I’m a fan of cover tunes, maybe a little more than most people. Especially if they are well done, by which I mean when the band doing the covering brings their own thing to the song, thus making it recognizable yet still recognizably their own. Also, adding an element of fun and joie de vive to the proceedings works wonders, too. But just playing other people’s music by rote is pretty boring.
As such, so many cover songs suck because the above ingredients are totally missing. There are so many lackluster attempts out there that it boggles the mind. Either the song has all of the life sucked right out of it (for example, any track off that Spin Magazine Smashing Pumpkins tribute I heard a while back), or the song has in some other way been changed from an originally good song to serious suckage (far too numerous to be listed here, trust me). Some bands don’t know to leave some songs well enough alone – the originals are the version, so fuck off already (I’m looking at you, k.d. lang)! And yet some bands pull off a cover that actually improves on the original (for example, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ Only The Good Die Young, or Guitar Wolf’s Summertime Blues – see below).
Anyway, Rush. I love these guys. A lot. They’ve made some of the most important prog music ever (and I’m now officially a wanker for typing that sentiment and meaning it). Their career has held fairly consistent style and grace over many years. And they’re Canadian! The Coolness Trifecta is in place! So when I finally got around to picking up this collection of cover songs, I was pretty excited about it. I mean, it’s Rush! Playing other peoples’ music! Interesting! Cool! The mind fairly reels with the implications…
Like most bands, in their early years Rush started out playing cover songs in bars. It’s how a band develops their chops, grows and congeals as a unit, learns how to manipulate sounds. Fine. And here they are, in 2004 ferchrissakes, looking backwards through decades as if they aren’t the innovative band they are, offering up 8 covers from the stuff they used to play and love a zillion years ago. It would’ve been alright if they’d really given it everything they had. Or even hammed it up completely. Hell, this concept might’ve worked if they just hadn’t done everything at half-speed. Sadly, Feedback just feels like a toss-off to me, not a genuine effort. Sorry, guys.
Gasp! This is Rush I’m talking about here! One of my favourite bands! But if you’d asked me what Rush would sound like covering The Who’s The Seeker (or any of the other tracks here, really), I’d have said they could have totally rocked it up, and made it their own as only they can do! But honestly, what’s here that I can’t get from my Ultimate Who collection?Sadly, nothing. This record is just one fairly straight-on version after another. Oh sure, they play capably (far better than a lot of bands could muster) and it’s well-produced to sound perfect (especially at high volume) but, well, it is what it is. Yawn.
Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for Rush when I played this set… hard to believe that this could happen, I know! But these tracks sound mostly… I really do hate to say it… uninspired. Geddy never really lets his vocals soar, instead just staying with the tune in that mind-numbing mid-range. And Geddy’s voice was made to wail! Neil’s drums are highly capable, to be sure, but there’s nothing here that would lead us to consider him to be what he is, a God of the Drums. And Alex’s guitar is sweet-sounding, indeed, but again, for the most part he’s just carrying on with the tune.
And another thing, as a note to all bands who might make future attempts: Guitar Wolf reigns supreme over all other covers of Summertime Blues. Hands-down. Rush plays it well, here, but way too slow, or not heavy enough, or something. Yeah, something’s missing. Energy? Desire? Are they too old? I dunno. But I can definitely notice the lack, and it makes me sad.
OK, enough bashing! On the upside, there is a highlight track on this short collection, thanks to the incredible Alex Lifeson, and that is the awesome rip through Crossroads. Now that’s some wailing on the guitar! Damn!
Look, it ain’t all bad. It is still a listenable disc. And I suppose it could have been worse. Much worse. And heck, now they can drop some covers into their concert setlists, at the very least.
If the band is vanity-Googling themselves and finds this, please believe me that I love your work wholeheartedly. They just can’t all be winners, I guess. C’mon guys, you’re Rush! This could have been huge. HUGE!
01 Summertime Blues
02 Heart Full Of Soul
03 For What It’s Worth
04 The Seeker
05 Mr. Soul
06 Seven And Seven Is
07 Shapes Of Things