Rush: Best To Worst

Average score: 52

Listen, I love Rush just as much as the next proghead/classic rock fan, but hear me out... out of all the great, classic prog bands, Rush are perhaps my least favourite. I very much respect them for the fact that they were one of the main reasons for prog being brought to the mainstream in the U.S. and Canada, as well as just generally being one of the easier-to-get-into prog bands, and that they were one of the only '70s bands to be just as good in the '80s, but they certainly aren't my go-to prog band by any means. They have some incredible songs and each of their members were/are extremely talented at their craft. But let's be honest, their lyrics were up there with late '70s Yes in how self-indulgent they were, and a lot of what they did was done better by other artists. Regardless, I have immense respect for Rush and undeniably love their best works so much... but just don't be surprised when I'm inevitably harsher on certain records.

Rush - Rush
Well, I guess all artists need to start somewhere, and Rush simply needed to start out by completely ripping off Zeppelin. Yeah, the results are very mid. There are two tracks in particular here - Here Again and Working Man - which are very fun and show off the great guitar talents of Lifeson, but the album in general is so boring and so obviously going for Canadian Zeppelin that it's really difficult to get into. And especially since drummer and main songwriter Neil Peart still isn't in the band at this point, it's the Rush album that feels the least like a Rush album. I mean, regardless of your thoughts on Peart as a lyricist and how pretentious he could get, at least he brought something interesting to the table, and saved us from ever having to hear Geddy Lee singing horny blues songs ever again.

Favourite Track: Here Again
Rush - Fly by Night
Their sophomore project is really where you can start to hear them becoming their own... kinda. Neil Peart is finally aboard, and writing the lyrics for the band. As such, the lyrics are generally more interesting on Fly By Night than they were on the debut, but you can definitely tell that Peart had a long way to go as a lyricist. And the music itself is closer to the Rush that we know than their self-titled was, but it still leans heavily on its influences. You can hear more of the classic Rush in their first suite, By-Tor And The Snow Dog, which is still far from the great expansive epics that they would become known for. But honestly, I can't help but roll my eyes whenever I hear the incredibly generic acoustic cut, Rivendell, or the predictable cut between acoustic to hard rock in the closer, In The End. Fly By Night is certainly an okay album that set them on the right track, but it's still one that is far too simplistic for a band like Rush.

Favourite Track: By-Tor And The Snow Dog
Rush - Caress of Steel
Some may try to argue that this is an "underrated" release by them, but honestly, unless you're simply blinded by your love for this band, chances are you aren't going to get much out of this album. It damn near killed the band thanks to how much of a commercial failure it was, and this is one of those instances where the "commercial failure" aspect is actually representative of the quality of the music itself. At this point, Rush had become incredibly ambitious... perhaps too ambitious. The trio were already brilliant musicians, but they simply couldn't pull off an album like this quite yet. A very unfocused album, with three subpar hard rock songs (yes, subpar even for mid '70s Rush) and two bloated prog suites. There is absolutely no reason for The Fountain Of Lamneth to be twenty goddamn minutes long, and it's laughable that I Think I'm Going Bald is on the same album as The Necromancer. That said, Necromancer isn't a mind-blowing track either, but anyone who tells you that the instrumentation in the second part isn't kick-ass is lying.

Favourite Track: The Necromancer
Rush - 2112
2112 is perhaps the album that most people know them for. It was a huge commercial success, and is still one of their highest selling albums. And really, I guess it's deserved. This is the point where Rush went from a fairly promising band with huge ambitions, to really becoming their own force. Lyrically, I'll just come right out and admit it; I don't like it whatsoever. Every single song on here sucks from a lyrical standpoint, whether it's childish philosophies, talking about '60s T.V. shows, or another one of those eye-rolling '70s rock "Dude, weed, ain't that cool?!" songs. But where this album really shines is the musicianship, and especially that goddamn title track epic. The story told on this song may be one of the weakest of any of these classic 20+ minute long prog songs, but the musicianship is incredible. It's without a doubt one of Rush's biggest accomplishments. The rest of the album, however... yeah, let's just say it's a mixed bag. I mean, I can appreciate the musicianship for those last five songs, but they all really do feel like an afterthought. It's almost like they just said "Well, we have our magnum opus, how do we fill up the other 20 minutes? Neil, go smoke weed while watching Twilight Zone - hurry!" And the results are... I mean, I like the riff for Passage To Bangkok... The Twilight Zone is a pretty engaging song... I don't really have much else to say about either of them, but they're alright. The last three, though, are outright disappointments.

