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123 of 138 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marred by Lousy Mastering
Really 3.5 stars...
With the release of _Vapor Trails_, Canadian progressive rock masters Rush have reinvented themselves once again. Never content to simply rely on constantly reusing a single formula to achieve their artistic expression, not to mention their incredible commercial success, guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/vocalist/erstwhile keyboardist Geddy Lee and...
Published on June 22, 2003 by foreverreal

versus
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Little Victory, One Larger Defeat
While it was gratifying to hear a new Rush album after all that has happened with Neil; i am disappointed that they didn't closely supervise the mixing or just wanted the record released after working on it for so long. There are some good songs on here, however in some cases it's almost impossible to tell due to the heavy wall of sound and crackle present. For...
Published on June 25, 2002 by Jeremy Klein


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123 of 138 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marred by Lousy Mastering, June 22, 2003
By 
"foreverreal" (Stafford, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Really 3.5 stars...
With the release of _Vapor Trails_, Canadian progressive rock masters Rush have reinvented themselves once again. Never content to simply rely on constantly reusing a single formula to achieve their artistic expression, not to mention their incredible commercial success, guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/vocalist/erstwhile keyboardist Geddy Lee and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart have returned to the standard power trio format that put them on the map in the mid-1970's, with perhaps their heaviest album ever.
_Vapor Trails_, Rush's 17th studio release in 18 years and the band's first studio release since 1996's _Test for Echo_, was received by fans with great expectation, and some mixed reviews. More than anything, the long layoff was due to personal hardships endured by drummer Neil Peart who lost his wife to cancer and his daughter to a fatal car accident within about a year of one another. Peart was so devastated by the loss of his family that this consummate drummer, who is widely renowned for his work ethic, did not pick up a drumstick for something like two years.
After Peart had recovered sufficiently from these losses, the band began writing new material, primarily by sharing tapes with one another, with a "no pressure/expectations" attitude that the process would either result in an album or not. In interviews, members of the band have stated that until a certain point, well into the writing process, the band's future was still undecided. In the course of working out the material, Geddy Lee's keyboards, which had grown from sparse use on 1977's _A Farwell to Kings_, and evolved into a dominant aspect of the bands sound by the early 1990's, were abandoned. This lack of keys and the songwriting, brought about in large part by Peart's hardship and his largely solitary reconstruction of himself, are, I think the two primary things that lend to Rush's most guitar-driven, visceral and emotionally open album to date.
Personally, I think that the 13 tunes offered here easily stand up to the vast majority of mass-marketed drivel that constitutes today's popular music scene. (Yeah, I am opinionated.) From the frenzied opening double kick-drum/distorted guitar onslaught of "One Little Victory" to the jangly and popish "How It Is" and on to the brilliantly written, building "Secret Touch," Rush - the band that, along with Yes, King Crimson, ELP and a handful of others put prog rock on the map - delivers an assortment of well written tunes, brilliantly executed by a trio of virtuoso rock musicians. I honestly don't think many will like all 13 cuts on this album (personally, I'm not that fond of "Ghost Rider" and "Freeze"), but I would guess that most Rush fans would end up liking at least 8 to 10 songs.
The following might be more info than you want to bother with, but people have brought up the album's sound quality. I agree that it is an issue and this is just an attempt to explain what I think is going on...
Sonically, the problem with _VT_ is that it is mastered too loud. (Mastering is the process wherein the finished stereo mixes: receive final equalization, as well as, relative and overall level adjustment, are ordered, track gaps and crossfades set, etcetera.) Recent years have seen breakthrough technology emerge in the world of digital audio, which, among other things has revolutionized digital compression and "brickwall limiting" (the two most common techniques for increasing the average level of audio program material, and therefore, perceived volume of a CD). This, in turn, has made albums louder and louder each year in contest that began about a decade ago.
For better or for worse, this album was not mastered by any of the gurus of the trade (like Bob Ludwig or Bernie Grundman to name a couple) and I think it suffers for it. There are plenty of albums that are as loud as _VT_, and a few that are even louder, but many of them sound a lot better. The compression artifacts from the signal level processing, not to mention some poor final EQ choices (the exact problems) are absurdly evident to the trained ear, and sound bad to most people, whether or not they have the audio engineering experience to identify them with precision. I think it is really fair to say that the mastering job on this album is the easily one of the worst I've heard on a significant major label release...ever!
Rush are veterans of the studio, and Paul Northfield is a talented and experienced producer and audio engineer. Both have turned out consistently high quality recordings over long careers and it's not likely that these mixes were mediocre product. Honestly, it is actually not possible to objectively judge the mixes that came out of the studio once they have been mastered. A skilled mastering engineer can turn mediocre mixes into outstanding final product and, clearly, that level of technology, in the wrong hands, can destroy a fine recording. I think that is what has happened here. (This is likely the result of pressure from the label in an attempt to position the album to compete for the dollars of the younger segment of Rush's fan base, who generally listen to new, loud CD's.)
Poor sonics notwithstanding, with _VT_, Rush has made a powerful, personal and appropriate musical statement a time in the band's history that represents a definite personal and career crossroads. While it may not be their best ever, _VT_ is a very good album by an excellent band that has deservedly earned a place in history as one of the greatest progressive rock bands ever. It's really a shame it doesn't sound better...
PS - if you are new to the band you might prefer one of their definitive classics: _2112_, _A Farewell to Kings_, _Hemispheres_, _Permanent Waves_, and/or _Moving Pictures_.
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94 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They're back, August 29, 2004
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
If all you can hear in this CD is a bunch of noise, well, you need to give it a few more listens, that's all. Leapin' lizards, Sandy, this is Rush, after all.

