Every Soul a Battlefield: Rush’s HEMISPHERES

For side two, Rush gave us three songs, each dense in composition, tone, and ideas. Circumstances marvels at the new wonders of the world while also recognizing that each person becomes what he or she was meant to become. Time does not lessen us, but fulfills us. And, just as one new thing arrives, it does so always in the context of the old thing. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The middle musical passage in which Geddy plays keys and Neil plays the tin bells is perfection in and of itself.

Beginning with classical-like guitar, Alex demonstrates his finesse and Geddy begins, masterfully, to tell us a tale, the tale of two species of trees vying for dominance. Allegorically, The Trees could stand for many things. It might be an allegory about race relations, about class relations, or about individual and government relations. Greed, nobility, law, unions, equal rights, and oppression all appear in the song. Or, it might just be a tale to be told for the sake of the telling. Whatever it’s about, it works. Even though the song is less than five minutes long, Rush packs every proggy musical passage and serious idea into the song, proving that they’re learning the finer points of their chosen art, rock music. The end, however, sounds like the victory of radical French, Russian, or Cambodian revolutionaries: for equality comes into existence through hatchet, axe, and saw.

The final track of the album, La Villa Strangiato, must count as one of the strangest and most glorious tracks in rock history. In less than 10 minutes, the band proves why it’s the most accomplished band and the most innovative in rock history. Taking and combining everything grand from ELP, The Who, Genesis, Yes, and Jethro Tull, Rush creates the ultimate show-case and show-piece of progressive rock; an abbreviation and yet a fulfillment of 1970s musical exploration.  Even after 40 years, this song sounds just perfect, the passages that should never work together coming together in complete joy and wholeness. 

The entire album, of course, is about pulling together that which is diverse and seemingly opposite into completeness. It was a theme tragically unhip and one that countered the disintegration of culture in the 1970s and, even more so, in the 2010s. In a world that wallows in subjective untruths—this is my view, and this is your view; this is my ideology, and this is your ideology—Rush reminds us that the true human is the one who has integrated him (or her) self into something coherent and purposeful. The real person makes his weakness strengths, tempering them through justice and fortitude.

So, should you buy this remastered version of Hemispheres?  Oh yes.  Oh, very much yes. Though the original still sounds great, the remastered sounds glorious. The new remastering keeps the feel of the original but makes one feel as though he is listening in the universe as a whole rather than in a studio enclosed by four walls.

The extra tracks are wonderful too, but I’m still just happily playing in the fields of remastered Hemispheres before heading off to Olympus.

And, of course, what was true in 1978 is just as true as in 2018, and perhaps more urgently needed as a reminder to us all: every soul a battlefield.