Album Review: Rush – R40 Live CD

Rush is never going to get a #1 album as long as they continue to release a much anticipated new album the same day someone else, who has a wider fan base, releases theirs.

R40 Live has ZERO chance of going #1 against Adele’s new album and it is pretty rare for a live album to top the charts but this album proves what everyone who attended the sold out shows during the summer discovered – Rush has way too much left to call it a career.

Released on its own or as a combo with the video version on DVD or Blu-Ray Rush R40 Live captures the full essence of the band’s sold-out live performance this summer and fully rectifies the abysmal Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland that featured a less than stellar vocal performance by singer Geddy Lee. Though it should be noted the DVD of that tour proved otherwise.

Filmed and recorded during the two night stand in Toronto, Canada, R40 Live in fact should put an end to any debate about Lee’s vocal range and his ability to sing Rush songs into his 60s. It’s a near masterful performance considering his age, years of singing and the altitudes he reaches on those early tracts that come after two hours of singing. Lee reportedly practiced for months getting to a vocal range that compliments what he left behind after the 1970s.

Of course he doesn’t reach the falsetto of those early records, he probably couldn’t 20 years ago, and even if you’re not a fan of those years because of his vocals, the polished performance he produced cannot be denied.

R40 Live showcases the widest catalog of Rush material ever recorded and does a solid job of providing a souvenir for those who caught a show and giving those who didn’t a glimpse into what they missed. The performances are nearly flawless on every level. The recording sounds unprocessed and is an accurate reflection of what came out of the amps those two nights.

The live album starts off with “The Anarchist” and while it doesn’t show-off Lee’s coming vocal performance (a bit garbled at times) it does feature his hard-thumping bass guitar which often takes the limelight throughout the entirety of the album. The band stuck in the emotional “How It Is” on Disc One as the primary offering from Vapor Trails even though “One Little Victory” routinely got the nod during the tour. That song got placed on Disc Three.

R40 Live follows the concert setlist starting with newer songs off 2012’s Clockwork Angels and tracking back in time to 1974 finishing with “What You’re Doing” and “Working Man” off the band’s self-titled debut album. Rush also played on the tour this album commemorates, for the first time live, “Losing It” off Signals and brought Ben Mink the original electric violinist from the album. His performance is featured on the opening disc and the performance by Jonathan Dinklage who played with the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble on the 2013 tour is on Disc Three.

There’s little sense in going through the album song-by-song but the standouts include “Headlong Flight,” “Losing It,” “The Camera Eye” and all the tracts from the 1970s. Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s blistering solo on “Working Man” roars to life despite not “being there.” And no your ears don’t deceive you, drummer Neil Peart’s traditional solo is present and accounted for but it’s no longer the eight minute marathon, instead coming midway through “Headlong Flight” and a longer second solo on “Cygnus X-1.”

The version sold at Best Buy comes with a Rush R40 pocket flashlight, otherwise save a few bucks on Amazon or get a package deal through the Backstage Club that comes with one of the tour shirts.

Grade: A-

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 1 Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Headlong Flight
  3. Far Cry
  4. The Main Monkey Business
  5. How It Is
  6. Animate
  7. Roll the Bones
  8. Between the Wheels
  9. Losing It (with Ben Mink)
  10. Subdivisions

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 2 Setlist:

  1. Tom Sawyer
  2. YYZ
  3. The Spirit of Radio
  4. Natural Science
  5. Jacob’s Ladder
  6. Hemispheres: Prelude
  7. Cygnus X-1/The Story So Far (drum solo)
  8. Closer to the Heart
  9. Xanadu
  10. 2112

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 3:

  1. Lakeside Park/Anthem
  2. What You’re Doing/Working ManOne Little Victory
  3. Distant Early Warning
  4. Red Barchetta
  5. Clockwork Angels
  6. The Wreckers
  7. The Camera Eye
  8. Losing It (with Jonathan Dinklage)

Written By: AndrewT

Rush Is Alive and Well – No Plans to Retire

Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation:

Rush’s Alex Lifeson Says There’s Life After R40 Tour: ‘I Don’t Think It Is the End’

Rumors of Rush’s demise have been greatly exaggerated — at least according to guitarist Alex Lifeson.

The Canadian trio’s R40 tour earlier this year — documented on the new R40 Live CD and home video set due Friday — was accompanied by reports that it would mark the end of Rush, mostly owing to physical ailments suffered by Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. It may well prove to be the last tour of its kind for Rush, but the band is still very much alive and ongoing, as far as Lifeson is concerned.

Read more here plus check out Lifeson’s comments on a new album at the end of the article!

Top 10 Best* Metallica Songs

The other day I got to listening “One,” just a fantastic Metallica song, and thought, why not a Top 10 list of Metallica songs.

I enjoy reading Top 10 lists and have occasionally done them for other publications but it’s something I’ve never done before in this forum.

