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Sunday Night Rankings (80s-90s)

rocky chains

New member
Hi folks, when procrastinating, and avoiding the hard and dreary things (work) on a Sunday night, one’s mind wanders. Tonight, mine wanders to Rush, while I listen to the unbelievable audience recording from June 24, 1984 in Milwaukee.

I’m a diehard devotee of 1970s Rush. The 1980s and beyond slowly caught up to me to the point that I appreciate and love all Rush. The “new” stuff builds a very deep and rich story and body of work for this stupendous group of artists. As a guitar player, I am just blown away at how Alex weaved and innovated his way into the 1980s and each subsequent decade. Take any Alex solo – Afterimage, Chemistry, Middletown Dreams, The Pass, Driven – so inventive, and quirky, unique, and just right. Neil’s lyrics just got better with his growing wisdom, and they touch deeper nerves with each album. Geddy is a wild talent and his voice in the 80s and 90s had a wonderful quality that just hit the right note, no pun intended.

Because I was so taken by this 1984 tour bootleg, and started thinking about the Rush albums I don’t consider my favorites, I wondered, if I could keep only three songs from each of the post Permanent Waves through pre Vapor Trails era, what would they be?

For some albums the choice was difficult (Signals, Chemistry was hard to leave out; Counterparts, I was shocked at how much I regretted leaving off most of the songs of that album and picking only three), for others it was hard to pick the third song I really couldn’t do without (Power Windows, RTB, HYF, TFE).

Here are the winners for me, top three, keeping with the forever trio motif of the best band in the galaxy:

Moving Pictures – Red Barchetta, Camera Eye, Vital Signs

Signals – Subdivisions, The Analog Kid, Losing It

Grace – Between the Wheels, Kid Gloves, Red Lenses

Power Windows – Big Money, Middletown Dreams, Marathon

HYF – Mission, Time Stand Still, High Water (I still get that elation when the water takes me home, it's true, and I'm looking forward to dunking myself in the cold waters of the North Atlantic next week!)

Presto – The Pass, Presto, Show Don’t Tell

Roll the Bones – Bravado, Ghost of a Chance, RTB

Counterparts – Nobody’s Hero, Cold Fire, Alien Shore

Test For Echo – Dog Years, Driven, Resist

The lesson I learned from the exercise is that I like Counterparts and Presto more than I had realized. Counterparts in particular really has grown on me! The lyrics, production, playing, song construction - what a solid record! And I don’t like HYF, RTB, and TFE as much as I thought I did. And, Rush help me, I never really liked Power Windows (although I like live renditions of the songs they played, particularly on that Clockwork Angels tour). And I always loved MP, Signals, and Grace through and through.

If you haven’t listened to Milwaukee 1984, you should. A pretty thrilling recording. Red Lenses/drum solo/bass outro jam is really something. The sound is visceral and high quality. The setlist is crazy – all of GUP except for Kid Gloves. Used a chunk of time to perform the Fear Trilogy, the songs of which are related only in lyrical themes, but are not really linked in musical fashion. Pretty bold move since none of these songs were natural hits with fans other than Witch Hunt I suppose. An aside - in retrospect this feels a little like a vanity project for Neil that cost a good amount of time in the already very tight time of the GUP setlist. They jettisoned all of Signals except the two radio hits and Part II of Fear. No Limelight or Overture (ballsy moves). Pretty strong high pitched vocals in Closer to the Heart, Temples, Red Barchetta, and Finding My Way. A pretty cool synth intro to Vital Signs that’s a bit odd and then develops into the familiar synth sound. The song is majestic as an encore.

Thanks for the distraction.
I love that Milwaukee show too! Probably the best audience recording of that tour, and certainly one of the best Rush boots I've ever heard. I think it shines even among soundboards. We're hoping at some point to create a better "recommended" version of that recording using the more recently discovered master tapes which unfortunately are a bit quiet and need a bit of EQ to sound right. I've been slacking on it so I hope I can get those out sooner than later. Also, if you haven't already: check out the Milwaukee bootleg from the Power Windows Tour. It sounds even better than the GUP boot, though the GUP show will always be superior to me just because I love GUP to death.