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Music Review: Rush – Retrospective 3

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I counted 13 Rush albums in my vinyl collection. That is a complete run of studio releases plus a couple of live affairs. I guess I should add that the latest was Power Windows. Rush was a staple on my turntable during my college years and for about a decade after that.

I’m not quite sure why I stopped purchasing their work. Maybe my musical tastes just changed or more probably the money was spent elsewhere. It was not until last year that I re-connected with the band. I obtained a copy of Snakes & Ladders Live and it was like catching up with old friends.

Retrospective 3 is an album perfect for someone like me. It gathers material from their years recording for the Atlantic label, 1989-2008, onto one disc. I am assuming it is a representation of their best work. Since I only own material from their Mercury label days, it was a chance to take a crash course in the music and years I had missed. The album presents only a taste of their output, but I was impressed and will probably purchase a few of the studio albums that I have ignored over the years.

Comparing this material to their early career work I am not sure that bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neal Peart break a lot of new ground. But that is fine as they cover the old so well and there is something to be said for that. While the overall sound may be a little slicker, it is instantly recognizable. Lee’s voice remains one of the unique instruments in rock music, and Lifeson can and has always been able to play the guitar as well as just about anyone. At times he almost seems to play the rhythm and leads parts at once.

There are two tracks that have been remixed. “One Little Victory” and “Earthshine” were both taken from the album Vapor Trails and from what I have read it was a poorly produced affair with a muddy sound. Here both songs are crystal clear and the mix allows the listener to distinctly hear the individual instruments and vocals that combine to create the songs. In fact the whole album has excellent production.

“Ghost Of A Chance” is a very good live track and is representative of their concert sound. It’s energetic and the vocals and guitar playing are equally excellent. Few threesomes can produce their sound live as well as Rush.

There were several other songs that I will be revisiting from time to time. “Roll The Bones” has excellent bass and guitar interplay while maintaining the songs structure. “Leave That Thing Alone” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category. “Nobody’s Hero” is about aids, murder, and death while “The Pass” is an anti-suicide song.

Retrospective 3 contains fourteen tracks and all are at least solid. It is an album that is meant to fill in the gaps and it accomplishes that task in fine fashion. I am sure that it will also appeal to the person who is a Rush completest. All in all it is an excellent glimpse in the second half of Rush’s career. I have to say that I was glad I stopped by for a visit.  


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About David Bowling

  • We RUSH fans are often criticized for being perfectionists and for wanting to hear the band completely out-do themselves from one CD to the next – and for demanding that the band make ZERO mistakes when performing live. Well, we got this way due to the band themselves wanting this very same quality. They have never let us down so far. By the way, RUSH’s 8th studio album, and their 9th overall if you count 1976’s Double Live “All The World’s A Stage”, was called “Moving Pictures” and was released in February of 1981, not 1985, which was the year the band released “Power Windows”. Did you get the name of the album wrong or did you get the year wrong?

  • One of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar and perform with my college band was “Tom Sawyer.” I really never followed Rush after that, but Neil Peart was definitely a big influence on our drummer and many others I know.