(All Album Reviews by Rickenbacker)
I was originally going to start this review by diving head-first into the Led Zeppelin clone remarks....but I decided to save them for a little later!
Rush is the trio's debut. Released in 1973 in their native Canada & '74 in the US, the album was rejected by every major record label, forcing the band to release it on their own label. For roughly five years prior to this album, they'd been slowly building a loyal local following up north. The biggest & most obvious difference between this album & all of the others is the presence of drummer John Rutsey. There's no use in comparing him to Neil Peart, but he was a capable, straight-ahead rock drummer.
Rush rises from the late 60s like the offspring of the titans of that era who inspired them. The very first song to what was to become a long career- the opening chords on "Finding My Way" sound like a distant alarm to future fans... "I'm coming out to get you!" Geddy Lee making his voice heard by screaming at top volume throughout this & most of the other songs.
Rush certainly has no musical connection to anything prog. The greater part of this album is meat & potatos 70s style blues-based rock. It's unoriginal, there's nothing slick about it. Bare bones, raw, hungry & youthful. The playing & lyrics display an eager immaturity, though it's fitting for the type of music played on the album. But there's a hidden 'promise' to it that probably made listeners think "Who are these guys?" Maybe it was the heavy Zeppelin sound(?)
To my ears, the highlights here are "Finding My Way", "Before & After" & the ode to blue collar workers "Working Man". That song was more or less the one that quietly introduced America to them from receiving good air time in Cleveland. Also listen for long-time concert encore "In The Mood".
This was not the breakthrough album the boys were probably hoping for. That teaser taste of mass success was saved for the 2nd album, Fly By Night. Shortly before their 1st tour in support of Rush, Rutsey departed the band & Neil Peart was quickly hired to fill his shoes- a change that would work greatly in their favor.
Alright- for those wanting to pinpoint the musical Zepp references here, just listen to Jimmy Page splattered all over Lifeson's playing & Geddy Lee singing like Robert Plant's little brother. (or sister if you're not into the high pitched vocal thing) Though his interpretation of "the blues" aren't half as convincing as Plant's.
With Plant you feel he's singing (in his own unique English, blue-eyed way) out of total admiration of the old blues greats. With Geddy Lee, it's just too tough to imagine an upper middle class kid from suburban Canada having any reason to sing the blues save for wanting to be ...Robert Plant! The album's 1st bluesy number "Here Again" contains hints of "Stairway to Heaven" in the chorus.
* "Before & After" directly takes a familiar Zeppelin trademark; song w/ gentle opening suddenly breaking out into hard rock. This was something the band would continue to do for many many albums to come.
So if you're looking for polished, prog era Rush, you've come to the wrong place. But if you like your Rush raw & untamed, their debut is where to find it. And "For best results, play at maximum volume" ;)
** More not-so-subtle 'Rush Lifts Zeppelin' moments are found on Fly By Night's "Beneath, Between & Behind". Compare the opening riffs to Zepp's "Heartbreaker"- Page's riff *right* after the solo. Then during BB&B's chorus, we hear Lifeson doing Page's riff from 'Heartbreaker'. The one's at the 00:46 & 1:28 marks.
The Lone Groover
Kiss bass player Gene Simmons once referred to Rush, who supported his band in the mid-seventies, as 'Led Zeppelin Junior'. It's a very apt description of the band at that time, and nowhere is the Canadian trio's debt to the pioneering English hard rock quartet more apparent than on their eponymous debut recording.
The first Rush album was recorded in a matter of weeks (or was it days?) while the band was on tour, using cheap overnight studio time, some of the sessions taking place immediately after gigs. It's not one of their very best albums and it's rather derivative, but it does boast a number of classic tunes, some of which would hold down a place in the set list for years, or even decades to come.
It's something of an 'odd one out' in the Rush canon in that it was recorded before drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, a key protagonist in all the band's subsequent projects over the following thirty years, replaced John Rutsey, who hits the drums here - but the musical contrast in style from subsequent recordings is arguably as obvious as the lyrical. None of the more ambitious, graceful and assured progressive leanings which would later characterise the band's classic period are in evidence; this is unreconstructed heavy rock'n'roll, bringing to mind less subtle moments from the first two Zeppelin albums.
The songs are mostly strong and the youthful exuberance is infectious. It's all good stuff, even if it's peppered with cock rock clichés (ooh yeah I need some love!), Lifeson's guitar dramatics are a little embarrassing here and there, and Lee's screeching vocals sound at times rather like a young Robert Plant on amphetamine-enriched helium.
“Working Man” and “Finding My Way” are perhaps the tracks for which this album is generally best remembered, but for me the one which stands out is the scorching “What You're Doing”, a powerhouse rocker built around a reworked version of Zeppelin's “Heartbreaker” riff. Pass me an air guitar!