Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Musical Review - Clockwork Angels

Rush – Clockwork Angels - June 12, 2012 – Reviewed On Air: June 8, 2012

The new Rush release, Clockwork Angels, is about as good as it gets. The main thing to note about this CD is that this is a band with a long history and they’ve not lost a step; indeed this recording is fresh, vital…current. Indeed, this new release from Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Pert has plenty of music to love. The songs on Clockwork Angels will be the basis of a loosely drawn novelization by Science Fiction author Kevin J. Anderson, a longtime friend of Neil Pert, Rush’s exceptional drummer. Pert described the release as being the foundation of the novel that will depict the following storyline: 

“In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.”

While I find that intriguing and will be looking forward to the book, one can easily enjoy the music without any hearing or knowledge of the upcoming story. The first two songs of the album have been around a while. “Caravan” and “BU2B” (Brought Up to Believe”) were laid down April 2010 at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The remainder of the album was recorded October - December 2011 at Revolution Recording in Toronto, after lengthy tours by the group.
 “Caravan” starts the CD out with a BANG…nice Ionian mode guitar lick and a rocking tempo. Geddy Lee’s voice is powerful and driving in lower scales here, but shows he can still hit the high notes he’s become famous for. The lyrics are incredible, as always, and Geddy belts them out with authority. The song is sophisticatedly written with interesting modulations and chord progressions. Alex Lifeson’s solo is nice, but it’s in the complicated-yet-sounds-smooth musical structure the he excels. 
BU2B” – Brought Up to Believe – starts out letting us know we’re not in Kansas anymore. Wispy backdrops turn quickly into a powerful chord progression. Again, Lifeson’s work drives the sound, but Lee and Pert add breadth and intensity. The bridge is incredible work, changing drastically, yet seamlessly into an equally devastating progression. I think I could listen to this excellent tune over and over. The lyrics are very creative, after admonishing us the he was brought up to believe, he adds that the “loving Watchmaker loves us all to death”.
 The title cut, “Clockwork Angels”, begins as many of the songs do, with an ethereal foundation before the tune begins to pound. The music moves between a rocking verse and a more melancholy chorus, all well written and performed. Lifeson’s solo is enigmatic, thoughtful and links a sophisticated passage with a softer bridge perfectly. Lee’s bass playing is technically challenging and…wonderful to the ear.
Rush has always made intricate and complex music. The thing that sets this sophistication apart is that it IS difficult, yet doesn’t challenge or intimidate the listener’s enjoyment. That, my friends, is a real talent. The band is sharp, the sound is fresh and made to be played LOUD, the vocals are amazing and the musicianship of the group is impeccable. And the music is made to be played LOUD.  
 Alex Lifeson’s guitar work is simply astonishing. When other 70s era guitarists are scaling back, becoming minimalist players, Lifeson is still showing a thirst to explore his guitar and to make it do new things and speak in new languages. Always an exceptional and underrated guitarist, Clockwork Angels is an impeccable backdrop for him to underscore his virtuosity. Pert and Lee are also showing evolutionary musicianship and Lee’s vocal range has broadened considerably. This isn’t what normally happens when a band is creeping into its sixties.
  I have seen Rush four times and it has always impressed me that while their albums are so amazing, what is really remarkable is that this three-piece group can reproduce their sound live. These are superior musicians, easily virtuosos at their instruments… and age hasn’t caught them. All three are still breaking new ground in both composing and performing…thank god! This is truly an astounding piece of work.

I’m giving this incredible collection of music 4 Floggers (out of 4)

- DocRock/VanHelsing

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