They almost caught me like this once before, when they shifted their sound in the mid-1980s. I didn't (and don't) especially care for the U2-meets-Duran Duran sound they adopted at that time, but did it mean they'd 'sold out'? Let's not be silly, folks; Rush have never come within fifty miles of selling out. And whether their '80s material represented my favorite sound or not (and believe me, I'm under no illusion that Rush spend their time in the studio trying to record stuff that specifically pleases _me_), that period included some of the finest _writing_ these guys have ever done. (Their _haircuts_, on the other hand . . . well, never mind.)

Now they've shifted again -- this time after a six-year hiatus. Bassist Geddy Lee is doing a lot of chording way down there in the bottom end, and guitarist Alex Lifeson is filling about 65% of the CD with such a fuzzed-out wall of noise that it sounds like the music has been invaded by a county-sized swarm of angry killer bees. So Rush have become just another alternative band with a slightly-behind-the-trends 'grunge' sound -- right?

Sure, kids. Now go back to your Tool CDs and let the grownups listen in peace. [EDIT: I'm not knocking Tool here, as one or two commentators on this review seem to think. I like Tool. I'm just poking fun at the notion that Rush are following a trend and have become just another band in some genre or another.]

Percussionist/lyricist Neil Peart's lyrics have gotten steadily darker, more oblique, and more personal over the last two decades. Here, no doubt owing in large measure to his personal tragedies of 1997-98 (which we don't need to relive here), he's written some of his most sharp-edged material; on some of these lyrics you can actually cut yourself. I won't say it's the very best stuff he's ever written (and I won't say it's not) -- but if you've ever liked Peart's lyrics, you should like these. A lot.

Almost every Rush album -- certainly every one since _Permanent Waves_ -- has a thematic unity that's captured in the title (and Hugh Syme's marvelous cover art). On _Signals_ it was success and failure in communication; on _Roll the Bones_ it was the taking of risks; on _Counterparts_ it was the mysteries of relationships (mostly romantic); and so forth. Here, surprise surprise, it's transitoriness and evanescence against a backdrop of permanence. ('The Stars Look Down' may -- I don't actually know -- have been inspired by a remark of Emerson's about a time when he rushed out of a meeting very excited about something or other and looked up at the night sky: the stars, he said, seemed to be looking down at him and saying, 'Why so hot, little man?')

So what's up with the music? Well, I'm afraid it's hard to do that sort of thing justice in a verbal review; all I can say here is that you should keep listening. It really does make sense after you listen to it a few times (and the lyrics are _much_ better matched to the music than I thought on my own first pass through it). Yes, it takes several listens; can you name a Rush album that didn't? Yes, Lee's voice is sometimes hard to make out through the wall of industrial noise; what was the last Rush release we could listen to _without_ the lyric sheet open in front of us?

For thirty years these guys have been releasing albums, and for thirty years every one of them has been greeted by _somebody_ with 'Well, that's it; the Rush we knew and loved is dead and gone, and this clunker will clearly be their last recording.' It ain't so.

