Saturday, March 5, 2011

Prog-ress Report, Part I:Rush Hemispheres

So, a little preface for anyone reading this blog, I am not the biggest fan of Prog Rock’s pantheon, and personally, prior to last week, I found the genre somewhat questionable.  Perhaps I still keep the general idea, but there has been ground gained by at least one of the Prog Gods.
 One of my friends, a bassist and boyfriend to one of my wife’s college friends, has been a large proponent of both bass chords and of this genre. He has on occasion attempted to bestow the virtues of prog rock on the ears of the non believers, and being in a mood to expand my own musical perspectives, I accepted the word of Prog (amen!) into my heart and asked him to suggest an album that anyone could listen to for a week and emerge a fan.

And that my friends, brings us to this review. Now I don’t  pretend that I am a music critic. I just listen to a lot of varied music. I can’t even say I’ve ever read a formal, critical review of an album ever in my life.

So, upon the first listen one thing that was apparent is that these people can play their instruments, and play them well. The timing seems tight, and the pieces are composed as opposed to just thrown together as a vehicle for lyrics. However, again with the first listen, I get the impression that like Cream’s Disraeli Gears, while the musical chops are tops, the lyrical content and imagery are somewhat not on par. The primary case in point would be the imagery used in The Trees, where a conflict between oak and maple trees serves as a vehicle for a pro union ballad.  In context, this is kind of the opposite problem the Beatles exhibit, being excellent pop lyricists and excellent pop composers, but, for the most part, only good musicians, in my opinion of course.

The compositions of the songs, upon the first listen, ranged from “just okay” on the album’s 3 shorter, more rock/pop friendly pieces, to the awkward 18 minute, and somewhat jumbled, Cygnus X-1 Book Ii. The later often sounded like three songs that were kind of thrown together to create a kind of musical Frankenstein’s monster.

With the first listening under my belt, as I plodded to and from work, I listened to the album about 2 and half times a day, over the course of the work week.

Quickly I discovered why my initial listening was somewhat mediocre: I was trying listening to it as a pop/rock album. When not trying to compare it to others in the pop genre, and just listening to the album, I found a quality, not unlike that of progressive jazz, that kind of superseded the rock genre. The work is not trying to be the easily digestible three to four minute pop song. As I write this review, while I I am not disputing that my initial critique of the songs are much, if any different, I am smitten by the gestalt of the album, and find it a purely enjoyable collection of songs. I can say that, without question, I am at the very least a fan of this album.

Perhaps though, it’s like acquiring a taste for Diet Coke; once the cancer sets in, it is all you want.
Pope Crisco


sarah said...

Layne, this is why you needed to listen to me. You need to ease into this with some yes. Check out close to the edge and fragile. For rush, checknout working man. That was their early rock....then ease very slowly into their prog. But stick with the yes for now and report back.

sarah said...

And listen to yes going for e one...such a good song!

Anonymous said...

Just found this site surfing...........Im 46 and have loved rush since 8th grade. Im from the burbs around Detroit so Canadians influence us alittle more than other parts of the nation. I have Beatles in my blood but have always championed the often profound message of Rush's music. Hemispheres is my favorite Rush album and feel that the Trees may just be a example rarely achieved by any band......a perfect song. give Permanent waves a try next. Enjoy!

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