So, another day with a y in it and another live Rush album. In other news, the sun rose in the east today. Yeah, a bit snidey, maybe. Reasonable though, surely, given the plethora of live Rush product; CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, box sets etc, currently available, to shrug and succumb to an entirely understandable feeling of weariness?
Of course a career that spans four decades, over thirty official album and DVD releases and featuring a comparable number of stylistic shifts, means there’s always room for a new spin. The spin, in this instance, being the inclusion of ‘Moving Pictures’ in its entirety. Long regarded, rightfully, as one of their very best albums, its significance is considerable, straddling, as it does, the space between the old, guitar-oriented proggy Rush and the modern, streamlined, synth-based band of ‘Signals’ and the then aptly-titled, ‘Grace Under Pressure’. Its inclusion as the album’s centrepiece, in its correct running order, is something of a masterstroke and who wouldn’t want to hear again, ‘Tom Sawyer’, ‘Limelight’ and the magical ‘Red Barchetta’ in the white-hot heat of live performance?
The set-list is the main attraction including, as it does, songs from every single era of the trio’s career. So ‘Working Man’ and ‘Subdivisions’ are both here. The effervescent ‘The Spirit of Radio’ precedes ‘Time Stands Still’ and their three greatest instrumentals, ‘YYZ’, ‘La Villa Strangiato’ and ‘Leave That Thing Alone’, are unleashed in all their stunning virtuosic glory. On paper, then, mouth-watering and a must-have chunk of product, right? Well, not quite. Sad to say ‘Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland’ is marred by the weakest vocals this fine act has ever committed to disc. The normally octave-leaping, gravity-defying, helium-voiced Geddy Lee is tired, breathless and all too often wincingly out of key. The contrast between the sub-par singing and the instrumentally flawless playing couldn’t be more marked and that’s a crying shame, frankly.
Of course, the last half a dozen studio albums have signalled a move in his tessitura from the stratospheric yodelling of yore to a more conventional mid-range tenor and that’s both entirely acceptable and, given advancing years, equally understandable. Maybe even inevitable. Unsurprisingly, then, it’s the older tracks, from the band’s 70s golden period, where failings are most apparent.
This is Rush, though, and there is simply too much quality, both within the songs and in their live deliveries, to mean this is a terrible album. Fanatics and casual listeners alike will find ample reason for the band’s deserved status as the biggest and best cult band on the planet. Indispensible it isn’t, though, and who’d have thought that would ever be said of a live Rush album?
For more information visit the official Rush website.