Album review: RUSH – Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary Edition

UCM [Release date 29.05.20]

Back in January 1980 Rush released their seventh studio album which met with great critical acclaim and saw the band reach their highest chart positions worldwide. That album was Permanent Waves and it was the first of many to be recorded at Le Studio in Quebec. The album featured only 6 songs but most of these went on to become mainstays of the band’s live set for the rest of their career, and with good reason as this, in my opinion, is Rush at their best.

Track 1, side 1 is a song that went on to define Rush and became one of their most well know songs, even to the uninitiated. ‘Spirit Of Radio’ is a short, sharp lesson in how to write a classic rock song from the driving guitar opening provided by Alex Lifeson through the reggae style mid section to the climactic ending the track has everything. The song also found chart success of sorts reaching the heights of number 13 in the UK charts, not bad for a Canadian Prog band post the Punk age!

Another more accessible number is up next and one that was destined to be a live favourite. The lyrics of ‘Freewill’, penned by Neal Peart, concern personal freedom of choice and making your own life decisions. The track contains several different time signatures, a great opening riff, and a strong chorus.

The album is not all about the accessible though and ‘Jacobs Ladder’ closes side one in a much more prog manner. The song is built on a darker, more brooding bass and guitar passage with a staccato opening and lyrics setting the scene of the storm clouds gathering with the shaft of sunlight breaking through. The song also contains some excellent solo work from Lifeson and a very effective keyboard led mid section.

Side 2 opens with another short but sweet number, ‘Entre Nous’. This track finds Alex Lifeson jumping between acoustic and electric guitars in the chorus. Although this song was the second single release from the album it took many years for this track to feature in the band’s live set, not making an appearance until the Snakes and Arrows tour in 2007. Thankfully I was present to witness the performance as it’s one of my personal favourites.

The delicate ‘Different Strings’ is the ballad of the piece, a gentle, lilting track with a great vocal from Geddy Lee. This then leads into the final track of the original album, and what a track it is!

If someone asked me to describe what Rush sound like I would direct them to ‘Natural Science’. This song is Rush in a nutshell, everything you need to know about the band’s songs, style and musicianship is contained in the best 9 minutes of music they ever committed to vinyl.

From the quiet acoustic opening, through the driving riff of the mid section to the bombastic, rocking final section with Peart changing rhythms for fun. This song has it all and was always the highlight of their live show when included in the setlist.

The remastering of the original tracks has given them a brighter, fresher sound which just enhances an already excellent album. This wouldn’t be a Rush Anniversary album release though without a few live rarities and here they don’t disappoint.

The 12 live tracks on offer were recorded on the Permanent Waves world tour with most being recorded in London and Manchester. As well as live tracks from the album there are others from the band’s back catalogue including classics like ‘Cygnus X1’, ‘The Trees’ and ‘Closer To The Heart’. The live tracks are great recordings that capture the band at their best, on stage and rocking.

This release is a must for any self-respecting Rush fan and would be a great introduction to the band for anyone who wants enter into the musical world of Lee, Lifeson and Peart, they certainly won’t be disappointed.

This 40th Anniversary album is being released in various formats with the ultimate super deluxe edition coming complete with a whole raft of exclusive items for the collector. *****

Review by Dave Wilson

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