My Favorite Headache

Geddy Lee

Anthem Records, 2000

http://www.rush.com/band/geddy-lee

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/17/2004

[Editor's note: Portions of this review appeared previously on houseofshred.com.]

"What do you want from me?" Geddy Lee asks on the title track of his solo debut My Favorite Headache. That's an easy question to answer, Ged. For many years Rush fans everywhere have been spreading rumors and speculating about a Lee solo album. I can remember as far back as 1980 hearing that question asked by fans on call-in radio shows, and it's a common topic on Rush-related discussion boards. After more than 25 years with Rush, we got our wish and the result is well worth the wait.

Supporting Lee and co-producing is a lesser-known Canadian legend, guitarist/violinist Ben Mink, who has spent the last few years producing (and getting Grammy's for) country crooner KD Lang. In a previous life, Mink fronted the prog-rock band FM and guested on Rush's Signals album. Mink delivers understated yet complex guitar and strings, and shares writing credits with Lee on all eleven songs. The violin and viola provided by Mink add fantastic layers of texture to many of these songs. On drums is Soundgarden and Pearl Jam veteran Matt Cameron. Lee, of course, plays bass as well as piano, guitar and percussion.

From the outset Geddy makes sure you know exactly who you're listening to. Opening the disc is the title track with a thumping bass done in Geddy's inimitable style. Lee, however, does not use this record as a stage for bass acrobatics, though he does do some very cool stuff with multiple bass lines (as many as four on some songs). It's kind of like Lee knows he's the Godfather of the Bass and doesn't need to prove anything on that front. The real showpiece here is Geddy's incredible voice - arguably one of the most distinctive and well-known voices in rock music today. After almost 3 decades his awesome pipes sound as strong and fresh as they did when Lee screamed "Oh Yeahhhh!" on the opening track of Rush's first album in 1974.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Without a doubt, immediate comparisons will be made to Rush's music. Will Lee's album be just a Rush clone? It's definitely not. Granted, there are a couple of songs that would fit easily in with the last two Rush albums. All in all, this is a unique collection of songs and styles, propelled by catchy rhythms and tasty hooks that will be stuck in your head from the first listen.

Lee's songwriting skills are excellent, despite him not really having been a lyricist for nearly 20 years (Rush drummer Neil Peart is the band's lyricist while Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson write most of the music). Displaying a dry wit and a keen observation of the world and its strange inhabitants, Lee writes about what he sees around him. He is part wide-eyed kid and part jaded curmudgeon. Mostly as an observer, Lee seems to be more spectator than participant. He tells of the pitfalls of complacency on the song "Runaway Train" asking "Who's the fool, where apathy rules?" and of the futility of hindsight on the disc's closer "Grace To Grace." He warns us of the dangers of obsessive behavior on "Working At Perfekt": "But when it's right it's right as rain, and when it's right there is no pain and when it's right you start again..."

One track that stuck in my head from the outset is the hard rocking "Moving to Bohemia," a tale of escaping the boredom of suburbia for the less pastoral pleasures of urban life: "Where the airs' not clean, where the water's glowing green, where the dogs are mean." With its groove-infected guitar/violin melody and sing-along chorus, this song will stick with you.

Another great track is "Home on the Strange," a narrative about a guy that could very well be a Gen-X Tom Sawyer. Tom, like Lee himself, is 20 years down the road from his appearance on Rush's Moving Pictures, eyes not so wide as they once were, and a little more wary of the world and the constant changes around him.

Honestly the only negative thing I can think of to make is the lack of spectacular solos from either Lee or Mink, either of whom is more than capable some high-octane shredding. Fortunately for us, the superb playing and lush arrangements more than make up for the lack of instrumental acrobatics. Every song is generously layered with creative musicianship; without ever falling into the trap of being musical filler. Mink's violin meanders in and out of the mix, subtle keyboards and multiple bass and lead lines weave in and out of each song and make for a full, rich tapestry of sound.

The songs range in style from straight ahead rockers to serene ballads. The instrumentation and arrangements are superb, showing the great artistic sensibility that has become a trademark of Rush albums over the years. Combined with Lee's intelligent lyrics, this record will please Rush fans and fans of great music alike.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+


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