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Presto

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★★★★☆
(153 Reviews)

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A Rush album based on groove? Strangely enough yes, and what’s even more astonishing is how well it works. Rush have always been known more for technical flash than for straight-ahead rock, but Presto achieves a synthesis of the two that’s accessible without compromising. It’s strong lyrically, without the heavy-handed symbolism that makes, for instance, ”Trees” so difficult to listen to, and the band often gets into a rhythmic groove that’s positively infectious; check out ”Scars” or ”Superconductor.” Presto is also the first Rush album where the incorporation of electronics and synthesizers truly works, instead of sounding like an additional layer artificially added to existing music. This album marked something of a creative rebirth; Rush has turned out consistently strong efforts ever since. — Genevieve Williams

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  • If you’re a true fan, you know that Rush’s pattern has been to put out 4 studio albums and then a live one. Well, seeing as how this was thier first album after “A Show of Fans” (their third live album), we all knew that this would be the beginning of phase four.Noone disputes that Rush’s music has evolved more than any other single rock band that has ever existed. Heck, they’ve had since 1968 to figure out where they wanted to go musically, but what always made them different is that they never stayed in one place for very long. The first 4 albums brought them from Zeppelin/Ayn Rand through gothic to raw progressive; the next four took them from there to more polished prog with all 3 of them playing multiple gadgets and instruments at the same time; the next four took them through a more keyboard oriented, emotionally enlighted period [much growth was shown over this period alone. Listen to Neil say "Keep on looking foreward, no use in looking around" in 1975, but in "Time Stand Still" in 1987, he says "I'm not looking back, but I want to look around me now"].With Presto, Rush began phase 4, and they did it in the usual, brilliant Rush fashion. It took me awile to accept that this was, actually, Rush playing songs like Available Light and War Paint, but as time went on and I actually took time to listen to every track, note, and word on the album, every one of them has become part of my soul. “War Paint” is a brilliant artistic synopsis on the issue of the masks we use around each other, “The Pass” almost begs the listener to see a bigger picture in life, “Scars” celebrates the ability to feel, “Superconductor” is a comical look at the bands antithises: the flash-in-the-pan kid who becomes a megastar at 16 and a has-been at 19 (I am personally of the opinion that Neil had The New Kids on the Block in mind when he wrote this), the title track is a symphony reminiscent of dreams, and “Hand Over Fist” appears to be Neils statement that isolation is never preferable to experiencing life (listen to him say “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend” in 1980s Limelight, but in 1989s Hand Over Fist he says “Take a walk outside myself in some exotic land. Greet a passing stranger; feel the stregnth in his hand; feel the world expand”). Overall, I think the album is a band making a statement that feeling, actually feeling, physically and emotionally, is far preferable to simply being elevated or put on a pedistal. And that it’s preferable to know that one person loves you than to pretend the whole world does .Listen to Rush. They have more to say than you could imagine. What makes then great is that they always find new ways to say it. So let it be with Presto.

    Posted on November 18, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This album really holds a special place in my heart. Not only was it the first RUSH CD I ever owned (thanks Ma), but I saw them live for the first time on the PRESTO tour. I saw the video for “Show Don’t Tell” on Mtv and became hooked. I drove my friends nuts senior year of ‘91 by playing the hell out of this CD. If you haven’t seen Rush live, you’re missing out. From the lasers to the 2 giant inflatable bunny rabbits coming out of 2 top hats to Neil Peart’s awe-inspiring drum solo, it was at the time the greatest concert I ever saw. PRESTO begins with “Show Don’t Tell” complete with the band’s signature complex time changes. Other highlights include “The Pass” an anti-suicide song beautifully written musically and lyrically. (You should see the video) “Scars” simply rocks with its anthemic chorus and tribal beats. The title track gives Alex Lifeson a chance to shine. “Superconductor” is the heaviest track on the album; although it rocks, YOU should hear it live! “Anagram (for Mongo)” Uh, I still don’t know the parallel between the lyrics and the title, but it’s still great. “Hand over Fist” is another catchy tune with great lyrics and sing-along chorus. The final track is the beautiful “Available Light”. I cannot recommend this album enough. I surprisingly heard a lot of people complain about the album being not heavy enough and lacking another “Tom Sawyer” or “Spirit of Radio”. Cry me a river. I don’t know if this is their best album, but it still remains my favorite. From start to finish there isn’t a bad song here.Enjoy the magic.

    Posted on November 18, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is one of my top 5 Rush albums but mostly because of 3 songs, in order of preference. The Pass, Available Light, and Show Don’t Tell.

    For some years now, The Pass has been my favorite Rush song, finally replacing Vital Signs (from Moving Pictures). Not only tackling non-standard lyrical fare in typical Rush fashion (this one’s about teen depression and suicide), but this song has to have the best melody of any song they’ve ever written. The melody may have modal leanings. Dunno. I know it’s not often you hear vocalists comfortably doing major 7th and 9ths as part of the melody (basically sticking with the B-flat scale even on an E-flat chord, for example. And in typical Rush fashion, not slavishly sticking with “guitar keys”. Name a key, and Rush has probably covered it.

    The melody to this song is so beautiful, I’m grateful that there’s a section where Geddy sings it accompanied by nothing but a simple bass line, and other places where phrases are punctuated by the whole band dropping out while he belts out the words. The acapella “Christ, what have you done!” still sends shivers through my spine to this day.

