Presto (1989)


1.Show Don't Tell
2.Chain Lightning
3.The Pass
4.War Paint
5.Scars
6.Presto
7.Superconductor
8.Anagram (For Mongo)
9.Red Tide
10.Hand Over Fist
11.Available Light

 

It's a bit hard to believe, but when this album came out, it set a record for the longest time between Rush releases. It had been (gasp!) almost two years since their last record. Even though they had just released a live album earlier in the year, fans were starting to get a bit worried. Remember, the internet really wasn't around yet, so the average joe didn't really know a whole lot in terms of what his favorite band was up to in terms of writing, recording, and/or touring.

But, once again, the rumors of a "break up" of Canada's favorite trio were unfounded, and a new album was now out. Fans breathed easier. Well, most fans breathed easier. It seems as though Rush was radically changing things up again on this record, and anytime such a thing happens, there are those who don't embrace the new direction. First, and most obvious, the synthesizers and electronics are mostly gone. This is a "bare" album, but not really a "back to basics" album either. They don't quite rock as hard as on most of their earlier releases, and there are a lot of acoustic instruments present including guitar and piano. They again enlist a new producer (Rupert Hine) to help guide them through the unfamiliar waters. Changes are very obvious with the lead off track Show Don't Tell, which seems as a very odd choice to open an album. It doesn't reach out and grab the listener the way most of their "opening" songs do. Being that this is so unexpected, it takes a bit to warm up.

The biggest complaint about this record is that the overall production sounds a bit thin or tinny. Those observations are indeed accurate, but I blame the times for the finished product. Remember, this was still a few years before the whole grunge thing, and bands were mostly spending more time on precision and clarity. In other words, albums didn't sound like they were recorded in someone's garage. On perhaps a somewhat related note, the band had a new record deal with Atlantic records. Part of the new contract was a desire to make the band a bit more commercially appealing. As of this point, whenever a new Rush record was released, the hardcore fans (and there were many) would scoop up the new release as soon as possible. This would always cause a new Rush album to debut rather high on the charts. Yet future weeks would see a rapid decline in sales. The guys were hoping that maybe a new record company could "spread the sound" a bit more (which never really happened), so this could also be why this record sounds so different.

So this leads us then back to the basic question: How is the album? Opinions differ. Personally, I think it's awesome and it ranks in probably my top five of all time. It took a long time for this record to grow on me, but repeated listens have made this one very endearing. The overall melodies and arrangements are probably the most favorable of any Rush album, and although the production may be a bit compromised, it allows the listener to really appreciate the fine musicianship of the guys. Every plucked bass note and percussion whack is heard in stunning clarity.

There also doesn't really seem to be any sort of "theme" or "concept" around this record. As of late (and he would seem to always to do in the future), Peart's lyrics don't seem to really connect with each other on the songs. Not that this hinders the record in any way, Peart is always great at this part of his job, it's just, well…..different. Even the title of the album has a strange history. Peart wanted to name their last live album "Presto", but he lost out due to the democratic process. So his thought process going into these recording sessions were, "At least I have a title to work around…".

So they were many that were relieved that the eighties "influence" is gone, yet there were many that still didn't like the production. You can't please everybody.


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