Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rush 3: Caress Of Steel

By their third album, the members of Rush were familiar with each other and their respective strengths, but they’d yet to figure out how to bridge power-trio riffage with prog-rock. Caress Of Steel includes not one, but two multipart epics, neither very well put together so much as lengthy.
In a smart move, they begin with shorter, unconnected tracks. “Bastille Day” is about the French Revolution, which may well have been a big deal in the Canadian equivalent of high school; it even ends with a pomp-and-circumstance variation on the chorus, which would be rewritten to better use down the road. Several incongruences mar “I Think I’m Going Bald”. First, the title makes it seem like a joke; second, the lyrics are played straight; third, the lyrics are actually kinda deep for a song about aging; fourth, it’s all packaged in a riff equal parts “Gimme Three Steps” and “Woman From Tokyo”. The only thing missing is a cowbell. “Lakeside Park” is nothing more mystical than memories of an Ontario attraction on another national holiday, which is good, because they’re gonna need all that hocus-pocus for the rest of the side. “The Necromancer” takes lots of liberties with The Lord Of The Rings, following a trio of travelers (gee, who could they be?) and reviving By-Tor from the last album. Each of its three listed sections begins with a speed-altered narration, marching lugubriously to what must be the battle since it’s played faster, culminating in a “triumphant” theme that sounds like “Baba O’Riley” filtered through “Sweet Jane”.
Taking up all of side two, “The Fountain Of Lamneth” presents a man’s journey from birth to death, seeking the elusive treasure of the title. It seems the band couldn’t decide if it should be a suite or separate songs stuck together. One recurring musical motif appears early but doesn’t get to take hold, especially when the drum solo appears about four minutes in. Some nice picking begins the “No One At The Bridge” and “Panacea” parts, but Geddy soon steps in to mewl the protagonist’s angst. “Bacchus Plateau” has the makings of a good song on its own; in fact, it’s the best part of the whole album. The motif returns, the quest is over, and that’s that.
The biggest problem with Caress Of Steel is that it’s pretty dull, but there are just enough segments with potential, albeit scattered far apart from each other. It wasn’t enough to be adventurous in the ‘70s; you had to put keisters in the seats too, and Rush needed a good album to do that.

Rush Caress Of Steel (1975)—2

2 comments:

  1. Eh, I think Caress is very underrated. Lamneth lacked the lyrical sophistication in the long pieces they would eventually find with Hemispheres, but the music was there. No One At The Bridge is a real triumph, capturing helplessness quite compellingly. I do agree, though, that I Think I'm Going Bald is pretty deep for the content. "Once we loved the flower/Now we ask the price of the land" is a great line, no matter how you slice it.

    Then again, Geddy said the group was perpetually stoned during this period, and maybe I just gravitate toward that kind of stuff.

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