The second album from Rush offered several slight changes that would shape if not improve the band. First and foremost, their new drummer was also a lyricist, and the other two would soon learn to let Neil Peart throw his weight around. Just as important was the arrival of producer Terry Brown, who would oversee their next ten albums. Fly By Night immediately sounds better than the debut, but it’s not necessarily a leap forward.
Heavy riffing drives “Anthem”, which shares a title with an Ayn Rand novella that would figure again in the band’s development. Lyrically, it is an anthem, a celebration of the self, with delay effects on both vocals and guitar to set it apart. “Best I Can” sounds like Kiss to these ears, and not just in its determination to rock at all costs. Then, “Beneath, Between & Behind” evokes the spirit of Led Zeppelin in a veiled indictment of the “failed promise” of America, right on the cusp of the Bicentennial. Side one ends with the lengthy prog workout “By-Tor And The Snow Dog”, with labeled sections and sub-sections, and the musical depiction of the battle at hand, which would be a lot easier to handle if not for the guitar effects that end up signifying intestinal problems on the part of the dog. Still, it’s fun to try to keep up with the syncopated middle section.
The title track returns to the basic rock sound, with a basic riff to thrill budding guitarists, and is one of the better “gotta travel on” songs of the decade. “Making Memories” has a jarring acoustic riff used later by Bad Company, and is one of their more generic sounding tracks. Things get very quiet on “Rivendell”, an overt tribute to haven of the same place from J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. They stay that way for the first part of “In The End”, and while it’s musically up to snuff, the words are pretty basic, demonstrating that the new guy should be the one to handle them from now on.
The boys are settling into their comfort zone on Fly By Night, and all the parts were in place, but as we’ve said, they still had a ways to go. While a little better than the debut, it’s only a bit better.
Rush Fly By Night (1975)—2½