Help me learn to appreciate the music of Rush
July 3, 2010 1:00 PM   Subscribe

What Rush album should I listen to first if I'd like to learn to appreciate their music more?

I'm not a musician but I'm married to one. My husband plays the keyboards and loves Rush, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Boston etc. Rush is by far the one I have the most difficulty enjoying and I was thinking that some extended listening might help me enjoy their music more. My interest in this was sparked because we watched the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage last night and it was fantastic.

A bit about me and my music tastes - I tend to only listen to music in the car because I find it very distracting. I don't like background noise (TV, radio etc.) and I think the density of their music is what drives me crazy. It takes so much "focus" to hear what's going on in those songs...if I don't focus completely than it just sounds like noise to me. I enjoy some of their more popular tunes - Tom Sawyer, Working Man etc. but I'm wondering if I just listened to the same album over and over if I could finally get past the "trying" to hear what's happening and start "enjoying" what I'm hearing.

Anyway, my first thought was to start at the first or the last album and just work my way through their catalog. My husband suggested I start with Moving Pictures because it's more accessible and seems to be more in line with the music I like.

Thanks for your help! Also, if it helps - I tend to like pop and classic rock. Standard arrangements with a strong melody and beat...
posted by victoriab to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Moving Pictures is the most iconic album, and a good place to start. If you want more of a classic rock sound, their most recent albums, Vapor Trails and Snakes and Arrows are an OK place to start.

I'd suggest that you start with the Rush in Rio live album. The DVDs, if you have them, are a really great show, and cover a lot of career highlights. They can really help you get oriented to what you can enjoy in Rush's catalog.
posted by Lifeson at 1:04 PM on July 3, 2010

Seconding Moving Pictures.
posted by edmz at 1:19 PM on July 3, 2010

I've always thought Permanent Waves was a lot stronger then Moving Pictures, but I suppose that's a decent second choice.
posted by sandswipe at 1:30 PM on July 3, 2010

Definitely Moving Pictures for a studio album, but I think a live album would be a better start. Different Stages is my go-to album, but Rush in Rio includes their more recent stuff and is also good.
posted by lilac girl at 1:56 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: I have no particular recommendation among their earlier studio albums. I would advise against their more recent work for a variety of reasons, primarily that every band has its heyday and Rush has passed its, so starting there isn't really starting with what most people think of as "Rush." And second, I would advise against their live albums because as a general rule, live albums are worse than studio albums (again, for a variety of reasons) and Rush doesn't happen to be one of the exceptions to that rule.

I usually check AMG when I have this question about a band or musician. In Rush's case, AMG recommends Moving Pictures.
posted by cribcage at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rush did an episode of the Classic Albums documentary series (soon to be on DVD) covering the albums 2112 and Moving Pictures, which makes sense since 2112 is considered the best album among some/many Rush fans, while Moving Pictures is their most popular album with the general public. So you could start with those two.
posted by jca at 2:25 PM on July 3, 2010

Moving Pictures is pretty great, although 2112 is a real experience, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:49 PM on July 3, 2010

Yeah, I'd say Moving Pictures. If you happened to be stuck with just Snakes and Arrows or Vapor Trails, though, go with the former; VT suffers badly from poor mastering and distortion, and there's been no official remaster that I know of yet.

Rush in Rio has a fantastic concert film, if that would help you focus.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:11 PM on July 3, 2010

To provide context for why Rush in Rio-- Rush is to Brazil what the Beatles were to America in the 1960s. Just, epic, crowds wherever they go, etc. Probably that got covered in Beyond the Lighted Stage, but I haven't seen it yet.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2010

My go to Rush album is Fly By Night.

If you have DirecTV, check out channel 101. They've got a one hour Rush show in rotation, I believe it's from the taping of the Snakes and Arrows tour at Atlanta's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (formerly Lakewood).
posted by torquemaniac at 3:16 PM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: It's funny because my husband doesn't have either of the live albums because he doesn't like how they sound. They've been ordered in honor of this experiment and I'm wondering if the lack of production layering might make me like them more than the studio albums.

