On September 8, 1987, "Rush" released their 12th studio album, "Hold Your Fire".
Let's get it out and put things on the table. True, this is the band's most electronic and commercialized album. God! Geddy Lee began composing the songs on a Mac using a sequencer developed for Apple. Alex Lifeson used a synthesizer and a drum machine while writing the music and Neil Peart used electronic drums and a trigger pad that activated electronic percussion, as opposed to using the percussion instruments themselves. Even Geddy Lee's voice is the most mid-range we've ever heard on any of the band's albums. His familiar high-octave notes are almost absent in this album. These facts are so shocking and inconceivable that they should have been considered by the band's fans as betrayal even contempt.
but no! It is precisely this album, the one that has gone as far as possible towards the mainstream, with sweet pop songs and a wall of synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and electronic drums, that proves that "Rush" is much more than a band. It is a multi-armed organism, living, and breathing, with a big heart and a huge soul that stretches from one end of the world to the other.
The truth must be told. Any other band that would have dared to make such a dramatic change in its sound and musical style, not only would have been immediately abandoned by its fans, but would also receive bad reviews from critics, and at worst may have had fatal consequences from their record company. But not "Rush" who manages to do the incredible and impossible and make her fans change along with her, develop with her and accept with great appreciation the musical change they are going through.
Do you know another band that made its Hard Rock fans fall in love with Prog and Prog and Hard Rock fans accept and appreciate genres like Reggae, Ska, New Wave, Pop, and even Rap? There is only one band in the world that has done it, more than once or twice and in every such transformation, in every metamorphosis, in every such style development, not only has it not lost an audience but its appreciation has increased and it has added another circle of fans who have multiplied and accompanied it throughout through thick and thin.
So true, this album was not initially well received among the band's devoted fans, but why does it matter? In the end, after several plays, those same fans began to appreciate this band even more and learned to accept, contain and love this album which also includes excellent songs.
Despite its unusual style in the band's repertoire, this album stood the test of time, with songs from it dominating the band's setlists over the years, not to mention multiple plays on US radio stations, especially those of Classic Rock.
This album has even produced quite a few "hits", as hard as it is to use that word when talking about "Rush".
The album's big hit is without a doubt "Time Stand Still". This is the first song that Neil Peart wrote for the album. A pure and magical mainstream song that was a huge success in the charts on both sides of the ocean. It is the band's only song that gives credit to another artist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Aimee Mann, known among others from the American new wave band "'Til Tuesday", who even sang together with Geddy Lee. By the way, this is not the only song on the album where Aimee Man contributed her voice. She also sings background vocals in the song "Prime Mover", which was written by Neil Peart as a tribute to episode 57 of his favorite cult series "Twilight Zone" (yes, yes, the same series he also wrote a song for the album "2112"). Alex Lifeson admitted that the band thought a woman's voice would fit the chorus of the song. Geddy Lee was a fan of Kate Bush and Björk and first thought of them for the job. Later came the names of Cindy Lauper and Chrissie Hynde who celebrated her birthday yesterday, but both were not available for recordings at the time, so an equally talented singer and musician- Aimee Man was chosen.
The opening track "Force Ten" is the last song written by the band for the album. While the band was in the studio, producer Peter Collins thought they should write another song because 9 songs are not enough for the album. So the band did write and record the tenth song at his request, and they did so in just three hours, and even found it appropriate to have fun with the name of the song - "Force 10" for the 10th song. Neil Peart recalled that he received from his friend Pye Dubois (who also helped write the hit "Tom Sawyer") lyrics to a song that he had not yet used, and so these lyrics were the ones that formed the basis for what eventually became the tenth song - "Force Ten". Already in this opening track, we notice the electronic dominance, with the heavy keyboards and the drum machine, with the dominant bass of Geddy Lee, who manages to remind us that this is Rush after all - a band of phenomenal and virtuoso musicians. Lee plays bass chords in this song. A new technique he began to use at the time. Geddy received the influence of playing in this way from his friend, the jazz player Jeff Berlin.
The idea for the third song “Open Secrets” came from a conversation between Neil Peart and Geddy Lee about their friends and acquaintances who went on with their lives without dealing with issues they had, and the impact of neglecting and ignoring these issues on those friends’ lives. Geddy Lee noted that the song underwent many changes on the way to the result, with Geddy Lee's groovy and dominant bass inspiring Neil Peart's rhythm and vice versa.
The fourth track on the album "Second Nature" is a quiet and calm song that talks about the great responsibility we have in the choices we make in our daily lives. Neil Peart said the words "Now I lay me down in dreamland" were influenced by an 18th-century bedtime prayer that hung over his grandmother's bed. It is interesting to note that the use of these prayer words is also made in the spoken words part of the song "Enter Sandman" by "Metallica".
The opening track on the second side of the vinyl, "Lock and Key", is one of the album's strongest and darkest songs, in which Neil Peart refers to the killer instinct hidden in each of us, and how we should control it and hold it behind "Lock and Key". This is one of the only times "Rush" writes an entire song, lyrics, and music simultaneously. Geddy Lee uses a 5-string bass guitar here.
The second track on the second side of the album "Mission" reveals to us where the album's name came from, opening with the words "Hold Your Fire". After Geddy Lee's short vocal opening, Alex Lifeson comes in with his classic New Wave chords and proves how diverse and beautiful his playing can be, even though it's so minimalist on this album. At the same time, starting at 3:04 in the bridge part, you can hear Alex Lifeson's power chords with the sound we are familiar with from the band's classic albums of the 70s.
Before concluding we will refer to the band's most controversial song "Tai Shan" which is the penultimate song on the album. Many of the band's fans will tell you that this may be the band's "worst" song in all of its glorious musical career. Even the band members were quoted years later as sorry that the song was included on the album. We think that even though this is the weakest song on the album, it is still not the worst of the band. "Tai Shan" is a song about a sacred mountain in China and the emperor Huang Ti who used to summon all the spirits of the world to the top of the mountain in a spiritual and sacred ceremony. Legend has it that whoever climbs to the top of the mountain and raises his hands to the sky will live to the age of 100. Neil Peart uses here one of the interesting instruments he used during his career - a plastic bottle with water. He used a brush on these bottles to create the wind-blowing sound of the top of the mountain. The music for the song was influenced by classical folk Chinese music and is probably the band's most exceptional experimental experience. Incidentally Aimee Man's voice in the song "Prime Mover" is played backward in this song.