On May 14, 2002 "Rush" released their 17th studio album "Vapor Trails".
This is the band's comeback album after a 6-year hiatus that was forced on it due to two tragedies that befell drummer Neil Peart.
In August 1997, at the end of the "Test For Echo" album tour, Selena, Neil Peart's 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. Ten months later, Peart's wife Jackie, died of cancer. Peart wrote in his book "Ghost Rider" that at his daughter's funeral he informed his bandmates, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, that he was retiring from the band.
Geddy and Alex gave Neil all the time he needed to recover from the tragedies that befell him. Peart underwent a difficult healing process that lasted several years. As part of the healing process he went through, he drove across the U.S. on a motorcycle, for 14 months and 55,000 miles.
In 2001 the band reunited and began working on new material for the first time. Recordings began in August 2001.
Musically, this album is a "retro" Rush. This is their first album since "Caress Of Steel" (1975) which does not include synthesizers, and their first since "Fly By Night" (1975) which is based on classic hard rock style.
Although Rush has not completely abandoned the progressive aspect of this album, it is without a doubt the most "hard-rock" album the band has made in a long time. Frequent rhythm changes, musical complexity, and dynamism are almost absent here, and the songs are much simpler than they have been in the past.
The album opens with "One Little Victory" and it is indeed a victory, but not "small". Symbolically the song opens only with drums. Neil Peart's double bass strikes loudly, whips on the open Hi-hat, and blows on the snare drum and the message is sharp, clean, clear and screams: "We're back and we're here to blow your mind" ...
And how they came back !!! An adrenaline bomb, a burst of energy, madness, enthusiasm, and who even believes that these guys were then 50 plus years old ???
Neil Peart's short solo segment was originally intended for the end of the song, but Neil said that when Geddy Lee heard it he persuaded him to move it to the beginning of the song. Neil was not sure but Geddy insisted and he agreed.
Neil said the song talks about small accomplishments in life and how they can be most rewarding. It is on giving your all to achieve your goals in life and constantly challenging yourself to get better in every possible sense, as opposed to comparing your abilities to those around you. "Be yourself and be real," Peart said.
From there we move on to the song “Ceiling Unlimited” Alex Lifeson's familiar guitar takes the lead until Geddy Lee's virtuoso bass joins in, the music oscillates between rhythmic and dynamic to melancholic and slow, with the instrumental section at the end of the song showcasing the band's familiar virtuosity and talent. Neil said he was inspired by the name of the song and his lyrics as he watched the weather channel while sitting in front of the TV on the band bus. Ha saw the phrase "Ceiling Unlimited" as describing a particularly bright day in which the height up to the "cloud ceiling" is infinite. meaning non-cloudy at all.
In the third track "Ghost Rider" Neil Peart shares the healing process he went through after the tragedies that befell him. This is one of the best songs on the album and is based on Peart's adventures over 14 months and 55,000 miles - His healing, as he described it in his book "Ghost Rider Travels on the Healing Road". Geddy Lee's singing is especially prominent here and adds such incredible depth to the song, which just gets a life of its own here.
It is worth noting that Peart's writing on this album has become less abstract and much more personal, probably as a result of the two tragedies that befell him, and this is reflected in the above song, among others.
The next track "Peaceable Kingdom" is Peart's response to the September 11, 2001, disaster. It was originally intended to be an instrumental section, but eventually, Peart decided to write lyrics for it. It's a song about "terrorism" and its destructive power over the lives of people who just want to live their lives in peace. The title of the song came from the book "The Peaceable Kingdom" by Stanley Hauerwas. The trio presents here a powerful performance of guitars, bass, and drums, and Peart conveys a message of hope that eventually the cycle of hatred will stop when those who strive to live in peace and harmony will succeed in positively influencing others with destructive instincts.
"The Stars Look Down" is based on a book of the same name by AJ Cronin from 1935, which also became a movie in 1939. The book tells about an English mining town before the First World War and especially about a young miner who tries to change the harsh conditions in which miners work, but in the end, fails to succeed in his struggle.
Immediately after comes "How It Is" which opens melodic and quiet with the nice chord progression of Alex Lifeson. It is a "light" song and less complex than what we are used to getting from the Canadian Power Trio. The song tells about the gap between "desire" and "reality" or as the lyrics say: "Between how it is and how it ought to be".
Next comes the theme song "Vapor Trail".In his book "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" Neil said that the lyrics were influenced by a poem by W. H. Auden that his brother Danny read at the funeral of his daughter Selena, in which the line: "All the stars fade from the night The oceans drain away", was taken from.
