on November 16, 2001
It's interesting to listen to Rush's albums in chronological order, and to hear how things had progressed from album to album. After hearing what had been created on Rush's 1976 breakthrough, _2112_, we could see the band perfecting what had been hinted at on earlier albums. And, here, on the effort that followed _2112_, we witness, yet another evolution.
On 1977's _A Farewell To Kings_, we see Rush entering a more evolutionary period in their writing. To me, this album, in many ways, is a bit more pivotal than their previous album, in foreshadowing what the band would be famed for in albums like 1981's _Moving Pictures_. For instance, in *sound* value alone, the sounds that are found here are much more akin to what you would hear on the later-era, more accessible, streamlined prog-rock in their early-80s period. Also, the instrumentation, and how it is treated is important: it was on *this* album where Rush started to employ more exotic instruments into their repetoire, and in drove-like fashion: tubular bells, wind chimes, bass pedal synthesizers, orchestra bells; these types of airy instruments and sounds were fairly prominent in the _Permanent Waves_-era Rush. And, also as important, it was on *this* album, where Rush started to delve heavily into the use of odd time signatures, and the multiple use of them. To be precise, on Rush's second album, 1975's _Fly By Night_ (their first with Neil Peart), the band did start doodling around with odd time signatures, but not to the extent of which they are used here (and on later albums.) _2112_ didn't exhibit a large use of odd time signatures, so these things alone would leave you convinced of two things: (1). This album was *indeed* a big evolution from _2112_. (2). This album is indeed *more* important than _2112_ in establishing the Rush sound of the future.
The title track starts off with Alex Lifeson's wonderful classical guitar, which indeed features classically-inclined progressions. Even within this classical guitar-filled section, we are already treated to multiple time signature changes. It then explodes into an electric section, which again, exhibits some time changes, mainly from a rhythm in 4 (common time), to a rhythm in 7. At 11 minutes, "Xanadu" was my first favorite Rush extended piece and still remains so. It features poetic lyrics (based on an actual poem) along with lulling chimes, synths and Alex Lifeson's guitar producing a synth-like effect. This is one of the dreamiest, romantic and seductive pieces Rush ever created, if not the most. The musicianship here is sublime: Geddy's seductive vocals and basslines, Alex's atmospheric guitar lines, and Neil's arsenal of percussives (and how he uses them) help to make this truly one of a kind. "Closer To The Heart" is the radio favorite, and needs no explanation. "Cinderella Man", is written by Geddy Lee. One of the more accessible pieces on the album, there is a groove that seems to run throughout the song. "Madrigal", is a dreamy, cosmic, absorbing mellow piece that prepares you for the insane, spiralling rollercoaster known as "Cygnus X-1".
This song has to be heard to be believed, and is probably the singlemost intense song in Rush's catalog. If you want to hear Neil Peart at his most complex and mad, you have to hear this epic. Written in three movements, the musical insanity found here is seldom found anywhere else in Rush's catalog. The time changes are all over the place in this song; going from stuff like 7/4 (a mix of 3, plus a section in 4), while in sections like the opening of the third -- and last -- movement (following a tension building section), we are treated to a rhythm in a hard-charging 11/8, where the E (power) chord is (beautifully) pounded into violent submission, before switching to F#, then the time swtiches to 12/8. This particular motif is repeated one more time (only Neil Peart places the accent elsewhere; excellent as hell), in a manic, surging tension-releasing wall-of-sound, before Geddy Lee reaches what was probably the most violently shrieking wail in his career. The climax reached in this song is just as formidable and frightening as the "black-hole" which serves as the topic of this track. It's *really* intense stuff, and not for the faint-of-heart, but for those who, indeed, love a rush (pun most *definitely* intended.)
Indeed, _A Farewell To Kings_ is an important album in Rush's catalog, and truly foreshadows the kind of things you would hear on subsequent albums: it is on *this* album, that you can see where the band was going on albums like 1978's _Hemispheres_, 1980's _Permanent Waves_ and 1981's _Moving Pictures_. You can hear a bit of this album in them all. _A Farewell To Kings_ is my personal favorite from these boys, and has an unique, cosmic charm not found on any of their other albums. It's highly recommended.
on April 8, 2001
While 2112 was the first Rush song I ever heard, A Farewell To Kings was the first Rush album I owned (the store didn't have 2112 at the time). Sentimentally, it's a favorite because it was among my first progressive rock albums, but beyond the gushiness I still love this album because it's great music.
