Magna Carta built its early reputation on a series of tribute albums to such artists as Jethro Tull, Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd that were classier than practically any tribute albums before or since. Despite its recent shift away from progressive metal to jazz-fusion and even Southern rock, Magna Carta has returned to its roots with its second tribute to Rush. Unlike 1996's Working Man collection - which featured a revolving door of musicians and such progressive-metal vocalists as Dream Theater's James LaBrie, Fates Warning's Ray Alder and Shadow Gallery's Mike Baker - Subdivisions primarily uses talented singers who got critically shafted via their involvement in Eighties hair bands. Here we have Geddy Lee soundalike Randy Jackson (Zebra) singing "Distant Early Warning" and "A Farewell to Kings;" a subdued Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) turning in credible versions of "Lakeside Park" and "Tom Sawyer," on which Baz's performance is almost too laid back; and Jani Lane (Warrant) admirably covering "Bastille Day" and "2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx" - proving in the process that Rush can influence anyone.
Actually, quit snickering. These dudes turn in strong performances built around slightly altered arrangements that aren't too far removed from the originals. Plus tight, flawless playing comes courtesy of a steady band that includes rhythm guitarist Vinnie Moore, bassist Stu Hamm, drummer Mike Mangini and keyboardists Robert Berry, Jeff Feldman and Trent Gardner. Various guitarists take solo turns, but most impressive is Daniel J., whose work can also be heard on Jordan Rudess' latest album, Rhythm of Time. Special mention goes to Kip Winger, who lends surprising grit to "Limelight" and "Spirit of Radio."
This is one tribute album you won't mind playing again -- although it would be nice to hear how Rush's fellow musicians interpret the band's Nineties output.
1) Distant Early Warning (Vox: Randy Jackson/Solo: Daniel J.)
2) Lakeside Park (Vox: Sebastian Bach/Solo: Daniel J.)
3) Limelight (Vox: Kip Winger/Solo: Andreas Kisser)
4) Subdivisions (Vox: Randy Jackson/Solo: Dominic Cifarelli)
5) Different Strings (Vox: Robert Berry/Solo: Robert Berry
6) Tom Sawyer (Vox: Sebastian Bach/Solo: Dominic Cifarelli)
7) Bastille Day (Vox: Jani Lane/Solo: Alex Skolnick)
8) A Farewell to Kings (Vox: Randy Jackson/Solo: Andreas Kisser)
9) The Spirit of Radio (Vox: Kip Winger/Solo: Jeff Stinco)
10) Didacts and Narpets (Instrumental)
11) 2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx (Vox: Jani Lane/Solo: Vinnie Moore)