Author Topic: [Music] Rush - Presto  (Read 3859 times)

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Offline setrataeso

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[Music] Rush - Presto
« on: November 22, 2009, 02:01:52 PM »
Artist: Rush
Album: Presto
Genre: Progressive rock
Year: 1989


20 years ago, Rush released their 13th studio album, Presto. To commemorate this anniversary I'm going to give my take on this album.

Presto marks a transition point for Rush. As they gradually drift away from the synth-driven songs and back towards the guitar-centric music, Rush took the next logical musical step. The synth period of Rush felt much like a series of chapters in their history. Moving Pictures, Signals, Grace Under Pressure, and Power Windows made up the first four chapters, and the 5th is Hold Your Fire. Yet, Presto still feels connected to this era; making it a sort of epilogue, and the final "chapter" of Rush's synth era. While Grace Under Pressure felt almost too synth driven, Presto follows Hold Your Fire display of well-balanced production. Lifeson still adds his guitar spurts and Peart continues to experiment with the electronic drums, but overall Presto was a final settling point for their synth era.

Another aspect that Rush continues with in Presto is the thematic album. Starting with Power Windows, Rush's albums have all been thematically written, however loosely some may seem. While Power Windows and Hold Your Fire overtly clung to the themes of power and instinct, respectively, Presto displays it differently. It uses the cover of magic and the supernatural as a setting of sorts to conduct it's business. Beneath that, Presto is mostly written about culture and harmony, oftentimes using the cover of supernatural to diguise that theme (like in Chain Lightning and Presto). This method of thematic writing is also used on Roll the Bones and Counterparts to disguise their particular themes.

Onto the album itself. Presto opens with Show Don't Tell. It works fine as an opening track. It's catchy enough to capture the attention of the listener, but it doesn't do much else to impress. Chain Lightning shows Neil Peart's growth as a lyricist with some nice, introspective lyrics. The Pass, which Rush has mentioned is among their favourites, is a great break piece. Neil's recent experiences in Africa play into several songs like The Pass, and the following piece, War Paint. The group singing at the end of the song "Boys and girls together. Paint the mirror black." is a great moment on the album and I can picture a group of African children singing along to this when Peart visited them.

Scars picks up the pace of the album. The drum line in Scars is quite remarkable. It's unlike anything Neil Peart has ever come up with, and its often played in his live drum solos. Based of a conga pattern he heard in Africa, Peart plays a very flowing pattern on the electric toms, and it sounds wicked. The lyrics speak of Peart' experiences with people and places he has encountered in his life and the feeling he gets when he thinks of them. Presto is another highlight of the album. Alex Lifeson gets a lot more to do on this song. His solo and riff lines shine here, and remind the listener that Alex still does play for Rush.

Superconductor is a bit weaker of a song. It has a good bass line, but it's unremarkable and is followed up by another unimpressive song, Anagram (For Mongo). Again, we have a neat idea, but it lacks any great bits. Both songs do examine an individuals takes on culture and humanity from different perspectives. Red Tide is a great piece from Geddy Lee's vocals. Actually the whole of Presto feels very much like a singer's album. The music is structured in way that the vocals shine. Many will consider this a controversial choice. Presto ends up being mixed just like Hold Your Fire, but the instruments are lower in the mix while the vocals are the well-heard track. Fortunately, the vocals lines are all pretty good.

Hand Over Fist explores the theme of friendship and loyalty. Counterparts will explore the idea of human relationships as it's principal theme in the coming years for Rush, so Hand Over Fist is a great introduction to Peart's take on the human race. Available Light works well in context with Peart's experiences as a closing track. It gives the feel of a goodbye to a magical place (in Neil's case, Africa), and there's a heavy emotion tied to the track. Hold Your Fire had a weaker display in its last 2 tracks, so it's refreshing to hear a strong finish from Rush.

Off of the theme of togetherness and culture, Presto gives off a very cheerful feel. Geddy gives spirited vocal performances in most of the songs here, and conveys the lyrical emotion well through his voice.

Presto seem to be fairly disliked by the Rush fanbase. I'm not sure whether it has anything to do with the equally divided opinion on most of the synth records or if it is something about the actual album itself. I don't find the album bad, but I do see the weakness in it: there are few remarkable moments to it. There are no 2112-sized epics. Instead you have a series of 4-6 minute songs following a similar structure. They haven't abandoned the progressive side, though. There are plenty of odd time signatures and they continue to push the borders of their sound, so you can't say they've settled too close to what's worked in the past. Presto is a very consistent album, however. All of the songs are adequate. None are spectacular and, by comparison, none are overshadowed. For fans expecting another Hemispheres, they will likely be disappointed. Listeners who are patient will find a spirited, albeit unspectacular Rush album.

