Rush Series 2: The 1990s – Test For Echo (1996)

Given how much I loved Counterparts, I was really excited to get into this next effort, released three years later.

*It should be noted here, too, that I am in a very privileged position. I am getting to hear these records night after night, while fans had to wait, in this case, three years. Mind you, if I’d had three years to live with Counterparts before this came out, I’d have been very happy. I’m lucky. I’ve been able to hear the entire Rush discography in huge chunks, and in a short time. It’s been wonderful.

So. Test For Echo. Let’s give ‘er!

The title track rocks like hell. There is so much going on in this track, and when the drums start pounding and the guitar starts rising up… it feels like things are going to explode. Very cool. Of course, this is Rush, and everything is tightly controlled. Oh baby. I can see why this was a single.

Driven also rocks hugely, anchored by an acoustic guitar. The bottom end is at the fore, here. It rumbles. The whole swings while it rocks and when it hits double-time at the end it just gets even bigger. What a track!

Half The World was another single (three in a row!), and it’s a big, roomy rocker that totally pleases. You could be mistaken for thinking this was a lighter track, especially given the two preceeding tracks on this record, but it’s really not. This is an utterly excellent track.

The Color Of Right is actually, for Rush, a fairly straight-up rock tune. It still totally sounds like them (awesome) and has tricky little instrumental bits to it (cool) but why this one wasn’t on radio is way beyond me. It was built for it.

Time And Motion has a really menacing riff to it, an energy that makes the listener restless. I loved it. This song is stalking the room, and it could jump you at any moment. Killer guitar solo in this one, sharp as a knife. Eben the break down part is built to make you look over your shoulder.

Totem is an anthemic rocker, made expressly for the purpose of making you jump up and down when they play it in concert. Lunatics and mosters indeed. I love the way the instruments interplay here, it’s all constructed so well.

Dog Years is another in-your-face rocker. At first I didn’t like the chorus, but it grew on me and by the second spin through this record it all made sense and I loved every minute of it. Especially the parts where it gets a bit heavier. Of course.

Virtuality was a single, and the guitar riff is built to destroy. Even when it lightens up and arpeggiates a little bit, you know it’s just toying with you like a cat toys with a mouse. And then BAM! But then… an acoustic guitar! This song is all over the place, a huge rock song, and I loved it all.

Resist was also a single, a beautiful and slower tune that is no less epic. I love the acoustic elements while the electric soars and the drums and the bass anchor the whole thing. This is absolutely beautiful.

Limbo is the albums instrumental track, and it’s a monster. It sways and staggers along as it rocks.  When it picks up, it rocks hard on a sliding guitar line.

Carve Away The Stone ends things on this record, and it’s a decent rock song. It messes with time signatures a tiny bit, but never once falters or is anything less than excellent. The instrumental bit from 2:00-2:33 is some of the most inspired playing on the record.

In Sum:

I loved Counterparts. And I really loved Test For Echo. What an album! This is an epic! A tour de force! I really cannot say enough good about this entire record.

34 thoughts on “Rush Series 2: The 1990s – Test For Echo (1996)

  1. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says:

    I was disappointed when TFE first came out. I thought it “sounded” great but many of the songs didn’t go anywhere and there was no flow to the album. Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate it a lot more but it’s not among my go-to Rush albums. This is another example of differing perspectives based on the circumstances of hearing it for the first time. I wasn’t as passionate a Rush fan in 1996 as I had been 15 years earlier, even though I had loved “Presto” and “Counterparts” (and, to a slightly lesser extent, “Roll The Bones”). They were albums I really enjoyed but not in the same way as their ’70s & early-’80s classics. So when TFE came out I was happy to hear new music from them but it needed to be extra special to wow me…and that wasn’t the case. I imagine that hearing it in quick succession after those aforementioned albums when you’re in the “Rush zone” would elicit a completely different response, which was clearly the case with you.

    Another excellent review. Keep ’em coming.

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    1. Daddydinorawk says:

      I used to feel that way about it’s choppy flow. From what I gather this one was largely self-produced even though Peter Collins’ name is on it.

      Rush wasn’t even on my radar when this came out. Probably the first album in my fandom I didn’t buy on release day. I was bumming my way through Europe at the time and I remember going into a shop in Germany putting the disc on and not being impressed. I was probably way into Beefheart by then and this music just seemed so pedestrian in comparison.

      To be honest where this one lacks is mostly lyrical. theres just no heft to much of it. Geddy sounds bored singing these words. Alex is great and the playing is great overall but thats what I get out of it. Yes these songs would sound way better on the subsequent tour.

