Alex Lifeson: Guitars
Geddy Lee: Vocals/Bass
Neil Peart: Drums
1. Summertime Blues
2. Heart Full of Soul
3. The Seeker
4. For What It’s Worth
5. Shapes of Things
6. Mr. Soul
8. Seven And Seven Is
It’s been thirty years now since Rush first graced the black circle, and so much has happened since that one could never condense it. A giant pile of full releases, live compilations, solo efforts, and the occasional bizarre incident of violence and arrest. A novel couldn’t make a dent in describing the influence their artistic wizardry, songwriting skills, and breakthroughs in the way music is recorded. It’s also quite possible to say that Rush has one of the widest underground followings for a band of its age, where multiple generations who got hooked on anything from “Working Man” to “Stick It Out” mingle and ravenously defend the Canadian trio. Thirty years brings a lot of accomplishment to the table.
So how does a band of this caliber celebrate such a milestone? Why, apparently, the choice is to record some straightforward covers of songs popular nearly thirty years ago. Hey, if nothing else, it’s something that nobody could have expected.
Being as this is Rush, one is going to expect the music itself to be well-played; what one may not have expected is how very little artistic liberty was taken with any of the songs themselves. “Summertime Blues” is nearly a dead-mirror of the Blue Cheer version, as “Crossroads” stays truthful to the Cream version of the same (which to be technical, I suppose, Rush is doing covers-of-covers in a sense). But every other song on down the list, from the widely-known “For What It’s Worth” to the less celebrated “Seven and Seven Is” (by the psychedelica band Love, for those not acquainted) still remains at least 95% unchanged.
While this is certainly a breath of fresh air to those who have suffered through some ugly covers by artists over the years (Sheryl Crow’s destruction of several classics, anyone?), one might wonder why they didn’t employ some of their mastery and “Rush-’em-up” a bit. Then again, if these were their songs of choice, why mess with what they find to be worthy? While this may play off as being unimaginative or derivative instead of the big splash one might expect for a thirty-year anniversary, think of it this way: do you like your favorite songs messed with?
This leads to the song selection in itself. All are primarily from a narrow era of the late ’60s including the Yardbirds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Who, and each clearly meant something special to the band. They went back to their roots, to the days when they were first formed and first influenced by everything else going on in the music world. That era, by likely a wider margin than any time in music since, was one of experimentation, upheaval, and risks taken that one never sees today. Every song chosen for cover has a reason to be there and creates a snapshot of the past, adapted for today. And while many folks in younger age brackets may not recognize half of the songs, one can only hope that this would point them in the direction to educate themselves on some brilliant music forgotten by time.
I can only have the utmost of respect for Rush in creating this EP of cover songs. They’re Rush and this is their thirtieth year making music. They could have just created the music they’re known to release and kept their fanbase and everything in their catalog on an even keel. By releasing this disc, there’s more of a feeling that Rush is more than just some long-standing band with full artistic control. This is a band of fans. This is a band of people who love music.