In 1975, Rush was flying high on the heels of the success of Fly By Night. That album had earned them the Juno award for "Most Promising New Group". It's probably no surprise that they quickly headed back to the studio later that year to keep up the momentum. The result of that effort was Caress of Steel. An album both loved & loathed by Rush fans. There're few who're on-the-fence about this one.
It opens with the high energy "Bastille Day". The trio playing their hearts out as if they'd witnessed this event in French history firsthand. It went on to become a concert opener for several years.
Ask 1000 Rush fans & odds are, most will agree that "I Think I'm Going Bald" is Rush's weakest, most embarrassing moment. Personally, I think apart from the silly first verse, the rest of the song is quite good. It's a rocker lamenting the loss of innocence & youth. Likely Neil's perspective of seeing the flower power 60's fade before his eyes.
"Lakeside Park" is the album's first breather that's based on an actual place the boys used to frequent in their teens. The chorus sees Alex beautifully making use of the flanger guitar effect, helping the song have its more delicate feel.
"The Necromancer" is Rush's first attempt at a continued storyline that touches two seperate albums & their second flirtation w/ prog fantasy. Fly By Night gave us "By-Tor & The Snow Dog" where By-Tor, (the evil prince) is defeated in battle. "Necromancer" sees him returning to rescue the 'men of Willowdale' (Ged & Alex grew up in a Toronto suburb called Willowdale. ha ha ha) from the spell of the really evil Necromancer. It all seems dated today, but one must separate the dated approach & listen in a '1975' context. After that, you're treated to 12½ minutes of early prog metal. It quietly sets the scene, builds in tension, rocks angrily & then returns to feel-good serenity allowing you to catch your breath! It's a Rush masterpiece.
"The Fountain of Lamneth" is Rush giving the Genesis/Floyd approach a whirl w/ a side-long epic. Like their English counterparts had done, this song is subdivided into suites. Six in all. It follows an adventurer in search of a lost fountain that holds "the key, the end, the answer". The actual conclusion to the story is fairly ambiguous & leaves open interpretation to the listener- which is where I think this song works- though others might say that's exactly why it fails. "In The Valley" begins like many other Rush songs had- starting off calmly & then suddenly blasting out gritty rock. The verses take on a more reflective tone in both lyric & music.
"Didacts & Narpets" (anagram for "addicts & parents") is a minute long, almost avant-garde hard rock piece in which Neil's frantic drumming is the showcase. Geddy lets out his most bloodcurdling scream to date at the very (sudden) end. Listen!...
"No One At The Bridge", another album breather, opens w/ the sound ocean waves as our adventurer finds himself alone & lost at sea. The song has a sparseness in the vocals that manage convey that image. "Panacea" continues the album's softer edge as it opens w/ a peacefully fingered classical guitar. For most of Rush's career, they'd stayed well clear of anything remotely romantic. "Panacea" is a nice, if not youthful attempt at it.
The pace picks up slightly w/ "Bacchus Plateau". A melodic tune complete with trademark early Geddy Lee wailing. The musical theme from "In The Valley" is reprised for the album's closer "The Fountain". Our weary hero finds the elusive fountain, but the secrets it holds are still manage to escape full, clear meaning.
I think time has given this album a bum rap. At this point, its become almost expected to knock this recording. True, the album is a bit unfocused. And true, it sold poorly & they nearly disbanded after the shortened "Down-The-Tubes" tour in support for it. But as Alex Lifeson himself has said on numerous occasions, COS was an important stepping stone album for them to make as it allowed them to refine what they'd done on it on their next release- the classic 2112. For those who yearn to hear Geddy's screeching vocals near their peak, Alex's Page/Hackett-inspired axe work & Neil still writing & playing at his youthful & eager period, then COS is an album to be heard.
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