Rockin’ Review: Rush, ‘Permanent Waves’

Our latest installment of ‘Rockin’ Review’ features an important “wave” that in an acclaimed band’s career. Canadian rockers Rush had already established themselves as one of progressive rock’s finest acts, but as a new decade started, they began to see some radio love as well. With 1980’s ‘Permanent Waves’ album, the band served up several cuts that fit within the traditional times to get radio airplay, though their penchant for epic, expansive tracks was still intact.

The History: The power trio of singer-bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart began writing in the summer of 1979 before heading to a Quebec studio to record. And as stated, the album included songs more conducive to radio, though Peart’s hands were all over the three movement, nine-minute-plus song “Natural Science” that concludes the album. The disc went on to be certified platinum, earning the band their first Top 5 charting album as ‘Permanent Waves’ peaked at No. 4.

The Song(s) You Know: Alex Lifeson’s spiraling guitar, Neil Peart’s drumming mastery and Geddy Lee’s super high vocals made “The Spirit of Radio” one of Rush’s best known tracks.  It peaked at No. 51 in the U.S., but that didn’t stop it from becoming a radio classic over the years. The seminal and soaring track is powered by not just the “sound of music,” but the power of the group’s writing:

“Invisible airwaves
Crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle
With the energy
Emotional feedback
On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price
Almost free” – ‘The Spirit of Radio’

The Song(s) You Should Get to Know: The rhythmically challenging “Freewill” has become a Rush favorite over the years, with Lee hitting his upper register toward the end of the song. Meanwhile, the rarely performed “Entre Nous” finds Lee hopping around vocally as the band nimbly handles every signature change with ease.

The Conclusion: Though only six songs in length, Rush’s ‘Permanent Waves’ still packs a punch and mines the tricky transition of epic prog overload to radio ready rock with ease, making sure to welcome new fans while still embracing those that had been with them all along. It was part of the the band’s most fruitful creative period and a must-own for any Rush fan.

And speaking of which, if you don’t own ‘Permanent Waves,’ you can pick it up here.

Are you a fan of Rush’s Permanent Waves, or is there another album that’s your personal favorite? Feel free to comment below!!


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