Rush - Permanent Waves
On January 14, 1980, "Rush" released their seventh album, "Permanent Waves".
This is one of the Power Trio's greatest albums that was their entry ticket to the 1980s.
It can be said that on this album "Rush" made its biggest change. From "Hemispheres"' Progressive, epic, and bombastic Heavy Rock to more compact, accessible, and radio-friendly songs. This is actually the first of two albums that will symbolize the band's transition from the Prog era to the Electronic era, just like a bridge supported by two pillars connecting two different river banks.
It is not that the band has not changed in the past and will also change its musical styles in the future, but in other cases, the change was more gradual and not as sharp as it was in this case. Take "The Spirit of the Radio" or "Freewill" on the one hand for example and put them next to "Cygnus X-1 Book 2" or "La Villa Strangiato" on the other. We are sure you will understand what we mean.
But the change that "Rush" brought with this album was not only reflected in the length of the songs. On this album, the band began to have fun with other genres such as Reggae, a style that they will continue to explore in the next three albums. In addition, this album also has a change in Geddy Lee's vocals whose singing tone has been lowered so that it does not sound too shrill.
The changes in these three parameters were undoubtedly goal-oriented. The desire to allow the band to sound more accessible, "lighter" and more radio-friendly. A forward-looking album designed to ensure the band's survival in the Progressive arid desert of the '80s.
True, the album includes 2 tracks that are over 7 minutes, but these are not the epic works that characterized the previous albums, nor did they open the album but were pushed back to the end of each side of the vinyl in order to make the short and friendly songs stand out.
At the end of the tour that accompanied the "Hemispheres" album, in the middle of 1979, the band decided to take a short break of six weeks before starting work on the new album. Neil Peart said it was the first break the band had taken since he joined it four years earlier. After the short vacation they took, the band members met in July 1979 at a cottage located on a farm north of Toronto, to write and rehearse for the album's recording. Most of the material was written in about two weeks. The songs were written more or less in the order they appear on the album, except for the song "Natural Science" which Neil Peart wrote during the recordings.
Despite the decision to go for a "lighter" and more radio-friendly material, Peart offered Geddy and Alex a song called "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" which was intended to be an epic piece. This song was discarded after it did not match the rest of the material on the album.
In September 1979, the band entered the studio "Le Studio" in Quebec to record the album. During the recordings, Neil Peart wrote the three parts epic "Natural Science". Geddy and Alex wrote the music for it using excerpts from the song "Gawain and the Green Knight", which was discarded.
The album opens up with "The Spirit of the Radio", which combines several musical styles and includes several rhythm changes. This is the first song in which "Rush" experiences the Reggae genre, which they will also embrace in her next albums. It should be remembered that at that time Reggae was fused with punk in the UK, with bands such as "The Clash" and "Police" incorporating the genre into their music. "Rush" was probably also influenced by this. The lyrics were written by Neil Peart as a tribute "..to all that was good about radio, celebrating my appreciation of magical moments I'd had since childhood, of hearing 'the right song at the right time," Peart said in one of his interviews. The song includes a reference to a line from the song "Sound Of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel. It opens with Alex Lifeson's incredible guitar work. Many thought it was a "guitar tapping" but it's just a fast Alex Lifeson playing. Neil Peart's drumming at the song opening is simply divine! Beautiful transitions that are synchronized like a Swiss watch with Geddy Lee's bass, and all this is only a preparation for what comes next, because, in the bridge starting at 3:35, he is already syncing with Alex's guitar line which is just insane. This song is listed (and rightly so) on the list of the 500 songs that shaped rock of "The Rock's Hall of Fame" and it is one of 5 such songs of "Rush" in that honorable list. This song got heavy rotation on radio stations in England and the US and led to the band's great exposure to a new audience. It is interesting to note, that it was this song and not "Tom Sawyer" that succeeded more on the British charts. Another interesting fact, is that in this song features Erwig Chuapchuaduah (?), playing the Steel Drum and this is probably an inside joke of the 3 band members.
