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.