It’s Official: Rush Albums are Must-Hears Before You Die

 This book came out about five years ago, but considering its title—1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die—it’s definitely a good idea to take a dip into it now—before  you. . . well, die.

And dip is about all you can do because it’s 960 pages long. Luckily, buried in all of those pages are two Rush albums, 2112 on page 362 and Moving Pictures on page 483.

The book lists its top album choices chronologically, starting in 1955 with Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours and ending in 2005 with the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan.

How you get from Sinatra’s ballads to the White Stripes’ garage rock is an interesting question, and it’s the question you’re constantly asking yourself as you flip through the book. What is the criteria for making the cut? The editors never really make that clear other than to say they wanted to mix genres. So, you get mostly rock but you also get some blues, jazz, funk, soul, and even some country. That’s good, because good records cross all genres. But they’ve certainly left themselves open to criticism by leaving out critical artists from the different genres like jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker and country great Hank Williams.

In any case, what you get is what you would expect from a book whose preface is written by Michael Lydon, the founding editor of Rolling Stone. The collection heavily favors bands that are favorites of  the magazine: Sonic Youth, Radiohead, the Stooges, and so on. The book also gives disproportionate weight to bands since the 1990s, so you get relatively new bands put on equal footing with long-established bands like, say, Rush.

On the two Rush listings, the write-ups don’t go much beyond the usual. In writing about 2112, Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, a journalist from Iceland, talks about the Ayn Rand connection, the merging of progressive rock with heavy metal, and how the album’s success enabled the band to chart its own course musically. But I think Thoroddsen makes a mistake in saying the protagonist in the opening track “leads a revolution through music” after he gets snubbed by the priests. I don’t think  he does that at all; rather, he awakens from his dream in despair and then packs it in. After that, you hear that the “elders” are returning and apparently they’re going to lead a revolution to restore Megadon to its older and better ways.

The Moving Pictures blurb is a little bit less predictable, although the writer, U.K. music journalist Manish Agarwal, takes a swipe at the album cover, which he calls a “lame visual pun.” Musically, he says, the album (along with Permanent Waves) reflects Rush’s successful response to the dominance of new wave at the time, one of the few “progressive-rock”  acts to navigate the changing musical landscape. What he doesn’t mention is how the album takes cinematic ideas and expresses them musically

The book is part of a broader series of “1001” books that looks at a variety of media you want to consume before you die: movies, songs, books, and so on. Any time you have a series like this, you can expect a lot of editorial sleight of hand to get things to fit the mold. With this book, you can certainly see that at work. Why are the 1990s and beyond so over-represented? Maybe it’s because younger listeners are the biggest music buyers, so you want to make sure you have their music heavily represented. That might explain why a quarter of the albums are from the 1990s and later even though the book begins in 1955. Just guessing.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Robert Dimery, general editor
Universe (2006)
$27.41 (paperback) on Amazon

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~ by rvkeeper on December 12, 2011.

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