I think some listeners somehow expect Rush to sit aloof from all popular musical trends and hand down songs from Olympus or something. Those listeners are bound to be disappointed. These guys do listen to other people's music, they do like some of the things they hear, and they do adapt other musical idioms to their own ends. They've done it for thirty years and they're still doing it here. That doesn't make them anybody's camp followers.

It's Rush. It's good. It's that simple.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough times reflected in Vapor Trails, September 7, 2007
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
THE BAND: Geddy Lee (vocals, bass), Alex Lifeson (guitars, mandola), Neil Peart (drums & percussion).

THE DISC: (2002) 13 tracks clocking in at approximately 67 minutes. Included with the disc is a 22-page booklet containing song titles/credits, song lyrics, individual band member photos, and thank you's. Music written by Lee and Lifeson. All song lyrics by Peart. Recorded at Reaction Studios, Toronto. Label - Atlantic.

COMMENTS: I've read a lot of mixed reviews on "Vapor Trails"... and not just here on Amazon. I for one, like this album. It's no "2112", "Permanent Waves" or "Moving Pictures"... but I like the album as a whole. I also know that the years leading up to this album were difficult for the band, especially Peart. "Test For Echo" came out in 1997 to mixed reviews at best. In the same year Peart lost his wife and only child. Only a live album "Different Stages" (1999) would be released from 1998-2001. So in 2002, with Peart back on board (remarried, and a year long North American motorcycle trip covering 50,000+ miles behind him - as well as his book of the same trip now in print "Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road"), "Vapor Trails" would be the end result. The album reached #6 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. "One Little Victory" (charted at #10) and "Secret Touch" (#25) were the only two songs to hit the US Mainstream Rock list. "Vapor Trails" has several highlights - the fast paced rocker "One Little Victory" with its thundering drums (also featured on my favorite car racing game on PS2, "Need For Speed: 2"), the melodic "Ceiling Unlimited", the lyrics from Peart's "Ghost Rider", Lifeson's guitar work on "The Stars Look Down", the cool title track, the heavy "Freeze", and the crowd favorite and semi hit "Earthshine". The synthesizers are gone, and on the surface the songs seem heavier than normal. Two minor things hinder this release - a few sub-par filler tunes ("Peaceable Kingdom", "How It Is", and "Sweet Miracle" are actually tough to get through), and the sound production. I don't have a professionally trained ear, but even I can tell when the volume is turned up - to an acceptable loud level; not glass breaking, ear bleeding, or concert level - the sound becomes very muddy and somewhat distorted. I agree with many of the reviews here in that the volumes (during production, mixing and/or mastering) were simply too high. With that being said, for me, this is the most enjoyable album since "Roll The Bones" (1991). Take "Vapor Trails" for what it is... not a classic, but overall some good tunes from a historical rock band (3.5 stars).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Rush's most creative releases, December 3, 2010
By 
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
I think that this is tricky one to review. I think that musically, this is Rush's best album since Signals (excepting the delightful aberration known as Counterparts). I can tell you why I think that, and I think the arguments are convincing. But, it sure is hard to get past the sound of the album. Almost every review mentions it - the over the top loudness, bad EQ, the digital artifacts. I'm probably willing to let that slide more than most, because the music is so good and because a lot of albums are guilty of this. I just bought a jazz organ trio album by Dr Lonnie Smith recorded in 2010 that is filled with digital artifacts! Go figure. It would be nice to have a remaster of Vapor Trails, but I do think that this is very aggressive album and it doesn't need to be softened up too much.

One of the reasons that I really like this disc is that Rush is finally experimenting again. To me, they've played it pretty safe since Hold Your Fire. Vapor Trails is not safe. The song forms are more interesting, maybe not proggy but definitely not pop. Keyboards are not replaced with huge power chords or single note riffs as in Counterparts, but instead with intricate layers of polysonic guitars. Alex Lifeson is as creative as he has ever been, creating textures that sometimes border on atonal and that are always subtle and engaging. Geddy Lee's bass line are often in the same range as the guitar (and sometimes higher) which creates some very clever musical effects. The vocal lines are approached in a similar fashion at times creating a wall of sound that is mesmerizing in its counterpoint. Maybe this is one reason why the album is so loud - there is a lot going on!