For a band that critics hated, Rush had quite a following at this point, picking up numerous fans who'd been dazzled by the band's stunning musicianship, philosophical reflection typically disguised as fantasy/sci-fi stories (but not always...sometimes it was just a story), and the fact that they freakin' rocked. A Farewell To Kings produced one of the band's most popular songs, "Closer to the Heart," which continues to receive the attention of classic rock radio stations all over the place. I don't use superlatives too much, but I must say that this is the best song under three minutes EVER. The socially conscious title track squeezes a lot of "progression" into a 5 minute song. The highlights of this album are the mesmerizing "Xanadu" and the rockin' space adventure known as "Cygnus X-1, Book I." Even though the latter is best appreciated as a precursor to the phenomenal "Hemispheres," it's a great song even on its own. The first movement is ominous, the second is catchy and exciting, and the third is an insane rhythmic assault underscoring Lee's screaming vocals.
Finally, like most of Rush's work, this really doesn't sound dated at all, despite being released in the late 70s. Timeless music is great music!
Critics [stink]. Rush rules. Or something. But I'm pretty sure I'm right.
on June 22, 2005
In the world of classic RUSH, this is paradise (or xanadu if you will). RUSH's fifth studio release represents another branching-out of the complex progressive sound experimented with heavily on the prior 2 (or even 3) albums. They slightly tone down the raging intensity of 2112 in favor of more layering and color with 6 very unique and far-out classics. This is the album that came out when I was just becoming a huge fan and going to the first of 4 concerts. I had just bought All the World's a Stage a few months before and I knew this band would be huge. 2112 was so great that it seemed tough to beat, but this took RUSH to the next stage (so to speak). Closer to the Heart shows the budding radio play genius shown in subsequent albums beginning with Permanent Waves...tight and structured shorter songs with focused storytelling (it has always been a huge radio hit). Cinderella Man shows the reflective and more sensitive (artist's dilemma) theme played out with the usual RUSH intensity - the guitar lead is power-wah heaven, Geddy's Bass carries everything higher melodically (great concert song) - Cinderella man sounds fine to me, manic depressive or not. PEART, by the way, has moved to higher ground with this album. Creative approaches and incredible mind-bending technique and power are everywhere (his drumkit is the envy of the western world by this time). A million young males came out of the drumming closet to emulate Neil Peart, you could see them playing air drums everywhere back then. The title song is one of my favorites, mixing a bit of a classical medieval feel with sheer rock power on a political labyrinthian fable. Again, the lyrical and poetic writing take this album to the top of my list, of course the musicianship shown here is RUSH on fire (maybe that's what scorched the Earth on the cover). Speaking of that, Xanadu is another beautiful epic RUSH classic along the lines of 2112 that has always been one of my favorites. Mind candy that takes you away to far lands and adventure (from Kubla Khan to ice caves). Xanadu is one of the most elaborately decorated RUSH songs, which is a good thing. Part one (or book one - book two is on Hemispheres) of Cygnus X-1 (the space odyssey) clearly places your mind's eye on a ship traveling through a black hole with electric space dust flying everywhere, echoing in the form of power chords and bass thumpings that knock planets off their axis...swirling to another dimension. Every song is great and let the music world (and other doubters that thought RUSH was a fad) know that you can't keep a few good geniuses down - RUSH MEANS BUSINESS, SO...farewell to kings...a paradigm shift has laid waste to the world order (cover). Thank you RUSH for rockin' my world all of these years...three people never sounded so good and so powerful...ENJOY!
on April 25, 2015
Rush continued to expand their sound with this release. Instead of one long 20 minute opus this time they honed it down to two smaller compositions, the first of which is one of the band's most beloved tunes of all time "Xanadu" and the second the first part of a larger composition that would culminate on the next release Hemispheres. Just about no one was writing in this style at the time especially not with the confidence to record a prequel on one record and the sequel on another. In order to expand their sound, Peart incorporated all kinds of percussion equipment, such as the tubular bells, orchestra bells, chimes and the vibra slap to name a few. Lee and Lifeson also added a few tools to their arsenal as well with the bass pedals, Mini Moog and those ridiculous 12 string guitars. Of course while the epic songs here showcased the band's penchant for prog extravagance, the melodic and moving "Closer To The Heart" - as well as the simple, yet entertaining "Cinderella Man" - nicely balanced the "heady" works to provide the band's best and most diverse recording up to that point in time. "Cygnus X-1" is the highlight and remains one of my favorite Rush songs ever. From the very sci-fi sound effects in the intro to the throbbing bass riffing and stellar guitar leads, this song just is just so cool. Overall, this album - while not as groundbreaking as 2112 - was a refinement in the Rush sound and a definite improvement in song-writing quality compared to its predecessor.
