Scrolling through Twitter, I see Top 10 charts for songs, albums, guitarists, etc, and, heck, I’ve even done a few. They are subjective and really just great starting points for talk amongst fans who love music. I have shied away from doing Rush because all of the albums and songs are like my kids- it’s hard to choose my favorite. Alas, after disagreeing with various charts, it’s time for me to put up or shut up. So, without further ado, my top five Rush albums. These are not what are considered the most significant or albums that I think are the tops in terms of popular opinion. These are simply my top 5- the ones I go back and listen to the most.

Rush Clockwork Angels
Photo Courtesy Rush

5. Clockwork Angels – This may come as a surprise to many Rush fans, as it came late in the discography; in fact it was the last studio album release. Sadly, there is a rift among Rush fans with some fans falling off shortly after Moving Pictures when the music became increasingly experimental. Those of us who dug in and followed along were in for some huge treats. Clockwork Angels is one of those treats. The album was released with a novel of the same name. The album does not need the novel, but enjoying them together is a rare treat when music marries story. CA brings back the heavy more satisfyingly than previous releases since the mid 90s. Caravan and BU2B kick off the album and it doesn’t let up. Like early thematic albums, this one keeps a consistent story while providing individual gems like Headlong Flight and The Wreckers. And, the true reason this album holds such a high place in my heart is the final song, The Garden. Satisfyingly, The Garden is the last song to appear on any record and it is the most fitting way to finish a career as a band. “The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect. The way you live, the gifts that you give.” I would say no other line encapsulates the life of Neil Peart and the gifts that he has given each of us. If you slept on this one, read the book and give it a listen. You will be glad you did. If you are interested in more discussion about this record, check out Liza McClellan from Devah Quartet and me as we discuss the album and novel here at Soundcloud.

Rush 2112
Rush- 2112 Album

4. 2112 – If I ever have 20 free minutes, this is the one I break out. Every time I listen, it sounds as fresh as it did the first time I heard it. I didn’t hear it when it first came out; I was born in 1971 so I would have been pretty young to appreciate it fully. I came to enjoy it in the mid 80s, but really fell in love after reading Anthem in college. At that point, I was more appreciative of the intricacies of music and able to appreciate what Neil had done with the story and lyrics. There are parts of the song that still floor me today, such as the “learning of music” when our protagonists finds the instrument. It’s powerful at times, soft at others, a true masterpiece. I would probably put 2112 a little higher, but I don’t love the rest of the record. I really like Lessons and enjoy Passage to Bangkok and Something for Nothing, but they are not songs I go back to frequently. I rarely listen past 2112.

Rush_Permanent_Waves
Rush Permanent Waves

3. Permanent Waves – This was my first entry into Rush. I was eight years old and my brother bought the vinyl. I remember recording it onto a cassette tape and taking it with me everywhere. What I didn’t know at the time was that this album had everything that made Rush what they are. It was a bridge of sorts from the concept records to more radio friendly offerings. The Spirit of Radio, Freewill and Entre Nous brought Rush to a whole new group of listeners, while Jacobs Ladder and Natural Science lent itself to the prog rock basics that fans of the previous records loved. As I grew older, I appreciated that fact more and more. it was a huge step and one that was made successfully. I see Permanent Waves as the first of what became a trio of excellence. The only I song I didn’t mention from this record is Different Strings and it’s a beautiful song. Interestingly, it doesn’t get played live, ever due to a Hugh Syme piano addition. Adds some mystique to the record. That’s why it is #3 on my list.

Rush Moving Pictures
Rush Moving Pictures album

2. Moving Pictures – The only surprise with this choice for most would be that it isn’t number one. What can be said about this album that hasn’t already been said? It is literal perfection; it’s an album that can be listened to from beginning to end every time. For me, this album hit at a great time. I was 10 years old and gaining my musical tastes. Thankfully, my brothers had amazing stereo equipment and bought the record. I spent hours laying on the bed listening while looking at the cover and liner notes.  This album is so strong if you made a list of top ten Rush songs, four of these could appear by a large part of the fanbase: Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ and Limelight. For me, YYZ is the highlight here. It’s prog perfection. I get giddy every time I put on my headphones and hear the panning of the chimes morse coding YYZ. That isn’t to say that the rest of the album isn’t great because it is. Another highlight is Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear)- it’s part of four songs dedicated to different aspects of fear. Would we expect anything less from Rush? I think not.

Rush_Signals
Rush Signals Album

1. Signals– My favorite all-time Rush album is Signals. This may come as a surprise to some, but I think there is a fairly substantial love for this record. It sits firmly in the early 80s movement to synth, yet still hits with guitar solos and powerful drumming. For me, though, this album hits perfectly with the themes. (Perhaps the theme of Analog Kid is similar to Clockwork Angels and that’s why I hold it so high.) Subdivisions is very strong in synth, probably the strongest to date at that time. The lyrics explain a restlessness of youth. The ordered life of a “subdivision” does nothing to sooth that restlessness. The Analog Kid sits firmly in this dilemma. He eyes what the big city may offer, but will it be better than his current life. He doesn’t know what he’s hoping to find or what he is leaving behind. Digital Man is already entrenched in his future- moving at breakneck speed toward death. New World man seems to have found the balance. Perhaps I feel this more distinctly since I work with kids who face this on a daily basis as I work myself to death:) And, this album offers a gem that rarely gets discussed, Losing it. Seemingly a nod to Ernest Hemingway, it’s a poem in its truest form, both in scheme and message. It sits perfectly on this record about aging greats dealing with the impossibility of returning to form. “The bell tolls for thee…” indeed. Musically this album is perfection.

Next week, I will be choosing my Top Ten Rush songs of all time. Come back to Wanderings and Woolgathering to find out what songs make the cut.

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