Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Rush: A 10-Song Journey Through Their History

Here are 10 songs that represent Rush’s remarkable career!

Ask any progressive rock fan to name their favorite artists and Rush is almost guaranteed to come up.

After all, the Canadian trio – comprised of vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and percussionist Neil Peart – achieved massive success amidst releasing 19 studio LPs (starting with 1974’s Rush and ending with 2012’s Clockwork Angels). Nearly 10 years after their final show – and nearly five years after Peart’s tragic passing – they remain one of the biggest and most influential genre bands of all time.

In a nutshell, Rush started as a hard rock/heavy metal act before becoming kings of prog rock by the end of the 1970s. From there, they began leaning into the rising popularity of new wave/synth-rock/art pop as the 1980s unfolded, only to return to their hard/prog rock roots during the 1990s and 2000s. In that way, their catalog kind of came full circle.

Clearly, encapsulating their entire history in just 10 songs is a nearly impossible (and inherently controversial) task, right? Well, we like to live dangerously, so we’ve attempted to do precisely that with the list below.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a ranking of Rush’s greatest songs; in fact, there’s at least one tune that represents a career low. Even so, it must be included to offer the most complete overview possible, as featuring only Rush’s top-tier tracks would mean telling only some of their story.

So, check out our picks for the 10 tracks that best represent Rush’s history, and let us know which songs you’d replace (if any)!

“Working Man” (‘Rush,’ 1974)

Rush’s debut LP is notable for numerous reasons, with the two biggest being that it’s their only one with drummer John Rutsey and it wears the group’s love for artists such as Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Black Sabbath on its sleeve. Relatable album closer “Working Man” (which got plenty of radio play in Ohio and endures as a fan favorite) demonstrates that well, both in terms of its instrumentation (agitatedly fuzzy and straightforward riffs and rhythms) and blue-collar lyricism (“Well, I get up at seven, yeah / And I go to work at nine / I got no time for livin’ / Yes, I’m workin’ all the time”).

They’re already superb players – and the song kicks ass – but there’s virtually no trace of the prog rock eccentricities to come within this humble beginning.

“2112” (‘2112,’ 1976)

Just two years later, the trio (with Peart firmly initiated) were fully embracing their prog/space rock proclivities. The seven-part (20-minute) title track to their breakthrough fourth album is the apex of that period because it’s their most iconic side-long suite. (Aside from Peart’s signature drum solo, the first two parts of “2112” constitute Rush’s two most frequently played pieces in concert!) It’s Ayn Rand-inspired futuristic tale of “galaxy-wide war,” political upheaval and banned music was even turned into a comic book.

Sure, some people may prefer later epics (namely, one or both of the “Cygnus X-1” ventures), but there’s no denying how addictive and important “2112” remains. Be it the grippingly intricate “Overture”; the catchy as hell “Temple of Syrinx”; the beautifully tranquil “Oracle: the Dream”; or zany “Grand Finale,” it’s a stylistic classic that helped 2112 save Rush’s career. Plus, bands such as Coheed and Cambria, Between The Buried and Me, and Dream Theater might not exist without it.

“The Spirit of Radio” (‘Permanent Waves,’ 1980)

Aside from having one of Rush’s most recognizable openings, “The Spirit of Radio” was the lead single of Permanent Waves (which arrived in 1980 and kicked off the band’s turn toward more economical and welcoming compositions). There’s still a healthy amount of prog rock in there, of course, but it also taps into new wave and even reggae! Its radio-friendly ethos is symbolized by its subject matter (a mourning of the changing direction of FM radio), too, and its international chart victories further propelled Rush’s popularity in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

Thus, “The Spirit of Radio” (and Permanent Waves as a whole) set the stage for where Rush would go commercially and creatively just as they approached a new decade and a new era of music tastes and tendencies.

“YYZ” (‘Moving Pictures,’ 1981)

“YYZ” wasn’t Rush’s first wordless voyage (Hemispheres’ “La Villa Strangiato” was), nor was it their last (Snakes & Arrows’ “Malignant Narcissism” was). However, when you think of a Rush instrumental (and a progressive rock instrumental in general), you think of Taylor Hawkins’ favorite Rush piece: the Grammy Award-nominated “YYZ.”

Its mysterious percussive prelude – based on the IATA station code of the Toronto Pearson International Airport – and blending of prog rock and jazz fusion gives it a very distinctive and exhilarating flavor. On that note, it’s among the greatest examples of the trio performing with a shared mind, as they often mirror each other’s patterns in between playing inventive counterpoints. Best of all, it’s highly dynamic, with the joyfully tricky and vibrant first half suddenly giving way to a considerably calmer and sadder synth-laden interlude.

It’s an extremely fun ride that – unsurprisingly – has been covered by everyone from ambitious children to accomplished metal masters. Beyond that, it’s been featured in multiple Guitar Hero games, making it a small but significant part of an entire generation’s upbringing.

“Tom Sawyer” (‘Moving Pictures,’ 1981)

If any record is going to have two spots on this list, it’s Moving Pictures since it’s Rush’s signature LP. Likewise, if there’s one Rush song that everyone knows – regardless of if they’re a fan of the band or even the genre – it’s “Tom Sawyer.”

After all, it’s subsequently appeared in many movies and TV shows, including Small Soldiers, MacGyver, The Waterboy, Futurama, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and I Love You, Man. Additionally, it marked the first time Lee switched from his Rickenbacker 4001 bass to his now-trademark Fender Jazz Bass, and it marked the band’s first collaboration with lyricist Pye Dubois.

