#1 – A Farewell To Mediocrity
RUSH – A Farewell to Kings
1977 was a great year. I was all of 12 years old at the time and all my creative faculties were consumed by the arrival of Star Wars on the big screen. Unbeknown to me, that year also produced what was to become a musical epiphany for me, later in my teens.
Although from different spheres of the arts family it seems to me now that the two – Star Wars and Farewell to Kings – both had a similar effect on my own expectations and appreciation of their genre.
Both fused together a mix of the old and the new. Both seemed to me to break the mould and set a new standard for others to follow. And both were also to become a touchstone for anything else that I saw or heard.
It was this album, more than any other, that precluded my choice of any instrument other than the drumkit. It had to be drums. Neil Peart’s work showed that uncanny ability, which he still retains, to somehow play the only thing that seemed to fit in that particular song. Anything else would have made the song less. Yet, you also felt that perhaps only Neil Peart could think to play that part in that song in that way and then execute it with such precision and flair! Amazing.
But the music! From the classical guitar opening, through the anthemic soundscapes, the rhythmic changes, the subtle synthesizer work, the blistering instrumental work by all three musicians, the high minded lyrics and song concepts, A Farewell to Kings represents the work of three people at the height of their creative powers…almost!
I have to mention that my favourite RUSH track of all time is not on this album. That would have to wait until ‘Signals’ and the perfectly crafted ‘Subdivisions.’ But as a musical experience A Farewell to Kings remains a peak.
What fascinates me as I try to convey something of the appeal of this album, is how ‘English’ it feels, even today. As a ‘Yes’ fan, the Canadian trio’s nods to their roots were not lost on me. But somehow, RUSH seemed to have produced something more quintessentially ‘English Prog Rock’ than the British bands.
I think the lyrics have some part to play in this. Although I will admit that some of the literary references were lost on my tender teenage ears, a quick scan of the words of the album opener ‘A Farewell to Kings’, or the U.K. tour favourite ‘Closer to the Heart’ reveals Neil Peart extolling the virtues of ‘ploughmen’, ‘blacksmiths’ and ‘captains’ alongside philosophers and kings.
So, as with Star Wars, the album presents an experience that is at once familiar and jaw-dropping at the same time. You feel immediately at home with some of it and yet your senses are always being pleasantly stretched in other directions. There is a sense of the epic and the high-minded hero within the writing. It has in itself a timelessness that is hard to pin down to any one ingredient, but somehow works as a whole.
- The Republika’s Top 10 Rush Songs (therepublika.com)
- RUSH – Neil Peart Talks Clockwork Angels Album In New Q&A (bravewords.com)
- Top 10 Rush Songs (steelkaleidoscopes.typepad.com)