Grace Under Pressure (1984)


1.Distant Early Warning
2.Afterimage
3.Red Sector A
4.The Enemy Within
5.The Body Electric
6.Kid Gloves
7.Red Lenses
8.Between the Wheels

 

This was probably Rush's first "80's album". No, it wasn't their first album released in the 1980's (I think it was their fourth), but this is their first album that had that eighties sound that one thinks of when reminiscing about the decade of Reaganomics, Rubik's Cubes, and Parachute Pants. There are a ton of keyboards and synthesizers splattered all over the songs, and even drummer Neil Peart plays something called "Electronic Percussion". Throw in the fact that more than half of these songs were turned into music videos, and that the picture of the guys on the back cover showed them all looking kind new wave-ish with short hair and everything, the average diehard was asking "What gives??"

The good….rather great news about this whole album is that everything works the way that is should. That's not to say the journey to making this record was easy. Nor is it to say that the faithful immediately warmed up to the record. Sensing they were getting too comfortable with longtime producer-collaborator Terry Brown, the band searched (and searched) for a new producer, settling on a relatively unknown Peter Henderson. The band, themselves, seemed to be a bit worried while recording this experiment, privately wondering if the band would survive. There was probably never an aptly named titled for a record than this one.

So even though this record took a while to assimilate, it can now be reflected on as simply a great record. Yes, there are keyboards and electronics everywhere, yet they mostly enhance the sound rather than dominate. If you were disappointed about the buried guitar on the last record, Signals, you can emulate a sigh of relief as it is back now in full force. Alex plays some killer solos and riffs throughout the whole record.

There are times when the experimentation might be a tad much for some who are stuck in the seventies. Red Sector A and Red Lenses come to mind. The two "Red" songs are somewhat dance-oriented and jazz influenced to fit firmly into the traditional Rush formula, yet after repeated listens, most of the faithful, if they're really being honest, have to concede that these tracks deserve to be on a Rush album.

There are times when the band play it safe and stay with the traditional formula. Songs like The Enemy Within and Kid Gloves sound like they could have appeared on an earlier album, even though there are some of those "drum pad sounds" scattered throughout. Most of the album, though, combines these newfangled elements with the classic Rush sound. So we here all of this newness on songs such as The Body Electric, Distant Early Warning and Between the Wheels, yet there are plenty of familiar elements in these tracks that have made this band great for so long, so again, it just took the masses multiple spins before they could appreciate.

The band also sounds (and looks, five music videos, remember) energetic and vitalized. They don't seem to be brooding heavily over their instruments, yet seem to have embraced this new technology to where it infects their personality on stage, and their drive to be great at what they do. Most bands that have endured a long life can look back in this period of musical history and be embarrassed by what they released during the decade of the 80s (anyone remember Kiss' "The Elder'? Or the Rolling Stones' "Dirty Work"?) Not so with Rush. They prove once again that they can evolve like very few.


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