As legend has it, sales for Rush’s third album, Caress of Steel, were disappointing so the record label told the band to cut the extended prog-rock epics, but the boys didn’t listen. Thinking it might be their last record, they stuck to their guns and made the album they wanted to in 2112, side one of which was the extended prog-rock epic “2112,” a science fiction tale of a young boy who discovers a guitar and through music overcomes his oppressors. Rush defied expectations and had a major commercial breakthrough with 2112, which gave them their first platinum album in their home country of Canada.
Opening with a synth collage created by Hugh Syme, “2112” begins and the band plays “Overture”, which references future musical pieces. Inspired by Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the seven-part suite is a dystopian tale set on a world where “every single facet of every life is regulated and directed from within! Our books, our music, our work and play are all looked after by the benevolent wisdom of the priests” of the Temples of Syrinx. Lee’s vocals are shrill and Lifeson’s electric guitar and Peart’s drums are loud when the priest speaks.
In the third part of the suite, a young man finds something new, a guitar, and he finds he can make music with it. In contrast, Lee’s vocals are soft and gentle when the man speaks, as is Lifeson’s acoustic guitar and Peart’s percussion. Delighted by his “Discovery”, he can’t wait to “share this new wonder”; however, the “Presentation” doesn’t go as he expected as the priests aren’t happy as the guitar “doesn’t fit the[ir] plan.”
Distraught, the young man chooses suicide because he “can no longer live under the control of the Federation, but there is no other place to go.” His “last hope is that with my death I may pass into the world of my dream, and know peace at last”. The song concludes with some entity assuming control of the Planets of the Solar Federation, but who or what? It seems too late for our main character regardless, or is it in the afterlife where his freedom is found? The ambiguity of the ending leaves the story open to discussion.
What was Side 2 of the record are a collection of five songs. It begins with “A Passage To Bangkok”, a fun song filled with drug references. The rest of the album’s songs are forgettable, both in terms of lyrics and music, and could have been on any rock band’s album. “The Twilight Zone” in an obvious ode to the classic TV series referencing episodes, and even more obvious are what “Tears” and “Lessons” are about.
Disc 2 is an odd mix of covers and rarities. The announcement by the Planets of the Solar Federation segues into “Overture” by Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, and Nick Raskulinecz, which sounds pretty authentic and includes a little bonus throw for Rush fans in at the end. Covers of the other B-side selections except for “Lessons” appear. “Tears” by Alice and Chains and Jacob Moon’s “Something for Nothing” are the most improved over the originals.
There are live performances of “2112” and “Something for Nothing” labeled as “Massey Hall Outtake” so they must not be the versions that appear on All the World’s a Stage. Both tracks have great clarity and the crowd can be heard enjoying them. In contrast, there’s a live performance of “Twilight Zone” from 1977 that sounds horrible. With all the hiss and how poorly the vocals and music sound, it’s completely unlistenable, and I am surprised it’s been included. The disc concludes with a radio ad for 2112.
The DVD presents “Live at Capitol Theatre 1976”, a 36-minute set filmed in black and white on December 10, in Passaic, NJ. Previously available online, the multi-camera set-up was clearly not lit to be shot because there’s quite a lot of darkness and the whites frequently bloom. But the audio sounds clear. Just before “Anthem”, a guy can be overheard saying, “Far out”, like Tommy Chong. The setlist was “Bastille Day”, “Anthem”, “Lakeside Park”, “2112”, and then they encore with “Fly By Night” and “In the Mood.”
There are also Bonus Videos. “Overture” (4 min) shows Grohl, Hawkins, and Raskulinecz playing; “A Passage to Bangkok” (4 min) is a behind the scenes with the band Billy Talent; and “2112 – 40 Years Later” (26 min) is a Q&A with Alex Lifeson and engineer Terry Brown.
For those who wore out their versions of 2112 on record, cassette, or even 8-track, the 40th Anniversary edition, and the latest remaster, makes for a great replacement. Plus, all the extra goodies make this presentation a worthy double-dip. For those to who the band/album is a discovery, this edition is a great jumping in point.
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