Also, the sound + visuals of the documentary approach is really helpful for me, so the Classic Albums series might work really well. My husband didn't know about this so he's SUPER excited as well...thanks jca!

So this is the tentative rotation in my car
#1 Moving Pictures
#2 Rush in Rio (a portion of this show was shown in Beyond the Lighted Stage movie and I liked what I saw
#3 Evening viewings of the Classic Albums Documentary
#4 2112
#5 Vapor Trails (a favorite of the hub)

Thanks for all the great input and I'm still open to suggestions.
posted by victoriab at 3:18 PM on July 3, 2010

My favourite Rush albums are easily Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves, and 2112. Not coincidentally, they're also the most accessible.
posted by smorange at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: I am a pretty big supporter of the Grace Under Pressure/Power Windows/Hold Your Fire period. These albums sound to me like a band hitting their stride and working in a very slick, very specific zone that they created and inhabited pretty much on their own. I know lots of hardcore Rush fans will hurf-durf all over this, but I can't recommend these three (and A Show Of Hands, the attendant live LP) enough. Grace Under Pressure makes me particularly happy.
posted by mintcake! at 4:21 PM on July 3, 2010

YES mintcake! That was a killer era that is retroactively derided as 'hurf durf synthesizers hurf durf' - especially Power Windows and Hold Your Fire. But these are stupendous albums!

My answer to OP's question? Moving Pictures. Permanent Waves. Signals.
posted by markjamesmurphy at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2010

I am the ultimate Rush fan. I'd listen to them in this order:

1. Moving Pictures - Their most commercially successful and accessessible album.
2. Counteparts - The best example of the post-classic rock phase Rush
3. Permanant Waves - The last album with long form songs with complex time sig changes
4. Hemispheres - The perfect album. The inerrant album inspired by almighty God Himself. So technical, so deep, so brilliant.
5. Subdivisions - 80s "new wave" Rush
posted by Crotalus at 9:29 PM on July 3, 2010

Try Exit...Stage Left, the live album they released after Moving Pictures.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:36 PM on July 3, 2010

Rush peaked at Moving Pictures, and as much as I love their early stuff, I find anything after Signals pretty much unlistenable. Moving Pictures, sure, but Permanent Waves, Signals, Hemispheres, Fly By Night (can't believe only one other person mentioned that one), and Signals are all brilliant. But among their earlier stuff, Caress of Steel and 2112 never really did it for me.
posted by holterbarbour at 1:06 AM on July 4, 2010

Whoops, listed Signals twice. Swap one out for Farewell to Kings.
posted by holterbarbour at 1:07 AM on July 4, 2010

If you're really only going to listen in the car, then Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves. Less "dense," more accessible. But I think if you go that route, you're missing out on a lot of what made Rush great. My suggestion would be to sit down with a pair of headphones and a lyrics sheet and listen to the 2112 suite from 2112. It's only 20 minutes. Once you've done that, then you can listen to it in the car ...
posted by zanni at 3:25 AM on July 4, 2010

I'll point out that Rush's lyrics are often about fairly abstract topics, or even tell sci-fi or fantasy stories, which not everyone appreciates. In fact, I've heard that Rush has been excluded from the Rock n' Role Hall of Fame largely because they're too technical and don't sing about relationships.

Counterparts has however two relationship songs Cold Fire and Speed Of Love, and other quite-touching songs like Nobody's Hero. I'm also quite fond of Entre Nous (Permanent Waves) and Losing It (Signals). Subdivisions is a song on Signals, not an album, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:36 AM on July 4, 2010

Hemispheres - The perfect album. The inerrant album inspired by almighty God Himself. So technical, so deep, so brilliant.

I love Hemispheres. But if you're going to listen to that album, you'll need to listen to A Farewell To Kings first (the previous album), so you can hear the last song from that album: "Cygnus X-1". Hemispheres is the album length sequel to Cygnus.

See how crazy Rush fans are? Not only do we tell you WHAT to listen to, but HOW to listen to it. :)
posted by jca at 8:00 AM on July 4, 2010

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