Last year around this time Alex Lifeson was a guy who was non-stop. His group Rush was rehearsing for its own gig of the year, Toronto’s “Molson Canadian Rocks” extravaganza with the Rolling Stones and AC/DC. On top of that, Lifeson was trying to finish off the band’s Rush In Rio album and DVD release. But the biggest ink the band got was for all the wrong reasons—a New Year’s Eve scuffle that has Lifeson going to trial later this year. Nonetheless, despite all the brouhaha, the trio is back on the road now in support of a covers album of all things entitled Feedback. The choice of covers is eclectic but, as stated in the liner notes, “The music celebrates a good time in our lives, and we had a good time celebrating it.”
The eight-track EP checks in at little less than 30 minutes, so you are not going to get any extended Neil Peart drum solos, Geddy Lee bass line marathons, or Lifeson’s ample guitar riffs. What you do get is a band that is getting back to basics, beginning with the bombastic and grin-inducing “Summertime Blues” which Eddie Cochran made famous decades ago. Beginning like an early Sabbath song before tearing into the meatier parts, Lee sounds has if he has a new lease on life dusting off these gems. “Well I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holla,” he sings with Lifeson supplying the closing lyric on guitar that, on the original, was delivered in a deeper, low timbre. Lee later fills this in on bass and Peart subsequently on drums. The only polished portion from this fabulous garage rocker is the lyric with the title mentioned, but it ends lovingly in the vein of an early blues Zeppelin vibe. Otherwise this is perfect summer festival material!
And who knew that these progressive rockers could actually sound like they could blow the roof off a bar! The Yardbirds’ “Heart Full Of Soul” is the next tune, with Lee’s nasal twang invisible but the track coming off like the Moody Blues in their heyday. Thankfully the guitars and supporting instruments come to life in the rollicking, almost galloping chorus as Lifeson again shines quite nicely on the concluding chorus licks and the rather safer, stick-to-the-gameplan guitar solo. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the seven songs picked is the cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, and here Lee sounds perfect for the song’s folk-cum-political style as Peart adds a brief amount of percussion in the distance to start off. Lifeson’s guitar ebbs in and out of the tune with a lot of feedback. Never does the song break out, at least in the early going. It’s on this tune that they perhaps stay truest to the original, resulting in a rather formulaic cover.
Fortunately this leads into one of the rocking tunes presented, a cover of the Who’s “The Seeker”, with Lee sounding at times like Les Claypool delivering the tune. However Rush are in no rush to end this tune, fleshing the tune out with some great riffs and a strong drumbeat. You can almost envision the trio in a small, cramped studio churning this one out over and over again, reliving the arduous days before hitting decades’ worth of paydirt. Perhaps the one clunker, though, is “Mr. Soul”, which comes off as if Rush is biting off a tad more than even they can chew. They are still able to create a relatively strong groove, but they can’t consistently maintain it.
Lee, Peart, and Lifeson get on their high horses and ride for the duration of the galloping “Seven and Seven Is” which is a highlight—part Spaghetti Western back-beat with a tension that is also oozing psychedelica as Peart pounds away on the skins. “Shapes Of Things” also comes off quite well despite falling more into a ‘60s dreamy Brit-pop jangle. The chorus doesn’t carry much oomph but Rush are still able to pull it off with just enough to make it credible. A stellar jam ending makes it all worthwhile!
You might think that between the three of them, the musicians could have made this disc a full album or even double album, but Rush knows that it’s better to stop while you’re ahead, so a polished and crisp blues rock version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”, which has more in common with the Cream and Clapton versions, is icing on the cake. Rush might do themselves well to keep these EPs going if they come off this gorgeous and loyal!
// Notes from the Road
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