Caress of Steel (1975)


1.Bastille Day
2.I Think I'm Going Bald
3.Lakeside Park
4.The Necromancer
5.The Fountain of Lamneth

 

Generally considered, even by the band themselves, to be their worst release. There are some diehards that actually like this one. They refer to it as "overlooked". Whatever. To be fair, these guys were still learning the ropes. This was their third album in barely over a year, and the fact that they radically changed directions between the first and second album (mainly because of drummer/lyricist Peart), meant that they still needed time to nurture and grow.

Probably one of the main disappointments was that they made such a natural leap between the straight rocking debut Rush to the much more complex Fly By Night, that many probably expected another nice, smooth, upward trending progression. Not so. They stumble around a lot on this one, but we need to give them grace because of the above mentioned reasons, and the fact that we now know just how awesome future music would be.

Things start off nicely enough. The lead off track Bastille Day rivals Anthem from Fly By Night as a powerful, chord driven track filled with awesome guitar sounds. Lifeson is still in strong form. The next two tracks, I Think I'm Going Bald and Lakeside Park, suffer from the band trying to be humorous (the former), and the band trying to have a respectable hit single (the latter). Neither work, and not surprisingly, they would mostly abandon this type of song writing in the future. At the risk of sounding a bit blasphemous, Neil Peart's lyrics sound a bit juvenile as well, and at some times, might cringe induced. Maybe it's just because one tends to compare his early work to his latter. Or maybe it was because he was still in his early 20s (and far from going bald).

Where things really start to get muddled are on the last two "epic" tracks. The first is 12 minutes long, the second is 20. Oy. Let's just say the guys haven't quite figured out how to write an epic yet. When a "prog" band is struggling to write side-long epics, it's not going to be pretty. The first of the two, The Necromancer is sort of a "sequel" to By-Tor and the Snow Dog from Fly By Night. Included throughout the track is a "narrative" (spoken by Peart with some weird device garbling up his speech) that explains (I guess) the story. Not that it really matters. Truth be told, you can find several positive fragments of songs scattered about, but they're too few and far between to add anything memorable. Again, write it off to inexperience.

The last song (the entire side 2), The Fountain of Lamneth doesn't get any better. It's even "bigger" and "bolder", which means the pretentiousness and pompousness is only magnified. Actually, the first (of six) part of the piece In The Valley does have a lot of nice Rush-like sounds included, and had the band tried to stay with the idea and structure throughout the epic, it might have come across better in the end. Instead, though, it takes an abrupt turn into the second part (Diadicts and Narpets) which is nothing more than a quick drum solo, with Geddy shouting out illegible one syllable words. Things only get muddled throughout the rest of the marathon, and the small snippets of likability are drowned out by too much lost ambition.

The tour didn't go well either, and this was almost the end of the band. They would rebound nicely, however – as they would soon see. The Rock Gods would soon smile.

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