Grace Under Pressure


Mercury Records, 1984

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When I was a writer for HitsWorld, I managed to piss off people in a couple of countries by daring to slam Rush's latest release. The general comments were that I was ignorant and had no idea what I was writing about.

And while I always welcome feedback - good and bad - from our readers, it pained me to be declared ignorant on the subject of this Canadian trio. Sure I don't know every single nugget about the private lives of the band members - that's what the Internet is for.

But I felt that after I had ripped their most recent product to shreds, I should present the other side of the coin. For your perousal from deep within the Pierce Memorial Archives (I'm sorry, Mr. Crosby, we're not hiring), their 1984 opus Grace Under Pressure.

It was actually this album that first got me interested in Geddy Lee and crew - the video for "Distant Early Warning" was one of the first I saw on MTV when my family got cable. The album contains some of Rush's most ambitious and adventuresome work ever. This may be why the album did not fare very well on the market.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the fact that Rush did not try to recreate the successes they had with radio-friendly albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures is admirable. The music is not a radical change from the style they made popular. If anything, it is an experiment in new rhythms and styles that make Grace Under Pressure so exciting.

"Distant Early Warning" keeps some of the style that made Rush famous - the spine of the song is the bass and synthesizer work of Lee and the drums of maestro Neil Peart, undoubtedly the best rock drummer ever. The difference here is in Alex Lifeson's guitar solo - it seems like the perfect match for the song, yet slightly subdued. Not that Lifeson was ever a speed-freak show-off guitar player, but this particular piece of guitar work seems to be his forte.

A second song from the album, "The Body Electric," almost sounds like the work of Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut put to music. The rhythm pattern is a shade different on this one, a pattern that is harder to classify than others. But the use of synthesizers adds to the futuristic theme of the track, and is enjoyable.

The difference is rhythms comes on "The Enemy Within." The rhythm has a touch of a reggae feel (though the song itself is far from that style), and is interesting to hear both Peart and Lifeson play off of it. Another song, "red lenses," adds a dimension of funk to Rush - wow! Lee's bass work is perfectly suited for this style.

Yet another sound is one that has a tinge of "pop" to it - "Afterimage" sounds like it would have perfectly fit on the radio waves at that time, while "Red Sector A" has become a concert favorite.

Grace Under Pressure is one of Rush's most overlooked works - but ranks among their best efforts ever. I bought my copy in a cutout bin twelve years ago, and would gladly have paid full price for such masterful musicianship. (However, being a high school senior at that time, it was damned near impossible for me to buy many new releases at full price.) This is one that belongs at the top of people's Best Buy shopping lists. (This should also silence the critics who think this old curmudgeon hates Rush.)

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.