Lyrically, the album is dark, as well it should be, and there is no feeling of aloofness that one sometimes feels from Peart's lyrics. It all feels real, agonizingly so. A quick listen to Test for Echo puts all of this in stark perspective; TFE sounds like cotton candy in comparison. Highlights for me include Ghost Rider, Earthshine, Peaceable Kingdom, Freeze, and the title track.

It's really shame what happened to this album. If it sounded better, I think it would be hailed as one of Rush's masterpieces. The band themselves seem to disowned the album in a way. They played precious little of it on the supporting tour and have played less of it since. Maybe this is because of the memories associated with making this album; maybe it is because the complexity of the arrangements made playing a lot of this material prohibitive. Rush would go on to make Snakes and Arrows which sonically sounded a lot better but lacked the experimentalist tendencies of Vapor Trails. I hope that as time passes, this offering by the band will be reevaluated in a more positive light.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Little Victory, One Larger Defeat, June 25, 2002
By 
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
While it was gratifying to hear a new Rush album after all that has happened with Neil; i am disappointed that they didn't closely supervise the mixing or just wanted the record released after working on it for so long. There are some good songs on here, however in some cases it's almost impossible to tell due to the heavy wall of sound and crackle present. For instance, "Earthshine" could be great but during the part where it appears that Alex is trying to solo, the sound is way too muddy and there is too much distortion.
I for one like the fact that Rush put limitations on themselves for this album: no keys and no solos; however, i don't particularly enjoy the results that much. The guitars aren't layered that well, and though there are some good riffs sprinkled throughout the album, they eventually mesh into a heavy sound that has little definition.
If they would have fleshed out that sound a little and cut down on some of the vocal harmonies, then the album could have been quite a bit better. I enjoy some of Geddy's harmonies, but i think they were done too much.
I won't go as far to say that all the songs sound the same; but i will say that there is no tension and release to this album. It's just heavy and hard but not all that memorable.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one is a grower, but ultimately a classic, May 29, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Actually more like 4.5 stars, but I'll take the positive slant. I'm not often compelled to write many reviews here or elsewhere, even for albums I really like, but this is one album that really surprises me.
I'll be honest, this album probably won't blow you away of first listen, as it is not very commercial. It takes some time to soak in the character and qualities of the songs. Upon first listen, like reviewers before me, I also thought initially that it was a good album, but not great. The second listen was a little better. On the third listen, I was really blown away, and have been ever since.
It's heavier, more energetic, and more youthful sounding than most people will expect. Alex exerts his heavy guitar-rock jamming influence profusely. They also seem to have reclaimed more emotion than in a long time: anger, joy, hopefulness, fearfulness, and a lot in between, than they've done in a very long time. It's also a little muddier, less starkly experimental than most latter-day Rush albums.
There's a very cool and vital balance they achieved with this record. Many moments are classic rock guitar sound, and many other moments could only come from very contemporary hard rock and metal influences. As always, Rush has evolved with the times, and yet still manages to sound essentially like Rush.
While there are no filler tracks on this records, I won't bore everyone with a track by track analysis. You'll need to hear them for yourself, anyway. But, to wet your musical appetite, here are some songs that are kicking my a$$ right now:
"Ceiling Unlimited": heavy, but accesible, a little like early U2.
"Peaceable Kingdom": Stark, very heavy, not a weak moment.
"How It Is": closest to a classic rock track, pretty smooth, catchy.
"Secret Touch": really jams, great guitar solo somewhat hidden in the mix.
"Earthshine": part classic rock, part grungy guitar, all jamming.

"Freeze": A stunner, The part 4 of Fear surprised the heck out of me. Very heavy, hardcore, great guitar sound.
"Out of the Cradle": a very energetic and melodic album closer, sounds very jacked up, great hooks too.
The rest of the album tracks will probably be slower to warm up to, but give them time, they may surprise you, because they also rock.
I think there is substantially great material here for old Rush fans and newer ones alike. Like I said, you will have to give this one a little bit of time to grow on you, but the pay off is so worth it. Rush faithful will have little trouble with that, but this one really ought to win over new fans. This record, actually surprised me when I didn't think they ever would again, and has me all jacked up for the new tour, reminding me once again how Rush are so damned underrated by most people, it just makes me ill.

