by Peart, who has remained the band's drummer.
 

 Tracks Listing

1. Finding My Way (5:05)
2. Need Some Love (2:19)
3. Take A Friend (4:24)
4. Here Again (7:34)
5. What You're Doing (4:22)
6. In The Mood (3:33)
7. Before And After (5:34)
8. Working Man (7:10)

Total Time: 40:01

Musicians

- Alex Lifeson - Guitar
- Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, vocals
- John Rusty - Drums, percussion


1975 [2011] "Fly By Night"
  
Fly by Night is the second studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in February 1975. Contrary to their previous album, which featured a much more hard rock sound, this album was the first to showcase the progressive rock sound that the band has become renowned for. This release was also the first to feature long-time drummer Neil Peart.

Prior to one of Rush's first U.S. tours, original drummer John Rutsey split from the band, since he wasn't prepared to commit to the band's rigorous touring schedule. And it proved to be a blessing in disguise, since his replacement was to become one of the most respected rock drummers of all time, Neil Peart, who would also steer the band towards success with more challenging material -- starting with Fly by Night. While the title track and the album-closing ballad, "In the End," still had Zeppelin roots, the album isn't as straightforward as the debut. Rush's first bona-fide classic, "Anthem," is included, while the over eight-minute "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" helped pave the way for the group's future epics ("2112," "Cygnus X-1," etc.), and introduced the fans to Peart's imaginative lyric writing, often tinged with science-fiction themes. The reflective and melodic "Making Memories" is an underrated early composition, while "Beneath, Between, & Behind" is a furious heavy rocker. Fly by Night may not be one of Rush's finest albums, but it is one of their most important -- it showed that the young band was leaving their Zep-isms behind in favor of a more challenging and original direction.
 

Tracks Listing

1. Anthem (4:21)
2. Best I Can (3:24)
3. Beneath, Between And Behind (3:00)
4. By-Tor And The Snow Dog (8:57)
I) At The Tobes Of Hades
II) Across The Styx
III) Of The Battle
IV) Epilogue
5. Fly By Night (3:20)
6. Making Memories (2:56)
7. Rivendell (5:00)
8. In The End (6:51)

Total Time: 37:18

Musicians

- Alex Lifeson - Guitar
- Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, vocals
- Neil Peart - Drums, percussion


 1975 [2011] "Caress Of Steel"

Caress Of Steel is the third studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1975. The album shows more of Rush's adherence to hard progressive rock, as opposed to the blues-based hard rock style of the band's first album.
  When Rush finished their third album, Caress of Steel, the trio was assured that they had created their breakthrough masterpiece. But when the album dropped off the charts soon after its release, it proved otherwise. While it was Rush's first release that fully explored their prog rock side, it did not contain the catchy and more traditional elements of their future popular work -- it's quite often too indulgent and pretentious for a mainstream rock audience to latch onto. And while Rush would eventually excel in composing lengthy songs, the album's two extended tracks -- the 12½-minute "The Necromancer" and the nearly 20-minute "The Fountain of Lamneth" -- show that the band was still far from mastering the format. The first side contains two strong and more succinct tracks, the raging opener, "Bastille Day," and the more laid-back "Lakeside Park," both of which would become standards for their live show in the '70s. But the ill-advised "I Think I'm Going Bald" (which lyrically deals with growing old) borders on the ridiculous, which confirms that Caress of Steel is one of Rush's more unfocused albums.

Tracks Listing

1. Bastille Day (4:36)
2. I think I'm Going Bald (3:35)
3. Lakeside Park (4:07)
4. The Necromancer: 12:30
I) Into The Darkness (4:20)
II) Under The Shadow (4:25)
III) Return Of The Prince (3:51)
5. The Fountain Of Lamneth: 19:50
I) In The Valley (4:17)
II) Didacts And Narpets (1:00)
III) No One At The Bridge (4:15)
IV) Panacea (3:12)
V) Bacchus Plateau (3:12)
VI) The Fountain (3:48)

Total Time: 44:38

Musicians

- Alex Lifeson - Guitar
- Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, vocals
- Neil Peart - Drums, percussion

1976 [2011] "2112"

