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Rush - Signals

On September 9, 1982, "Rush" released its 9th studio album - "Signals".

This album broke down the perfect chemistry within the band, that up until then felt like a small family. It caused the band members to part ways with long-time producer Terry Brown who has worked with "Rush" since 1974 and was responsible for producing the masterpieces albums "2112" and "Moving Pictures" among others. It all happened because of one song, want to find out which song it is and what caused the disagreement that led to Terry Brown's dismissal? Stay with us and you will find out.

Let's start with the fact that "Rush" was at the height of its success after the release of "Moving Pictures", a perfect album in every way that brought the band a dizzying worldwide success and won them rave reviews. For those who forgot, we will mention that this album reached third place in the list of the best Prog albums of all time by "Rolling Stone" magazine, after Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side Of The Moon" and King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King".

But the dizzying success did not mess with the band members' minds and already during the tour to promote the "Moving Pictures" album, they start working on new and much different material for their next album. And as you already know, with "Rush" nothing can be simple, because instead of riding the wave of success of "Moving Pictures", the members consciously decided to look for new musical directions. Geddy Leee noted in an interview that although it was the safest move to write a sequel to "Moving Pictures", they deliberately chose to experiment with new genres. He added that the band always loved to challenge itself.

Indeed, the musical material on the album has drifted in various directions most of which "Rush" was first experiencing, such as Ska, Reggae, Funk, Electronic music, and New Wave. To this end, the band made increased use of synthesizers, sequencers, and electronic equipment, at the expense of reduced use of guitars. It was the first time that the synthesizers, which "Rush" began using in the late 1970s, had moved from an accompaniment instrument to a main and leading one that affected the band's sound. This trend will only intensify in the band's next three albums which culminated in the 1987 album "Hold Your Fire" which we reviewed yesterday on the occasion of his "birthday".

While performing the mixes for the excellent double live album "Exit... Stage Left", released in 1981, the band found a lot of free time and increased the pace of writing. Neil Peart said he was so bored during the mixes that he sought employment in repairing an old drum set that was in the studio. To break the boredom Neil Peart applied to work with two members of the sound team in the studio on a song one of them wrote. It was Tony Geranios known as Jack Secret who was Geddy Lee's keyboard technician. They were joined by the band's soundman Skip Gildersleeve and started working on a song called "Tough Break". After several jams, they even recorded the song in the same studio, with Jack Secret on vocals and bass Skip Gildersleeve on guitar, and Neil Peart on drums. Boredom also did not miss Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson who joined on guitar and keyboards. This rare recording of "Rush" with the two sound crew members can be found here:

This jam session with two sound crew members gave the band the boost it needed to run forward and complete the writing of the new material for the album "Signals". Peart noted that he began writing the lyrics to the song "Subdivisions" in the exact same session with the two sound team members. Neil Peart thought about the background from which the band members come from and also a large part of its fans. "Outsiders", "socially rejected nerds", who since school days were "cataloged" and marked as exceptions only because of "judgment" and "prejudice". Peart said that Geddy and Alex came to his house with the demo tape in which they recorded the music for the song. They prepared him for an unusual and strange sound, just like the idea behind the lyrics to the song. Peart listened to the demo and when finished he was quiet, then asked Geddy and Alex to play it again. At the end of the second round, he told his friends it was just perfect and Geddy and Alex looked at each other and smiled. Thus, Over and done! "Rush" was ready for its big change. It entered their synthesizer era which will accompany them throughout 4 albums during the 80s.

And what a song "Subdivisions" came to be. The album's great opening song is also the band's statement of intent that this album was not going to be the sequel to its predecessor. Already at the opening of the song, you can hear the electronic sound that the band has adopted. The whole rhythm of the song is based on keyboards and the guitar in the background adapts itself to the keyboard roles that took over. And in the chorus, as if everything is turning upside down, Geddy Leee's bass takes control with incredible dominance, as if it comes to fill the gaps left during the verses, bold, edgy, forward, and how it blends nicely with Alex Lifeson's guitar, as they both leave the keyboards behind as if it was another song, another genre, another time, and then again the mini-mog takes over again in the instrumental transition segment and back all over again. Apparently while writing the music for the song Gaddy and Alex thought about how c Lee would have to perform it live so they divided the song into sections that would allow Geddy Lee to switch between bass playing and the keyboards smoothly.

