Rush Review– The 70’s: “Rush” and “Fly by Night”

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, This, and my Rush articles that follow are done in memory of Neil Peart, 1952-2020.

Rush, self-titled debut– 1974

Rush, 1974 debut album cover
Rush, 1974 debut album cover

Perhaps it’s destiny, but Rush debuted their first album the same month and year I was born. Being a fan, for me, was in the stars. So let’s dig in to this debut album. The entire thing is good, and even though drummers would change after this recording, it still sounds enough like the modern Rush we know today. I mean that in the most positive way. John Rutsey was a great drummer and got this group off to a rockin’ start. Sadly, an illness associated with diabetes afflicted him, opening the door for Neil Peart, who would be with Rush for their entire career.

Read the first article in the Rush Album Review here!

If you listen to this album from start to finish, it’s awesome. Lifeson’s guitar and Lee’s voice carried the load throughout. But it also was at risk of blending in with every other start-up rock band from ’70 to ’75. This album shows the abilities of a band on the verge of greatness, but there was something still missing. In the end, the problem was Rush was only two-thirds of what they needed to be before going big.

Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974
Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974

They had a clean sound with mass appeal, but success wasn’t instant. The album made it to #105 on the Billboard 200 and did get certified gold, but not until 1995. Even the band didn’t like it after the first recording and recorded it again to get a better sound. Once they did, Moon Records was born and, well, the album we got speaks for itself. It still wasn’t easy, though. Until Cleveland D.J. Donna Halper started playing Working Man on her station WMMS, no one knew who Rush was. When they did hear it, the requests for more Rush started filing in. Before long, a U.S. recording contract was sent across to Canada from Mercury Records. Rush had finally arrived.

Rush – Track 1: Finding My Way

Concert in Los Angeles, California in 1974. Neil Peart is at drums on this recording.

This track rocks right off the bat with Lifeson’s mean guitar riffs and Lee’s ramped up vocals. They carry the song all the way through with raging power chords and that immediate recognizable riff. Future live performances would see this song as a mashup medley with Working Man or In The Mood, and usually include a mind-bending Neil Peart drum solo.

Rush – Track 2: Need Some Love

A good song that features the strength of Lee’s vocal runs, both high and low. The song has a more 60’s vibe than the rest of the album. It’s about the age-old saga of boys chasing girls, and, well, what rock and roll band doesn’t have one of those?

Rush – Track 3: Take A Friend

I think the lyrics of this song were more prophetic than they ever knew. Lifeson and Lee were childhood friends long before Rush, and they remained friendly with Rutsey even after he left the band. When Peart joined up, the trio would become lifelong friends, and the lyrics inspire you to be a friend when you see someone lonely. That’s something we could all do better at.

“Well, I’m lookin’ at you,
and I’m wond’rin’ what you’re gonna do.
Looks like you got no friends,
no one to stick with you till the end.
Take yourself a friend.
Keep ’em till the end.
Whether woman or man,
it makes you feel so good,
so good.”

Lyrics to Take a Friend by Rush

Rush – Track 4: Here Again

The only entry on this album to be played in a minor key, this bluesy addition to the catalog is not what Rush typically sounds like, but I love it. Growing up in a musical household to the likes of Robin Trower, Savoy Brown, The Allman Brothers and the like, I appreciated the blues ballad at a young age more than most. Lifeson’s crying guitar solo in the latter half is pure gold and just speaks to my soul. Critics hated it, so I suppose that’s why I like it.

Rush – Track 5: What You’re Doing

Great song with a monster rock sound, the angst of youth, and the feel of sticking it to the man. This song has been endlessly compared to the Led Zeppelin sound, and cements the hard rock sound of the 70’s in Rush’s history. Being a Zeppelin fan as well, it’s really easy to like the sound on this track.

Rush – Track 6: In The Mood

I’ll admit when I first heard it, I didn’t like it much, but it grew on me a little. It’s another boys chasing girls song, but again, it’s rock and roll in the 70’s and that was pretty standard, well, even to this day for rock bands. As usual, Lifeson’s guitar is wicked on this track, but the lyrics feel obligatory to the girl-chasing rocker lifestyle and didn’t really do much for me. It ranks low on my favorites list, but still a good track.

Rush – Track 7: Before and After

In my humble opinion, this is the dark horse hit of this album. It didn’t get the air play and recognition it deserved, but shows the depth of musical ability these guys have. It blends that beautiful harmonic intro perfect with the grittier riffs and lyrics that come at 2:16, and is the harbinger of what the future of Rush would sound like.

Rush – Track 8: The Working Man

Featuring original drummer John Rutsey on drums

This is it. The song that put Rush on the rock and roll map. It’s good. Really good. But of all the songs on the album, in my opinion, it’s not the best one. However, the lyrics and gritty riffs resonated with the working class person in Cleveland, where it was played regularly on WMMS, and the popularity of the song caught the attention of Mercury Records. The middle features scorching freestyle guitar work from Lifeson, and was voted 94th of the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by Guitar World magazine.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

I give the Rush debut album an overall 5. It’s good, but again, they were on the verge of greatness—not quite to the edge yet. Something that would push them over the edge later was the prominence of Peart’s drums and literary lyrics. Like I said, Rutsey was a great drummer, but he wasn’t the right drummer for this trio. Some fans call their songs after this album “weird”, but that’s what makes Rush so great. I’m weird and I’m an 80’s kid, so their music resonates loudly with me.

Peart, Lee and Lifeson on tour early in their career
Peart, Lee and Lifeson on tour early in their career

To be fair, my introduction to Rush didn’t happen until 1990 in high school, when two friends, Clint and Bryan Oxley (they’re cousins), wore Rush t-shirts to school all the time. They were both astonished I didn’t know anything about them, then they poked and prodded me every day in wood shop into checking them out. I bought my first album (which I’ll name later) and I was hooked. I went back and picked up other cassettes (yes, I said cassettes) of their previous work. Between Rush, Styx and Pink Floyd, I made it to graduation.

Click the next page for Fly by Night!

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