My vinyl version arrived in excellent condition and sounds perfect. In addition to the double gate-fold replica (with lyrics printed inside the gate-fold)and the FLAC download card there is a photo sheet reproduction from the original album sleeve. Really, for those that have never heard these Rush albums on vinyl you are in for a treat, and for those of us that grew up on a steady diet listening to these records over and over again, this is not only a great trip down memory but this release has never sounded better.
on October 9, 2006
I don't have time to make an account, so this is filed under 13, but I've been around just as long as Rush has. Let me begin by saying that AFTK is, in my opinion, Rush's greatest achievement of the 70's. The band began experimenting with new sounds, mainly Peart, who is using wood blocks, tubular bells, and wind chimes. This album offers a heavy progressive feel throughout, and it doesn't disappoint.
The album kicks off with the title track, "A Farewell To Kings". What a beautiful way to open such an astounding album. The song begins with a classical acoustic guitar intro, courtesy of Alex Lifeson. Soon after, the song explodes into an electric section, and it quickly picks up tempo. The song then closes with a classical guitar outtro by Alex. All in all, a very overlooked and underrated gem of a song.
The band follows up the album's title track with what is, in my opinion, the greatest song they have ever written by far. The 12-minute epic, "Xanadu". Folks, you do not know Rush until you have heard this song. This is where the band starts adding more flare to their new sound. Nowadays, all Neil has to do is hit a MIDI trigger and the chime or bell sound is created, but on here, hearing him run through the tubular bells, chimes, and wood blocks is much more realistic, and adds to the already amazing sound. Also, Geddy and Alex are both using double-necks here, which creates an even more realistic effect. The song opens with a very ethereal aura, and features a beautiful intro by Alex on his 18-string double-neck. From there, the song eventually enters its main theme, and it also goes into another amazing intro by the band. The lyrics of the song are based on an old poem, although I forget the name of it. The song ends with a jaw-dropping solo by Lifeson just before closing out on an explosive finale. This song alone is worth the price of the album.
Now we come to the radio classic, "Closer To The Heart". Every Rush fan has heard this song, so I'm not even going to waste my time describing it. All I will say is that it's a very enjoyable song, and I really like to sing along to it, despite the fact that I can't sing for my life.
The next one on the album, "Cinderella Man", is another overlooked gem. It's a little hard for me to describe, but I like the lyrics and the way they flow with the tempo of the music. A very listenable tune, overall.
The next tune, "Madrigal", is an odd one. It's not something you would ordinarily hear from this band. Nevertheless, it still is a beautiful song which offers you a nice chance to catch your breath before the jaw-dropping closer to this outstanding album.
"Cygnus X-1" is the other epic on this album, and it's next in line with "Xanadu". The song begins with a rather long inrtumental intro by the band members. This song also features an absolutely magnificent vocals performance by Lee. At the very end of the song, he makes his highest scream I have ever heard him do, and the song closes out with Alex playing some minor chords.
So in conclusion, I have to say this; if you're thinking about picking up this album, STOP THINKING ABOUT IT! If you are a fan of this band or progressive rock, your life is a waste if you don't listen to this album. For the price, you can't go wrong if you're a Rush fan.
on June 16, 2015
A Farewell to Stereo and a Hello to 5.1 Surround Sound. Of the three Blu-Ray Rush disks that I have, "Moving Pictures", "2112", and "A Farewell To Kings", the latter offers the most spacious surround sound mix. All of the nuances come out to play and are crystal clear. I've heard things that were never prominent in the remastered stereo version and it's an aural delight for the sonic senses. In my opinion, "Moving Pictures" and "2112" still sound compressed, which was indicative of the mix in the mid-to-late 70s and the 80s in general, but the sound scape is vastly improved for all three of these Rush classics. In stating the obvious, a lot will depend on the quality of your system but there is a significant difference between the stereo and Blu-Ray audio and, in many respects, it's as if you're hearing the recordings for the first time. I highly recommend "A Farewell To Kings" for any Rush fan with the surround sound equipment necessary to play the disk. Enjoy!
on April 28, 2006
The term "Xanadu" is defined as "a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment."
