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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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most energetic, consistent Rush album in years, May 24, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
One of the things I've always loved about Rush is they are not afraid to change. Sometimes they change for the worse, but with Vapor Trails, I feel that they changed for the better.
I'll admit, the album didn't grab me at first listen except for "One Little Victory." There's nothing as instantly catchy as "Half the World," "Stick It Out," or "Presto." But the raw power caught my attention and pulled me back in for more listens. With each repeat, the the hooks and structures of the songs began to take hold until I kept playing the disc again and again. It's the first Rush album in 20 years that I can say really rocks.
"One Little Victory" is an incredibly powerful opening track, pleasantly surprising me the way "Animate" did on Counterparts. "Ceiling Unlimited" and "Ghost Rider" also have a great deal of energy and keep the opening momentum going, a problem with Rush's post-Presto albums.
"Peaceable Kingdom" and "The Stars Look Down" slow things down a bit. They lack the kinetic energy of the previous tracks. But "How It Is" picks things up, and the second half of the album is outstanding, peaking with an excellent trio of songs, "Secret Touch," "Earthshine," and "Sweet Miracle" that combine hooks with powerful playing.
The individual performances are very strong. Lifeson's solos have taken a backseat, but his chords and multiple-tracking give the album a muscular sound. Peart's drumming is more subtle than ever, fitting nicely into the mix while still providing outstanding fills. Lee's bass playing is truly exceptional, his strongest in years. The absence of keyboards is a welcome change, freeing the band to just play.
Overall, it's not in the pantheon of Moving Pictures or Permanent Waves, but it's easily their strongest album since Presto. Vapor Trails is what Counterparts should have been, a hard-rocking album that exudes energy in nearly every track instead of just two or three.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very high standard of songwriting and performance matched to terrible production values, August 30, 2009
By 
Christopher Culver (Cluj-Napoca, Romania or Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Thousands of reviewers have said it before, so I might as well start off by proclaiming my own unhappiness about the disastrous production of Rush's 2002 album VAPOR TRAILS. Geddy Lee naively upped the volumes to the point where the whole album is crushed together with no dynamic range or spatial ambience. It's a casualty of today's "loudness wars". The terrible sound is especially unfortunate because in terms of the actual material, this is one of Rush's overall strongest albums. Had it only received the production of their 1970s work or even a more recent effort like COUNTERPARTS, and I'm sure a lot of people would be proclaiming this as a masterpiece.

Though they were pushing 50 when recording the album, the trio sounds here as if they were enjoying a second youth. After years of trying, Alex Lifeson finally succeeding in banishing synthesizers from the studio completely, allowing him to fully occupy the melodic spotlight with his guitars. While there is something to the accusation that Neal Peart's drumming has stagnated, covering only the same sonorities we've heard many times before, he nonetheless hands in a solid performance here (sadly the drums suffer the worst under this production). Geddy Lee's bass has become aggressive like never before; witness for example how in your face he gets towards the end of "Ceiling Unlimited" and "Freeze".

The songwriting is excellent, with some twists and turns that recall the band's 1970s prog rock, but with a succintness and maturity. A few of the songs touch on then recent events in Neil Peart's life, when he lost both his wife and his daughter, though only the tragic "Ghost Rider" really succeeds, while his proclamation of new love in "Secret Touch" just sounds sappy. "The Stars Look Down" and "Peaceable Kingdom" deal with predestined fate, the latter references September 11th after Peart encountered the disturbing Tarot card called The Tower. The title track is also a meditation on 9/11, mourning the senselessness of the deaths that day. What I think are the three strongest tracks, "Earthshine", "Nocturne" and "Freeze", are universal explorations of fear, loneliness and delusion.

Since the very day the album was released, there have been calls for a remastered version. That this never appeared might suggest that all the amplification damage was already done during the recording process itself. I'd hate for that to be the case.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, but I like it - and yeah, it's Rush., June 1, 2006
By 
DV6740 (Somewhere in PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
I must admit, when I first saw the cover art it wasn't at all what I had expected when I heard of the official CD title before it's release. I was envisioning more clean, blue sky art similar to Test for Echo, because when I think of Vapor Trails I picture white contrails in a clear blue sky.

I wasn't dissapointed though, the cover art is unique and clever as all Rush fans have come to expect. The music it contained is another story. The only thing Rush fans have come to expect from each new Rush release is that it won't be the same as the last, and this is no exception. It took a little longer to grow on me than previous releases though. Just me getting older I guess. I certainly didn't expect the music to be so heavy, but that's not a bad thing.

