Hold Your Fire (1987)


1.Force Ten
2.Time Stand Still
3.Open Secrets
4.Second Nature
5.Prime Mover
6.Lock and Key
7.Mission
8.Turn the Page
9.Tai Shan
10.High Water

 

For this record, it seems as though Rush made a conscious effort to simply replicate their last release. Who could blame them? 1985's Power Windows was well loved by most, and the band continued to blow people away with their live shows. Even though their newer songs weren't as easily recognized by the masses, fans at the live shows really didn't care, and they were still packing in the arenas. Plus, the band themselves seemed to still enjoy tinkering in the toy box of electronics. So Geddy brings back out the synths and special effects, producer Peter Collins is called back in to replicate the magic, and the guys essentially go for a "part 2" of Power Windows.

Well, for the most part they succeed. There's some great stuff on this record, yet song for song, this release definitely pales in comparison to its predecessor. Perhaps "song for song" isn't the best analogy since this record actually has a whopping ten cuts! Not a big deal you say? All these years later – no, it's not a big deal, but in the mid-1980s, records were still being recorded with the understanding that most would still be making their purchases in the vinyl format, which put serious time contraints on a finished package. Well, by the time this album was being recorded, compact discs had taken over making record "albums" (almost) obsolete, which means space for more songs!

Sadly, though, time as shown us that this isn't necessary a good thing for any artist. One's attention span tends to wane after about 45 minutes, and unless the album is filled with stellar material, most are left wondering if "less" would actually be "more". This is apparent on this record, and it's probably one of the key factors that prevents this from being as powerful as Power Windows. Consider the song Tai Shan. This is arguably the worst song Rush has ever recorded. Even the band would probably agree. Really, though, it's not that the song is poor, it's just too radically different from anything they've ever done. Lyrically, it's about a trip Neil took to China. Geddy and Alex try their best to "Asian-ize" the music, and it, well….sounds a bit like a television commercial.

Other instances simply sound as though Rush is trying too hard to recapture the magic of the last album. Example: They had great success with a song like Territories from Power Windows, that it almost seems as though they're saying –"Let's do a part 2!" and they come up with High Water. Not a bad song, but definitely not as good as its "mentor". You could say almost the same thing about a song like Open Secrets. It sounds just a tad too similar to Middletown Dreams from the above said last record.

There are many instances, though, where the band is truly on fire (pun not intended – I promise). The opening cut Force Ten is one of the most powerful tunes the band has ever cut. It rocks hard, yet incorporates just about every wiz-bang sound effect that they had been playing around with at the time. Listening to this first song the first time, it's almost as if the band was saying "Sorry, we're not ready to go back to our "roots" just yet!" It's also a bit curious to wonder if the band themselves were concerned about how they were going to play all of these songs live. It was around this time that they discussed bringing in an extra person on stage to help in the effects department, yet the band wisely always voted that idea down. What this meant, however, was that the band would have to trigger these effects themselves with various foot pedals and electronic percussion wacks, but safe to say, their shows were never hindered.

One area where they do bring in an "extra" person is for the first single Time Stand Still. Aimee Mann from the band Til Tuesdsay is singing the title in the chorus. I'm not sure why. Maybe no one liked how Geddy was singing it? Or maybe they were just trying something new? My guess is the latter. It is one of the better songs, and Mann's appearance doesn't hinder the experience at all.

There are other strong songs as well. Most fans love Mission and Prime Mover, and probably the majority of the fans, to some extent, enjoy Second Nature and Lock and Key. Had they not been so successful with Power Windows, you would be tempted to blame the shortcoming on all of the bells and whistles, but since that didn't hinder Power Windows, it's safe to simply say that whereas this is a good record, it just doesn't quite match up to the last one.

Also, although no one new at the time (perhaps not even the band themselves), they were now pretty much done with their "keyboard" phase anyway.


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