That's the kind of place I've found on A Farewell To Kings.
Ok, that's a bit thick on the melodrama, but Rush has definitely turned a distinctive and definite corner on this record...one started a tad more subtly on 2112.
For one, this is the first quality production on a Rush record. You can actually discern the instruments and for the first time Geddy is present up front..and this would mark how the band would sound on vinyl for a few years to come. A real treat to the ears. (His playing, too, is starting to become more noticeably varied and stylish as well). Musical personalities are really coming in to form here. Alex is playing less rock riffs and experimenting more with the guitar as an instrument of tone and vibe...beit it volume swellings, hammer-ons, or more melodic single-note picking
The title track is a nice treat, starting with the very Renaissance-esque acoustic treatment by Alex. Midway through we get a nice jazzy break with Neil working the snare and Geddy carrying the tune to Alex's tasty guitar fills.
Xanadu, however, is to me where the literal line in the sand occurs and the band goes someplace it's not treaded before. They walk "towards the light" and never look back. A friend of mine described the opening to 2112 being that thing that raises the hair on his arms and says "this is Rush." To me this happens with the opening to this wonderful epic. The soft but eerie keys, Lifeson's wistful single note swells, and Neil's haunting chimes and tolling bells....seguing into Alex's goosebump-raising guitar intro that carries us into that massive power chord.
This is Rush to me in a big way.
And this is what a monster opus should do. It's a cohesive musical narrative, natural, never gets boring and all the parts gel together...change tempos and keys at all the right time, etc. Seriously one of the great Rush epics.
Closer To The Heart I'm sure raises the groan of bored Rush fanatics, but despite perhaps the oversaturation on the radio, it's simply one of the best songs they've ever crafted....with one of the best sounding 12-string intros in the history of rock. Seriously, this is without a doubt a top 10 Rush tune of all time....wonderfully crafted, skillfully and emotionally sung by Lee. There's nothing to not love here.
Cinderella Man is another keeper, with an intro riff that reminds me of Iron Maiden for some reason. But quickly we're into acoustic chords and the vocals. I like the lyrics and sentiment here quite well. The song also has a bit of Kansas and Styx in it too...in terms of melody.
Madrigal is often ignored or put down from the things I've read, and while it's nothing earth-shattering -- so I'll not pretend otherwise -- it's a nice wistful tune....featuring some tamed singing from Lee. The vocal melody here is rangy and beautiful....and way underappreciated. (Hidden gem # 3 along this journey...yeah, another ballad kids). It might be forgotten because at a meager 2:38 it's shorter than some Rush intros.
Cygnus X-1 takes me back to that weird place with Rush I'm always sort of hesitant about....but it works here fairly well. Granted it's my least favorite overall track, but for a heady, bizarre space-themed something-or-other it's pretty compelling. The intro is quite effective....with Ged's thumping bass slowly swelling in and taking over the song. I'd by lying if I said I wasn't thumping the steering wheel all six times I listened to this album today. Ultimately I think the song kind of dissolves and ends a bit shriekily and disappointingly with this pretty sad fade out.....but overall it's a keeper.
This is clearly and easily the best Rush effort at this point in their career. It's diverse....it's melodic....it's weird but with a purpose. The songs have a cohesive feel. Most (tho' not all) the problems I had with the previous releases are well on their way to being ironed out on A Farewell To Kings and the changes are both noticeable and appreciated.
on September 30, 2002
Just before the bulging excesses of 'Hemispheres', and having just shrugged off the anchor of traditional hard rock on '2112', "A Farewell to Kings" is Rush's most explosive, beautiful, heartfelt and dramatic album. Its as close to the nature and power of the band Rush as one can get out of any of their albums.
Beginning with the title track, three things are jarringly apparent: (1) Alex Lifeson has bloomed into a true virtuoso guitar player, (2) lyrically the band matured to the point where imagery and allegory seamlessly join with appropriate musical backdrops, and (3) Neil Peart's drums become "instruments" rather than mere things to pound on.