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      1. keepsmealive says:

        Bumming your way through Europe with Beefheart on the brain. Is there a better way to do it? I think not!

        I need to go back and pay more attention to the lyrics – you’re not the only one to mention their lacking. I get so swept up in the music I can just as easily let the words slip by as not the main focus… dammit now I have to play the album a third time OH DARN.

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    2. keepsmealive says:

      Thanks Rich! I always feel a little trepidation before I start typing these things up. There are a lot of Rush fans (a huge understatement) and they’re very deeply invested in this band and I get nervous reviewing this stuff. I mean, what could I possibly add to what’s already known and discussed and dissected? But I do it anyway, just go with my gut and let caution go with the wind. It’s a relief that (so far) I’m not mucking these things up too badly. 😉

      I love being in the Rush Zone. I highly recommend to anyone they go back to the beginning and listen to each one in succession. What emerges is a larger picture. The pieces are all different (for better or worse) but the overall is so damn impressive.

      This is just a great, fun rock record, as far as I heard. I’ll bet this stuff was a lot of fun to create and play for people.

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  2. Deke says:

    I agree with Mike kinda…
    Not a strong Rush album but it’s one I have not listened too in yrs. The only time I listen to these tracks are the ones that are represented on Different Stages.

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  3. mikeladano says:

    I hate this album. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. One good song…maybe 2. What happened? Did Rush give up writing memorable hooks?

    This album faded from my memory mere seconds after hearing it. Every single time.

    The lyrics : suckage.

    “Dog years – the season of the bitch”

    “Throw it into the cyber sea…”

    I saw them live in this tour and a few of these tunes were better live. Resist for example. But you will get there next.

    Good review though and probably the only positive review of Test for Echo I have read. Good to see another perspective!

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    1. Daddydinorawk says:

      Wow. Virtuality has to be the worst lyric since forever. Hate is a strong word though. Dog years is kind of funny if you look at it differently. I’ve seen plenty of good reviews for this album. It’s a good one. Very dry sounding.

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      1. keepsmealive says:

        I’m playing it again and I’m not getting a whole lot of dry out of it. But these aren’t the best speakers and maybe my ear isn’t as good as it once was. I’ll take your assessment under advisement!

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      2. mikeladano says:

        Hate is a strong word. I guess that’s a bit too much hyperbole.

        I dunno. It came out, I was working at the store waiting for it to arrive as soon as it came in. I put it on…and was underwhelmed. But that’s OK because you need to play a Rush CD 3-4 times. So I did…a few times that day, a few times the next day…and same with the following week, giving it a chance. It just never, ever appealed to me.

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    2. keepsmealive says:

      Wow, hate? There’s nothing redeeming except a couple of tracks? I just took it for a good straight on rock record, Rush stretching their legs and having fun.

      Thanks, at least, for liking my review! Surely there’s other positive ones out there?

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      1. mikeladano says:

        OK I take back the word hate. That was too much hyperbole. But I think this is my least favourite Rush by a really wide margin. I really do wish I liked it more! In a way I’m jealous — you are getting enjoyment and hearing things on this CD that I didn’t.

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  4. Heavy Metal Overload says:

    This was pretty much Counterparts Pt. II for me. Lots of great tracks, a couple of forgettable ones. The “forgettable” tracks might just be down to me not listening to it for ages. Maybe if I put it on now I might say (in Paul Stanley voice) “Woah yeah, I know that one!”

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  5. Phillip Helbig says:

    Will have to check this one out. I read in one of his books that Peart thought that his best drumming was on this record.

    Vapor Trails is the next studio album, about which there are many complaints because of bad mastering (way too much compression, as in the “loudness wars”). Mainly for this reason it has recently been remastered.

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    1. mikeladano says:

      This was the first album Neil did after being taught by jazz instructor Freddie Gruber. Gruber took apart his playing and re-built from the group up. Taught him to hold his sticks differently, move differently. He taught Peart it’s about smoothness of MOTION…maybe that’s why one song is called Time and Motion.

      Peart says that his playing changed completely after this experience. It became about the movements BETWEEN the hits.

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      1. keepsmealive says:

        I really like how Peart was willing to learn new things at that late stage in his career. He could just as easily have had a big head and said he knew what he was doing. Instead, he pursued his passion and started over. Total respect.

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        1. mikeladano says:

          Not just willing to learn — actively seeking to learn. And it is very brave to change your entire approach, right down to the grip.

          My buddy T-Rev, who you have read about, commented after the Test for Echo concert that he felt Peart’s playing sounded jazzier.

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