Rush: The (Partial) Series – Presto (1989)

I am nearing the end of this partial series. In fact, this is the penultimate review until I can get shopping for the later-years albums I still need to complete my collection.

Let’s give ‘er!

Show Don’t Tell is the hit, we all know it well. It’s a big song, all over. You know this.

Chain Lightning is a funky rocker that I liked a lot. A very strong song, with a cool guitar solo.

The Pass is a gorgeous, sweeping slower song. Oh my goodness this is greatness. I especially liked the way it ends.

Warpaint is gentle in the verses, a bit more rock in the rest and with a sing-along ending. This was so good, I actually went back and played it twice. It’s hypnotic.

Scars is faster, slinky, funky. This is what would happen, I think, if you asked Rush to write an 80s radio hit pop song. Fun! The drum break is cool.

Presto’s acoustic intro is cool. When it gets going it’s still a gentler tune, though the sense of promise of more is always there. And then! There it is! This song has it all. Great!

Superconductor ramps up the rock tempo againwith a cool riff. This was a hit song, right? It should totally have beenhigher up in the running order, too. This one had me bouncing.

Anagram (For Mongo) has a quirky title, and repeatedly builds on a cool motif which culminates in a satisfying 90s rock mid-tempo thing. This was born for radio.

Red Tide’s piano intro becomes a bit of a throwback to the 80s electronic thing. It all pulls back for the verse, but not for long. The environmental message is strong, the point is well-made all around. The guitar solo is intriguing.

Hand Over Fist is just a cool tune all over. It’s bluesy, funky, it hits hard, the vocals soar. It’s all here. Oh man, if they ever played this live, the place would go nuts. It’s built to shake stadiums.

Available Light plods along for the verse. I can hear Peart’s drums just aching to go faster. Fortunately, the chorus picks things up and eventually we’re into full on Rush rock-out mode. Big fills, big solo, the works. A truly cool album closer.

In sum: Fantastic. There’s not a bad tune here. This is a strong, strong effort. My huge thanks to Mr. Lebrain, he of the Rawk Knowledge for getting this one to me!

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Posted on May 26, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. The Pass is one of the very best songs they ever did. I really like Chain Lightning too. I think the production could have been a bit beefier on this one though.

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    • I didn’t notice any production issues. I may have been too busy rocking the hell out. 😉

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      • Well I just find it pretty thin sounding. The most welcome change here was in Geddy’s voice. There’s a quality in his vocals from this album onwards that I really like. He was a better singer from this point in my opinion.

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      • As if I need one MORE reason to buy the rest of their albums…

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      • Yeah its thin sounding but out of the gates its definetly powerful. I remember release day, could not wait to get out of school to go grab this. That first guitar riff is like Alex, yeah I’m back, I was always here but now I’m front and centre. My favorite songs are kind of all lumped in on side 2. Anagram, Red Tide and Hand Over Fist. I do love Chain Lightening. Rush have never played any of these songs live and that is a shame. Of course The Pass is such a beautiful song.

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  2. I remember them putting out the Show Don’t Tell vid before the album was out and just happy that it sounded like they were back to the 3 piece bit of ol school.
    This album for me was a good bounce back after there few previous releases so it was a pretty damn good record and like I said before it was just good to have Rush material period!
    Esp when at the time of the Show Of Hands release I remember there was talk that they were perhaps gonna slow down or maybe pack it in sumthin to that effect so I think this release at the time renewed there desire and there was no more talk of a sabbatical……
    Good Rawk!

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    • It s indeed a strong effort. And I believe it will continue to grow on me with repeated listens. There’s something in these songs that speak of depths I haven’t yet hit upon.

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  3. There are some great tunes on Presto and as the boys said, it was a return from rock and a slight retreat from keyboards.

    Having said that, this is my least favourite Rush album (until Test For Echo). I consider Presto to be a new start, but I think Roll the Bones is far better.

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  4. I’ve been away for a week so I missed a lot of posts…and I’ve got lots of catching up to do at work so very little time to post here. Just wanted to say that I love this album and consider it one of their finest works. I was fortunate to be working at Atlantic Records when they signed there, and I got a pre-release tape of Presto about 2 months early. I was so pleased that they had returned to a more organic trio sound and, as stated by another commenter, Geddy’s voice hit a new sweet spot that would continue for many albums to come. Song-for-song it’s as good as anything they’ve done post-Moving Pictures, in my opinion, and unlike LeBrain I actually prefer it (just slightly) to Roll The Bones.

    I read an interview with Neil at the time that Presto was released (possibly in Modern Drumer magazine) where he talked about the various drum patterns & sounds he used on the album. If I recall correctly, “Show Don’t Tell” (originally to be called “Show Hotel”) had him programming his bass drum pad to a snare sound and his snare pad to a bass drum sound, giving the rhythm an inside out feel.

    Okay, back to work for me now. Hope you get more Rush albums soon, and continue to enjoy them.

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    • Hope you had a good week away. Bet your inbox was jammed!

      I really wanna get Roll The Bones… OK, I really want all the ones I don’t have, I’ll admit it.

      That’s a cool story about the inside-out thing. I’ll think of that everytime i play it, now. And I’m gonna go back and see if I can hear it. Thanks!

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      • It’s possible that the “inside out” thing I mentioned before actually applies to “Scars,” one of my favorites from this album. I’m basing this on a magazine article I read 25 years ago. I’m amazed I remembered it at all.

        Hope you get the rest of the Rush catalog soon. Don’t succumb to hearing them via low-quality streams on YouTube using computer speakers. Their discography deserves to be played in the highest quality possible.

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      • If you remember any of it at all, you’re ahead of me. I don’t recall much from 25 years ago, let alone anything I might have read back then.

        The rest of the Rush albums are in my sights for my next shopping trip. Should be able to collect them up on CD fairly cheaply. I’ll get the studio albums first, worry about the live stuff later.

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  5. I’ll have to check this one out. My last Rush vinyl was Power Windows; I then stopped because the 80s production was too much for me and I longed for the good old days. As a result, I didn’t buy Hold Your Fire. Nor did I buy Presto. Maybe I should have, since I should have known that it would be a new phase.

    I had seen Rush at two consecutive shows in Dallas in 1983 (Signals tour, Golden Earring as opening act) and not again until Rush 30 in Frankfurt am Main in 2004 (where I can be glimpsed on the DVD). I remember thinking about going to see them in Hannover on the Roll the Bones tour, especially since they were back in Europe after a long absence (and weren’t here on the Presto tour), but figured it would be too much synthi-pop. A couple of months later (this was pre-internet) I read a review which mentioned that they had played many old songs (though looking at the set list now, it doesn’t seem like that many). Bummer!

    I bought Counterparts on CD on the basis of a recommendation from a friend, but this is the only post-Power Windows album I have until Rush in Rio, Feedback and Snakes and Arrows, after which I got back in the groove (even though I no longer buy vinyl).

    I believe some box sets have come out; that might be an option. (I have Caress of Steel and the four progressive albums on CD, as well as Exit Stage Left, though in the latter case not the remaster so it is missing a track. I have everything up through Power Windows on vinyl.

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    • I can see how Power Windows would turn you off, that’s the one where I got bogged down too. But it does get better in the couple of albums after it, more of a return to the trio sound (although the synths never did go away completely).

      That’s a big span for concerts, 21 years!

      I really want Counterparts. It’s on my list, with the rest.

      That sounds like a lovely vinyl collection, indeed!

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