A Farewell To Kings
40th Anniversary Edition
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A Farewell To Kings
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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, May 6, 1997
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A Farewell To Kings spawned the band’s first commercially successful radio hit “Closer To The Heart” & will see a 40th anniversary release. The original album’s 2015 remaster by Abbey Road Mastering Studios is featured for the first time on CD. The Hammersmith Odeon February 1978 show is now available for the first time as a complete concert, newly mixed by Terry Brown. Additional bonus tracks includes four cover songs from Dream Theater, Big Wreck, The Trews & Alain Johannes along with a studio outtake of the spacey sound effects from “Cygnus X-1” called “Cygnus X-2 Eh”. 40th anniversary package receives brand new cover art along with new illustrations for each song by Hugh Syme & 12,000 word liner notes by Rob Bowman.
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The Steven Wilson 5.1 remix of "A Farewell to Kings" improves in every way on the Abbey Road remaster, which itself was an improvement on the previous CD versions. It's also much better than the non-Wilson "Fly By Night" and "2112" 5.1 mixes. Listening to this 24-bit, 96 kHz Blu ray on a 5.1 system is revelatory. As usual, Wilson eschews gimmicks, preferring to create an open, 360-degree sound field. This places the listener right in the middle of the music, and during the quieter parts of "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1," the synth drones, percussive grace notes, and tubular bells simply come alive, forming a scintillating musical landscape as they prepare the way for the hammer to drop. And these rocking sections do not disappoint, either -- Alex's guitar is ferocious, Geddy's bass is sharp and punchy, and Neil's drums never sounded better. During that pair of suddenly-muffled drum-rolls preceding Geddy singing, "Xa-na-duuuuu," you can actually feel the air shudder to a standstill. The jazzier parts of "A Farewell to Kings" and "Cinderella Man" skip and bounce around the room in a lively dance of joy familiar to anyone who's seen the band live. And the spoken intro to "Cygnus X-1" actually terrified my pet!
Let's hope that Steven Wilson has been retained for the 40th anniversary of "Hemispheres" next year. Rush fans equipped with a Blu-ray player and a 5.1 system owe it to themselves to get this box set. Unfortinately, the 3-CD version only has the Abbey Road stereo mix; and there's no way to get the Steven Wilson mix without buying the entire box set. Rush, please -- release this 5.1 mix as a standalone Blu-ray!
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.