January , 1983
By Greg Garrett
Rush Once Again Sending Out Signals
Rush has come a long way from the heavy metal group that recorded en obscure album in 1974 on Moon Records. Today this Canadian trio is a superstar act with half a dozen gold or platinum records and music that has gone full circle. Why have the past few years been so significant for the band?
"To sit back and wonder about those things can drive you crazy," mused Geddy Lee, bassist/keyboardist/ vocalist for the group. "There are a thousand and one reasons. If I sat down, I would probably figure them out, but I just like to write it off as a fact that we are a better group now.
"If you work hard enough, you make the music good and interesting enough to more and more people. Then there is that certain possibility that your time will come. But you have to make it come. It doesn't just happen magically."
The group's new album, Signals, follows up a spectacularly successful album, Moving Pictures, as well as a highly acclaimed live recording, Exit Stage Left. The live album was initially planned to precede Moving Pictures, but the enthusiasm over new material was so high that the group shelved the live release until later.
Neil Peart, the highly articulate drummer and lyricist for the group explained.
"All of us had been feeling very positive,” replied Peart, “and our Research and Development Department, i.e. sound check jams, had been very spirited and interesting. So it was felt that it would be more timely and satisfying to embark on the adventure of a new studio album.”
Moving Pictures and the tour which supported it were quite successful. The album quickly went platinum, had three highly acclaimed hit singles including “Tom Sawyer”, “Limelight” and “Red Barchetta”. Over a million fans attended the group’s nationwide tour. The live album was then released followed by a certain sense of lethargy.
"We were getting a little bored with inactivity," admitted Peart. "During the mixing of Exit Stage Left, there was really not much for us to do, except say it sounds good or it doesn't sound good."
The Signals album features some different styles of music, including Lee's increased use of keyboards, some reggae influence and a special guest appearance of Ben Mink (from the band FM), on electric violin for the song "Losing It."
"We worked him hard,” responded Peart with a slight laugh, “then squeezed Ben dry and threw him away. Not only did we demand he perform a monumentally fantastic solo for us, we also had Ben multi-track an entire string section as well. That'll teach him to be our friend."
The album continues in the adventuresome path Rush has lately followed.
"We went through a period of time,” recounted Lee, “where we were writing very long and complex pieces where the emphasis was pure, rhythmic and technical. Now we are going through a period where our emphasis is more melodic. The nice thing about where we are as a group today is the fact we have gone through so many different twists and turns in our music it almost seems normal."
Signals begins with "Subdivisions," an exercise in and 3/4 time signatures that stretches right into "The Analogue Kid."
"I had written "The Analogue Kid" as sort of a companion piece,” recalled Peart, “to "Digital Man" which closes out the first side of the record. As the band often does, we thought it would be interesting to take the opposite approach to what the lyrics would suggest and make it a very up-tempo rocker with some kind of dynamic contrast for the choruses."
"Chemistry" is an interesting tune, as all three 'Rushees' worked together on the lyrics.
"Together,” said Peart, “the three of us came up with the title and concept for the song, wrote out a few key phrases and words Alex and Geddy wanted to get in, then they passed it along to me. When all of this is put together, we have what was probably the easiest song to write on the album."
"Digital Man" features a ska-style repeating section and "The Weapon," which Peart grudgingly admits was 'fun to do' has a dance feel to it. "New World Man" was written in the studio to fill out the album.
"Honestly,” replied Peart, “’New World Man’ was a bit of a problem for us. To avoid any technical difficulties when it came to mastering the album, this song had to come in under the four-minute mark in length. Now when was the last time this band sat down and wrote a song that was under four minutes? We were successful in reaching the time limit and ironically, "New World Man" was selected as the advance single to be released before the album came out.”
"Losing It" with Mink on violin and "Countdown", are two very special songs describing the lift-off of the space shuttle Columbia in April 1982. All three members of Rush were there for the launch.
"It was in incredible thing to witness,” recounted Peart of the extraordinary occasion. “It truly was a once-in-a-life-time experience. I can only hope the song comes remotely close to capturing the excitement and awe that we felt that morning. How can a mere forty minutes of music contain all of the thoughts, feelings and energy that went in to the creation of this music?"
The more appropriate question where Rush is concerned is, "How can it not?"