Hemispheres (1978)


1.Cygnus X-1 Book II
2.Circumstances
3.The Trees
4.La Villa Strangiato

 

I now come to a review where I disagree with the majority of Rush fans. Most diehards would probably rank this album in their top 5 overall from the band's catalog. For me, it doesn't come close. I would describe this as a "merely good" album, although it does have some fantastic stuff. Along with the fantastic stuff is some mediocre stuff. For me, the mediocre stuff consists of the entire side 1of the album. When one out of the two sides of an album is only mediocre, well….

Side 1 is one of Rush's famous "side long" epics. Actually, they've only devoted an entire side to one song once before, but there's something about prog rock that seems to suggest that "long" is always "good". Or in this case, "epic". Our epic here is Cygnus X-1 Book 2, a continuation from the ten minute Cygnus X-1 from the last album. "Continuation" might not necessarily be the best word. What these two pieces have in common, lyric wise, is beyond me. The first song seemed to be about a mythological space ship soaring through a galaxy in or around a black hole. This piece seems to be about a "god of balance" that helps even out the god of reason and the god of emotion. Or something like that. I'm really not sure. What I am sure about is, at least for me, this twenty minute piece never takes off. Other than the riff in the first part of the song that seems to reappear throughout, there's nothing about this piece that resonates for me. The mood never seems to change much within the track, and I keep thinking that I probably would have liked this a lot better had it been a six or seven minute song. Still, the masses seemed to love it. Maybe, I'm just grumpy.

Fortunately, everything on side 2 is top notch. Leading off the side is Circumstances which is one of those songs that I've always envisioned should be a classic (not a single – not this band), but isn't quite as widely known. I don't even think it was played in concert until 30 years later! Especially appealing is the xylophone/synthesizer solo in the middle. Of course, everyone knows The Trees, and whereas lyrically it might be a bit subpar (trees in a forest arguing with one another, etc.), it has all the elements of a classic Rush song and is loved by most.

Then we come to the last song, the "first" instrumental the boys ever wrote La Villa Strangiato (translated "Weird City"). The subtitle is "An Exercise in Self Indulgence". That's pretty accurate. As prolific as a lyricist as Neil Peart was, it was always refreshing to just hear the guys cut loose once in awhile, and they always seemed to have a ton of fun when they didn't have to try too hard to match a chord structure or riff around a somewhat complicated lyric. I'm not a musician, but I've been told that this thing is darn near impossible to mimic.

They continued to grow in popularity as well – although it would still be several years before they would be selling out respectable arenas.


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