Fly By Night (1974)

2.Best I Can
3.Beneath, Between & Behind
4.By-Tor and the Snow Dog
5.Fly By Night
6.Making Memories
8.In The End
   I. At the Tobes of Hades
   II. Across the Styx
   III. Of the Battle
   IV. Epilogue


Drummer/Lyricist Neil Peart joins the band, and you could make the argument that this is where the real story begins. Having such a guy with diverse talents means that in many ways, the band needed to reinvent themselves musically. They could no longer be the straight-ahead in your face rockers that they were on their debut album. You have to really wish you could have been around to see the look on Geddy and Alex's face when Neil first handed them the lyric sheet to By-Tor and the Snow Dog. To be truthful, however, Lee and Lifeson wanted to push this band into a more complex direction anyway, which was one of the reasons their original drummer bowed out after the first record.

So reinvent themselves they do, and for the most part, they pull things off quite nicely. Of course, anytime you're going to radically change directions at such a young age and only after one album, you're bound to make a couple of mistakes. You can write that off as growing pains.

First, the good stuff. Anthem and the title track Fly By Night lead off side one and two respectively. These two songs seem to be a good indicator of what latter day Rush would look like. They're a bit more complex in their arrangements, yet they're not too overwhelming (which they were prone to be in the early days). There are a couple of very obvious things on these two tracks: First, Alex Lifeson is a helluva guitar player, and Neil Peart is a helluva drummer. Yes, Geddy Lee is a helluva bassist, but his grooves aren't really that apparent on this record as opposed to many later ones. Then, of course, we come to Geddy's voice. Well, o.k., it's not great. Some would say annoying. Most rock fans, however, don't really give a rip. As long as the singer stays in pitch and can belt out the correct lyrics, then they're happy. Still it's easy to see why so many could never appreciate these guys after listening to Mr. Lee's formidable wail throughout the songs.

The aforementioned By Tor and the Snow Dog clocks in at over eight and a half minutes, and it times gets a bit too proggy and spacey, but the song has far more highlights than lowlights, so it's not to surprising that song still holds a special place on many i-pods of the devoted four decades later. In The End probably has to be the most underrated track in the band's catalog. It would show up on a live recording a couple of years later, but has been mostly forgotten since. It's one of those times where Rush shows a bit of their softer side, yet still remain faithful to their brand.

Speaking of softer sides, the only time where Rush really blows it on this album is the track Rivendell. Geddy is trying a bit too hard to be like Jon Anderson and Yes, with its quiet acoustic accompaniment, singing about elvins, lords, and misty mountains. The track is an example of one of the instances of taking a few steps back creatively before charging forward. They would never, fortunately, try something like this again.

There are some other instances, such as Best I Can and Making Memories where they're trying to replicate the sound of their first album. It's a bit funny because neophyte Peart sounds like he's really trying to restrain himself from overplaying on these simple cuts. Not surprisingly, these are the two most forgettable tracks on the record. Like many early Rush albums, this record pales in comparison to their greatest material that they would release many years later, but it was still nice to see them progress quite nicely as musicians and as artists.

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