March 1974 saw the release of Rush’s debut album, the first record in what has become arguably one of the most complete and influential catalogues in rock. It was recorded on the band’s own label, Moon Records, with an initial pressing of 3,500 copies. Helped in no small part by heavy rotation of ‘Working Man’ on Cleveland’s WMMS radio station, Lee, Lifeson and Rutsey’s eponymous debut sold out quickly and established them as a musical force to reckoned with. And while the album doesn’t quite encompass the complexity and sheer musical virtuosity that was to become the band’s trademark, it is still a heck of a good record. 40 years on, “Rush” has once again been released on vinyl, mastered at Abbey Road Studios from the original tapes, as part of a box set that also includes a poster, band pictures and a family tree.
This is a different Rush to the one we’ve become used to, but then they have had 40 years to practice. “Rush” is the only non-Neil Peart album, John Rutsey giving a solid performance on songs like ‘Finding My Way’, ‘In The Mood’ and ‘Working Man’ (all of which were to become staples of the band’s early live set). Geddy Lee’s vocals are instantly recognisable, while his bass playing is already showing signs of being something more than your average player – try ‘Before and After’ to hear how far the young Lee was pushing himself as a musician. Alex Lifeson was still to perfect his calling card guitar tone, but the fiery performance here is one of a musician who’s hungry, ambitious and already considerably developed as a player.
Peart’s absence means lyrical themes are not as well developed or complex as on subsequent albums, and while ‘By-Tor..’ was still a little way off, song arrangements are already hinting at what is to come, with ‘Here Again’ and ‘Working Man’ both topping seven minutes. What “Rush” does is to showcase a young band, raw in talent and honest in their influences.
Arguably it’s difficult to give an objective criticism of any album by Rush. Sure, some albums are better than others, but they have never been anything less than a genuinely great band. The first album was a foundation stone, something that was to be built upon to spectacular effect. It was raucous and hard rocking, the perfect vehicle to grab the attention of the listening public. Given that it was released at a time when rock music was arguably in its heyday (well, one of them, at least) it’s a tribute to the quality of the material that it stood out and got the band noticed.
Rush completists will want the pack with all the goodies; for anyone else, it’s a great introduction. Start here and then move through the band’s career chronologically and the narrative is one of a band that has never stopped challenging itself, right from the first album released 40 years ago.