Judge Dennis Prince scoffs at those who suggest he's just an analog kid; he's a new world man.
From the point of ignition,
Rush may be considered a work in progress.
Don't misunderstand—this Canadian progressive rock trio does not amount to a band in need of polish or better presentation; quite the opposite. For over three decades, the three gifted musicians—singers, songwriters, performers—have delivered high quality compositions that are marked by their intricate arrangements and intelligent lyrics. Just the same, their sound, their style, and their message has been in a continual state of evolution since their premier self-titled album appeared in record bins in 1974.
The release of Rush came amid the days when "album rock" was the preferred format of FM radio stations and while Led Zeppelin were revered as the reigning rock gods. Needing to compete with an acceptable sound of the time, Rush's first album sometimes felt like it was channeling the mighty Zep' (especially the first track, "Finding My Way"). But, by the time Side Two's final track, "Working Man," had completed, listeners knew this band was no knock-off. Not a chance.
Citing health reasons and creative differences, founding Rush member and drummer, John Rutsey, left the band. With their first U.S. tour imminent, fellow founders Geddy Lee (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Alex Lifeson (guitars) needed a replacement drummer, fast. True to the band's almost mythic alignment with the guiding hand of the cosmos, this turn made room for the entry of Neil Peart, arguably one of the most accomplished and respected drummers and lyricists in rock. Immediately, his influence became evident upon the release of the band's second album, the impressive Fly By Night. From there, Rush went on to forge their own celestial space in the world of rock, their music becoming more and more intricate and their lyrics becoming more and more evocative and enlightening. For over thirty years, they've produced their unique brand of rock that cannot be easily pigeon-holed nor arrogantly dismissed. Whether pondering social strife in a forest ("Trees"), musing about the impact of human choice over proclaimed inevitable chaos ("Freewill"), or issuing sobering warnings about the multi-national race toward unwitting global annihilation ("Manhattan Project"), Rush is a band with a message, a meaning, and an arguably higher purpose. With each successive album, their songs have explored the human condition from a variety of perspectives and prejudices, generally provoking discussion over the current events and revelations of the day. To this end, Rush remains an unfinished work, a band who will never want for material so long as mankind continues to struggle upon the face of the Earth.
Of course, some thought they were just that band with a catchy tune about songs on the radio.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
Nice but merely a tiny sampling of their impressive body of work.
A band that never seems to tire of performing, Rush has managed to perfect their sound and style within the expanse of sprawling stadiums, amphitheaters, and various other concert halls. Their live shows serve as meticulously orchestrated extensions of their studio work. Rather than recoil from the daunting task of reproducing their complicated compositions away from the security of the studio, Rush seems eager to greet the challenge in a manner that perfects their performances and sharpens their collective and individual musicianship. A work in progress that many hope will continue on for a long, long time to come.
On this new DVD from Mercury/UMe, longtime fans are finally offered a digital mastering of three long out-of-print VHS (and Beta) concert films. Certainly, what you'll find here are faithful transfers of the original video releases, unaltered from their original content save for the welcome remastering of the audio tracks, those managed by the guiding hand of Alex Lifeson himself. Each disc features three audio options: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1. Clearly, the DTS outshines the others and each show gains never-before-heard clarity and emergence of the various sound elements that were all but buried in the former VHS Hi-Fi mixes. Each show is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format, sadly none bearing much visual improvement over their original video incarnations. Seemingly, then, this suggests that the original camera masters may no longer exist. To that end, expect to see image quality that is quite soft and often overpowered by the immersive stage lighting. Video artifacts are perpetually present, especially in Exit…Stage Left where the video patterns give the image a the look of a vintage OTA broadcast and the camera lenses impose vertical lines that are reminiscent of a lenticular design. The quality of Grace Under Pressure is a bit cleaner but still has a soft video look that recalls memories of television's The Midnight Special or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. The picture quality of A Show of Hands is the best of the bunch, clearly benefiting from advancements in the technology. The color is still a bit uneven and there's a graininess that is achieved through the increase in detail levels. Overall, true digital detail that we've come to enjoy and expect of DVD is difficult to come by in any of these discs however, if you're a purist for preserving the state of the original releases, then these transfers retain exactly that—for better or for worse.
Regarding the content of each disc, here are the set lists of each, again replicating the original video tape releases:
Disc One: Exit…Stage Left (Running Time—59 min.):
• Opening / Limelight
Disc Two: Grace Under Pressure (Running Time—63 min.):
• The Spirit of Radio
Disc Three: A Show of Hands (Running Time—90 min.):
The fourth disc in the set is something of an audio souvenir of the Grace Under Pressure DVD, the same 11 tracks offered to take on the road with you. This is a bonus of sorts, presumably. Additionally, the gatefold disc holder includes side pockets that contain miniature tour book reproductions (plus new DVD credits and specifications) for each of the three concerts; a clever addition that's sure to be appreciated by fans who may have missed the original events.
Long-standing Rush faithful may not find much "new" material here to get excited about and some have bemoaned the fact that these concert films weren't extended beyond their original video counterparts. Nonetheless, this set goes a long way to preserve the Rush legacy in the digital medium and serves as an excellent vehicle to help newer fans acquaint themselves with some of the history of this always progressing band. Seriously recommended.
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