My fondest memory of listening to this CD is during a flight from New Jersey to North Carolina. I sat looking out the window, headphones blaring to cover the sound of the cabin noise and drone of the engines. The songs shared their secrets then, and I grew to love each and every track for their own merit.

Certainly I connect with Ghost Rider on a deeper level because I had the opportunity to read Neil Peart's book of the same name some time before the release of Vapor Trails. The stories and visuals he shares in the book help to illustrate passages in the song. Though the song works on its own, the listener will have greater appreciation after reading of his plight, and such a great rediscovery of life.

Other songs contain hints of concern for terrorism, peace, and the tragedy that befell the United States on September 11, 2001. Especially in the track Peaceable Kingdom, though I seem to recall an interview where Neil mentions that he didn't set out to deliberately write a song about the event.

Overall I do love this CD, it is quite different from their past work. Geddy is experimenting with layered vocals in lieu of keyboards, an effect that creates an ambient, atmospheric quality. Alex forgoes traditional lead breaks and seems to play more aggressively, shredding and crunching along instead of creating his typical melodic riffs. Neil bangs away dilligently, but strays a bit from his usual syncopation, tending instead to keep some straighforward hard rock beats, with more emphasis on feel than coloration.

I read that during initial meetings Rush decided to record this album from a more personally emotional perspective with less concentration on technique and perfection. Many songs were recorded in very few takes, and there was little editing compared to previous works.

Vapor Trails will please any true Rush fan, and it does take a few listens to become familiar with it. The only bad thing I can say about the CD has nothing to do with the band, but the mastering. The final mixes were pushed way too far, and overuse of compression and limiting to maximize the final stereo signal results in a very loud, very flat, and very abrasive CD. Many nuances and subtleties were lost in the attempt to maximize the audio signal, and some clipping of the audio is evident as well.

Aside from that Vapor Trails has a lot to offer, and I do recommend that Rush lovers add it to their collection.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very solid outing, May 17, 2006
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Well, I've reached the end of this journey through Rush's studio catalog of original music, and what a fun, cool trip it's been. The last of these is 2002's Vapor Trails, marking a new beginning for the band and for its members on levels both professional and personal.

Immediately I noticed that Vapor Trails doesn't sound like any other Rush record. The vocals are very layered, with tons of background and harmonies on both verses and choruses throughout.....and that's kind of uncharacteristic for Rush, who, when they go harmonies at all, usually restrict 'em to the chorus. The end result is an album that off and on surprisingly resembles mid-70s Styx -- or even 2003's Cyclorama -- in many ways. I hear a lot of Dennis DeYoung/Tommy Shaw tones, harmoies and melodies in Geddy's voice and layered background vocals. The Stars Looks Down, How It Is, Peaceable Kingdom, and, Out Of The Cradle (especially)....all have a very classic Styx quality. (For the record, that's a good thing to me. Beyond Babe, Mr. Roboto and the more gag-worthy moments in the band's history, I think Styx is an underrated band, unfairly pegged as something other than what they are).

How It Is is a great song. Very unlike Rush here....but the melody and whimsy of the 12-string guitars is really nice, seguing into the main riff. Enjoying Lee's voice a lot on this tune. As stated above, this could easily be a Tommy Shaw song on Cyclorama. Nocturne is a nice little gem too, with a terrific chorus. Secret Touch is an effective tune as well, and works great live. Melodic intro into the crunch before the first verse. The middle break around the four minute mark is really tasty. Sweet Miracle reminds me a bit of These Days-era Bon Jovi (no kidding), vocally and some musically. Another good song. And Freeze has a frantic guitar intro and wonderful chorus.

There's quite a few notable really high points here, including the opening track One Little Victory (which really grows on you fast, I must say), the very thoughtful Ghost Rider, the concert staple Earthshine (which might be the best song on the record).

There are no real low points here, unlike on Test For Echo (which I have to confess I enjoyed more than I thought I would, especially after some of the tongue lashings I've read). No Dog Years...and nothing as cringe-inducing as the chorus to Virtuality. And at 13 songs that's quite an accomplishment because that's really stretching the canvas out for things to go wrong from a band who made their early mark penning 4-to-7 song records. The fact that there isn't one bad song in 13 tracks is pretty miraculous, actually. They pretty much did the same thing on Counterparts, although I have to say that Vapor Trails takes a bit more ingestion and time to bounce around in the cranium. Overall I don't think the songwriting is quite as strong on Vapor Trails, but it's a pretty rich record (texture) just the same. It's got attitude and brass, but still maintains melody too. There's some unnecessary and redundant (and occasionally uninteresting) noodling about, but overall it's a very good, tight record.

