Decibrity Playlist: “Best of” Rush (Part 2)

To celebrate this week’s release of the 19th Rush album, we asked a host of musicians to help us build a “best of” playlist that spans the Canadian trio’s storied career. Last week’s entries took us from 1976’s double live album All The World’s A Stage to 1980’s Permanent Waves. Now, we present the second half of their selections, which run from 1981’s Moving Pictures (obviously) to 1991’s Roll The Bones. While we can’t believe that not one of our 15 guests picked “2112”, we’ve still compiled all of their choices into a big ol’ Spotify playlist.

“Tom Sawyer” (from 1981’s Moving Pictures)
I know this is a song people may roll their eyes at and think “typical”, but I couldn’t care less. “Tom Sawyer”, for me, was the first song I heard that opened my eyes and ears to Rush. I was with a friend of mine going back to his house to hang out, and when we walked in, his brother had a live VHS of Rush on TV going through his sound system. The song just started and I immediately stopped dead in my tracks completely mesmerized by how incredible this song was. After those first words sung–“A modern day warrior, mean mean stride / Today’s Tom Sawyer, mean mean pride”–I needed to hear more. I watched as Neil Peart moved around his kit with such flow that I never witnessed before in my life, and with such power. I remember the hair on my arms standing up, the goosebumps I got, the music physically affected me like no song ever had up until that point. It’s the one song that ’til this day still affects me the way it did the first time I heard it. Rush, for me, will always be timeless. (Vince Verkay, Evoken)

Just narrowing down one song from Rush is a chore given their 20-odd albums, a good amount of which came out before I was even born. As of this day, however, “Tom Sawyer” would be my pick. Rush were creating music far before their time and doing something totally unique. Growing up in a very prog heavy and guitar oriented family, “Tom Saywer” is definitely a standout that burned the desire to make me want to play progressive music. To have one song really change the direction of someone’s life is an amazing thing. I hope to be able to write a song that has had that much importance and meaning as “Tom Sawyer” has had for me. (Chris Letchford, Scale The Summit)

When I first heard “Tom Sawyer”, I was completely floored by the phenomenal musicianship of Rush, and I still am every time I hear it. The whole Moving Pictures album has such a clarity that still sounds current today, but this track has it all for me. Superb bass, huge guitars, flawless drums, and a wonderfully vocal melody. And then, to top it all, a blistering middle section in 7/4. Wow, what’s not to like?! I still get the same rush when I hear this track, and it inspires me to this day. (Lee Pomeroy, Headspace/Rick Wakeman’s Ere)

“Witch Hunt” (from 1981’s Moving Pictures)
To name your favorite Rush song is a near impossible task since we are talking about such a broad musical spectrum. But with the barrel of a gun pressed firmly against my right temple, I opted for one of their more uncomplicated, yet most epic sounding songs: “Witch Hunt” from Moving Pictures. The first time I heard it, I thought the intro was the most sinister thing I’d ever heard, and the chorus, if you can call it that, has that grandiose, heroic feel to it that most Italian power metal bands can only dream of. A very simple and straightforward song by Rush standards, and perhaps a hint at what was to come, but in my book one of their masterpieces. (Sharlee D’Angelo, Arch Enemy/Spiritual Beggars/Mercyful Fate)

“Broon’s Bane/The Trees” (from 1981’s Exit…Stage Left)
Well it’s nearly impossible to name just one Rush tune that I favor more than another, but what rings in my mind as a standout, and something that will always bring a smile to my ears, is “Broon’s Bane/The Trees”. Lyrically Neil Peart was a huge inspiration and a lyrical educator of sorts to all who took the time to read his lyrics. “Broon’s Bane” showcased a classical style that was not really evident in rock music, and perfectly rolls into “The Trees”. You can almost visualize the trees actually conversing–that’s great storytelling–and coupled with the three ring circus that is Rush, for me it’s the song that made me want to quit art school and play guitar…and so it would be. Thank you Alex, Neil and Geddy, you made my life! (Kelly Schaefer, Atheist)

“Subdivisions” (from 1982’s Signals)
My favorite Rush song has to be “Subdivisions”. I was in high school when I first heard it, and it spoke to me on different levels. I really liked the melodic keyboard riff matched with quite progressive drumming. The lyrics were on for that period in my life as well. I had first heard it on television through their video, which I found really cool as well. Plus they’re Canadian! Just an amazing trio, very inspiring. (Flo Mounier, Cryptopsy)

Being a metal guitarist, I have quite a weird pick for my favorite Rush song–that is, the keyboard-driven “Subdivisions” from Signals, which is my all-time favorite Rush album. This song is a strong progressive pop song with a strong lyrical meaning that I can relate to. It tells a story about an isolated group that thinks normal life society has been lost in the loop of the middle-class working and living routines, and they pretend to be happy with their way of life, having the same cars and same goals that all of their neighbors have too. That indeed is a society where there’s no room for the daydreamer. Like in every Rush song, the musicianship is so groundbreaking, awesome and inspiring! (Markus Vanhala, Insomnium/Omnium Gatherum)

“Bravado” (from 1991’s Roll The Bones)
I’ll preface this by saying that I pretty much love every single thing Rush has ever done over the years. The band’s greatness and the depth and scope of their career really came into perspective for me while trying to figure out which one of their songs to talk about here. I literally didn’t know where to begin! Ultimately I ended up going with a tune called “Bravado” off of the album Roll The Bones. It’s a record I’ve been listening to a lot lately and “Bravado” is one of the standout tracks. As a lot of Rush songs do, “Bravado” really takes me somewhere else when I listen to it. It’s an epic song. I love the overall “mood” created by Alex Lifeson’s airy but “dark” guitar parts and Geddy Lee’s driving bass and somber vocals. However, the thing that really stands out for me with this tune is Neil Peart’s drum arrangement! It’s one of the most “musical” drum parts of his whole career in my opinion. Neil’s playing is crisp, clean and precise as always but his sense of dynamics and musicality here is just staggering. The way he plays off of Geddy’s vocal phrasing/melody is both masterful and mind-blowing. It’s also a perfect example of the balance that can be had between technical restraint and technical prowess. If I was a drummer, I would study the shit out of this song! (Rob Caggiano, Anthrax)

*Special thanks to Ed Stenger!

**We update one Spotify playlist for each new Decibrity entry, so feel free to subscribe to that here. Past entries include:

“Best of” Rush (Part 1)
Shadows Fall
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Meshuggah
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)