Rush - Album By Album (Book review)
Released: 2017, Voyageur Press
When I learned that Martin Popoff was writing his third book about the Canadian Hard Rock/Prog trio Rush my initial thought was, was, “He is going back to the well again?” It was only four years ago that his second book about the band, RUSH-AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY hit the shelves and only last year (2016) that the revised edition came out AND both are published by Voyageur. Maybe it is Rush overload, there are about 20 books about Rush and if you include Neil Peart’s work, we are pushing 30 titles. I was thinking to myself, “What is the angle? What more could possibly be said in print that hasn’t be said a 1000 times before?” In his introduction, Popoff references the now infamous quote by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, “Less is not more. More is more.” Why not have more books about one of the world’s longest running, most successful bands of all time? More is more!
Obviously as a life-long fan, my next immediate thought was, “I have GOT to read this new book about Rush!” Well, fortunately Popoff manages to put a fresh spin on it and RUSH–ALBUM BY ALBUM is actually quite an intriguing read. Distilled down to it’s primal essence, Popoff interviews a bunch of Rush nerds and I say that with the highest amount of respect and love and jealousy. I would have loved to have been involved in this book, but I got no Rush street cred other than being a fan. So, chronologically, chapter-by-chapter, album-by-album Popoff and friends pontificate on all things Rush.
Reading this is like being a fly on the wall at one of the fabled Rushcon’s held in some semi-moldy, old conference hall (with bad carpet) in a Day’s Inn in downtown Cleveland, Ohio where the truest of the true meet annually to talk about why Rush is the best band in the world and willingly go to seminars on why the song, ‘I Think I’m Going Bald’ should have been on the self-titled album and not on CARESS OF STEEL. And they are not wrong.
Popoff brings in some heavy hitters from the musical community such has Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and Kirk Hammett (Metallica). Side note: I don’t why I bothered typed in brackets the names of the bands that these guys play (or played) in. If you are reading this review on Metal-Rules.com, you already know who they are. I get a very mild sense that maybe Popoff and/or Voyageur Press wanted a few big marquee names for the book, but they are at heart, and to a fault, true Rush aficionados. To me, the real value lies not in interviews with Portnoy or Hammett who are fans. We all know that. It is not news. Where it gets cool are the interviews with people from the Rush fan club, old roadies, organizers of Rushcon and middle-aged, semi-balding white guys who live in Middletown, USA in the subdivisions with insane Rush collections who have seen the band over 100 times. Each album is nicely analyzed, but not over-analyzed, some great trivia comes to the fore and the passion of each person being interviewed is palpable. Every album gets the full treatment, the newer material does not get ignored or under-represented at all.
A note of the technical specs…as always Voyageur does a bang-up job. This gorgeous 192 page, hard cover, coffee table book nicely compliments the aforementioned RUSH –AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY. There are tons of lush Rush visuals, the layout and design are superb, down to the album cover art watermarks; this book is beautiful. Thankfully, there is little to no repeat in terms of interviews and photos, which dismissed my (mostly) unfounded initial fear that Popoff might be going down the Rush rabbit hole.
The only reason that this book gets less than 100% grade is that in his last book about Rush he did the same thing, namely, big name journos and musos went album by album and discussed the hell out if it. This is essentially the same idea expanded, but still worth it. I think I need to go listen to both versions of VAPOUR TRAILS back to back. See ya at the next Rushcon!