Picking up from where Permanent Waves and “The Spirit of Radio” left off, the track’s central motif is probably (and deservingly) the most famous keyboard riff in all of prog/classic rock. Similarly, it houses Rush’s hookiest melodies and some of their most enjoyably playful songwriting. Obviously, Lifeson’s guitar solo is legendary, as is Peart’s relatively simple syncopation.

Honestly, what else needs to be said? It’s an absolute classic.

“Lock and Key” (‘Hold Your Fire,’ 1987)

Hold Your Fire was essentially the apex of Rush’s dive into synth rock/new wave, and despite receiving some praise upon release, it fell below sales expectations. (It’s little wonder then why they returned to guitar-driven rock with 1989’s Presto.) Today, Hold Your Fire is normally viewed as their worst 1980s LP (if not their worst LP to date), with “Lock and Key” typically being seen as one of their worst songs.

It’s easy to hear why, as the soft promotional single (inspired by Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) is overly schmaltzy and processed, lacking the sophistication, imagination, catchiness and humanity of Rush’s superlative work. True, it’s not as bad as the worst ‘80s stuff from, say, Genesis and Yes, and lyrically, it’s a respectable ode about mankind’s violent/animalistic instincts.

Nevertheless, “Lock and Key” embodies what’s arguably Rush’s worst period.

“Ghost of a Chance” (‘Roll the Bones,’ 1991)

Rush reunited with Presto producer Rupert Hine (Tina Turner, Saga, Kevin Ayers) for the pop rock/hard rock of Roll the Bones; together, they achieved an enjoyably streamlined, modern and guitar-oriented aesthetic that further distanced itself from their 1980s keyboard-based persona. Romantic ballad “Ghost of a Chance” is a strong example of their revised sound, and its popularity (No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart) restored some of Rush’s commercial success.

To be clear, it doesn’t equal their more challenging and distinguishing material, but it nails what it’s going for without bordering too much on bland cheesiness. Rather, Lee’s deeper voice – at least compared to how he sang 15 years prior – brings soulfulness to his earnest singing, and the conventional rock arrangement is quite fitting. Moreover, Lee’s subtly divine synths and Lifeson’s delicate strums add soothing nuance that elevates “Ghost of a Chance” above what many of their pop rock peers were doing at the time.

“One Little Victory” (‘Vapor Trails,’ 2002)

The six-year gap between Test for Echo and Vapor Trails was the largest Rush ever had between studio collections; obviously, the 1997 death of Peart’s daughter, Selena, and the 1998 death of his wife, Jacqueline, played major parts in the trio’s hiatus.

Once Peart was ready to get going again, he and his bandmates reteamed for what would – in a few respects – be their comeback LP. Despite being underwhelming in hindsight, the keyboard-less and rambunctiously straightforward Vapor Trails sold well and truly unfolded like an invigorated statement of purpose.

Symbolically titled opener “One Little Victory,” in particular, allows Peart to reclaim his crown from the jump via thunderously characteristic syncopation. Lifeson and Lee follow with fierce guitar work and resolute singing, and even Peart’s words encapsulate Rush’s reflective mindset (“A certain measure of righteousness / A certain amount of force / A certain degree of determination / Daring on a different course”). By no means a classic, “One Little Victory” is an admirable declaration of professional and personal rebounding.

“Far Cry” (‘Snakes & Arrows,’ 2007)

The successor to Vapor Trails, Snakes & Arrows is among the group’s most divisive outings, as it’s usually ranked anywhere from the very bottom to the exact middle of their catalog. While it’s certainly a good album, it found Rush occasionally – and to varying degrees – losing their identity to more mainstream tendencies, too. (Producer Nick Raskulinecz, who’d previously worked with Foo Fighters, Stone Sour, and Velvet Revolver, undoubtedly helped steer them in that direction.)

That’s not always a bad thing, but when it comes to lead single “Far Cry,” the balance is a tad off. In other words, it’s a solid song, but tonally/structurally, it also feels like a song that countless other mid-2000s rock groups could’ve crafted if not for Peart and Lee’s recognizable rhythmic chemistry. Just as the broadest strokes of new wave overtook some of their late-80s work, the broadest strokes of new millennium hard/alternative rock overtook some of their mid-2000s work.

“The Garden” (‘Clockwork Angels,’ 2012)

“The Garden” is the final track on Rush’s final studio record, so it’s only right to end here. Plus, it (like Abbey Road’s closing “medley” in relation to the Beatles) capped off the career of its creators with tear-jerking meaningfulness. Whether intentionally or not, “The Garden” plays like a self-aware farewell that commemorates all Rush and their fans had shared over the prior four decades.

In general, Clockwork Angels returned to the conceptual centerpieces and prog rock foundations of Rush’s 1970s heyday. Although it’s not “tricky,” “The Garden” nonetheless harkens back to the grand production and scope of those records since it decorates what’s fundamentally a simple acoustic ballad with gorgeous strings, bittersweet piano chords, and all sorts of other lovely ornaments.

No matter if he’s reflecting on a steampunk-inspired fictional world or the real one, Lee’s singing has never been more gut-wrenchingly authentic, either. That’s doubly true because of how poignantly universal and sobering the lyrics are, especially when he remarks: “The arrow flies when you dream / The hours tick away, the cells tick away / The Watchmaker keeps to his schemes / The hours tick away, they tick away.”

You can’t help but be moved to tears by it, and Rush fan or not, you can’t deny that “The Garden” is a beautiful way to memorialize one of progressive rock’s superlative bands.

Source: source names