Favourite Track: 2112
Rush - A Farewell to Kings
Pretty much a continuation of the sound of 2112, with complex compositions and not particularly good lyrics. That said, I do think that this one is a lot more consistent as an actual album. It's clear that, where 2112 felt like an outstanding long prog track and a ton of filler, this is more like a consistently good track list with no duds and a couple of near-great songs. Xanadu and Cygnus X-1 are rightfully known as some of their best songs (and them both being 10+ minutes kinda proves that Rush are one of those bands who are better at making long songs than short ones), and the other, shorter songs manage to hold their own as well. That said, I don't doubt that me putting this above 2112 will raise a few eyebrows, but believe me, I do think 2112 has the higher highs. The thing is, 2112's track listing ranges from a 9 to a 4/10, while A Farewell To Kings keeps a consistent 7. So nothing particularly outstanding, but nothing disappointing either.

Favourite Track: Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage
Rush - Hemispheres
Easily one of the best Rush albums. The two long songs are amazing and deservingly known as some of their best works, with the title track being one of my all-time favourite tracks from them and La Villa Strangiato being their first purely instrumental track, giving it bonus points for allowing us a good ten minutes without hearing Peart's eye-rolling lyrics. Talking of lyrics, I really can't say I'm a fan of the two in-between tracks, because the lyrics on the entire album are definitely just as weak as ever. I mean, I'd probably comfortably say that The Trees was one of my favourite Rush songs if the lyrics weren't about tree racism.

Favourite Track: Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres
Rush - Permanent Waves
This is probably my biggest hot take when it comes to Rush's discography. Permanent Waves honestly represents all the issues I have with Rush to begin with. When you aren't distracted by the pseudo-intellectual philosophical lyrics (see the chorus for Freewill), the songs themselves end up having an over-reliance on complex instrumentation, ultimately causing them to have no memorability. I guess that's something you could say for prog in general, but at least Rush's contemporaries managed to make genuinely flooring tracks. As it stands, the songs on Permanent Waves do nothing but prove all the stereotypes of prog true, through songs that impress nobody but those who have yet to listen to King Crimson or Jethro Tull. Even the mega hit, The Spirit Of Radio, which stands up there with 2112 and Tom fuckin' Sawyer as Rush's most known and beloved song, lacks a lot of what makes Rush's best material special. But hey, at least there are some decent enough moments for me to understand the hype, I guess.

Favourite Track: Jacob's Ladder
Rush - Moving Pictures
Now that's some good music. Moving Pictures is, of course, the quintessential Rush album. It's the album that prog newcomers often go to to see the genre at its most accessible, and it certainly isn't a bad introduction at all. Now, as a hardened proghead, is this the absolute best prog out there? No. But as far as Rush's music goes, and just good music in general, this is some lovable, catchy music. It's complex to a point where you can appreciate the immense talent found in its musicianship, but not so much so that you find yourself rolling your eyes at the wankery that can be found elsewhere. It's just some good fun, with not a single bad moment, and definitely Rush's best.

Favourite Track: Tom Sawyer
Rush - Signals
If you've been following me long enough, then you probably already know what I'm going to say; '70s artists going into the '80s was generally the worst period for rock. But Rush thankfully subverted that with Signals. I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that Rush were already one of the few mainstream rock artists who had been experimenting with new wave instruments even in their most popular material long before the '80s, so them going in a new wave direction honestly feels quite natural. That said, it's understandable why this has become something of a fan favourite in their discography, and why it's on the higher end of my ranking. I don't necessarily love this or find myself returning to it often, but for what it is, it's a good listen.

Favourite Track: The Analog Kid
Rush - Grace Under Pressure
Very much a continuation of Signals - so more synth Rush. Just like that album, I can appreciate that it's a better attempt at a '70s rock group going new wave than most of their contemporaries' attempts, and I do find myself enjoying moments, but I just don't find myself caring all to much for it as a whole. It certainly doesn't help that the only thing Grace Under Pressure has going for it when compared to its predecessor is that it's arguably more catchy, but to me, more catchy doesn't automatically equate to being more memorable. It's honestly a lot less interesting, and as its own thing, it certainly doesn't leave enough of an impression.

Favourite Track: Red Sector A
Rush - Power Windows
Sorry to be the bottom 2% of the site that dislikes this record, but I really couldn't care less if this bland cheese was wiped off the face of the earth. This is vomit-inducing synth Rush, having all the '80s new wave stereotypes, all the prog rock stereotypes, and all the negatives of Rush's entire career, all packed into a nearly unbearable 45 minute slog of terrible lyrics and mostly half-assed instrumentation. There are certainly moments of instrumental goodness, like in Mystic Rhythms which ended up being one of the few songs that didn't completely send me to sleep, but you really have to go searching for them through all these tracks of synth cheese.