For those who have not seen Rush live: it's the best part of all, you MUST go to a show. I won't miss seeing them at least twice per tour.
Sorry for the long post. Take care, God Bless, and happy listening to a great new record.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gracious gift, February 21, 2003
By 
Carlton D. Garrard (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Its interesting to read the reviews of others on this album. All I can say is that im still learning from it, as I am learning from the others. I think it is incomprehensible to understand this album so quickly, as they are in a state of grace mentally and spiritually, far beyond my current state. I have to say that the music and the lyrics are an improvement over the past albums (im sure they would want us to see that) in many respects, and if you take the time to "listen" to this album, you may just one day understand everything it has to offer... (may understand). After reading "Ghost Rider" this album now has taken on a deeper understanding with myself, and im catching new clues from it everyday. It is a true delight to listen too, with harmonic highs and musical creativity coming through on every song. I am, as usual, truly amazed by thier work, and feel fortunate to live in this time and era with such an amazing group of 3 men. Of course I would reccomend it, as I would every one of thier albums. Rush in my opinion, has set a standard of excellence far ahead of thier time in every facet of their being. They are not only an incredibly successful "rock band", they are also wonderful role models, both musically and personally. I only hope that people will be moved by thier "Vapor Trails".
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best prog rock albums ever, period., November 22, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
This album amazed me, because a few times in my life I have heard albums that took a while to grow on me. This one, I have to say, I didn't really like at all, except Ghost Rider, on first listen. Well, the problem was I was cranking it up on my car stereo, which is a good one, but not so great for lots of ditorted guitar. I just sat down and listened to this on headphones, months after I bought it, and it was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life. The moral of the story, listen to this either on a very high end system that is good at highlighting all the subtle dynamics of all types of music, or listen to this on headphones. There are so many different things going on, the atmosphere of this is thick, and the whole thing plays along almost like a concept album, each song flowing perfectly into the next, and evoking an incredible array of emotion with both lyric and music. Especially the first 6 tracks, they kept me spellbound nonstop, there are a few slow spots but not many. Don't use this for background music, sit and focus on this and listen from beginning to end, and I guarantee that you will either agree that it is actually the best Rush album ever made, yes, even better than Exit or Test for Echo, or 2112. There are very subtle guitar things that are on the verge of subliminal, but they reveal themselves on subsequent listens. Even right after listening to Seargent Peppers on headphones, it still sounded good, as a matter of fact the genius of the soundscaping is in the same ballpark. Even when I saw these guys in concert for some reason I hadn't gotten it with the new stuff, although Earthshine revealed itself well in the live setting. I listen to King Crimson, Yes, Alan Parsons, ELP, and Genesis, and this album is toward the top of the list even compared to the best of all those. If the definition of progressive is evolving, these guys just did it, they made a major new update to their sound, and are in uncharted territory once again, and it all sounds up to date, and good! Oh, and is there any sign of burnout or "age" setting in? Absolutely none, this is as vibrant as ever, and much more so than Test, which I also like, but has been surpassed by lightyears here. After you read this buy this album, immediately, and buy an extra for a friend!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stormy album, April 30, 2006
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
It seems like almost every song on this album has storm or night sky imagery. I guess that makes sense considering what Neil Peart had gone through prior to making this album. Impermanence seems to be the unifying theme of Vapor Trails.
While Peart's and Lifeson's playing are adequate on VT, Lee deserves the MVP. His bass playing shines and he certainly carries this album. I hope they remaster VT to make it sound better.
Lee's vocal quality on the song Earthshine is notable because he sings in that higher register we haven't heard since the 70s and early 80s (for some reason I didn't think he could still sing that high). In addition, Lifeson's guitar solo on Earthshine sounds almost exactly like his solo on Subdivisions (Signals, 1982). It is rather amusing that a venerable band like Rush can actually reference themselves now.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rush meets grunge, September 3, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Strange for Rush to follow the grunge craze so late.
Compared to most Rush CDs, this one is characterized by a much less melodical approach (even the singles), a heavy guitar sound but no solos to speak of.
I can't really say their technical abilities stand out in this one as much as in the past. This CD seems to share many weka points of 90's music (poor sound quality, few technical numbers).
I was expecting more from the guys. Maybe next time eh?
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Vapor Trails by Rush (Audio CD - 2002)
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