Rush – Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary: Album Review

The fortieth anniversary of the Permanent Waves album from Canadian trio Rush, is marked with a retrospective set and needless to say a trawl through the memory banks.

Release Date: 29th May 2020

Label: UMC – Mercury

Formats: Vinyl / CD / Super Deluxe Boxset

The first Rush album I bought on release. Same-ish period as Duke by Genesis which earned the same honour. Happy days.

Having dusted off their sword and sorcery Sci-Fi period, Rush hit the eighties with a vengeance and a new MO. New slimmed down haircuts and a new slimmed down and less excessive sound. Just like Genesis they were working towards the principle that less is more.

It’s one of those albums by Rush where, IMHO as they say, there’s not a duff track on it. Being picky, you could point out to ‘lesser’ cuts on most of their albums but on Permanent Waves, there are none.

Remastered in 2015, there might be nothing particularly new to those six tracks we know so well but a new appraisal, some live cuts and for those who have the dosh, a lovely artefact to boot, sees a ringing of the memory bells.

The Spirit of Radio has, over the forty years since its appearance, earned the honour of being their signature song. It’s the riff that launched a thousand fists. Some may argue for Tom Sawyer or possibly Closer To The Heart. However, of all three, whose intros you recognise in a heartbeat, the Spirit guitar twiddling probably just pips the others at the post. And the hardcore will have raised a smile at the Rash versions from the house band at Gershon’s Haus of Sausage.

Lyrically, Freewill harks back to the earlier days philosophies (“I will choose a purpose clear, I will choose freewill“) and probably suffers being sandwiched between Spirit and one of the biggies and a huge personal favourite. Jacobs Ladder and its Byzantine guitar line snaking its way before the hefty rhythm becomes the canvas for the synth line.

The old side two partners Entre Nous with the reflective side of the band to which they’d often bowed on Different Strings. On the former, we reach just over halfway when they enter into a wonderful synth/guitar sequence. Oft overlooked until the Snakes & Arrows tour.

Another biggie the three parts of Natural Science proving they can condense an old school Rush epic into less than ten minutes. And that’s bearing in mind the last minute consists of atmospheric sounds of crashing (permanent) waves. Only once more would they cross that barrier.

The unreleased bonus live tracks come from three stops on the Permanent Waves World Tour 1980: Manchester Apollo (I wasn’t there!) Hammersmith Odeon and Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. The latter venue provides the live version of Jacob’s Ladder that sounds even more ominous and apocalyptic. A show that’s been semi-officially released but never with this track.

The complete Cygnus X1 cycle from London. The crowd participation in the gaps in eight minutes of part 1 that becomes a mere aperitif for part 2 (sorry – ‘Book II’) aka Hemispheres. Twenty minutes of hardcore sci-fi space fantasy. Not something you see every day and unlikely to see again. The excitement of the instrumental freak out in By-Tor And The Snow Dog, so much that you hardly notice the drum solo, that eases into arguably their best song, Xanadu.

The Manchester choir are either un-mic’d (although you can catch a cheer as Neil taps the tubular bells) and leave Geddy to do the verses on Closer To The Heart. And despite the rumour that they never do Bangkok we get a storming version from the Apollo.

The deluxe box comes all singing and all dancing with the vinyl, the CDs and an armful of bits and bobs including photobook and repro laminates and lyric sheets. Perhaps the pick so far of the deluxe anniversary reissues of the Rush catalogue.

Rush’s entry into a new decade resulted in their best album – perhaps not only of the decade but of their legacy.

Listen to the Manchester 1980 version of The Spirit Of Radio here:

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