The first Rush album, Rush, feels like the outlier in their catalog, with John Rutsey on drums and a more regular rock feel than what they would become, but the track Working Man was the first Rush song to receive radio airplay. Neil Peart would come on board and the band would venture out into the Prog Rock territory we know them for with their next two albums, Fly By Night & Caress of Steel, but the real breakthrough for Rush would come in 1976.
With album sales falling and the label questioning the future of Rush, they were told to write more radio friendly tracks for their next LP. So what did they do? They went into the studio to record 2112, a 20 minute science fiction epic about the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, the Solar Federation and a galactic war. Surprisingly, this was the track that finally pushed Rush into the rock star stratosphere. This is the must have Rush album for most people. Their next two albums, A Farewell To Kings & Hemispheres would stick close to the same Prog sound of 2112.
Moving into New Sounds
The next seven years would see Rush achieve heights that many couldn’t have imagined they would achieve. Permanent Waves would go platinum in the US, but Moving Pictures, with its hit Tom Sawyer, would be the album that really blew up. Mixing the prog sounds of their earlier work with keyboards and a more standard rock feel, Moving Pictures is probably the most widely known Rush album. The new sounds would continue for the next 4 albums with the Keyboard heavy sound becoming the dominant feel of Signals, Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows & Hold Your Fire. I would say that for most people, these 6 albums are the ones that are the true “must-haves.”
The Return of the Guitar
Rush never truly left the guitar behind, but the dominance of the keyboard in their sound during the mid-late 80’s had alienated some of their earlier progressive rock fans. Their next 7 albums would stick closer to a standard rock/hard rock sound, with tours selling out arenas all over the world. Presto, Roll The Bones, Counterparts, Test For Echo, Vapor Trails, Snakes & Arrows and their final LP, Clockwork Angels, are all good and sometimes great albums and are worth checking out.
Sadly, we would lose drummer & lyricist, Neal Peart on January 7, 2020 to cancer, officially ending any chance of the return of Rush. We are left with a catalog that covers a wide range of sounds and has something for everyone.