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Power Windows

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  • Throughout the 1970’s, bassist / vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart built a reputation on their live performances and technical fluorishes. But things change, people grow and our love sometimes shifts focus, if not object. And as their careers progressed, their love for creating music began to focus on the writing rather than the performing. So by 1982, the 10-minute epics had given way to tighter, more focused, yet equally challenging pieces. That the songs had become more melodic was a useful byproduct of the shift in focus. However, this era in Rushtory, which began with 1980’s “Permanent Waves,” has endured countless criticism from snotty rock journalists, who would apparently seem content to listen to recorded verses of sublime literature recited over two dissonant chords played alternately over and over again. Much of the criticism has even come from Rush’s own fans.The pinnacle of Rush’s output during this era was 1985’s “Power Windows,” which, not too surprisingly, has (unfairly) become the whipping boy for Rush’s 1980’s oeuvre. Always one to touch on powerful subjects, Peart (who is also the band’s lyricist and one of rock’s finest at that) devoted the entire album to dwelling on the subject of power and its many manifestations. Peart takes his lyric writing seriously, and with good reason. When the music is this good, you better have something meaningful to say to back it up.The production duties were co-handled by the band and Peter Collins, beginning a fruitful relationship that (so far) has yielded 4 albums. The sound quality is superlative. The music lacks the raw aggression found in their earlier albums, but it more than makes up for it in the subtle, layered and intricate arrangements that include bass, guitars, drums, electronic percussion, bongos, keyboards, strings and a moving choir effect (at the end of the soaring “Marathon”).Particularly noteworthy among the songs are “Emotion Detector,” (dealing with the way in which emotions can alternately make us powerful and frail); “Grand Designs” (a highly elegant way to say “stick to your guns!”); and “Territories,” in which Peart touched on the subject of globalization years before the term became fashionable. The opener (and first single), “The Big Money,” the title of which was Peart’s homage to Dos Pasos, is a deceivingly catchy song that provides a blistering commentary on its subject matter.Now, having made much of Rush’s emphasis on songwriting, let me remind all you kiddies that these guys can play! “Power Windows” found them all at the top of their game: their technical abilities were at their peak and all three members matched them with brilliant writing, excellent production and lyrical meaning light years ahead of their musical peers. The result was “Power Windows,” which, in my opinion, along with “Hemispheres” and “Moving Pictures,” stands as Rush’s best album.

    Posted on March 3, 2010