All The World's A Stage
Mercury Records, 1976
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/18/1999
If you've followed the career of the Canadian band Rush, you'll know that they've always followed a pattern of releasing four studio albums, followed by a live set. Following the release (and corresponding success) of their one-side concept album 2112, Geddy Lee and crew took to the road, and recorded their live show in support of the album.
The end result, All The World's A Stage, is an interesting look at one of the all-time greatest band's early days, but also shows some signs of age.
With only four studio albums under their belt (and their days of hit singles still lying a few years ahead of them), bassist/vocalist Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart did their best in putting together a set representative of where Rush was in 1976. And, let's face it, you can't go wrong with an almost complete presentation of "2112," though I honestly would have preferred to have heard the entire song. (Only one or two movements get cut, so it's not like the song has been terribly butchered.)
And, honestly, when was the last time you heard such historical nuggets as "Lakeside Park," "In The End" or "Anthem" played in concert? Granted, a few tracks have not aged as gracefully as I wish they had (like "Anthem"), but these cuts are still full of life and bring a smile to my face each time I hear them.
The first big mistake on All The World's A Stage is the inclusion of the monstrosity "By-Tor & The Snow Dog," a song that I never liked on Fly By Night. The whole song gets its due - which is much too much in my book. Sure, it filled time in the show, but there were much worthier songs on the other studio albums that could have filled this time. To make matters worse, they cut parts of "2112" and left this in its entirety - no fair.
Mistake number two is something that Rush continue to do even in recent shows: medleys. I happen to like both "Fly By Night" and "In The Mood", and would have liked to have heard them played in their entirety. Why merge them and take away power from each track. Same thing goes for "Working Man / Finding My Way," two amazing tracks from their debut album.
But, for the most part, All The World's A Stage still is more pleasing than frustrating. Hearing an early drum solo from Peart (who Lee calls "the professor on the drum kit") is exciting, and proves that Peart could well be the greatest living drummer. Tracks like "Something For Nothing" and "What You're Doing" still send chills up my spine, even though the songs haven't seen the concert stage in some time, to the best of my knowledge.
Even though this album is now 23 years old, it is an accurate - and sometimes frustrating - picture of a band on the verge of superstardom. If you happen to like the early works of Rush, then All The World's A Stage is an album you should check out. If you're more schooled in the songs you hear on the radio, you might wish to first pick up either the older albums or one of the anthologies, just to get a taste for them first.