Standouts
War Paint - It builds really well, and features a very cool group singing session.
Scars - A very mystical vocal line. Peart's drum line is unlike anything else.
Available Light - A strong finish and an emotional piece.

Burnouts
Show Don't Tell - An OK opener, but it not particularly memorable.
Superconductor - Cool beat and lyrics, but ultimately is forgettable.
Anagram (For Mongo) - Cool beat and lyrics, but ultimately is forgettable.

Checkouts
Chain Lightning - Something a bit different from them. Reminiscent of The Body Electric.
The Pass - Slower song, but still a very enjoyable listen.
Presto - Strange lyrics hide Peart's underlying message. Good chorus.
Red Tide - Geddy puts forth a good vocal performance here.
Hand Over Fist - Nice lyrics about human relations. Catchy chorus, too.


7/10
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Offline Nick

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2009, 04:27:28 PM »
I certainly wouldn't call this album an end to the Synth era. I've always really found Presto a bit odd. I'd say their are very few synths on this album compared to the previous albums, and its lack of success may have led to a slight resurgence on Roll the Bones before they were ultimately phased out.

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Offline setrataeso

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2009, 08:49:38 PM »
I certainly wouldn't call this album an end to the Synth era. I've always really found Presto a bit odd. I'd say their are very few synths on this album compared to the previous albums, and its lack of success may have led to a slight resurgence on Roll the Bones before they were ultimately phased out.

Well, I consider it the end of the synth era. They still use synths in their recent albums. But Presto and Roll the Bones were where it got phased out. As opposed to what I consider the synth era albums, where the synthesizers drove the music. In Presto and RTB, it played more of an accompaniment in most songs, with a few hints of synth-led songs.
But I agree that Presto is a bit odd. I found it very hard to categorize. It's not really a synth era song, nor is it a hard rock era song.
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Offline wolfking

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2010, 04:39:12 AM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2010, 10:38:08 AM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

Indeed.  I think most Rush fans would agree that "The Pass" is either THE standout on Presto, or at least one of the only two or three.

Overall, I like this CD, but I rarely visit it.  And it is probably the only Rush CD with two songs that I genuinely dislike, "War Paint" and "Superconductor."

Offline wolfking

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2010, 05:08:59 AM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

Indeed.  I think most Rush fans would agree that "The Pass" is either THE standout on Presto, or at least one of the only two or three.

Overall, I like this CD, but I rarely visit it.  And it is probably the only Rush CD with two songs that I genuinely dislike, "War Paint" and "Superconductor."

It's a good album, not great, but quite good.  The Pass >>>>>>> everything else.  I rarely visit it either, but I don't mind the upbeat Superconductor myself, but can fully understand why it would be disliked!  :D

Offline setrataeso

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2010, 02:15:56 PM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

Indeed.  I think most Rush fans would agree that "The Pass" is either THE standout on Presto, or at least one of the only two or three.

Overall, I like this CD, but I rarely visit it.  And it is probably the only Rush CD with two songs that I genuinely dislike, "War Paint" and "Superconductor."

It's a good album, not great, but quite good.  The Pass >>>>>>> everything else.  I rarely visit it either, but I don't mind the upbeat Superconductor myself, but can fully understand why it would be disliked!  :D

I don't think I need to reiterate my favourite songs from the album, considering the review is up there. But, I agree that Superconductor and The Pass are awesome x a bunch.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2010, 02:18:53 PM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

Indeed.  I think most Rush fans would agree that "The Pass" is either THE standout on Presto, or at least one of the only two or three.

Overall, I like this CD, but I rarely visit it.  And it is probably the only Rush CD with two songs that I genuinely dislike, "War Paint" and "Superconductor."

I like Superconductor. Don't really know why, but it's fun.

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2010, 12:17:46 PM »
The Pass  :hefdaddy

Indeed.  I think most Rush fans would agree that "The Pass" is either THE standout on Presto, or at least one of the only two or three.

Overall, I like this CD, but I rarely visit it.  And it is probably the only Rush CD with two songs that I genuinely dislike, "War Paint" and "Superconductor."


I like Superconductor. Don't really know why, but it's fun.