From there we move on to the second track "The Analog Kid" which is simply the negative of its previous. In this song, the bass and guitar are dominant throughout the verses, with the keyboards taking control during the choruses. Again, Alex and Geddy were probably thinking about how this song will be performed live. It's an amazing rock song at a very fast pace, so do yourself a favor #1, you must, just must !!! Listen to Geddy Lee's bass during this song, especially during the intro. The man has just an amazing technique and perfect playing!!! This is without a doubt one of the highlights of Geddy Lee's tremendous career and we mean it. Do yourself a favor # 2 and also listen to Alex Lifeson's wild solo at 3:23. The lyrics to the song were written by Neil Peart right after he wrote the song "Digital Man", the fourth song on the album. Neil Peart thought the two songs would complement each other (analog-digital). Geddy and Peart thought that the music should be contrary to the idea that the lyrics are trying to convey and so the song came out with verses at a particularly fast pace.

The third track "Chemistry" is the band's only song in which credit for writing the lyrics is given to the three members: Geddy, Alex, and Peart. It's also actually the last song the band has ever written, in which Geddy or Alex get credit for writing lyrics. Another thing that is special about this song is that its writing was done simultaneously by the three members, unlike most of the band's songs in which Neil Peart writes lyrics and gives them to Geddy and Alex to write the music or vice versa. Also here the band continues with a clear separation between verses and choruses, in terms of the use of instruments, to make it easier for Geddy Lee to play the song live. Verses and bridges with the dominance of bass, and choruses with the dominance of synthesizers.

We promised to tell you what was the song that caused the "great conflict" between Terry Brown and the band members? So this song seals the first side of the vinyl and is called "Digital Man". Let’s start with the fact that the new musical directions the band chose to pursue were not to the liking of their then-regular producer Terry Brown. Brown wanted the band to ride the dizzying wave of success of "Moving Pictures" and continue on the same musical line. The band members thought otherwise. The song "Digital Man" was the red line, "the last straw" for Brown. The song included Ska and Reggae pieces that were not to the liking of the legendary producer. "Rush" insisted on recording it and Brown objected. The band of course won, but this point of contention made the band realize that if they were interested in experimenting with new musical directions they must dismiss Brown, and indeed this was his last album with "Rush". Listen to the song and you will immediately understand what it's all about. The transition section is strongly influenced by Ska and Alex Lifeson's guitar fragility can easily be compared to the Reggae of "Police" in the song "Walking on the Moon".

From here we move on to tell you about one of the special songs on this album and in general, the track that opens the second side of the vinyl - "The Weapon" also called "Part II of Fear". This is the second part of the "fear series", which initially consisted of 3 tracks that appeared in a reverse chronology over 3 consecutive albums of the band. The first song is "Witch Hunt" from "Moving Pictures" also called "Part III Of Fear" and deals with the way fear can be used to control people. The second is "The Weapon" from "Signals" also called "Part II of Fear" and deals with external fears such as weapons. The third track is "The Enemy Within" from "Grace Under Pressure" also called "Part I Of Fear" and deals with the inner fears of people who influence their decisions. 18 years later the band added a fourth part to the fear trilogy (yes, yes you read that right, "fourth" part to the trilogy), as part of the album "Vapor Trails". This is a track that deals with paranoia and fear of the unknown and is called "Freeze - Part IV of Fear".

