"Presto", the 13th album of "Rush" was released on November 21, 1989.
This time we want to start with a small confession.
For years we thought it was "Rush"'s "least good" album. Today we understand that there is simply no such thing.
Can an album that includes songs like "Show Don't Tell" and "The Pass" be called a less good album?
Yes, yes, you read that right. "Rush" has no "less good" album, it has good albums, it has better albums, it has great albums and it has masterpieces !!! Write it down, internalize it, you can also quote us, because we are definitely standing behind this statement and ready to defend it before any quorum, any tribunal, and any forum. There is no cliché here and we have not distributed any superlatives to those who do not deserve them. This statement comes to this mighty band by right and not by grace, period! Fine, and now that we've straightened things out, we can finally get started.
With this album "Rush" entered the fourth era of its musical career. Remember, each of the musical era's included four albums, with after each period the band released a live album. And now that the 90s are around the corner, "Rush" has decided to greet them with a new style, a different rhythm, an updated sound, and a change in musical style. The band began a process of cleansing themselves of the New Wave influences and disengaging from the synthesizer sound that characterized the third musical period of the band. But with all this they did not forget their roots along the way, the ones thanks to which they were able to remain relevant, despite all the changes and upheavals the music market went through over the years.
The change described above was not just musical. After 15 years with "Mercury", "Rush" terminated the contract with them and was free to do things their own way, without time pressure and without dictates. After completing the tour to promote the album "Hold Your Fire", the band members worked on the production of their third live album "A Show of Hands" and after that decided to take a half-year break. At the end of the break, everyone gathered at Neil Peart's home to talk about their musical future. They unanimously agreed that the core sound, emotion, and energies of "Rush" come from the guitar and they decided to go back there, back to base. Geddy Lee said this album was a counter-reaction to all digital technology. At that time he was already tired of computers and synthesizers and at that meeting with Peart he and his friends agreed not to use them on the next album. He noted that in the end they could not resist and used them but only for "color", so he defined it. Another decision the members made was that this album would be an album where the singer would lead while the rest of the instruments supported and assists him.
With these agreements, "Rush" enters the studio to write the material for the album. They worked in a method familiar to them in which Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson write the music while Neil Peart works separately on the lyrics and arrives at the studio in the evening, so the three share what each of them achieved during the day. They even surprised themselves as the writing process progressed faster than expected, and soon they began looking for a producer to enter the studio with them. Peter Collins who had produced their previous albums was not available and they eventually decided to work with Rupert Hine, whose range of styles and bands he had previously worked with attracted the band members. Indeed, Rupert Hine introduced the band to a different and innovative sound and led them to use different arrangements and new techniques. He also pushed Alex Lifeson to sing background vocals in some of the songs, which he rarely did until then.
Similar to the writing process, the recording phase also progressed faster than expected, and although British Rupert Hine demanded, as a condition of working with him, that the recordings will be made on British soil, these were completed within two months, four weeks ahead of schedule.
After completing the recordings, the band felt confident in finding a new record company to accompany them and eventually managed to sign an attractive, long-term contract with "Atlantic".
This album is considered one of the most lyrically powerful albums of "Rush". Neil Peart has written here some of the most beautiful words of his career. He noted that he came to writing this album more mature and experienced and he took a lighter approach while writing. He did not try to choose one motif that would be a connecting factor between the songs as was done in previous albums, but treated each song as a separate story.
This album definitely breathed new and fresh spirit into the band in many ways and this is evident in the first sounds that open up the album. Neil Peart's percussion cut after four bars with the "Show's Do Not Tell" guitar-bass-riff, takes us back in time to the band's early days and the distance between Alex Lifeson's distortion effect in this song and his chorus effect from - "Hold Your Fire" is much more than a few foot pedals. But 40 seconds into the song we are already in another world, with a different rhythm and different sounds with the acoustic effect on the arpeggio chords of the electric guitar. This "swing" that continues throughout the song actually characterizes what is happening on this album. A nice balance between two worlds that manages to bridge the different era's that this band went through beautifully and interestingly.
This balance is clearly maintained between the power chords in the opening song and chorus and the hipster riff in the song "Chain Lightning", between the opening riff and synthesizers during the "War Paint" verses, and between the piano and the eighties synthesizers of "Red Tide" to the rock riff of "Superconductor".
This album also includes one of the most beautiful songs on all of "Rush" glorious catalog - "The Pass", the second single released by the band from the album, which deals with the phenomenon of youth suicide. The line "All of us get lost in the darkness / Dreamers learn to steer by the stars / All of us do time in the gutter / Dreamers turn to look at the cars" in this song is influenced by the play "Lady Windermere's Fan". Written by Oscar Wilde.
Other recommended songs on the album are the theme song led by Alex Lifeson's simple acoustic chords, which are combined and perfected by Geddy Lee's bass notes, "(Anagram (for Mongo)" which is one of the album's energetic and interesting surprises and includes word games and a lyric puzzle of Neil Peart and of course "Available Light" which ends the album at a slow and calm pace, with minimalist piano chords and excellent vocals by Geddy Lee, which again manages to excite, especially at the climax of the chorus with the shout "Bring Me Available Light ..."
True, there are also some weaker points on this album, like the obscure "Scars" with the African drumming that was influenced by Neil Peart's visit to the continent and "Hand over Fist" which sounds like an unsuccessful attempt to produce a poppy "hit", but these points are few and absolutely an exception.