Yeah, I've always liked Superconductor in some strange way.  I think Geddy's singing saves it from being somewhat goofy sounding.
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Offline Quadrochosis

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2010, 11:23:51 PM »
One of my least favorite Rush albums, I can never get into it at all.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2010, 02:33:04 PM »
I love this album. A solid 10 in my books.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2010, 03:05:14 PM »
I love this album. A solid 10 in my books.

You've listened to Superconductor and Show Don't Tell, yes?

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Offline setrataeso

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2010, 04:37:54 PM »
Superconductor is awesome.
Re-reading through this review, it's remarkable how my opinions have changed.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2010, 10:06:27 AM »
I love this album. A solid 10 in my books.


You've listened to Superconductor and Show Don't Tell, yes?
Superconductor is the only song I don't care for. I love Show Don't Tell!
One bad apple does not spoil this bunch!

You also need to remember I bought albums like this the day they hit the stores so I remember them differently then younger folk.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2010, 09:42:08 PM »
I love this album. A solid 10 in my books.


You've listened to Superconductor and Show Don't Tell, yes?
Superconductor is the only song I don't care for. I love Show Don't Tell!
One bad apple does not spoil this bunch!

This. Presto is awesome, apart from Superconductor. I'll never understand why people don't like Show Don't Tell or Chain Lightning either.

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2010, 05:07:25 AM »
After taking a major hiatus as a Rush fan in the mid 80's, I cought them on the Hold Your Fire tour and went into a yearlong Rush phase. So I was primed when Presto came out.
After closing out the 80's with A Show Of Hands and changing record companies, Rush seemed to be set for their "next" chapter. So Presto was the first Rush album I bought upon its release since Signals.

It was quite different, to be sure. But I kept finding myself drawn to it. There's a subtleness to it. It doesn't hit you all at once. There's also a maturity in the music..and the singing. Almost an "Adult Contemporary" style to it. I actually find Geddy's vocals very mesmerizing.

To me, the standout track is Available Light. But I also really like Red Tide, Hand Over Fist, Chain Lightning, and Presto. The only track I really don't care for is War Paint. And while I can understand the allure of The Pass, as it builds slowly and then explodes on you...it just doesn't move me like it does most others.

So I was very satisfied with Presto, even though I was much more of a metal fan in 1989/90. It was a great change of pace for me, and a chance to be a Rush fan all over again. I saw this tour twice.

Sadly, they followed it up with Roll The Bones. Seems after a decade immersed in keyboards, they forgot how to be an interesting guitar driven band. However, it's easy to see how a great song like Ghost Of A Chance was really an extension of what they were doing with Presto, especially Alex's mature, smoky guitar parts during the chorus.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2010, 09:01:03 AM »
War Paint, The Pass, and Available Light are my favorite songs from this album. It's not a solid 10 in my books, but it's a pretty solid album.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2010, 11:11:37 AM »
Rush and I had a falling out during the "synth heavy" period, but I heard Superconductor on the radio and liked it.  I still like the song; I don't see why it's so maligned.  Rush has always balanced their prog side with their ability to write catchy pop songs, or at least songs that are radio-friendly.  Show Don't Tell was also getting some airplay, and I again heard something that I liked.  Also, between the two songs, there was very little keyboards, which I found promising.

So I picked up Presto and was not disappointed.  I still like this album a lot, and see it as the first step "back to the Rush I loved" in my younger days.

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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2010, 05:10:17 PM »
I really like Presto. Solid album.
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2010, 08:12:07 PM »
I love the album.  I think it's better then RTB. I liked that it was very different to PW and HYF.  I've always like it when a band goes for something different.  Some interviews when CP came out talked about how they wanted to have a bigger sound from Presto and RTB.  The songs had balls live and that was missing with these 2 albums which lead to the sound of CP.

Available Light swept me away, Chain Lightning was agressive, Presto had emotion to Ged's voice and the structure.  Well, I guess I'll play it on the dock tomorrow!
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Re: [Music] Rush - Presto
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2011, 10:06:07 AM »
I really like Presto.  I had just picked up Chronicles in '90, as I hadn't been much of a Rush fan (other than the radio hits), and loved it.  Given Presto was a fresh release, that was what I grabbed off the shelves.  Can't say there's a song that I genuinely dislike from the album.

Now, Rush is my 2nd fav band, and I think I have every official release of their's.  All thanks to Chronicles and Presto.
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