Rush: The (Partial) Series – Hemispheres (1978)

I have an idea.

I’m gonna take Cygnus X-1 (in its entirety) from A Farewell To Kings, then Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres from the Hemispheres record and make a whole new, dedicated album out of it on a CD-R.

Surely I am not original in this. There are probably entire blogs and web pages dedicated to the intricacies and beauty of pasting the two parts together. Have any of you guys ever done this? How did it turn out?

[And if, inexplicably, no one in the history of ever has ever done this before and I am truly original in this, just remember that you heard it here first! However, I highly doubt this is the case.]

Anyway, Hemispheres. Holy hell this is HUGE!

Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres rocks and sways as instrumental tune, as full-on rock song, as experimental outlet, you name it. There’s so much to love here. I’m thinking it’s (long before now) redundant to express the opinion that Rush is ‘very creative?’ Haha.

In it’s entirety, the parts go like this: Prelude/Apollo: Bringer Of Wisdom/Dionysus: Bringer Of Love/Armageddon: The Battle Of Heart And Mind/Cygnus: Bringer Of Balance/The Sphere: A Kind Of Dream. Total time 18:04.

The cycle shows them in high flying form. Synths are appearing in these big rawk tracks. There are trippy patches, sometimes a bit of a drone, lots of big guitars and rolling drums. The whole thing ends gently, on acoustic… All you need to know is that it’s brilliant (wait, that’s redundant too!). It’s Rush. YEAH!

Circumstances is next, and it ought to have been a radio hit. It’s a pure Rush rawk track, lots of slippery hi-hat, odd time signatures, intricate guitars… hell yeah!

The Trees I knew from CD1 of Chronicles. You know this song. The medieval sound is back, in the intro. Then, of course, they’re off and rocking quickly enough. I loved the instrumental bit in the middle. Only Rush could get away with this song and not make it sound totally pretentious (or like they were really, really high).

La Villa Strangiata is another that we all know well. What an awesome track! Since I only owned Chronicles for the longest time, and since I never bothered to look deeper, I never realized that this song was actually in twelve parts (over it 9:34):

i) Buenos Nochas, Mein Froinds! / ii) To Sleep, perchance to dream… / iii) Strangiato Theme / iv) A Lerxt In Wonderland / v) Monsters! / vi) The Ghost Of The Aragon / vii) Danforth And Pape / viii) The Waltz Of The Shreves / ix) Never turn your back on a Monster! / x) Monsters! (Reprise) / xi) Strangiato Theme (Reprise) / xii) A Farewell To Things.

Neat!

In sum: This is an insanely ambitious, perfectly-realized album. The musicianship is boggling, the songs highly intricate and compelling while still rocking out. In other words: it’s a Rush album. Full marks!!

Thanks ever so much to Our Brother Lebrain, Patron Saint Of The Rawk for getting this gem into my hot little hands!

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Posted on May 14, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I made that Cygnus mix! Years and years ago! I don’t remember having any distinct listening impressions. Great minds though!

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  2. I agree on the ambition here. I think this might be the most complex thing they ever put out? What do the Rush experts out there think about that?

    But again, not having listened to it for a while, I can’t remember much about the Cygnus thing so that’s another one for me to re-visit. The other songs I’m well familiar with though and are all outstanding, especially Circumstances. That’s one of my absolute favourite Rush tracks.

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    • I think it’s part of what makes Rush so awesome. They know how to rock, always have. But they have this drive to make these records that are so intricate and complicated and over-the-top. They are trying to blow your mind. And honestly, why not? Go big or go home! (at least, that’s what she said).

      Circumstances is a great tune. Interesting it’s one of your big faves, given how many huge tracks they’ve had! Cool!

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  3. ” I loved the instrumental bit in the middle.”

    “La Villa Strangiata is another that we all know well.”

    In my list of the top 20 guitar solos, probably 10 are by Alex Lifeson. As you say, the one in “The Trees” is awesome (preceded by the instrumental bit) which builds with percussion and then bass before the solo kicks in. With Rush, you don’t get just a great guitar solo, you get great bass and percussion to go with it. The solo in the first part of “La Villa Strangiato”, which starts off with using a volume knob or petal to hide the attack and then turns into a cool jazz-like thing which builds and builds is a good example. Listen to it again, but try to listen to just the drums and cymbals. No-one in history has played such a massive hi-hat part before. And then you have the rest of the drums building along with the guitar solo.

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    • I think Alex would be thrilled to hear he takes up fully half your list! And you’re right, he’s an essential guitar player. So inventive, intensely talented.

      You are also correct in acknowledging the 1-2-3 punch combo that is this trio. Every instrument is played with virtuosity. It’s really not fair to other players. 😉

      I’ll go back and replay Strangiata. I had actually mentioned the hi-hat in my original notes for the review but, for some reason unknown to me now, I left it out when I was typing it up. It’s probably because saying Peart played an awesome part on the drums is akin to looking up and saying “hey, the sky is blue!”

      Man, the way they put their songs together. Unbelievably good. RUSH!! WOOOO!!!

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      • Lifeson is probably the most underrated guitarist in the world. There are many good guitarists, but just a few good bassists and no rock drummer is in Peart’s category. So, with his bandmates relatively better in their domains, poor Lifeson gets somewhat eclipsed.

        But he seems happy, and that’s the main thing. IIRC he has been together with his wife since they were 16 or something and they have a son who is only a bit younger than I am. (I think Geddy is in a similar situation, and Peart was with his girlfriend from an early age (though not quite as early) until she died.) So, no wonder that there are few if any Rush songs about ((complaining about) the lack of access to) women. 🙂

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      • Oh, Lifeson gets his due, when it comes to talk of great guitarists. At least, among people I know he does. He’s been consistently one of the most interesting and explosive guitarists for 40 years. But even after all that, he’s not the big show man the way others do. So maybe they get more talk, and all deference to them as great players too, but everybody knows who the rock solid, real deal is. 😉

        It is true that their stable relationships would play a part. The rock n roll lifestyle is sold all the time, how great it is to get drunk, do drugs, and have random sex with as many partners as possible. But few talk about how hollow all of that is. So Rush, secure in their lives, were free to pursue their inner genius geeks. And we get to benefit! Excellent point, Phillip!

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  4. Another awesome review of a classic that’s in my Top 2 or 3 Rush albums. You summed it up perfectly with “Holy hell this is HUGE!” so I have nothing else to add.

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