Geddy Lee - My Favorite Headache
On November 14, 2000, Geddy Lee released his first (and currently the only) solo album, "My Favorite Headache".
As time goes by since the death of Neil Peart and the realization that "Rush" will cease to exist, the relevance of this album only grows, especially in light of the fact that it gives us a glimpse of how Geddy Lee Lee's next project might sound, if at all, alone or with Alex Lifeson, who knows?
This album probably would never have come to this world, if the mother band "Rush" had not entered a long hiatus in 1997 and if disbandment wouldn't have been hovering over it's head.
As you may recall, this long break was forced on "Rush" following the two tragedies that befell drummer Neil Peart.
In August 1997, at the end of the tourto promote "Test For Echo", Neil Peart's 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. 10 months later, Peart's partner died of cancer. In his book "Ghost Rider" Peart said that at his daughter's funeral he informed his friends, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, that he was retiring from the band. Out of respect and understanding for Neil's condition, Geddy and Alex gave him all the time he needed to recover from the tragedies that befell him.
Geddy said he never had the desire to do a solo project. He was good with what he had within the "Rush family" and he never thought of doing something outside of the band. He enjoyed what this band had and saw no need to do anything alone. But as the forced hiatus grew longer and when it became clearer to Geddy that it was not going to end anytime soon, if at all, he began to feel the urge to engage in music again.
The partner that seemed most appropriate to him at the time, was his good friend Ben Mink, the songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist known among others from the band "FM", and as the one who played the amazing violin solo in the song "Losing It" from the album "Signals". Geddy Lee and Ben Mink have a broad common ground. Both were born to Jewish, Polish, Holocaust survivor parents, both grew up and lived in Toronto Canada and were both influenced by the same music.
Geddy said that the whole thing started as a joke and as an excuse to spend time with Ben. It started small, they thought of setting up a production company and starting to manage and produce young bands, write material for other artists and help them promote it.
Geddy also noted that the last thing he thought of doing was an album, certainly not one that would present him as a solo artist. But slowly he began to fall in love with the material being written and feared for the way it would sound when other artists performed it. At this point the record company encouraged, supported and pushed him and Ben Ben Mink to go with it farther. And so this small and modest project grew and developed into the first solo album and we certainly hope not Geddy Lee's last.
The writing process was different from what Geddy was used to for a very long time with the mother band "Rush". He had to re-adapt the ability to write lyrics. He has not done so for over two decades. When Neil Peart joined the band in 1974, he took on the role of lyricist almost exclusively. Geddy Lee noted that it was the most challenging part for him in this project, but in the end also the most interesting, rewarding and fun.
Also in terms of composition the writing was a bit different, especially with the new writing partner Ben Mink. It started with Geddy Lee's aggressive unloading on the bass. He wrote all the music on bass guitar. It started with short lines and sentences and continued with chords played on the bass guitar.
On the one hand this album is not much different from what the "mother band" did just before the hiatus that was forced on them. Listen to "Half the World" and "Resist" from "Test For Echo" and you will understand what we are talking about. On the other hand, this album is definitely not "Rush". In this album there is a lot of emphasis on melody and less on The musical complexity. Geddy Lee's singing is softer and more mature, and Ben Mink's production is much busier and more meticulous than we are than we are used to with "Rush." This album has a full and rich sound.
For the recordings, the two had to added drummer Matt Cameron, who we know from the bands "Pearl Jam" and "Soundgarden", among others. Matt had a window of three weeks before embarking on a tour to promote Pearl Jam's "Binaural" album, and he took the time to enter the studio with the two to record the album.
Geddy said in an interview with him following the release of the album, that very few people heard the material before it was released, not even the record company itself that encouraged him to release the album.
The name of the album came from a story that Ben Mink told Geddy Lee about his parents. It represents something you really like to do, but it still hurts you in one way or another. This title probably illustrates what happened to Geddy Lee who really wanted to make music, he preferred to do it within the family, but when he realized it was not going to happen soon, he did it alone despite all the difficulties he went through in the writing process.
The unloading of aggression that Geddy Lee recounted can be heard already at the opening of the album with his edgy bass line in the first few seconds of the theme song. Ben Mink's electric guitar is very reminiscent of the sound of the guitar and the wild and "primitive" playing style of Alex Lifeson from his solo project "Victor". But just when you're sure it's going to be a rough and aggressive album the atmosphere changes at once, and in a minute and a half into the song we slow a bit and change to something softer and more melodic with Ben Mink's acoustic guitar and violins, which after half a minute are replaced by an electric and rough riff.
This combination of rough and clean, between rhythmic and calm, but mostly between calm and caressing, passes between other songs on the album, producing a fluid and very pleasant flow to listen to throughout. There are no bad songs on this album and you will probably not find "fillers". Each track has its own charm and all together complete a whole musical fabric that is just fun to listen to repeatedly.
The grunge and sweeping riff in the opening of "The Present Tense" changes after half a minute from the beginning of the song in a peaceful and calm verse and so on. The third track "Window to the World" opens with a chord with a psychedelic sound that sounds like something Robbie Krieger did in the 1960s with "The Doors", later evolves into alternative nineties rock. This song was recorded in three different versions, before Geddy and friends got to the final version they love. The song "Working at Perfekt" is one of the most beautiful and special on the album. It oscillates between the sound of grunge guitars and the sounds of strings and piano. This "sound swing" also exists in the song "Runaway Train" which opens with a "Zeppelin" guitar sound and corresponds with "The Present Tense", in the funky "Home On A Strange" which was the last to be written for the album and in the excellent ending "Grace to Grace" which seals the album wit Rhythmic and a kicking rock, that for a moment reminded us of "Pearl Jam".
This album also features some beautiful and exciting rock ballads like "The Angel's Share" with the double viola-guitar solo, "Slipping" which opens with Geddy Lee's special piano playing and includes one of the album's catchy chants and "Still" which continues the lyrical and musical line of Predecessor and proves to us that Geddy Lee's voice can also be warm, soft and caressing.
This wonderful solo project remains small and modest, just as it started. Geddy Lee did not go with this further. He gave up on the idea of promoting the album live and apparently Matt Cameron's unavailability was not the main reason for that.
It is not clear if this is really true, but we speculate that the release of this album nevertheless had some effect on Neil Peart. A kind of "alarm clock" that reminded him how much he loves to hang out with his two longtime friends, create and experience this great thing called music. About two months after the release of the album, in January 2001, Geddy, Alex and Neil met and for the first time in 5 years entered the rehearsal room to work on what would become the band's 17th album, "Vapor Trails".
The screen may have gone down on Geddy Lee's solo project to fast, but it probably broke the long hiatus of the power trio that continued to accompany us for over a decade later with excellent albums and sweeping performances. Geddy summed up his creative experience on this album as something very positive that the deeper he went into it, the more he realized how much it was rewarded for him. In the absence of any chance of seeing any new material from this marvelous trio following the death of Neil Peart, let's hope that the memory of this rewarding experience will push Geddy Lee to more and more projects like this and soon!
For Listening to an interview from the relevant time with Geddy Lee, click Here: