Roll the Bones (1991)


1.Dreamline
2.Bravado
3.Roll the Bones
4.Face Up
5.Where's My Thing?
6.The Big Wheel
7.Heresy
8.Ghost of a Chance
9.Neurotica
10.You Bet Your Life

 

My very first thought when I saw this compact disc at the store was: "What a dreary looking album cover!!" I'm not entirely sure what this picture is supposed to be. It looks like a goth-ish child kicking around a skull in some weird looking cave. Fortunately, at least as far as my perceptions tell me, this really isn't a heavy or dark record. Wisely teaming up again with co-producer Rupert Hine, the band employ many of the same sounds and techniques as their last album, Presto, for the follow up record. Unlike its predecessor, this album is another concept record, or, "record with a theme". The idea behind a lot of these songs is: Life is short. Life is random. Take a chance. Do Your Best.

So a lot of analogies to cards, dice, and the spinning wheel are abound in these tunes. Ironic, "taking a chance" is kind of what the guys did when they decided on recording a lot of these songs, and, sadly a lot of the chances come up half-empy. Like just about any Rush record, there's enough good, really good, and great material to appease most. It's also well known to all at this point, that Rush is always going to be rolling the dice with new sounds, new influences, and new instruments. So one shouldn't really fault them for the experimental nature. One just wishes the end result would have been slightly more appealing.

Consider, for example, the title track. Now, there are a lot that really like this song, and the band featured it quite heavily on many subsequent tours, but I just never got it. It's a bit too "out there" for me with its quirky time signature changes and sudden stops and starts. Then, as most know by now, there's actually a rap included. Yes. Rush does rap. Well, why not? I guess, I mean, it could have worked, and they probably do pull it off as best as they can. If you haven't heard it, it is Geddy, but is voice his heavily modulated and disguised, so you wouldn't know it unless someone told you.

They never quite go this far off the deep end (thankfully), but there are many instances of weird sounds and arrangements. Another example is Ghost of a Chance. Now, again a lot of fans like it, and it was actually released as the first single (as if that would matter in the Rush world), but the song changes tempos too radically during the chorus to make the enjoyment consistent. It's feels like slamming on the car breaks whilst going 70 on the freeway. It's a shame because portions of this song really do work, and Alex features a killer guitar solo. It just comes across as a missed opportunity.

Other tracks are a bit hit-and-miss. Heresy is very strong in places, and is a great little historical piece illustrating the fall of communism – which was still happening in some major countries when the record came out. I still wonder why CNN never bought the riff to use for a news program. So the song is very strong, yet almost comes across as too polished. You Bet Your Life has a very quirky, sing-along-chorus featuring the guys extrapolating on all of the relgions, beliefs, opinions, politics, and even music tastes that one chooses. Remember, it's all about "taking a chance". It's a little to hoaky, though. It probably would have made a great commercial for sugarless charm.

Ironically, some of the best music here is the least known. Now that Rush had such a plethora of material under their belt, they couldn't really feature the majority of a new album on a tour anymore. Their catalog was just too huge. So great tunes such as The Big Wheel, Face Up, and even Neurotica seem a bit like postage stamps – they were licked once and never heard from again.

Then there's Dreamline and Bravado, the one-two punch that leads off the record that is, without a doubt, the most well-known songs here. Personally, I've always thought the pair to be a tad overrated – but they do sound a lot better in concert. We also have the return of the long-awaited, elusive instrumental in Where's My Thing?. It's magnificent, and one really does wish they would release more instrumentals.

So kudos for the guys for "taking a chance". This album probably won't rate on anyone's favorites, but there are plenty of good things to go around, and it's always nice to see the band expand their horizons.


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