Just before the bulging excesses of ‘Hemispheres’, and having just shrugged off the anchor of traditional hard rock on ‘2112′, “A Farewell to Kings” is Rush’s most explosive, beautiful, heartfelt and dramatic album. Its as close to the nature and power of the band Rush as one can get out of any of their albums. Beginning with the title track, three things are jarringly apparent: (1) Alex Lifeson has bloomed into a true virtuoso guitar player, (2) lyrically the band matured to the point where imagery and allegory seamlessly join with appropriate musical backdrops, and (3) Neil Peart’s drums become “instruments” rather than mere things to pound on.The second song, Xanadu, recalls the story by Samuel T. Coleridge and his hallucinations on Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome. Rush pays close attention to the small details such as the ending riff with the xylophone, and the sounds of nature at the top of the song. Like the rest of the album, this song should be listened to on all levels to glimpse how each arrangement works in perfect balance with the others.Closer to the Heart is a classic by any definition. Its a Rush benchmark in songwriting and proved to the doubters that Rush obviously could write neatly packaged songs, they simply chose not to most of the time.Cinderella Man is an underrated song and perhaps, one of their finest. The bridge section (much like the one in the title track) is a patented Rush song-within-a-song, and shows nice bass work by Geddy. Lyrically and musically, this is challenging song for the listener and rewards on many levels.Madrigal is a clean, simple ballad again displaying Rush’s ability to be effective on any level. The fretless bass line carries the song over almost indetectable drums and a shimmering guitar. Cygnus X-1, simply put, is the most powerful of any Rush song, ever. Its downright frightening, and conveys the terror of space exploration. Taking an appropriate page from Don Quixote, the spaceship “Rocinante” sets out with high hopes and the music is raw, energetic and suddenly met with dread. The resulting spiral of the music crescendos along with absolutely savage drumwork and vocals. This albums proves that Rush was, for a moment, the most terrifying, talented, subtle and sublime bands to decend on the barren late-70s musical landscape. Its no wonder during that time they were met with some resistance. Like throwing a computer to a bunch of cavemen, people just weren’t ready.