Rush: Album By Album

By Martin Popoff - Book Review

If we were to compare famed music journalist Martin Popoff’s Rush: Album By Album latest work to a Rush album, it would likely be Presto. In other words, it’s got some noticeable highlights and you’ll come back once in a while to check it out, but it won’t get the masses in an uproar like a Moving Pictures or 2112 structured work.

Had it been released in tandem with the noted documentary Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage, it would have likely been a staple at every concert merchandise table, and fans would have gobbled it up in droves. While it’s great to have this on my book shelf (being a dedicated Rush fan myself), it’s important to know this work is less oral history surrounding the making and impacts of each album than a McLaughlin Group/“That Metal Show” mashup where fans and fellow musicians simply weigh in with their own opinions and debates about each album.

One immediate disappointment — the book leaves out the band’s steady live album output entirely. While each one doesn’t need its own chapter, there should at least be a compilation page of considering these works demonstrate the band’s give-it-all, take-no-prisoners power, especially on Exit Stage Left and A Show of Hands.

Still, the book shares some great anecdotal moments. These include the genesis of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog;” Geddy Lee’s annoyance at being interrupted recording “The Trees;” Neil Peart giving a disheveled stranger hash while recording Hemispheres only for the band to learn it was Ozzy Osbourne; and the band’s loathing of “Tai Shan.” Also, this can be considered a great visual scrapbook of the band’s history, complete with great photos, print ads, and other imagery not seen in the prior documentary.

Where Popoff could have succeeded further was rounding out his roster of celebrities (Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy) with more established names compared to say the leader of a Rush tribute band. Having watched the documentary ad nauseum, I already get it that this band is awesome; I don’t need to read it repeatedly in print.

Yet considering literature involving Rush is small (Peart’s autobiographical works and the adaptation of Clockwork Angels), I’m grateful, as I’m sure other fans will be, to have my hands on this. With the very real possibility Rush may never hit the lighted stage again, this book arrives at the right time to remind us of the trio’s majesty and legacy. Should Popoff produce a follow-up to Rush: Album By Album, I’d recommend having the group, especially Peart, actually weave their humor and verbosity into the storylines to produce a more well-rounded effort.

~ Ira Kantor

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