Tag Archives: Rush

Catch the Myth, Catch the Mystery…

Mystery Lies and Butterflies
Mystery’s Latest Album – 2018’s Lies & Butterflies

Now that it appears Geddy, Neil, and Alex are on permanent hiatus, what’s a devoted Rush fan to do? Fortunately, there are some excellent choices available. My top recommendation is another Canadian band, Mystery.

Led by guitarist Michel St-Pere, they have been releasing wonderful albums on a regular basis since the 1990s. As is the case with many groups in the prog genre, their lineup has changed over the years, but the high level of musicianship, top-notch production, and inviting songcraft has been consistent. Past members include drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train) and vocalist Benoit David (Yes).

The first time I heard of Mystery was through Tony Rowsick’s indispensable podcast, ProgWatch. He posted an excellent interview with St-Pere in April of this year (you can listen to it here), and he included lots of songs from the band’s long career. My curiosity was piqued, so I followed them on Spotify. After listening obsessively to Mystery music for several days, I went ahead and ordered hard copies of some of their albums.

Call me a throwback, but I still like owning CDs of artists that are special, if only to enjoy the artwork and reading the lyrics. Besides, there is no guarantee that a particular artist’s work will always be available via streaming.

Anyway, after listening to the entire Mystery discography, I recommend the new listener begin with The World Is A Game. It features Benoit David on vocals, and D’Virgilio on drums. Song-for-song, it is an incredibly strong collection, and it ends with one of their finest songs ever, “Another Day”.

Mystery World Is A Game
2012’s The World Is A Game – Mystery’s masterpiece (so far)

Next, the live album, Second Home, is a very good set of songs from more recent releases, and it features Mystery’s current vocalist, Jean Pageau. Finally, their most recent release, Lies and Butterflies, continues the streak of outstanding melodic prog rock.

As I’ve already mentioned, fans of Rush should love this stuff, as well as admirers of Genesis, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, and Neal Morse. St-Pere is a terrific player who wields his guitar with admirable restraint. His lyrics touch on contemporary issues like isolation in the midst of social media, ignorance and prejudice, finding truth in a world full of deception.

Here’s a concert video of “Another Day”. I love the joy St-Pere (on the left) radiates as his band effortlessly performs this complex piece.

Birzer Guide to Art Rock and Pop

Spirit of Cecilia Books has begun a series of ebooks–Cecilia’s Notations–on the history of modern music (mostly rock, pop, and jazz).

Other volumes in the series, forthcoming: on Talk Talk, Big Big Train, Rush, Glass Hammer, Tears for Fears, and Kate Bush.

To purchase the first volume of Cecilia’s Notations, Birzer Guide to Art Rock and Pop, please click here. It’s only $2.99.



The Power of Rush

[A slightly different version from the one that appeared at The American Conservative. With thanks to TAC and all concerned.–BB]

Sometime just prior to spring break, March 1981, I sat at one of the old wooden tables in Liberty Junior High, in Hutchinson, Kansas.  The building no longer exists, having been destroyed that same year to make way for Liberty Middle School. The old building had charm, even in its dilapidation, while the updated one, not surprisingly, reeks of prison. What happened to those lovingly carved, tagged, and scarred tables at which I once sat, read, scrawled, and thought, I have no idea. They either sold at auction or met the same fate as the scarily swaying staircases. In the end, the bulldozer comes for us all. 

One particular March day in 1981, though, means something quite special to me. Being in detention for some reason that now eludes me (though, I was probably in for having talked too much in class; I never did get good conduct grades), I sat with my fellow detainees and friends, Troy S. and Brad (yes, same first time) L. I had gone to early grade school with each of them at Wiley Elementary, reuniting in junior high after three years apart while I attended Holy cross Catholic school, grades four through six. Since we’d last seen each other in third grade, our music tastes had changed rather considerably, and I started pontificating about the brilliance of Genesis’s 1980 album, Duke. Troy and Brad were into harder music, and they asked me if I’d ever listened to a Canadian band called Rush?  I hadn’t, I admitted, intrigued.  Having two older brothers, I knew Jethro Tull, Yes, and Genesis quite well, but neither of them had ever embraced anything harder than Kansas.  After Troy and Brad gushed about the band, I rode my bike to the local record store immediately following school that day and purchased Rush’s latest album, Moving Pictures.

To write that the album changed my life would be nothing less than a trite understatement. It radically altered my understanding of the world, not only by its words, but, especially, by its example. To this day, I can remember the smell of that album sleeve, glossy, thick, and oily, quite different from the cheap paper-thin sleeves prevalent among so many commercial albums. With three kinetic photos of the band members on the right side of the sleeve, white lettering giving credit on a black ground on the left side, and all of the lyrics on the alternate side of the sleeve, I devoured every word and image. Something profound spoke to my eager and open thirteen-year old mind.

Every Soul a Battlefield: Rush’s HEMISPHERES

A review of the 2-CD remastered version of Rush, Hemispheres, 40th Anniversary Edition.  Please note: I have NOT seen the deluxe edition yet.  It should be arriving soon.

An album that wants us to find the whole person.

Hemispheres represents Rush at its most progressive best—that is, until 2012’s Clockwork Angels. 

Indeed, Hemispheres represents Rush at its earliest progressive best. Caress of Steel might be more wacky; 2112 might be more anthemic; and A Farewell to Kings might be more diverse in tone; but Hemispheres is an album without flaw. Even though much of the album came about at the last minute and with little thought, Geddy and Alex were certainly at the height of their musical experimentation, and Neil had moved from writing short stories and prose poem to write a full novel and creating its own logically consisted internal world. Having already explored the mystical fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien, the bizarre individualism of Ayn Rand, Peart now embraced the work of one of the most complicated and best philosophers of the modern age, Friedrich Nietzsche. What made all the glorious pieces of this majestic moment in Rush history come together, though, was certainly Terry Brown’s flawless production and Hugh Syme’s surreal art.

The inspiration for Peart’s exploration of Apollo and Dionysius.

It would be hard to exaggerate Brown’s productions skills. On Caress, everything felt like a razor’s edge cutting through the haze of psychedelia. 2112 felt righteously angry, a call to arms to protect all that is good in western civilization. Farewell felt justly wise and statesmanlike, three intelligent men challenging the corruption so comfortably residing in their midst. Hemispheres, however, perfectly combines classical myth and 1970s era space opera, allowing a narrative that explains the Aristotelian notion of moderation while clothed in the tragic prose of Nietzsche and yet still giving us a Skywalker-esque hero in Cygnus. “Let the love of truth shine clear.” The first side ends with the apotheosis of Cygnus, becoming not just the god of moderation, but the most integrated and indispensable man yet to emerge in the universe. [Make sure to go to page 2–by clicking below]