Rush – Caress of Steel (1975)
Welcome back to YDCS! This week I have an album from my favorite band on deck, Rush! Caress of Steel was the band’s third studio album. Critically and commercially, this was the band’s least successful album, but I actually think there’s a lot to like about this record. First, there’s actually a few songs like “Bastille Day” and “The Necromancer” that are solid tracks and were staples of the band during their touring days, even on later tours. Second, the juxtaposition between goofy tracks like “I Think I’m Going Bald” and over-pretentious tracks like “The Fountain of Lamneth” shows me that the band were still learning. Third, this is the most progressive album that the band produced to date, so there was a lot of growing into their new progressive sound to be done. The first time we heard inklings of this was on their previous release with the fantasy elements in “By Tor and Snow Dog,” but they started to really push boundaries with longer format tracks like “The Necromancer” and the side-long song “The Fountain of Lamneth” (their first of three full side-long songs, the others being “2112” and “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres”).
Caress of Steel was almost the final nail in the coffin for the band. Fly By Night initially undersold and Caress of Steel continued that theme. They had one more chance on their next album and Rush doubled down on the prog rock sound creating one of the seminal works of the genre, 2112. After that, the rest was history. I don’t think we would have been able to experience 2112 without the experimentation of Caress of Steel. It’s one of my favorite albums by the band because of its rawness and because you can really see where the band was going to be in the future. Enjoy the album!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Bastille Day: “Bastille Day” is a rocking way to start an album, and no other band would be able to pull off a rock song about the French Revolution! There’s really not much to say about this song. Do you like great rock songs with stratospheric vocals and expert musicianship? Do you like lyrics about historical events and the use of the guillotine to bring down the bourgeoisie? If so, this is the song for you! Dad’s Rating 8/10
I Think I’m Going Bald: We started on such a high note and now we have what is arguably one of the worst songs in Rush’s collection “I Think I’m Going Bald.” I see what they were trying to go for. They tried making a statement on ageing and how getting old isn’t the end of the world but they were so off the mark with it. It’s really a shame that the lyrics let this one down because the instrumentals are pretty good! Every time this song comes on though, I shake my head a little bit and sigh. Dad’s Rating 4/10
Lakeside Park: We got a recovery from “I Think I’m Going Bald” with “Lakeside Park.” This is a good song and gives the band a chance to show off their softer side. What interests me on this song is that the band had to run multiple tracks and splice them together to get the full sound. Remember, there’s only the three band members attributed to this song, but during the chorus you can hear drums, bass, a lead electric guitar, and a backing acoustic. I know that they’re all multi-instrumentalists, but two guitars at the same seems to be a little too much to handle. This is a good softer rock song to calm you down before launching into some more progressive elements. Dad’s Rating 6/10
The Necromancer: “The Necromancer” is a rocking track that features some of the best of ‘Old Rush’ and ‘New Rush.’ The solos are straight out of their self-titled debut, but they manage to tie it together with the same guitar riff from “Bastille Day” and some prog elements with the over-tracked vocals leading into different sections of the song. This is one of those tracks where you can see the struggle between old and new play out most clearly. It’s a 12-minute long song featuring fantasy lyrics but with a decidedly harder sound than they would come to put with those lyrics in the future. It’s a great mashup of a song. Lifeson’s guitar skills are on display front and center on this track and somebody needs to arrest Lee during the instrumental because he lit up that guitar! Make sure to check out this oddity of a track from Rush’s deeper cuts. Dad’s Rating 9/10
The Fountain of Lamneth: “The Fountain of Lamneth.” Rush fans either love or hate this track, there’s really not a lot of indifference towards it. This stems from the fact that the lyrics are ‘pretentious,’ but the music is what fans think about when they think about classic Rush. Fortunately, I’m more of a music than lyrics kind of guy, so I fall on the favorable side of the fence. I’ll admit, the lyrics are overdone, but the instrumental portion is the Rush that I love. It’s ever-changing, interesting to listen to, shows a high degree of musicianship, and above all else, it’s progressive. Peart has a banging solo at the four-minute mark that may have been the inspiration for his longer solos on tour. Fun fact, during the first few minutes of the song you can actually hear a guitar riff that would be re-used at the end of “2112” to launch the second round of solos after the main character is disgraced for finding the guitar and showing it to the High Priests. “The Fountain of Lamneth” has areas where it comes up short, but it was the band’s first attempt at a 20-minute long song and ended up being a great launching ground for their next one. Top notch stuff. Dad’s Rating 8/10
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