Rush: Hemispheres (1978)
" We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim
Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of Truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere"
The Ancients are uneasy. The Gods are fighting over the future of Man. Shall He be a creature of Reason and Logic, or will Love conquer all?
Thus we are plunged into the mythological masterpiece of Hemispheres; the quintessential Rush album. This is where everything came together to create one of the finest hard progressive discs of all-time and a cornerstone of this reviewer's progressive rock collection. As we recall, our astronaut from "Cygnus X-1, Book I, The Voyage" has disappeared into a black hole and has been literally sucked out of our quadrant of the galaxy. We now continue his journey with "Cygnus X-1 Book II-Hemispheres".
The 18:05 opening opus showcases (as we then believed) a band at the height of it's creative existence. The track opens with crunchy power chords and pounding drums, sliced in two by a Mini- Moog; which segues into a highly complex , ever changing pattern chock-full o' drum fills by Neil Peart.
The song then builds up steam as Geddy Lee starts recounting the struggles of humanity at the hands of the Fates. It seems as though Apollo (The Bringer Of Wisdom) and Dionysus ( The Bringer of Love) have different ideas concerning the future of Man. Apollo believes that only through logic and ideas will humanity be able to survive. Men build their cities and converse about all subjects intellectual, yet feel their is a void in their existence. Dionysus then instructs humanity that Love is the substance required to fill the void. Men abandon their cities and live in contemplation in the forests. Yet living only in the moment causes man to be unprepared for any given hardship he may encounter. Surely, humanity is at a crossroads. Then , from the sky appears a man who suggests that Compromise is the answer. Man must live by both Love and Reason in equilibrium . He is baptised " Cygnus" and he becomes "The God Of Balance".
Musically, we are taken on an extraordinary journey. The Rush machine is firing on all cylinders. They flow seamlessly from softer passages to hammering ,power chord driven segments in the blink of an eye. This track marks the last of the epic deliverances from this band. They would not write another track longer than 11:00 minutes henceforth.
Track 2 "Circumstances" has the band exploring musical territory that would become their trademark in later releases, namely the under 4:00 min track. The lyrics deal with dreams gone awry due to "circumstances" more often than not out of our personal control. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Although short in length, the track is crammed with interesting musical ideas .
Track number 3 is yet another trademark Rush classic. "The Trees" opens with more of Alex Lifeson's Steve Hackett impersonations on the classical guitar. It is yet another Peart fable . It seems the trees are growing restless; most notably the Maples. They're quite peeved that the Oaks are stealing all the light. Well, enter man with the solution. He cuts them all down. End of story. It's not only a tale of man's destruction of his natural environment, it also relates, allegorically, how we deal with each other as human beings. We don't have time to hear each other's pleas as we're too busy bitching ourselves. The track clocks in at 4:41 yet seems larger as so many musical ideas are brought forth. The instrumental segment which divides the track showcases the many moods of the band. It slowly builds from a keyboard line into a full-blown guitar driven, hard progressive gem.
The closing track has to be considered as an entry into the instrumental progressive rock hall of fame. It's an anthem which echoed constantly in my youth. If you knew a band, and they could play " La Villa Strangiato", then they could play ! Subtitled as "An Exercise In Self Indulgence", this track delivers on every level. Subdivided into 12 whimsically titled segments, it's an instrumentalists wet dream. Sometimes, hard and complex, sometimes loose and jazzy, the track is never boring. It closes off a perfect album in a grandiose and flamboyant style.
Thus concludes our journey into the Rush of yesteryear. The '80's saw the band veer off into a completely different (yet interesting) direction. I realize that this sentimental journey into the past can be viewed as self-indulgent, but progressive rock in general has been labeled as such and it has not stopped any of us from getting lost in it's unfathomable depths. I am glad you joined me on this voyage and hope you want to climb aboard as I take you into other realms of progressive rock.