I'm really curious what's in store for us come by Christmas this year or early next year. I'm willing to bet it's going to be great, as this band constantly seems to reinvent itself at every turn. It's quite possible Rush has done nothing but get better with time and with life....
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Tragedy comes Triumph..., June 8, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Vapor Trails is the best Rush album since 1984's Grace Under Pressure. This album is first and foremost a showcase for Geddy Lee's amazing bass prowise. Songs like Ceiling Unlimited, Peaceable Kingdom, and Vapor Trail show that Lee is still at the forefront of innovation and like a fine wine, gets better with age. Undoubtedly, Geddy's side project has opened a world of melody for him never before explored with Rush. Alex Lifeson's guitar playing is fierce and urgent, he flat out smokes on this album. This is Alex's best work since 1994's Counterparts but more akin to 1980's Permanent Waves. Neil Peart's percussion is as always fantastic. His lyrics are dark and introspective dealing with the subjects of loss and love. Peart himself losing his daughter and wife over the last 6 years has endured a lot of pain and it is evident in his lyrics. As a whole Vapor Trails is a triumph. In comparison with other Rush albums, I would place it above anything from the 90's, Hold Your Fire, and Power Windows but behind anything pre-Grace Under Pressure. So at last, Rush is back(and touring!!) and all is right with the world again. Highly Recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vapor Trails, May 28, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Of all the reviews I've read, one theme keeps returning; that this album takes some energy and patience to appreciate. At first listen on my home system (with the sub woofer on), the album sounded muddy and nondescript. I was thoroughly discouraged until I loaded it in the CD player im my car. I gave the album a few more listens on the commute to and from work (after tweaking down the bass) and it really started coming alive. Since I bought it 2 weeks ago its been the only album in my CD player and it gets better everytime I listen to it. My recommendation: Buy it, lower the bass, sit back, listen and be patient...you will love this album by the fourth or fifth time through.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Evolution - Their Best Work, December 10, 2002
By 
Bleu Destiny (Valencia, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
I've always been a fan, and have been somewhat disappointed by every release since Grace Under Pressure. This album was initially more of that same letdown. After seeing them perform it live, I seemed to hear the artestry of the album for the first time, and realized that this is not an album you can hear properly at low levels or when there's outside noise (such as in the car when its not turned up enough). I now hold this as possibly my favorite Rush album ever. It is a new evolution in Rush's works, they've transcended to another level, and it is a wonderful state. The breathless pacing of their musicianship has changed to one of ever so subtle mastery. I'm in awe.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's grown on me a lot, but the sound quality is still weak., October 23, 2002
By 
J. Ramsey (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
When I first listened to Vapor Trails, I was very disappointed - not in the music itself, mind you, but in the muddled, fuzzy sound quality and the over-production. Now that I've listened to it quite a bit over the past few months, it's grown on me a lot. I guess maybe I've learned to subconsciously tune out some of the dissonance. The tunes themselves are great. But there are no solos by Alex Lifeson (which I miss), his guitar is muffled and over-distorted, Geddy Lee's bass is a touch raspy as well, and Neal Peart's hi-hat cymbal is WAY over-miked! In short, the overall production is way below Rush standards, especially when compared to the crystal clarity of albums like Hold Your Fire and Presto!. But the guys still have it when it comes to making music. They just need to get either Terry Brown or Rupert Hine back in the studio with them next time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eating my words, October 7, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
I first reviewed this cd about three months ago, and I absolutely hated it--the lyrics, the sound, the engineering, and the fact that one of my favorite guitarists eschewed his trademark melodic solos. I have been a devoted Rush fan since 1983, and I looked forward to the new release and the subsequent tour. I listened to Vapor Trails six times and still hated it. Then after not listening to it for about a month, I picked it up and gave it another try. I've come to the conclusion that not only is this one of their best recordings, but also it is one of the most evocative releases of 2002. And all of the tracks sound fantastic live!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neil is back!!, October 7, 2002
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
Opens with Neil, blasting away on the drums, guitar and bass soon kick in...no synths (thankfully) just the core trademark sound somewhat similar to earlier RUSH. Not quite "Anthem", mind you, but Strong, Solid Hard-Rocking Effort. Other reviewers covered very well the songs by title so I won't bother, but Earthshine is Great! Geddy's voice can still hit some of those high notes (minus the screech) and it is also digitized somewhat, given it that dark, ominous sound in a song or two. The overall guitar work is solid, but unfortunately very few "solos" per say. Good all around effort!
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Vapor Trails
Vapor Trails by Rush (Audio CD - 2002)
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