2112 (pronounced "twenty-one twelve") is the fourth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. Released on 1 April 1976, it features the seven-part title suite composed by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, with lyrics written by Neil Peart telling a dystopian story set in the year 2112. It is sometimes described as a concept album although the songs on the second side are unrelated to the suite. Rush repeated this arrangement on the 1978 album Hemispheres.
2112 is one of two Rush albums listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (the other being Moving Pictures). In 2006, a poll of Planet Rock listeners picked 2112 as the definitive Rush album. In 2012, it was ranked second on Rolling Stone's list of 'Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time', as voted for in a reader's poll, one of three Rush albums included (the others being Moving Pictures and Hemispheres).
A deluxe edition was released in 2012 as both a CD/DVD and a CD/Blu-ray. The CD featured the entire album remastered, as well as three live bonus tracks from their 1981 concert at Northlands Coliseum. The DVD and Blu-ray included the album in three different HD formats, as well as on-screen lyrics, liner notes, and a digital comic book depicting the story of the title track

Whereas Rush's first two releases, their self-titled debut and Fly by Night, helped create a buzz among hard rock fans worldwide, the more progressive third release, Caress of Steel, confused many of their supporters. Rush knew it was now or never with their fourth release, and they delivered just in time -- 1976's 2112 proved to be their much sought-after commercial breakthrough and remains one of their most popular albums. Instead of choosing between prog rock and heavy rock, both styles are merged together to create an interesting and original approach. The entire first side is comprised of the classic title track, which paints a chilling picture of a future world where technology is in control (Peart's lyrics for the piece being influenced by Ayn Rand). Comprised of seven "sections," the track proved that the trio members were fast becoming rock's most accomplished instrumentalists. The second side contains shorter selections, such as the Middle Eastern-flavored "A Passage to Bangkok" and the album-closing rocker "Something for Nothing." 2112 is widely considered by Rush fans as their first true "classic" album, the first in a string of similarly high-quality albums.

Tracks Listing

Side 1
1. 2112: 20:34
I) Overture (4:32)
II) The Temples Of Syrinx (2:13)
III) Discovery (3:29)
IV) Presentation (3:42)
V) Oracle:The Dream (2:00)
VI) Soliloquy (2:21)
VII) The Grand Finale (2:14)
2. A Passage To Bangkok (3:34)
3. The Twilight Zone (3:18)
4. Lessons (3:51)
5. Tears (3:32)
6. Something For Nothing (3:59)

Total Time: 38:48

Musicians

- Alex Lifeson - Guitar
- Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, vocals
- Neil Peart - Drums, percussion

1977 [2011] "All The World's A Stage"

All the World's a Stage is a double live album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1976. The album was recorded at Massey Hall in Toronto on June 11, 12, and 13 during their 2112 tour. The title of the album alludes to William Shakespeare's play As You Like It, which would again be referenced by Rush in their 1981 song "Limelight".

The '70s may forever be remembered as the decade of the "live album," where many rock artists (Kiss, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, etc.) used the format for their commercial breakthrough. While Rush's All the World's a Stage is not as renowned as the aforementioned bands' live albums, it is still one of the better in-concert rock releases of the decade, and helped solidify the trio's stature as one of rock's fastest rising stars. Eventually, Rush would polish their live sound to sound almost like a studio record, but in the mid-'70s, they were still a raw and raging hard rock band, captured perfectly on All the World's a Stage Comprised almost entirely of their heavier material, the album packs quite a punch -- "Bastille Day" and "Anthem" prove to be a killer opening combination, while over-the-top renditions of their extended epics "2112" and "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" prove to be standouts. Even their more tranquil studio material proves more explosive in concert ("Fly by Night," "Something for Nothing," "Lakeside Park," "In the End"). All the World's a Stage was a fitting way of closing the first chapter of Rush, as the liner notes state.

Tracks Listing

1. Bastille Day (4:59)
2. Anthem (4:57)
3. Fly By Night / In The Mood (5:05)
4. Something For Nothing (4:03)
5. Lakeside Park (5:05)
6. 2112: 15:51
I) Overture (4:17)
II) The Temples Of Syrinx (2:13)
III) Presentation (4:29)
IV) Soliloquy (2:25)
V) Grand Finale (2:27)
7. By-Tor And The Snow Dog (12:01)
8. In The End (7:14)
9. Working Man/ Finding My Way (14:20)
10. What You're Doing (5:38)

Total Time: 79:13

Musicians

- Alex Lifeson - Guitar
- Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, vocals
- Neil Peart - Drums, percussion
 

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