Queen sure are a difficult band. For every part on their debut album that I loved, there was a part that I hated. A ratio of one poor song to one great piece is not a bad one, you might think, but I would have been relieved if that were the case, since the instances of enjoyment and disgust occurred multiple times within each of the songs. How am I supposed to deal with that? Doing All Right and Liar are both examples of pieces that start off the wrong foot, but correct their stance as they move on. Also, it is easy to understand how Queen got their attention and fame; their sound is unique and the musical skills of the band’s members are unquestionable, even though those two traits combined do not necessarily add up to good music.
I was really tempted to write “Rush Hour, part 3” and leave you all wondering where did the part 2 go. But then I figured that would be too cruel. Anyway, let’s Rush it down!
It’s been a while since I last visited the 80’s decade when listening to music, because that’s when the music got towards unbearable with all those electronics and other mindless crap. Of course there are exceptions like that of Tom Waits, but not everybody knows him. So far, Rush is a popular rock band that I tend to like. Let’s see if they’re going to break that 80’s boundary for me, since Hemispheres was their last 70’s album.
Well, what can I say… I don’t know if it’s just me, but did Rush turn towards pop rock right as the 80’s have begun? Because the Spirit of the Radio, the first track of the Permanent Waves was and is the ultimate Rush hit. And you can hear that they aimed for it to become one. Shortish solos and many elements cramped together, not what I was seeking after Hemispheres. The next track on the album, Freewill feels rotten inside as well. It features a guitar solo that is going overboard, and the catch line “I will choose free will” doesn’t even feel genuine. Jacob’s Ladder, on the other hand, gets Rush back on track, even if it doesn’t beat the previous epics they had made, and the track feels very empty and unfinished. Same thing can be said about Entre Nous, the slightly Different Strings, and even the 9 minute long Natural Science. Did they lose all their imagination? At least they’re losing all that credibility they’ve managed to attain from 2112 through A Farewell to Kings to Hemispheres. This was their weakest album so far.
Moving on to the Moving Pictures, supposedly their best album, if one can judge by the ratings on progarchives.com. First thing I notice is the simple beat on background of Tom Sawyer, and the whole album features poor and simplistic drumming. Yet Rush seem to regain some of their complexity they had lost in their previous album. Red Barchetta features a couple of tasty riffs, failing to achieve anything special nevertheless. The third, instrumental track named YYZ is perhaps the best one on the album and it gets points for feeling quite different from their other stuff, but it doesn’t beat La Villa Strangiato. Limelight isn’t even worth discussing, whereas I tended to enjoy The Camera Eye in spite of most of it being built on solely two chords. The Witch Hunt would be a decent addition to a Halloween playlist, and Vital Signs sounded like a song made by The Police (an indication of all that is boring, so I’ve been told). Not quite what I was expecting from their best rated album.
As if this progression wasn’t evident before, Rush have gone fully pop in this album, which was a sad, final blow to my heart (will I be able to survive?) Although in the end, since all the songs sounded pretty much the same and the sound was quite full to my surprise, it was quite an enjoyable album because of its consistency. The album had some Chemistry of a kind that kept the songs together. Digital Man even featured a nice kind of solo. And the 80’s electronics weren’t that bad, but I wish they had experimented more with that style. Yet shifting from an accomplished prog band to some second-grade background music is not the right way to go…
Why to invent more, when it sounds all mighty and powerful with a basic beat and an appregiator like in the Red Sector A? Spice it up with some seemingly meaningful and touching lyrics, a lame guitar solo, and the job is done. There are still some nice parts shining through, like the sync between the drums and the guitar picks in The Enemy Within, but the whole picture lets me down. What should I call it… Progressive pop? Even Starcastle were more creative when they went pop in their third album. I’ve had enough of this kind of Rush.
To sum up, this day was a grand disappointment. I made a right decision to stop at Hemispheres on Saturday. All the motivation to listen to the Rush albums that I had acquired has gone now. It might just be that I won’t be rushing on with the part III of the Rush Hour saga.
This album by Amon Düül II is extremely underrated. The only reason I can think of is that this band’s fan base grew too accustomed to their crazy music. Amon Düül II are a krautrock band that is well known from their surrealistic themes and a very distinctive, experimental style. Their music often feels to be completely out of this world — but less so in this album (yet still very much out of this world). In spite of all the listeners’ expectations, Carnival in Babylon contains music that is harmonic, coherent and understandable. This eccentric team has proven here, that they can make “normal” compositions which sound full and entertaining, yet are easier and more pleasant to the ear (if only you forget about the awkward voice of their male singer, the only reason why this album hasn’t scored full points). And there isn’t anything wrong with sounding pleasant — I had a wonderful, blissful time listening to this pack of joy.
On the other hand, I was a little surprised to find that Per un amico, the second album by Premiata Forneria Marconi is considered to be a classic in the Prog Rock world (#15 on progarchives.com). Even on Allmusic, a full mark was given by most of the listeners. And I can partly agree with that, since there are some pretty amazing parts on this album, like the bestowing beginning of the first track Appena un ‘po, which to my disappointment worsened along the way. The follow-up Generale doesn’t fuse together with the previous track and disturbs the listening experience. Il Banchetto is quite good, and sounds like something Emerson, Lake and Palmer would make, but lesser. When I was listening to that track, I kept imagining all the different passages that felt as if they were left out. The album ends, however, with the brilliant Geranio, in which the alterations in the volume level become a significant part of the melody. Therefore don’t get the wrong impression: 4 stars is still a very high score, and Per un amico is an album definitely worth listening to. But in my opinion it just doesn’t stand among the best there is.
My understanding can’t cope with someone who would rate this album with 2.5/5 stars on Allmusic. Maybe he had a problem with Uranus: the album features two funny tracks that may disturb the musical experience. Another reason for such a low score might be, that the A-side of the record features the guys experimenting with the traditional rock’n’roll scheme, while on the B-side their style changes to proto-metal, and quite abruptly so. In spite of all that, this album rocks! The amount of juicy guitar is overwhelming — be sure to check it out.