Monday, July 31, 2017

Rush Song List Countdown (Part 1)

"Recently on twitter, I was challenged to list my top 10 songs by the band Rush. Rush is, of course, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart- three musical geniuses who have kept the same line-up intact for over 40 years. If you're a fan of this band, even a casual one, you know this was not an easy list to compile. This got me to thinking - where would I rank all of their original studio songs?

So, I sat down and listed all of their original studio recordings (no live albums, no cover songs), and proceeded to rank them all. All 19 original albums worth. First, I took the list and graded each from "A+" to "D-". This broke a stellar body of work into more manageable chunks- sort of. C and D-list Rush songs are still better than most others bands A-game, but that's just my opinion. Then I could start my list with "A+" grades - rank those, then move down to "A", "A-", etc.

After much gnashing of teeth, pulling out of hair, and re-listening to much of the catalog in question (I've really suffered to put this post together, heh), here is my list, with selected commentary. As always, your mileage may vary."

So, here we are, down to the nitty-gritty,  just the Top 55 songs left on the list. (Just a note: The astute observer will notice this list was released "Part 3", "Part 2", and now "Part 1". It's a cheeky reference to the Trilogy Of Fear, which was also released Parts 3, 2, and then 1. And for some strange reason several years later, Part 4. Maybe I'll do album rankings, or the best live version of each live cut. That might be fun.)

Top 165 Rush Songs Of All Time

(Part 1 of "The List")

55. Everyday Glory (B+)
54. Headlong Flight (B+)
53. Far Cry (B+)
52. Mission (B+) 
51. In The Mood (B+) - The opening riff on this one just sucked me right in. I have mix tapes on cassette(!) from the 80s with this track on it. Still haven't learned to play it yet.
50. Lessons (B+) - Another one I've always wanted to learn.
49. Turn The Page (B+/A-)
48. Anthem (A-)
47. Best I Can (A-)
46. Alien Shore (A-)
45. Distant Early Warning (A-)
44. Bastille Day (A-)
43. Marathon (A-)
42. Losing It (A-) - For a long time, I didn't care much for this song. It was only years later, after I started writing fiction that I came around to this song. Suddenly it made a lot more sense to me.
41. Double Agent (A-)
40. Test For Echo (A-)
39. Available Light (A-)
38. Red Tide (A-)
37. Force Ten (A-)
36. Cinderella Man (A-)
35. Stick It Out (A-)
34. Superconductor (A-) - I got this album new on cassette. I'd heard 'Show Don't Tell' already, and the rest of side one was... disappointing. I flipped over the tape and this song came on and I clearly remember thinking "Yes! Finally something that ROCKS!". It took me a long time to get into Presto.
33. Presto (A-)
32. Beneath, Between, And Behind (A-)
31. Prime Mover (A-) - I've always liked the lyrics at play here "The point of a journey is not to arrive" and "The point of departure is not to return".
30. Roll The Bones (A-)
29. Tom Sawyer (A-) I think this one scores so low because of ear fatigue. When listening to Moving Pictures in the car, I've been known to skip from somewhere in TS right on to track two, especially along a certain stretch of road...
28. Show Don't Tell (A-)
27. Dreamline (A-) - This is such a great show opener and the very first Rush song I'd ever heard live at a concert.
26. Leave That Thing Alone (A)
25. Where's My Thing? (A) - It just felt natural to pair these two together.
24. Natural Science (A)
23. Red Sector A (A) 
22. Cygnus X1 Bk 1: The Voyage (A) B- Who didn't want to board the Rocinante and go spinning through the galaxies, aside from that whole dying in a black hole bit?
21. 2112 (A)
20. By-tor And The Snow Dog (A)
19. Countdown (A) - I was a fan of the space shuttle growing up, so this was a favorite.
18. A Farewell To Kings (A) - "Scheming demos dressed in kingly guise / Beating down the multitudes and scoffing at the wise". Written in 1976 and very apt for the a portion of the current political climate... Maybe Neil is psychic?
17. Closer To The Heart (A)
16. The Trees (A) - Don't be greedy Oaks or we all get the hatchet, axe,  or saw...
15. Territories (A+)
14. The Big Money (A+) - Rush doesn't really do "quiet' songs to open albums.
13. Vital Signs (A+) - I've always felt this was a peek behind the curtain, of what was coming on Signals. The next way forward.
12. Limelight (A+) - I get it, Neil. I'm right there with you...
11. Freewill (A+)

And now, onto the Top 10...