I, like everyone else, get drawn into reading them. They’re quite often enlightening, usually entertaining and Top 10 lists provide an easy read for readers. However, these lists tend to be subjective and sometimes, if not always, raise the ire of someone, somewhere. Especially when it comes to music. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never thought about posting one. Providing an opinion on a concert or album is risky enough!

However, I thought it would be fun to do, stretch my boundaries and hopefully this exercise will elicit positive responses and get others to share their Top 10 songs by Metallica. If it does well and serves a purpose I’ll do more. From other bands, not Metallica.

Metallica has lots of great songs so choosing wasn’t super easy though the first five or so came rather quickly when I thought about what Metallica songs I would want with me on a deserted island. So that’s what it boiled down to. *If I had to choose what songs would accompany me on a deserted island? I only get 10 – so relax a bit if I leave out your favorite. Please, list yours!

These songs are in no particular order but you can probably guess what #1 will and should be.

  1. One – …And Justice for All (1988)

If the song was entitled “Two” I’d put it at #2 though if pressed certainly “One” would compete for the #1 Metallica song. “One” is so well done musically and lyrically it ranks right up there with Rush’s “Red Barchetta” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” for storytelling. It’s pleasantly long and superbly put together. This song so ruled the late 80s that even followers of New Kids on the Block blasted it from their daddy bought cars. The guitar and double bass before the five minute mark is, well, just go listen to it.

  1. Master of Puppets – Master Of Puppets (1986)

The title song off Metallica’s seminal 1986 album quite possibly raised the bar of heavy metal. In fact, heavy metal doesn’t seem a proper description for such a profound song. Progressive metal? Is that a term? It’s a song about cocaine and really why would anyone need to chop their breakfast on a mirror when they can get a taste of this high octane, eight and a half minute tract. The adagio section that starts at 3:30 – stellar musicianship.

  1. Ride the Lightening – Ride the Lightning (1984)

Another title tract! “Ride the Lightening” rides one of the purest metal solos to greatness. On just their sophomore album way back in 1984 Metallica proved they were a force to reckon with on the metal stage and it all starts with this slick tract.

  1. Holier than Though – Metallica (1991)

The so-called Black Album, more aptly their eponymous album, was also the so-called selling out album. This is when longtime fans of the band felt Metallica went mainstream and sold out with their catchy hit “Enter Sandman” which did indeed put the California natives on radio everywhere. (Remember when KROQ in Los Angeles played Metallica for about a month?) But that over-played single is not the best song on the album. Nor is the somewhat monstrosity that for some reason gets airplay “Wherever I May Roam.”

“Holier Than Though” is short, rips, and shows the guys didn’t stray too far from what their fan base felt otherwise. By the way, I applauded their effort to reach for new heights on ensuing albums but I didn’t connect well with them. Until…

  1. The Day That Never Comes – Death Magnetic (2008)

Constructed in the same vein as “One,” “The Day That Never Comes” builds on a solid crescendo for nearly half the song before a blitzkrieg of sonic delight. Whatever your opinion of the band’s albums between this 2009 effort and 1991’s self-title album, Death Magnetic brings Metallica back full circle to their metal days of yore. However, “The Day That Never Comes” just made this list and possibly would not be the lone song from the album if not for the production. It’s a hard record to hear because the recording is so dang loud. Apparently this was done purposely but whatever the reason, it backfired.

  1. Am I Evil – Creeping Death (1984)

Putting a cover song on this list gives a bit of disservice to some other worthy original selections however, what Metallica accomplishes with Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil” is on par with what Joe Cocker did with the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The song now belongs to the metal giants. Released as a B-side to the limited run single “Creeping Death” from Ride the Lightening “Am I Evil” is a solid anthem for the band featuring blistering guitar work and that awesome opening drum cadence.

  1. Orion – Master of Puppets (1986)

Not a lot of bands can pull off an eight-plus minute instrumental so maybe that’s why “Geddy, Alex, Neil of Rush” get a thank you credit in the linear notes on Master of Puppets. Metallica isn’t known for their instrumentals but of the handful they’ve done “Orion” is a standout. It’s much more progressive rock than heavy metal and if it already wasn’t clear being the penultimate song on the album, these guys are much more than a 4/4 time every song sounds alike band.

  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ride the Lightening (1984)

There are two rather popular songs that start off with a bell chime and if you’re in the car, faintly listening your first thought is, oh please not that song. Then Lars Ulrich drops the hammer, or at least drum sticks. Hammett’s guitar work is fantastic and just three songs in on the album know you know why Metallica was making waves in the 80s music scene dominated by New Wave.

  1. Fade to Black – Ride the Lightening (1984)

Lyrically as dark as it gets, “Fade to Black” is about death and suicide but seriously check out the music arrangement. You don’t even need the lyrics to know this song is depressing. It’s truly a great song to wallow your sorrows away if you find yourself at a crossroads in life, but seriously it’s just a song. Listen to the next one on this list before you get too deep.

