The thought of recording a solo record apart from his band, Rush, was one that Geddy Lee had never fully entertained. When a series of family tragedies struck drummer Neal Peart in 1998, the band's plans were put on hold indefinitely. For Lee, he used the time off to recruit longtime friend/guitarist Ben Mink and Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron to record his first solo offering.
Geddy Lee is generally regarded as the best bass guitarist in rock music. Obviously, he is also the chief composer behind the music of Rush. Lee's new solo album, My Favorite Headache, is virtually indistinguishable from latter period Rush albums, Presto and Roll the Bones. The only notably missing component from the Rush scheme is Neal Peart's objectivist lyrics. Take half-baked words and fuse them to the driving, postmodern Rush sound and you have a fair sense of what this record is like.
The opening title track contains all the familiar Rush conventions, heralded by Lee's signature bass flourish. But surprisingly, most of the maestro's work on this disc is more understated than normal, allowing guitarist Ben Mink ample room to operate. The songs are sonically dense -- perhaps a bit too much for the relatively mundane subject matter of the lyrics. Lee is taken up with the normal relationship issues, though he occasionally waxes philosophical ("The Angel's Share").
However, still intact is the voice. Lee's high-pitched vocals, untouched by 30 years of touring and recording, still send shivers up the spine. From the atmospheric verses of "The Present Tense" to the Signals-period piece, "Home on the Strange", Lee's flawless pipes still maintain the depth and range that his fans have become accustomed to. It's unfortunate that the album doesn't hold up quite as well. While My Favorite Headache is not a bad record, it does lack the consistency, intensity and creativity that has been the hallmark of his past compositional glories with Rush.
It's disappointing to hear a fine artist, free from his usual associations, fail to take advantage of the moment and explore other areas of interest. And being the adventurous, free-form music-maker that we have grown to admire over the past 25 years, Geddy Lee just doesn't push the envelope with My Favorite Headache.