10. Subdivisions (A+) - No matter what age you are (or admit to),  or where you came from, we can all relate to this one. The intro keyboards are still killer.
9. Fly By Night (A+) - Striking out on your own, in a new direction in life. Try it at least once. This one I CAN play, at least the intro and verses.
8. The Spirit Of Radio (A+) - Anthem. If you don't smile and sing along (especially if it's on the radio) you need to be checked for a heartbeat.
7. Caravan (A+) - After tepid and mediocre albums in Vapor Trails and Snakes & Arrows, this song finally dragged me out of the Dark Times of the hiatus. This one said to me loudly and proudly that Rush. Was. BACK.
6. Manhattan Project (A+) - The trifecta - history, aviation, and the music of Rush came together and just fascinated me. I think my best friend got irritated with me for wanting to hear this song so often.
5. The Analog Kid (A+) - Rush does punk? Hell yes! I've always loved the energy in this song. The two double time hooks right after "the music of the spheres" snagged me and never let go. I'm still looking for that dance with the faun eyes and sun-brown legs...
4. Cygnus X1 Bk 2: Hemispheres (A+) - When I first got into Rush, this was one of the main songs that hooked me. Again, back to the infamous mix-tapes, I had both books leading directly one into the second. Their best one-side, one-song progger. Fight me if you disagree. :D
3. La Villa Strangiato (A+) - Tag-teamed with #4 to blow me away. Wow. What else can I say but Alex needed to have more bad dreams if this was the result.

And now, for the Top 2. Drum-roll please! (Actually, feel free to watch/listen to one of Neil's drum solos. I might suggest a classic at the top of it's game - The Rhythm Method off A Show Of Hands. Go ahead, I'll wait.)
(Worth it, wasn't it?)

2. YYZ (A+) - Another blend of Rush's music with aviation (and I didn't even know the story behind the song at the time). These guys just got me. I've air guitar-ed (and air bass-ed and air drummed) to this one forever it seems like.
1. Red Barchetta (A+) - Wow. The Big Kahuna of them All. This song is just such a cinematic experience. The opening harmonics played by Alex (so easy once I learned it, and still so damned fun to play). The lyrics and the story. All of the dynamics of the shifting sounds and time signatures. It's a complete tale, beginning, middle, and end. It's about flaunting the law and sticking it to The Man. My favorite "as-fast-as-I-dare" driving song (especially paired back-to-back with YYZ). I've made so many Sunday drives over the last few years with this one cranked up enough to rattle my windows. If I ever sat down and made a a soundtrack to a speeding ticket, this is Track 1.

And... that's it, folks. Like I said up top, your mileage may vary. Some songs change positions depending on my mood, but that's my definitive list. For the moment anyway, or until Geddy, Neil, and Alex gift us with another studio album. Thanks for going on this journey with me. If you've read this to the end,

You. Rock.

Part 3 of "The List"                                           Part 2 of "The List"


  1. I do not agree with a lot of your list. but that is expected. the problem, as you mentioned is there are so many great songs and a lot of their "lesser works" are better than everyone else's best. i understand that at some point you are just splitting hairs and in some instances might be haphazardly placing Song A in front of Songs B and C. I was going to get upset with a few "egregious" rankings but then i noticed you still gave the song a B+ ranking. haha.
    i applaud your efforts and enjoyed going through the list. good job!

  2. Thanks for reading my drivel! :D I knew going in I would be splitting hairs on a lot of these, that's why I included the grades, just for the expected reactions like you had.

    It's Rush - there are no wrong answers. With such a stellar body of work to choose from, we will all beat on different strings.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and I'm glad to know that you enjoyed it!