Rush- Rush (1974)
Some bands come out of the gate swinging, while others gradually build momentum. Canadian prog rock legends Rush falls squarely in the latter category. Rush slowly cultivated both their progressive and hard rock elements over their first three albums before finally perfecting both on their 1976 classic, 2112. Just two years earlier Rush was simply one amongst hundreds of Led Zeppelin-worship bands—and save one song, they fail to distinguish themselves from the pack. Generic songwriting, underwhelming drumming and clichéd lyrics make Rush a weak link within Rush’s otherwise stellar early discography.
At this infantile stage of Rush’s career the band is little more than a Led Zeppelin worship act. Most of the elements of Rush are lifted from Led Zeppelin (though the influences of Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath are also apparent). Overall, Lee does a good job of filling the role of Robert Plant. He delivers high falsetto with some cutting screams and possibly even more “oohs”, “yeahs” and “babys” than you’ll find on any Led Zeppelin album. However, Lee falls comically short of Plant in sex appeal department. The lyrics replicate the sexual and amorous themes that pervade Led Zeppelin’s discography, but the delivery is just awkward. Lee’s voice can capture a lot of different moods and feelings, but “sexy” isn’t one of them.
Lee’s bass work and Alex Lifeson’s guitar work do a better job of emulating the Zeppelin sound. Lifeson provides numerous big, roaring, bluesy hooks and several ear-grabbing solos while Lee provides bouncy, bluesy bass-lines. Nothing on this album hints at just how talented these two musicians are, but for the type of music they are playing, the performance is solid. Where the debut really falls short is the drumming. It’s hard to pull off the Zeppelin sound without someone to fill the role of John Bonham. Rush would actually one-up their icons when Neil Peart—arguably the greatest drummer in the history of rock—joined the group on their sophomore release, Fly by Night. However, John Rutsey’s performance on the debut is way too safe and pedestrian. There’s a scarcity of interesting fills and the execution lacks power. Part of this is due to the mediocre production (all the instruments have a fairly flat sound to them) but Rutsey’s musical limitations are part of the problem as well.
The song structures are predictable and the hooks and choruses are unoriginal. The lyrics are pretty shallow and generic, dwelling mostly on romance and sexual desire without articulating those feelings in a seductive or visceral manner. Still, there are enough catchy moments to make Rush a listenable album. “In the Mood,” “Take a Friend” and “Need Some Love” have memorable choruses and Lifeson’s solos are strong throughout.
The one truly standout moment is the hit single “Working Man.” For one song everything comes together: Rutsey steps it up on drums, Lee provides quality lyrics and the trio finds excellent chemistry. “Working Man” laments the banality and redundancy of the blue collar lifestyle and the unrelenting desire for something more fulfilling. Lee wails dissatisfaction over his thankless 9-5 job while Lifeson’s guitar roars big, ravenous riffs that allude to the working man’s yearning for thrill, excitement and meaning. During the extended bridge Lifeson delivers some killer soloing before the trio enters a tight-knit, fast-paced passage where they finally shows off their chops.
Fans of Rush should give this album a listen, specifically to hear the fiery “Working Man,” but make no mistake about it, this album is significantly inferior to the group’s next ten albums.
Overall: 5.5/ 10