Home / DVD Review: Neil Peart – Anatomy of a Drum Solo

DVD Review: Neil Peart – Anatomy of a Drum Solo

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It was either a TDK-SA 90 or a Maxell XLII (not the XLII-S; we were ‘poor’ back then). It had a handmade j-card insert, with the song titles hammered out by a typewriter. That tape was with me all summer. During those hot three months after my freshman year in college, I hung around my Aunt Rose’s house on Cape Code, brooded (about gawd knows what) and listened to Rush’s All The World’s A Stage.

That tape was made by my best friend Tyler. We were going through this phase where we were trying to figure out if we actually liked Rush or not. Certainly we loved the loud guitars, slamming drums, and hyperactive bass. But the voice? Ty wasn’t so sure. Neither was I. After giving that tape a daily (sometimes twice!) listen for almost all of June through August, the ebb and flow of the songs became internalized. And… I decided that I liked Geddy Lee’s high & squeaky voice.

But of course this is about Neil Peart. And drumming. And the strangeness of the passage of time.

But mostly: drumming.

Since the summer of 1980, Rush has produced a host of studio and live records, videos and concert DVDs, all of it anchored by the athletic and masterful drum work of Neil Peart. Peart himself has put out a video collection on drumming (A Work In Progress) and several books, the most amazing of which is Ghost Rider, chronicling Peart’s struggle with life after the death of his daughter and wife, both in the same year.

2005 brings the arrival of a new Peart drumming video, Anatomy of a Drum Solo. On this two-disc set, we are treated to a complete deconstruction of the solo performed during the Rush 30th anniversary tour.

Now, maybe this stuff is for drum wonks only, but I found it fascinating. Not just for the crazy amount of technique the man possesses. No, what makes this different is the sheer musicality woven through the solo. Neil is well-versed in the history of music and drops little bits of it into his work, from the earliest tribal rhythms up through modern jazz and rock.

Take modern jazz. Inspired by a solo from Max Roach, Peart starts with a simple waltz-time pattern (count to yourself “1-2-3, 1-2-3”) and improvises in various time signatures on top of it. Speaking as a person who manages to play a simple rock shuffle (with the accents on the 1 and the 3 where, as Jerry Garcia used to say, even a white person can find ’em), this stuff seems impossible.

There is plenty of bonus material to go around here, including some extended improvisations, full in-concert Rush tunes presented from the drums-only camera, the “O Baterista” solo from Rush In Rio, and a previously unreleased solo from the Counterparts tour. For pure drum wonks, there is an interview with Rush engineer and co-producer Paul Northfield and drum tech Lorne Wheaton. The last bit of drum porn is a video segment of Wheaton constructing Peart’s 30th anniversary kit.

So now, all of these years later, none of us are the same. Peart has surely been through some of the worst of life’s experiences. It amazes me, as an example of the sheer strength of the human spirit, that his creativity survived, however altered.

Me and Ty, yeah… we’re still friends. We’ve also had our share of life’s ugliness, but plenty of beauty as well. We even played in a band together for a few years, with his drumming going far beyond my pre-Ringo thumping. Every time a birthday comes around, forcing me to think about how many years have gone by, I’m just amazed at the clarity of my memories of that old cassette (it was the TDK, I’ve decided). That and how the music has in my mind formed an invisible bond linking together two old friends from central Maine and a rock musician from Toronto.

So this DVD and this review are my belated Christmas presents to Ty. I figure that after 25 years, all of that great music, and three months of that TDK tape… it’s the least I can do.

First posted on Mark Is Cranky

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About Mark Saleski

  • Hell of a review, Saleski. Honor is due. I have to confess… I have only listened to a smattering of Rush mostly because Geddy’s voice was a tough sell for me. The Rush I could get through blew me away on a musical level and I have seen/heard some of Peart’s (superlatives escape me) drum solos. The only other drummer I have listened to that I thought could hold a candle to Peart in terms of technique/ comlexity is Portnoy from Dream Theater.

    I won’t ask what I am getting for my birthday. I don’t wany my feelings to get hurt.

  • Nicely done. I also used the same blank tapes. I used to be deleriously happy to walk away with a box of tapes, always Type II, Maxell or TDK. I bought a 3-head tape deck with my first paycheque from my first good paying job. My interest in Rush has gone up and down over the years, but it’s back up due to the new concert video from the R30 DVD. Neil Peart is a survivor of personal tragedy and still a remarkable musician. I just Rush would play Winnipeg! It’s been about 25 years, guys!

  • Very nicely done, Sir Saleski. But you should always use Maxell XLIIs. There the only choice for tape traders. Well, in my cirlce anyways.

    I once sent a fella a 120 minute regular Maxell tape and literally got reprimanded for it. “Think about what it will do to my deck” he chided…ah the pre CDR days…

  • ya, i mostly used xlII-s’s. i have a couple of boxes full of various king bisquit and deadhead hour shows.

    as soon as i get my cd recorder, old mr. takamichi is going to be resurrected.

  • Good stuff man, like the way you turn something that can be banal to discuss like drumming into an interesting anecdotal piece of writing.

    Out of all the classic prog bands Rush are probably my prefered choice of listening.

  • The tape that Mark heard all those years ago was born during a summer at the University of Georgia, exploring the Wuxtry record stores in Athens. My friends and I were ‘discovering’ a ton of new music (little of it actually new) and trying to copy as much of it to tape to ‘take home’ as possible. The equipment involved was, at best incidental, but hey, we we eating Post Toasties for dinner then!!

