No one disputes that The Beatles or Rolling Stones aren’t iconic. Did you know that Rush formed in 1968 and is third behind them by amassing 24 gold records and 14 platinum records? They are the best export from Canada, starring bassist/tenor Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart—the BEST drummer out there. I just saw them in Phoenix in late November, and I was stunned watching them play such powerful, complicated pieces. Even after forty years, you’d think their joints would keep them from playing so effortlessly. Forty years! It’s about time they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
I have an affinity for any music, any style, when musicians play their instruments well. I admire complexity, layers fused together, an expression of an idea—hhmm, wouldn’t you say that’s the definition of art? Progressive Rock born in the 60s and 70s bowls me over and gets my undying respect.
Here’s three of my favorite examples.
Listen to the cadenza in Würm, from “Startrip Trooper”. It was recorded in stereo when instruments flipped-flopped from the left to the right stereo channel. “Würm” is an ad-lib containing the electric guitar on the right, then acoustic guitar, bass pedals and drums from the middle channel, followed by an electric keyboard, and then the guitar solo flight to ecstasy. It’s the layering until you hear a chorus of instruments that makes it great. Like classical music, it’s best to listen to this piece in the dark. Allow your ears to hear the complexity without your other senses competing. It’s a wonderful ride!
I never get tired of hearing “YYZ”. Even if you dislike the sound of electric guitars, watch this video and marvel at their dexterity. I dare you to alert me of any band out there today who can play their rock instruments like Rush!
I think Tony Banks was underrated. Was he as good as Rick Wakeman? The members of Genesis were leaders of progressive rock and I loved all their albums. I was not introduced to Genesis until the early 80s after they shifted toward pop, and it was okay—but when they showed off their musicianship from the late 60s and 70s, when they created their compositional albums, they were fantastic story tellers. I never tire of “Firth of Fifth”.
When Rock veered down the progressive path, it was a beautiful detour.