The eighth track "Secret Touch" was one of Geddy Lee's favorite songs from the album. It was released as the second single and reached number 25 on the American Rock chart. In an interview with Bass Player Magazine in July 2002, Geddy Lee spoke about the song and noted that the band built it around his recurring bass chords. He noted that although the melody has a mesmerizing feel, it was not enough for them and they felt they had to put some power and aggression into the song, as indeed happens in the middle section where "all hell breaks loose" with Geddy's stuttering bass punctuation.
The song "Earthshine" is the first song written for the album and was included in the band's setlists occasionally. The term "Earthshine" was coined by Leonardo Da Vinci as early as the 16th century and describes a phenomenon that occurs every 29.5 days in which sunlight is reflected from the earth and illuminates the moon. The words "on certain nights, when the angles are right ..." refer to the same phenomenon. Although this is the first song written for the album, Alex and Geddy noted that they were not satisfied with the music, as they thought it did not accurately describe what the lyrics wanted to express. So, at some point, they just decided to "throw away" everything they had and rewrite all the music.
"Sweet Miracle" is the second the band has written for the album. Geddy Lee said that the origin of the song was in the first sessions they had just after coming back to play together. Neil describes his journey from the depths of despair, to the joy and happiness of finding a new life and love. Geddy was very attached to Peart's lyrics which moved him and noted that the music and melody just came out of him naturally.
We're nearing the end with "Nocturne", one of the later songs written for the album. Geddy noted that there was a group of about five or six songs that came from Jams over two weeks that he considers the best he and Alex have ever had. He added that the song overrides the questions you can subconsciously answer in your dreams without realizing it.
Next is "Freeze - Part IV of Fear". An excerpt that connects to the band's "fear trilogy", consists of 3 excerpts that appeared in reverse chronology over 3 consecutive albums released by the band: the song "Witch Hunt" from the album "Moving Pictures" is "Part III Of Fear" and deals with the way it can be used In fear to control people. "The Weapon" from "Signals" is "Part II Of Fear" and deals with external fears such as weapons. "The Enemy Within" from "Grace Under Pressure" is "Part I Of Fear" and deals with the inner fears that influence decisions. Now, 18 years later, the band decided to add a "fourth part" to the fear trilogy, a section this time about paranoia and fear of the unknown.
The album ends with "Out of the Cradle" a song influenced by the poem Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking written by Walt Whitman in 1858. It is a song about loss and love. This song closes a small life cycle of the band that started with the loss of Neil Peart's wife and daughter and ended with the "little victory" of the band that opened the album.
**The New 2013 Remix**
The album "Vapor Trails" is the only album by "Rush" that has two different releases.
When recording the album the focus was on the recovery process of Rush who was trying to get back into function as a band after years of hiatus. As a result, not enough attention was paid to the technical side of the album, many mistakes were made in the production and most of all the mix was so careless that at times it seems that the music go through a "compression" process that made the sound artificial and emotionless, where the songs sound at a uniform level and with dominant "Loudness".
Fortunately, the band was willing to accept the fact that there was a serious flaw in the production, and in 2013 they re-released the album in a remix version, in which all the production issues were fixed.
This seems to be one of the few examples where the Remaster version of an album was really necessary and gave new life to the album.
Two tracks from the album were remixed as part of the "Retrospective III: 1989–2008" compilation album released in 2009. The result was good and the band decided to finally correct the flaws that had bothered them over the years and began working on a full remix for the entire album.
Geddy Lee said in an interview with him ahead of the re-release that "the original album was recorded during an emotionally difficult time and in difficult circumstances, when "Rush" had to re-learn how to be Rush." As a result, Geddy said, "mistakes were made that the band had a strong desire to correct and the reissue finally brought some proper justice to our work."
Today only the remix version of the album can be found on all streaming platforms, but devout fans hold on to both versions and the difference between them is noticeable, and not only
In the pictures of the covers that are in contrast to each other, where the album in the original version in black background while the remix version has a white background.
Rush's 'comeback' was accompanied by a grandiose and worthy tour. During the tour, the band played in places they had never performed before. In one of those places, Rio Brazil, the band recorded the live album "Rush In Rio" which was released in 2003. The album was recorded during two of the band's performances in Brazil in front of 100,000 people. The band members said they were amazed by the local crowd and were surprised to find out how well known and great they are in Brazil.
In conclusion, this is without a doubt a very worthy comeback album. Rush has unequivocally proven that it has a lot more to offer creatively. The album was the introduction to the new highs the band would later reach, in terms of popularity, musical quality, and in terms of the music industry's recognition of the band's greatness, with its entry into the "Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame" in 2013.