  1. Battery – Master of Puppets (1986)

Don’t let the pretty acoustic guitar opening this gem fool you, it’s about to get hard, really hard. The opening song for Master of Puppets sets the pace for the entire album. It’s one of Metallica’s most popular songs but unlike some of the more oft played ones on local radio, you leave this one on because no matter how many times you’re heard it, “Battery” gives you a charge every time.

Several others were considered but ultimately these songs made the list which of course could change over time and hopefully gets a bit shuffled with the highly anticipated and long overdue new album now expected in 2016 – EIGHT years after their last one.

Written By: AndrewT

Album Review: Def Leppard Delivers With Eponymous Album

Def Leppard released their self-titled album Def Leppard on October 30 – the band’s first studio album in seven years and first new material since a handful of songs put on 2011’s live record Mirror Ball.

The 14 song collection lasts about 55 minutes  and indeed showcases who and what Def Leppard is but also delivers on singer Joe Elliott’s promise that it’s got a bit of everything and doesn’t get stuck in a specific era of Def Leppard albums.

It’s a rather strong album and in many respects is quite refreshing that a veteran act that started 30-something years ago with now 50-something year old band members rises above so much of today’s muck and brings a clear focus to excellent song writing, catchy riffs, great power chords and memorable melodies.

The band doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the first tract “Let’s Go” sounds a bit like their smash hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me” because it does. Not exactly but the structure and guitar chords certainly reflect their most famous song.  “Let’s Go” introduced the public to the new record in September and is totally Dep Leppard but gets bogged down near the end, lasts a bit too long, and doesn’t even compete for best album song.

However, the following song “Dangerous” certainly ranks as one of the best cuts and in fact this song rules. It’s high energy, totally 80s and classic Def Leppard.

A hard core turn comes next with “Man Enough” a song that taps into the band’s inner Queen and sounds nothing like they’ve ever done before. It’s got a great opening Rick Savage bass line that resonates throughout and after a few listens expect this to get stuck in your head.

If their ballads from the mid-1980s remain relevant today then add “We Belong” to the mix because this is exactly why the ladies come out in droves. You’re all that I am/You’re all that I see/The Keys to the kingdom waiting for me. Yeah, guys can step aside; the women will sop this one up. Add in vocal duties by guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell and Def Leppard just added another element to their repertoire.  Another ode to the ladies follows with “Invincible” but with a little more rock flare.

“Sea of Love” again changes the band’s direction and brings a little bit of everything. It’s got dynamic vocals from Elliott and some crushing guitar chords brought to you by Collen and Campbell who trade back and forth all album long just like they’ve done now for nearly 25 years. “Energized” marks the halfway point and is one of those songs that sounds like Def Leppard but it doesn’t.

Hard driving rock introduces “All Time High” before the song melts into a more modern rock persona and “Battle of my Own” starts off with the acoustics before the band opens up nearly two minutes in. “Broke ‘n’ Brokenhearted” finds the Def Leppard we all know and love with a classic chorus hook. “Forever Young” isn’t a bad song it just doesn’t stand out much and gets lost because the final three cuts bring the album home.

Certainly somewhere a father/daughter dance opened to a Def Leppard song but the country infused “Last Dance” is certain to be played at weddings in the future. It’s more ballad than ballad if you can believe that and might not please the hard rockers but is thoughtful and so well written musically and check out these pretty moving lyrics: Do you remember when we used to dance/Lighting up the universe, living life for what it’s worth/Took a chance.

“Wings of an Angel” puts an end to the slow stuff immediately with some slamming guitars at the front and competes with anything on radio today. Will it translate into a crossover from the band’s oft played 80s hits on classic rock radio? No, but their loss. Finally, “Blind Faith” keeps the modern rock touch with Elliott showing as much vocal range as he’s done on any album.

Not a junker in the whole lot and any one could benefit from the live treatment. Does it measure up to the iconic Hysteria or Pyromania? Nothing ever will, which seems to be the point. Each album stands on its own. So does Def Leppard. Reflection is nice but stands in the way of progress, something Def Leppard worked into this eponymous record.

Def Leppard clearly took their time in producing Def Leppard and based on their commitment and comments about the album, it’s one they are proud of. Hopefully they’ll prove as much next year and showcase the tour around this accomplishment rather than what’s heard every single day on radio and on the last couple of road trips.

Grade: B+

Tract List for Def Leppard:

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Dangerous
  3. Man Enough
  4. We Belong
  5. Invincible
  6. Sea Of Love
  7. Energized
  8. All Time High
  9. Battle Of My Own
  10. Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted
  11. Forever Young
  12. Last Dance
  13. Wings Of An Angel
  14. Blind Faith

Written By: AndrewT