The second song, Xanadu, recalls the story by Samuel T. Coleridge and his hallucinations on Kubla Khan's pleasure dome. Rush pays close attention to the small details such as the ending riff with the xylophone, and the sounds of nature at the top of the song. Like the rest of the album, this song should be listened to on all levels to glimpse how each arrangement works in perfect balance with the others.
Closer to the Heart is a classic by any definition. Its a Rush benchmark in songwriting and proved to the doubters that Rush obviously could write neatly packaged songs, they simply chose not to most of the time.
Cinderella Man is an underrated song and perhaps, one of their finest. The bridge section (much like the one in the title track) is a patented Rush song-within-a-song, and shows nice bass work by Geddy. Lyrically and musically, this is challenging song for the listener and rewards on many levels.
Madrigal is a clean, simple ballad again displaying Rush's ability to be effective on any level. The fretless bass line carries the song over almost indetectable drums and a shimmering guitar.
Cygnus X-1, simply put, is the most powerful of any Rush song, ever. Its downright frightening, and conveys the terror of space exploration. Taking an appropriate page from Don Quixote, the spaceship "Rocinante" sets out with high hopes and the music is raw, energetic and suddenly met with dread. The resulting spiral of the music crescendos along with absolutely savage drumwork and vocals.
This albums proves that Rush was, for a moment, the most terrifying, talented, subtle and sublime bands to decend on the barren late-70s musical landscape. Its no wonder during that time they were met with some resistance. Like throwing a computer to a bunch of cavemen, people just weren't ready.
on November 17, 2004
It's 1:00 am on some late-70's weekend, I'm 13 years old, Saturday Night Live has just ended, and it's time for Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (or Rawwk Kawwn-saht as he pronounced it.) I'm a real-life character out of the movie "Dazed and Confused" with musical tastes beginning and ending with Kiss. My best bud Kevin and I stayed up to watch SNL 'cuz in those days you didn't dare show your face at school on Monday morning if you weren't up on all the "new" skits.
Ol' Don introduces some Canadian band called "Rush." "Hey," I think to myself, "I live 5 minutes from the Canadian border. Maybe these guys are cool and when I get older I'll go see them."
Rush comes onstage and plays 3 songs from their new album, "A Farewell to Kings," with the title track followed by "Closer to the Heart" and "Xanadu." And my little 13-year-old world changed forever. It wasn't the effects of ditchweed on my feeble little mind either. This music showed me possibilities that I didn't even know existed, but instantly knew I'd wanted all along. The fact that only three guys could produce such a vast array of sounds blew my mind. The fact that rock music could be entertaining and artistic at the same time shaped my musical view to this day.
The next morning I threw away my Kiss records and went off to the mall to buy this album and then-new "Going for the One" by Yes, who I had also heard described as "progressive." They were the first two "adult" albums I ever bought. I began expanding my electric guitar skills (goodbye Tony Iommi riffs!) and learned to finger-pick acoustic guitar like Lifeson and Howe. I taught myself organ and piano. I discovered Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and many, many more.
With all that personal attachment to this record, I can even overlook the absolute clinker that is "Cinderella Man."(Geez,Even typing that title makes me shudder.) But that's nothing folks, you get the stunningly great title track (one of my all-time favorite prog songs) plus the amazing epics "Cygnus X-1" and "Xanadu." And, classic-rock overkill aside, "Closer to the Heart" is one of the best prog singles ever with a truly great guitar solo. For prog fans, it rarely gets better than this.
The greatest export from our Northern neighbors since Molson Canadian-the best beer ever, baby!!!
on December 13, 2000
This album is classic Rush. Yes, "2112" is as well, but to me nothing Rush has ever done represents what the band should be remembered as as "A Farewell To Kings". Any one who can't get into this one is probably some bubble gum chewing blonde chick who probably can't even say such tough one syllable words as Rush anyway. The title track has my favorite Rush lyrics ever (I know, I'm a geek), and "Closer To The Heart" is up there to. Any musician who doesn't instantly get the desire to learn "Xanadu" on their guitars, basses, or drums is brain dead. Geddy's screams at the end of "Cygnus" were more than likely the reason he was never able to sing that high again after "Hemispheres". That song is worth the price of the album alone, but this is one of those albums you have to listen to from top to bottom in one sitting. I was pleasantly surprised to see "Cinderella Man" on the recent live release "Different Stages" too. This is a must buy for even the casual Rush listener. When you get it, you can thank me later. Enjoy.