    We sure did find some great stuff in those forays into the stacks, including this record. Thanks Mark for resurrecting the memories and for the great DVD!! It serves to remind me of just one of the reasons for our long friendship.

  • gonzo marx

    awesome Stuff here Mark…

    thanks for sharing both your personal Journey here, but your thoughts surrounding Neal and Rush

    funny how Art can affect us in so many ways in our Lives, eh?

    nothing i could add would create any more Value to what you have given us all here, so let me just share a Thought on other drummers/Bands you might like if you still get a kick out of Rush…

    Primus…albums Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese (especially Tommy the Cat)…killer bass and Tim Alexander bridges the gap between Peart and Terry Bozio during his Zappa years for drumming…

    Tool… for your humble Narrator, Tool is to the 90’s/now what Rush was to the 70’s/80’s….three of the finest Musicians bringing us incredible Art, and the drums will blow your mind, even if you are not “into” the rest of the Work

    thanks again…


  • wow! where here’s some news: i’ve known tyler since i was about 15, but didn’t know he’d been to the ‘illustrious’ (maybe ‘historical’ is the right word) Wuxtry record store.

    …or maybe i’m just gettin’ old and i forgot. 😉

  • good call on Primus gonzo. i absolutely love both of those records.

  • Good call on Tool, too.

  • i’ll have to give them another listen. i bought Lateralus on the strength of a whole pile of internet chatter and other articles….it didn’t do much for me.

  • Lateralus is my second favorite of their albums. Aenima is the one that really floors me. Great album.

  • gonzo marx

    the drums on “Ticks and Leeches”

    but yeah..put on the headphones and listen

    your mileage may vary


  • after checking out a few samples, i now remember why they didn’t do much for me. it was the dark, nihilistic tone of it all.

    i will agree that that drummer is doing some cool stuff though.

  • I think Maynard has a terrific voice in addition to some of the musical complexity. It is very dark music most of the time so it is not music I listen to every day but I really do like them.

  • gonzo marx

    dark, well yes..but nihilistic???


    “this Body holding me,
    reminds me of my own Mortality,
    embrace this Moment,
    we are Eternal all this Pain is an

    or even…
    “as Below so Above and Beyond,
    I’d Imagine.
    drawn outside the lines of Reason,
    push the envelope,
    watch It bend”

    which takes us full Circle to this

    damn, i AM good….



  • Spot on with the above observation concerning Portnoy. As a drummer of…well…a long time now, I can say there are a few drummers I have learned significantly more from than others. Especially when I’m working progressive stuff, Peart and Portnoy both get mentioned. Very different style of music, but Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band never ceases to amaze either.

    Anyway… after that little ramble fest. I need to get this DVD, even more so after reading this. Nice work.

  • Duane

    Danny Carey of Tool is one of the best rock drummers out there, as pointed out by Gonzo, but I still have a place in my heart for The Professor (Mr. Peart). Whereas Peart, by choice, is defined more by precision and restraint, however, Carey is a fucking monster.

    I also second Tim Alexander as an excellent model for budding drummers. I just bought the Primus live DVD, which is called Hallucino-Genetics, and it’s amazing to see how much sound Alexander can produce with such economical movement. A real powerhouse.

  • now that i think of it…me & tyler saw Primus (with Fishbone!) once in boston.

    it was great. there were these kids behind us who didn’t seem to know much about Primus “lore”.

    after much hooting and hollering by the audience, the poor guys would say “why does everybody think that they suck?” heh.

    “Hello, we’re Primus and we suck”.

  • Duane

    Yeah, on the DVD the crowd often break into “Primus sucks … Primus sucks …”

    primussucks.com takes you to their main site

  • gonzo marx

    Primus and Fishbone..AWESOME show..saw it at the Rutgers gymnasium with the Mrs…

    wow, hadn’t thought about that show in a while…

    the next time i saw Primus was them opening for Rush a year or so later, at the Nassaue Colliseum

    after Neil’s drum solo, Alex came out wearing his blazer and the Frizzle Fry t-shit

    good times…

    since moving up to Maine i don’t see so many shows any more, last one was Perfect Circle in Portland, and of course the Lateralus Tour before that in Augusta…i am pleased to say that this old man( was what, 41-42 at the time?) was one of the last ones “standing” in the Pit, a few feet form the stage, at the end of the show (Meshugga opened, their drummer brought out a rack of toms to join the drum solo about 3/4 of the way into the set…MASSIVE kewl)

    enuff reminiscing ya silly senile olde coot of a gonzo…

    first Rush show was in 76 at the Felt Forum, 2112 for the win…smoked seeing Zeppelin two years earlier..i wasn’t as impressed

    i bought my first bass the day after seeing Geddy for the first time

    nuff said?


  • wow all terrific stuff mentioned- rush, tool, zep, primus, dream theater. hey i noticed some of you are in maine, i’m in south portland, and have dvds of many shows mentioned (tool portland, augusta, APC portland, etc) my list is here http://www.tapetrader.com/rushfanyyz contacts are listed there if interested. peace

  • Andy Pomeroy

    Thanks for the review. I’m raising 4 drummers, with one of them turning 12. After reading your review I’ve decided this will make a great gift for him (and his brothers).

    The first part of your review sounded like my summer of youth, except my Rush discovery happened in 1975. And, oh yeah! Geddy Lee’s voice is an aquired taste . . . like the first time one tastes a full bodied Cabernet, after the first sip you’re not sure if you like it. By the end of the bottle you’re wondering what took you so long to discover it!

  • Emil

    This was enjoyable to read. As a drummer who NEEDS to reconstruct the solo off of “All the world’s a stage”, I think I should get the Anatomy DVD.