Favourite Track: Mystic Rhythms
Rush - Hold Your Fire
It remains my firm belief that the worst thing any piece of art (not just limited to music) could possibly be isn't offensive, it isn't a terribly failed attempt at experimenting, it isn't an unintended assault on the senses, but it's being downright bland and boring. And that's Hold Your Fire in a nutshell. As many have said, there isn't necessarily anything wrong with this record. It's just synth Rush by the numbers. It has the predictable Peart lyrics, it has the instrumental wankery, it has Geddy's high-pitched love-it-or-hate-it singing, it has the '80s synths that made (or broke depending on who you ask) their other '80s releases, but it's all done to such a lesser extent than anything else they did in that decade that it becomes a painfully dull slog. It doesn't help that it was by far the longest of their releases up to this point, leaving you wondering why, when the band are at such an obvious drought for ideas, would they bother to make a whole hour worth of material?

Favourite Track: Time Stand Still
Rush - Presto
Very much the younger brother of Hold Your Fire; it's just as bad in almost every aspect. Granted, Presto does have its fair share of somewhat decent moments, which is more than Hold Your Fire could say, but its lows are very much just as low as said album and just as prominent as well. Ultimately, Presto is nothing more than another painfully boring slog that overstays its welcome by quite a bit and is better off ignored.

Favourite Track: The Pass
Rush - Roll the Bones
There's a goddamn rap verse on the title track. Needless to say, that was one of the worst moments in Rush's entire career, and the rest of the track list isn't much better. To be honest, I can kinda understand how someone could be sympathetic to any of their other bland late-career endeavours, whether it's Power Windows or Hold Your Fire, but when it comes to Roll The Bones, there is legitimately nothing to be found here. I have absolutely zero clue as to why it seems to have its fans.

Favourite Track: Dreamline
Rush - Counterparts
Counterparts thankfully isn't as bad as the releases surrounding it, but it still isn't all that good either. I guess, when compared with the rest of these proggy pop rock albums they were doing at this point in their career, it is more competent, more inspired, but it still doesn't really push past that whatsoever. It's just a decent enough time for those who already loved Rush to begin with, and another hour of filler for those that didn't.

Favourite Track: Animate
Rush - Test for Echo
Bland bland bland bland bland. It's just fucking bland. It's bland and it's repetitive, and it has some of the absolute worst of Peart's songwriting. There's a reason why even Rush fans struggle to defend this album. Some may come and say "Yeah, but x and y tracks are good!" No, they're just passable at best. Test For Echo is quite easily the worst album Rush have to offer, but obviously it can't even do that right since Roll The Bones just slightly beat it out for that achievement. If there was ever a musical equivalent for straight nothingness, then it would be Test For Echo. Move aside 4'33", because Test For Echo is the true album of nothing.

Favourite Track: Driven
Rush - Vapor Trails
A passable late-career outing. Honestly, Vapor Trails isn't as painfully bland and boring as a lot of the albums they released in the years preceding this, but ultimately its best material is nothing more than decent. I feel like this is the perfect example of a phoned in late career release; you look at the cover art, realize without even looking at the release date this this must be a late addition to their long overdone discography, listen to it and find that its far from their heyday but that fans are going to at least appreciate. It's ultimately nothing more than forgettable, as it isn't so good as to top anybody's list and it isn't so bad that you can't justify returning.

Favourite Track: Ghost Rider
Rush - Snakes & Arrows
This is by far Rush at their safest. It's just enough to get fans raving that the band managed to put out one more likable moment, and it's also just enough that it'd miss the radar of most Rush haters. Unlike most of their releases that I've rated this low, there really isn't anything that I'd say is bad or bland or what-have-you, but it is just another decent enough Rush album, and as far as I'm concerned the only Rush albums worth listening to are those that go far above "decent enough". I understand perfectly well why most like, or even love, this record, but it's just not for me.

Favourite Track: Far Cry
Rush - Clockwork Angels
Surprisingly enough, Clockwork Angels manages to be one last hurrah for the band. Unlike the vast majority of their late career output, this genuinely feels like they tried to make something that belongs in their ambitious discography, and it becomes understandable as to why this has become something of a fan favourite. The musicianship is on point throughout the run time, and mentioning the run time, this is definitely their only album that exceeds the hour long run time that actually feels like it's earned that length. There are quite a few tracks here that honestly do stand up there as some really good Rush songs. Nothing here particularly sticks out as one of their best, granted, but this is one of the rare occasions in their late discography where I don't find myself either bored out of my mind or utterly despising what I'm listening to.

Favourite Track: Headlong Flight
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Big money take a cruise
@ThomasGuy Right? It's such a misfire that it becomes comical how seriously they took such a weak and ridiculous analogy.
"The Trees" has always been so funny to me. Those lyrics always felt as though they were written as part of a Rush parody.
@Andrei Amdrai
@ThomasGuy shut up
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