OK... so I've read a few of the posts here about Vapor Trails some of them overwhelmingly positive, some overwhelmingly negative, but I haven't read anything that sounds like a balanced review from a less-than-rabid Rush fan, so I thought I'd toss in my own 2 cents (ok, maybe 3 cents) on the latest release.
Lest I be accused of being a newbie - perhaps I should start with my "credentials". Huge Rush fan back in the "slightly post Moving Pictures" days... seen every tour since I was old enough to drive (from Power Windowson)... "Roll the Bones" was probably the last album I bought on its release date. I kinda changed musical tastes in grad school... listened to Rush a little less... bought Counterparts and Test for Echo out of habit more than anything else. I don't hate the new stuff, but I don't sit in front of every new album with my bass learning every song note-for-note anymore either. (Mostly because my wife won't let me!)
So anyway - when I heard Rush was coming out with a new album, I emailed my old grad-school roommate Sam, who replied "I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but my first reaction when I heard that was - 'Gee, I hope they don't embarrass themselves'!" Well, after 3 or 4 listens, I definitely DON'T think they embarrassed themselves. I don't think it's their best album, but I don't think it's their worst either. I was expecting something very different from this album - following the pattern of post-live-album-stylistic-shift that Rush has shown over their career. I was encouraged when I opened the shrink wrap and the CD case to read "Geddy Lee - Bass and vocals". What?? No synthesizers? No keyboards? No Moog Taurus pedals even? Hmmm. So when I popped in the disc, I was expecting a different sound - tighter, leaner, more stripped down.
Well, on the first listen, it certainly did "sound" different. I'm no audiophile- I have a cheap car stereo and I'm half deaf in the high frequency range, so I won't be going on about the "mix" like a lot of people on the newsgroups. But I did notice the drums sounding very flat and simple... no reverb, no "ring"... just a sharp attack - uncomplicated... not a lot of "tone". I don't think they sound bad as rock-drums go... just not what we're used to hearing from Neil. But the fact that _I_ noticed it is saying a lot, because like I said - I don't have much ear for "tone". The sound of a new producer and engineer are immediately obvious.