    Available Light is another song that’s really poignant and especially meaningful to a lot of Rush’s fans who grew up with the band and are therefore the same age. In the same vein as “Time Stand Still”, not so much grousing about how much it sucks to be getting old, but expressing a desire to wrap our arms around the here and now while we still can. My favorite lyric in this one, which I think is a real stunner is “Run to light from shadow. Sun gives me no rest. Promise offered in the east is broken in the west.” using the sun as a metaphor for our cradle to grave journey.

    Show Don’t Tell, I just like because it’s an unapologetic rocker that’s easy to like even on the first listen.

    While I don’t particularly care for a lot of songs on this album, it’s currently my favorite just because of The Pass and Available Light.

    A good album to introduce your non-fan friends who prefer ballads to hard-core rock music. Suck them in with the pair of beautiful ballads then hit them with the others that show off their musical prowess and power just a bit more.

    Posted on November 18, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I love this album. In fact, it’s probably behind only Hold Your Fire, Power Windows, and Hemispheres in my favorites (but don’t count on that. As you can see in my reviews, my favorites change like the weather.), but its production gives it no oomph. For instance, let’s look at the entry of the guitars into Show Don’t Tell. It should punch you in the gut, but instead it just taps you on the shoulder and says “Hey there…” It’s not really Rush’s fault, Rupert Hine just doesn’t have a style that would fit Rush. It may fit lighter bands like Genesis, but definitely not a band like Rush.

    Now that the production gripe is over with, now we can get to the music and lyrics. This is quite a unique album. Roll The Bones is different in the fact that it all keeps a moderate volume and tempo, but this one changes a lot. There’s the energetic songs like Show Don’t Tell, Chain Lightning, and Superconductor, but then there are also quiet, more introspective, quiet songs like The Pass and Available Light. The two that I just mentioned are some of the most emotional songs Rush ever put out. The Pass really blows you away lyrically, as does Available Light. They’ve also got musical genious behind them. They’re really two potentially life-altering songs, especially the former. You wouldn’t expect this from an album with multitudes of bunnies on the cover, but in this case it’s more than meets the eye.

    Would you me to break it down song-by-song?

    1. Show Don’t Tell -10/10- Starts the album with what should’ve been a bang, but was more of a loud tap. If you were to add a ton of bass and volume to it, it would make you look like the guy getting blown back in the chair on that one logo. (sorry for the lack of dignity.)

    2. Chain Lightning -10/10- The production isn’t too bad here, it’s very energetic, much like Show Don’t Tell.

    3. The Pass -15/10- This one hits you hard. It can change your life. Listen to it NOW if you haven’t heard it yet.

    4. War Paint -8.5/10- I thought it was awesome the first time, but it gets old. But hey, they can’t make every song a classic, right?

    5. Scars -10/10- Danceable. Amazing. The bassline and drums especially make you want to just start dancing. It’s sooooo strange, it’s totally unlike anything else in the Rush catalogue.

    6. Presto -11/10- Shows some of the magic of this album. You won’t appreciate this song a lot at first, but it grows pretty quickly.

    7. Superconductor -10/10- The first song I’ve ever heard that’s mostly in 7/4 time that I could probably play at a school dance with positive response. The difference between this and most of the drivel they play is that this stuff is good.

    8. Anagram -9/10- Cool lyrics, but otherwise it’s just okay.

    9. Red Tide -9/10- Alarmist lyrics, okay music.

    10. Hand Over Fist -8.5/10- They’re obviously saving up SOMETHING for us. This song’s okay, but nothing special.

    11. Available Light -12/10- BAM!!! Here it is, the awesome ending. The lyrics, the music… It all teams up for something super-special. There’s piano, synth, bass, guitar, and drums. All from three people. Plus, there’s about 200 peoples’ worth of emotion in it. Holy cow.

    Overall: 9.99/10. Great CD. I can’t give it a 10 because not every song is perfect.If you’re new to Rush, I’ll refer you to Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures. If you have 5 albums or more, by all means pick this up. This is the last one I bought, and much to my regret. It’s amazing.

    Posted on November 18, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Rush’s Presto appeared in 1989 and represents the best of their “middle” period of development (Grace Under Pressure through Roll the Bones) characterized by an new emphasis on melodic inventiveness, a lean, stripped-down, bass “lite” sound, with keyboards and effects used heavily at times. It represented a significant departure from the traditional guitar and drum orientation of Rush’s first six studio albums and was not welcomed by all fans. It did, however, produce some very good music, notably on this album, arguably Rush’s most orignal effort ever.

    Though clearly still a rock album, Presto at times has a somewhat jazzy, funk sound to it, evident immediately on the record’s opening track Show Don’t Tell, which sounds better in this remastering than the original. Scars, The Pass, the title track, and Red Tide round out the album’s best, though the only real second-tier song is the forgettable War Paint.

    Originally, many fans complained about the album’s somewhat tinny, reedy sonic qualities. This remastering has gone aways toward relieving that problem, with a much more “present” sound to the bass and lower keyboards. The fact remains, however, that Presto is still not a “warm” album in the manner of Counterparts or Moving Pictures. I would characterize the sound as “bright” and somewhat cold. Geddy was still using his Wal bass at this time, and whether because of his preferences or the bass itself, the sonic result was a spare, though crystal clear bass line. Similar results occurred on the Roll The Bones album, which was also produced by Rupert Hine. Neil and Alex’s guitar fills are also captured with great clarity. The original album was a favorite in terms of Neil’s drum sound and this remastering has only improved the result. I personally enjoy this type of sound because of its clarity, but many others will not and will complain about the brightness and lack of a bottom end to the music.

    Presto should be regarded by all as one of Rush’s most original, inventive and unique albums in the 1980’s.

    Posted on November 18, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now