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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, May 6, 1997
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Remastered on 200-gram, heavyweight vinyl at legendary Abbey Road, all from original analogue masters, Permanent Waves is RUSH's seventh studio album. Released on January 1, 1980, and recorded at Le Studio in Quebec it was their first U.S. album to go Top Five, peaking at #4 on the Billboard charts. The effort marked a transition from the band's long, conceptual pieces into a more accessible, radio-friendly style on such rock airplay hits as 'The Spirit of Radio' and 'Freewill,' with the album going platinum.
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Mostly recorded in 1979, PERMANENT WAVES (1980) marked the starting point for Rush's full-blown entry into condensed, accessible progressive rock. They abandoned the 20-minute suites and mystical lyrics for catchy progressive song structures, and more human, worldly-related topics. But, Geddy Lee (vocals/bass/synths), Alex Lifeson (guitars) and Neil Peart (drums/lyrics) didn't lose their brilliance in composition, even if most of the track lengths were fit for radio.
"The Spirit of Radio" is an ever-popular track, and seems to still get as much radio airplay as it did over two decades ago. A catchy, melodic track with cerebral lyrics dealing with no other than the radio, and it's effect on us listeners (i.e. music fans.)
"Freewill" is a philosophical rocker dealing with personal beliefs (e.g., god, fate, stars) and the consequences - positive or negative - of them. Neil Peart seems to be quite ambiguous in his lyrics, and you can't necessarily tell what *his* personal beliefs are at times. He seems to be playing more a role of devil's advocate, which in some cases is probably the smartest part to play.
"Jacob's Ladder" brings slight resemblance to Rush's 70s period, as this is the most *proggish* on the album, and more than likely can please fans of that particular period. Mostly instrumental, it's an atmospheric rocker which leans toward the darker and heavier side. Highlights of the track are the instrumental section in 5/4, and later, a spatial, instrumental section featuring guitarist Alex Lifeson (later joined by band) playing a snaky riff in 13/8, while Neil is keeping time nicely, and Geddy lends some darkly airy synths on top it all. This track bears considerable King Crimson influence, though clearly, it's still Rush's trademark sound.
"Entre Nous" is something of a ballad, but with intellectual-oriented lyrics. Alex Lifeson's trademark atmospheric arpeggios, Geddy's subtle, but commanding vocal combine nicely to make a highly compelling track.
"Different Strings" is the soft tune on the album. Though possibly seen as a warm up to the following track, it stands nicely on it's own. Poignant as well.
"Natural Science" is the other most *proggish* number on the album. Written in three sections, the lyrics mostly deal with nature and the enviornment. Complex musicianship is very apparent, but doesn't overshadow the strangely catchy and addicting elements found here.
This would be a perfect place to start for anyone interested in Rush. Features a nice balance of complex musicianship and accessibility that's hard to beat. Recommended.
Yes, this album "only" has six tunes, but they are all richly crafted. There's no filler to be found on this album. Rush at this point had evolved beyond doing space-rock concept albums, but while they were admittedly moving to mildly more radio friendly songwriting, they still liked fairly long songs. Even these, however, were skillfully pared down to the essentials, centered around cohesive lyrical ideas that allowed for stretching-out musically. Cases in point: Freewill, Jacob's Ladder, and especially the intense "Natural Science" (don't let the bland title dissuade you from enjoying the full force of the trio wash over you). Even the most commercial tune on the album, "The Spirit Of Radio," is an instrumental workout that also radiates the sincerity of redoubtable musicians who are hardly "selling out."
This album resembles Hemispheres in the mind-boggling *huge* sound conjured up by only three people on the traditional guitar/bass/drums. Part of this is because Geddy's bass and Neil's drums are equally kinetic but more importantly synced up so deeply on rhythmically difficult passages. It's also because Alex chased down some of the hugest analog guitar sounds I've ever heard, a real benchmark even today. Synths are usually relegated to background pedal points and uncluttered atmospherics that subtly fill out the upper sonic reaches. The guest piano added by long-time album cover artist Hugh Syme on the ballad "Different Strings" is a perfect counterpoint in texture, a respite before the force of "Natural Science," and an example of how deft use of space paradoxically adds density. Not to mention the fact that the tune--lyrics and all--is a bit of a rarity, written by Geddy in a display of matured sophistication (usually it's Neil who writes the lyrics while the other two concentrate on the music).
Moving Pictures, the other "peak" Rush album in the Hemispheres-Permanent Waves-MP period, is considerably darker by comparison to this bittersweet yet warm, probing, mature masterpiece. And it is a welcome example of the remasters, which have generally greatly improved the presence and warmth of all the Rush catalog, where applied. To me, Permanent Waves is the perfect "summer" album (welcome any time of year!), with a great overall groove and blend of musicianship that can't help but get the blood flowing, or make a road trip pulse just a little bit faster. As a refined, yet powerful and intriguing harder rock that not only stays with you past adolescence but also helps you reminisce with energetic warmth, this is it.
Vinyl comes in a nice padded V.R.P. style inner sleeve (for those of you old enough to remember those). Separate lyric sheet and digital download card. If I could give it six stars I would. I can't wait to hear Moving Pictures when it comes out.