The second track "Freewill" is another song that entered a radio broadcast on both sides of the ocean. A song with clever and philosophical lyrics by Neil Peart about freedom of choice and freedom of will. Although this song sounds like a simple rock songת compared to the band's previous work, it's not like that at all. There is a lot of rhythm change in this song and it sits on completely unconventional time signatures that are changed throughout the song, among them: 6/4, 7/4, 6/4, 7/4, 6/4, 8/4. Alex Lifeson's solo is among the most beautiful and challenging on the album. Although the album attempts to keep Geddy Lee's voice on the low side of the range, he does not hold back and rises to new heights reserved only for singers of virtue, in the last verse of the song. This song was very popular and a fan favorite at the band's performances.
The third track that seals the first side of the vinyl, is the epic "Jacob's Ladder" - a song that was influenced by the story of Jacob's dream from the Bible. Neil Peart saw in his vision rain clouds through which the strong rays of the sun penetrated. He thought of Jacob's Ladder which in fact constitutes the gate to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Musically, the first part of the song opens with a kind of dark marsh rhythm that develops up to the "New Age" instrumental section and repeats itself. This song has not been played in the band's live shows since 1981, until the last "R40" tour during which the band performed it for the first time after about three decades. In the book "Rush: Album by Album" Metallica's guitarist Kirk Hammett notes, that one of the riffs in the song "The Thing That Should Not Be" is taken from "Jacob's Ladder". In this case, too, the song can mislead listeners and sound relatively simple to play, but super drummer Mike Portnoy noted that it is one of the most difficult "Rush" songs to play. Who are we to argue?
The translation of the song title that opens the other side of the album "Entre Nous" from French, is "Between Us". These pair of words in English are repeated during the chorus of the song, which speaks of feelings and interpersonal relationships. The words "Entre Nous" appear in the book by the writer Ayn Rand from 1943, called "The Fountainhead", and as is well known Neil Peart was influenced by this writer quite a bit. Musician and singer Billy Corgan of the band "The Smashing Pumpkins" told in the documentary "Time Stand Still" from 2016, about an exciting encounter with his mother in the basement of their home when he was 16. Corgan was at that time an emotionally and socially closed child and he asked his mother to listen to the song with him. He gave her the lyrics in the hope that she would understand how he felt. It is interesting to note that the song was not performed in "Rush's" live shows, except in part of the tour to promote the album "Snakes & Arrows" from 2007, as recorded and documented live only on the album "Snakes & Arrows Live".
The lyrics to the second song on the other side of the vinyl - "Different Strings", were written by Geddy Lee. This is the last song the band wrote in which Neil Peart did not get credit for writing the lyrics. The song teaches us that each of us sees life differently and invites us to choose the words we use carefully. In terms of melody and performance, this is a ballad for all intents and purposes, quite unusual in Rush's catalog.
The song that seals the album is the mini-epic in three parts "Natural Science", which shows us remnants of the progressive "Rush" of the late seventies. It is a dynamic work that begins quietly but develops with rhythm change, fast transitions, and an amazing solo by Alex Lifeson. As mentioned above, parts of the unfinished work "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" found their way into this mini-epic song. The song encourages us to appreciate and preserve nature, especially in an age of technology and when humanity is fast advancing. In this case, too, it is a song with quite a few rhythm changes and odd time signatures that range from the basic 4/4 to the unconventional 7/8, 6/8. The sounds of the water heard at the beginning of the song were recorded on one of the lakes in Ontario. Assistant producer Terry Brown drove there, hit the paddle on the water, and recorded the sounds.
The album cover was designed by Hugh Syme who is responsible for designing the covers of all the band's albums, starting with the third album. The cover features Canadian model Paula Turnbull, against the backdrop of ruins created by a huge wave in a way that corresponds with the name of the album. Model Paula Turnbull will also appear on the cover of the 1981 live album "Exit... Stage Left".
In 2020 an expanded edition of the album was released to mark its 40th anniversary. The edition includes 12 live recordings from the tour that accompanied the album. Read more about the expanded version here: Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary.
The album "Permanent Waves" won many accolades after its release. It managed to expose the band to a wider audience, who got to know it through the songs on the album, some of which were more accessible and friendly, which allowed their rotation on the various radio stations. This album is considered to this day as the band's highest charting albumin the American chart.
With "Permanent Waves", "Rush" opened the 1980s with a storm and it will become the first in a series of albums that will give the band the huge global and commercial success they rightfully disserve.
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music.