On September 24, 1975, "Rush" released their third album, "Caress Of Steel".
This is the album that almost led to the ending of the band's short career. The album failed commercially and the audience showed a lack of interest in the band, which found itself humiliated when it performed in front of half-empty halls. The band members even joked among themselves that Neil Peart was going to go back to marketing agricultural equipment and Alex Lifeson would go back to being a painter.
This album continues the musical change that began with the previous album, which included the band's transition from the heavy rock with blues influences, to heavy progressive rock.
The buds of the change in the musical direction were already seen on the previous album, "Fly By Night", which was released about six months earlier. The album featured a four-part mini-piece called "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" and lasted 8:37 minutes, which proved the progressive influences on the band.
Geddy, Alex, and Neil wanted to continue with this musical experience that began with the song "By-Tor & the Snow Dog". They further developed the long concept works and included in this ambitious album, not one but two long epics. The first is "The Necromancer" - a three-part work that spread over half of the first side of the album, and the second - "The Fountain of Lamneth" Six parts song spread across the whole second side of the album. These two long pieces were "a little too much" for the audience, who knew "Rush" as a hard rock band and was not yet ready for the radical change in its style. The same audience that was not open enough to new musical directions, eventually "voted" in records stores and caused the album's commercial failure, a failure that ultimately also threatened the band's future.
At the same time, this is a very important album in the development of the band, since without "Caress Of Steel" the band would not have produced masterpieces like "2112" and "Hemispheres". "Caress Of Steel" was the band's experimental journey that "Rush" had to go through to develop their next album.
The album cover was designed by Hugh Syme, who will become the band's permanent cover designer. The idea was that the album cover would be in a silver color that would match the name of the album (Steel). However, a typo caused the cover to come out gold, a mistake that was not corrected in the later editions either.
The album opens with "Bastille Day" and Alex Lifeson's edgy riffs intermittently cut by Lee-Peart's rhythm section, which is synchronized with the atomic clock's fantastic accuracy. It is one of the band's aggressive songs from the classic hard rock era of the 70s, which was also a big hit in their live shows at the time. The song tells of the day when the French mob stormed the Bastille, a move that started the French Revolution. It is interesting to note that this song also influenced the members of "Dream Theater" in choosing the band's first name (Majesty), as Mike Portnoy, who is known as a big fan of "Rush" thought the ending of the song was simply "Majestic".
The lead riff in the second song "I Think I'm Going Bald" is reminiscent of the riff of the song "In the Mood" from the band's first album. The song was written for Canadian musician Kim Mitchell who was "Max Webster"'s guitarist and singer. As it is well known, members of "Max Webster" and "Rush" were friends, and Geddy, Alex, and Neil were even featured on one of "Max Webster"'s songs "Battle Scar", a collaboration that triggered the writing of the song "Tom Sawyer". This song features one of the phrases that best characterizes the band, which has continued to evolve and mature musically over the years, but has always done so in its own way. And so the sentence says: "But even when I am gray, I'll still be gray my way". It should be noted that there is another version according to which this song was written as a tribute to the song "Goin' Blind" by the band "Kiss". Support for this version can be found in the book: "Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home & Away".
The third track "Lakeside Park" is a nostalgic song about "Lakeside Park" located in the city of St. Louis. Catharines in Ontario, the area where drummer Neil Peart grew up and worked during the summer vacations. A catchy and fun song about summer, friends, and the pleasures of life, which demonstrates the amazing ability of this band to create a perfect picture of time and place, even if the listener has never visited it. The date of May 24 mentioned in the song is Queen Victoria's Day - which is considered a Canadian holiday.
From here we move on to the piece that ends the first side of the album - "The Necromancer". A three-part work that lasts about 12 minutes. Similar to the song "Rivendell" from the previous album, this piece is also influenced by the fantasy books of J. R. R. Tolkien - "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit". The "Necromancer" is a character of a magician - the sorcerer from "The Hobbit", who also appears in "the Lord of the Rings" books as the character of Sauron. However, "Sauron" in Rush's work is an evil figure who takes over people's minds and souls and empties them of all aspiration and desire. The first part of the work - "Into the Darkness" is a slow and mesmerizing part designed to put us in the atmosphere of the story. Geddy Lee's soothing singing blends in with Lifeson's howling solos slowly rising and piercing the silence of the forest. The three hikers mentioned in the lyrics are actually members of "Rush" who came from the Willowdale neighborhood of Toronto or as mentioned in the song itself: "Three travelers, men of Willow Dale". The three hikers enter "The Necromancer" lands during the second part "Under the Shadow". He leads them to the cellars of his castle to carry out his plot. The third and final part "Return of the Prince" describes the hero's entry from the previous album "By-Tor and the Snow Dog", which destroys the sorcerer in a heroic battle, while Alex Lifeson's guitar solo at the end of the song illustrates the great victory.
The entire second side of the vinyl is dedicated to the six-piece work "The Fountain of Lamneth" which is about 20 minutes long. The work chronologically describes an entire life journey of a person who has devoted his entire life to finding "The Fountain of Lamneth", thinking that this is how he will find eternal life. It is a very complex and dynamic piece that proves the young band's desire to experiment and develop musically. Alex Lifeson noted that in this song he even aspired to reach the guitar sound and playing style of guitarist Steve Hackett from "Genesis", especially in the segment "No One at the Bridge". This sincere statement by Alex Lifeson explains why the band chose to go in the ambitious musical direction, as they did on this album. The band members were torn between their love for progressive bands like "Yes" and "Genesis" and their love for the hard rock and blues of "Led Zeppelin", "Cream" and "Blue Cheer" and the reflection of these love is well illustrated on this album.
This contrast between the musical styles is probably also the weak point of the album. There is no uniform musical line here, there is experience and dispersal between different styles which made it very difficult for the audience to identify with. It was not complex enough for progressive lovers and not heavy enough for hard rock fans, so it failed commercially.
Following the grim failure of this album, "Rush" band members saw the end before their eyes, but in fact, it only marked the beginning.
The band received one last chance from the record company, to release a commercial record and the band members take full advantage of it with the epic "2112".
So it turned out that after its biggest low point, "Rush" was simply reborn, with a masterpiece that gave them tremendous success and complete creative freedom.!
So let's listen to this work that only gets better over the years, because today no one makes such albums.