And now back to this masterful song "The Weapon". Anyone who has seen this song played live must have noticed that this is the only song in which Neil Peart puts on headphones, and concentrates... occasionally throwing the stick in the air and catching it in full sync with the drumming (see in the video below). Has anyone ever wondered why ??? So here's the reason. This song is based on keyboards. When Geddy wrote the music he used a drum machine and when he played the demo to Peart he asked him to emulate the role of the drum machine. The rhythm of the drum machine was so strange and unusual that Neil Peart told Geddy Lee that he do not know how he was even supposed to learn to play this bizarre pattern. But as you know Neil Peart loves challenges and he found a way to emulate the drum machine. He bent his hands in a certain way and hit the cymbals and drums in the opposite way from what he was used to aligning with the playing pattern of the drum machine. The legendary Neil Peart learns from a drum machine how to play, how hallucinatory does it sound to you??? Neil Peart of course later admitted that there was no way he would have thought of such drumming himself. But the entanglement did not end there, because Peart had to play the roles of these drums in full sync with Geddy Lee's drum machine. Geddy had a Roland 808 drum machine that also served as a trigger for the Arpeggiator jp-8 (a kind of sequencer) and at the same time sent "clicks" to Neil Peart's headphones so he could play his drum roles in full sync with the keyboards and drum machine. So do yourself a favor # 3 and listen (and then watch too) Neil Peart's special drumming in this song, especially in the instrumental section coming from Alex Lifeson's amazing solo starting at 3:25 (in the album version) and ending after the crazy drumming at around 5:25. Seemingly, there is no uniform rhythm or pattern here. A sense of random drum beats and cymbals that somehow eventually manage to get along and sync perfectly with the song.

The song "New World Man" is the last written for the album after the band already had seven finished songs and they found out they had room for one more within the 4:00 minute limits to complete the LP. Neil Peart said that's how "Project 3:57" was born. Not a simple project for "Rush" whose songs on recent albums have been significantly longer. The band thought they would write a song anyway and if it came out longer, they would save it for the next album. In the end, "Rush" was up to the task. The song was written in one day and recorded spontaneously in the next. This is the fastest song the band finished recording since "The Twilight Zone" from "2112" which was written and recorded in one day.

The third track on the second side is one of the band's most moving and touching in its entire catalog. "Losing It" is a song about artists who "lose it" and are no longer at their peak, talented people who were at the pinnacle of success and are now at the bottom. The lyrics of the song are some of the most beautiful that Neil Peart has written in all of his mighty repertoires. This is the first time that "Rush" brings another player to the studio, the violinist Ben Mink who accompanies the song and plays the amazing and vibrating violin solo that blends like a glove with Alex Lifeson's guitar. This song has never been performed live in all of its 40 years of career. During the talks about the setlist for Rush's last tour "R40", the band members decided to perform it for the first time. It was also a sort of a hint of Neil Peart to his condition and to the fact that he was interested in retiring at the peak and not reaching the condition of the artists mentioned in the song. This song has been played only 5 times throughout the band's career, all during the last "R40" tour. We were present in one of them and it is impossible to describe the intensity of the feelings we went through, the level of excitement and the magnitude of the experience, feelings that were strengthened then due to the knowledge of Neil Peart's condition and today even more so, in the face of his death. The specific performance from that specific live show was included in the film - "Cinema Strangiato" which was screened on 21/8/19 in theaters around the world. So do yourself a favor # 4 and listen to this song. Must, must, must with the lyrics !!!

"Countdown", the song that closes the album was inspired by the band's visit to Cape Canaveral - the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 12, 1981. The band members were present during the first launch of the space shuttle "Columbia" on mission STS-1, which they watched from the VIP area called "Red Sector A" (familiar to us from the title of the famous song from the album "Grace Under Pressure"). The communication sounds heard during the song were recorded from the communication system between astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen and to the control center. The band also dedicated the song to the two astronauts and all NASA personnel for the inspiration they gave them during the visit. This song served as the astronauts' alarm clock during the penultimate mission of the "Columbia" shuttle - mission STS-109 from 2002. ". The same "Columbia" shuttle which the song was written, crashed on February 1, 2003, during mission STS-107, in which the first Israeli astronaut - Ilan Ramon was also a part of. Also in this song, there is a clear division between the dominance of synthesizers during the verses and Geddy Lee's Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar during the choruses, all in the band's meticulous planning designed to allow the song to be performed live without the help of additional artists.

And now you have to click play and listen to this masterful album: Spotify, Apple Music

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