Author Alexander Hellene has started posting nifty, in-depth reviews of Rush albums, with the ambitious goal of reviewing and rating every one of the band’s 19 studio albums. So far, he’s only three albums in — which means Caress of Steel.
This album, released in 1975, tanked so hard that it threatened to end the band’s nascent career. Fans didn’t get it and stayed away from the Caress of Steel tour in droves. and the record company ordered the band to produce something commercially viable, as in not that weird, nerdy, complex, experimental/progressive hard rock. (And as all Rush fans know, what followed was not commercial rock, but the astonishingly commercially successful prog-rock masterpiece, 2112.)
But Caress of Steel…that ugly-duckling album that practically nobody liked at the time, and that even the guys in Rush later nominated as the one they loved the least of their musical offspring…
I love Caress of Steel!
It’s weird and uneven and awkward and very 70s, but all the more lovable for it. The 70s were a horrible excuse for a decade, but Caress of Steel and 2112 are proof that if something good can come out of that sea of brown-and-orange-tinted, bell-bottomed hippie garbage, good can be found anywhere.
I didn’t always like it, though. I gave it one or two listens when I bought it and set it aside for years. At the time, I was immersed in the band’s tightly written, synth-laden ’80s oeuvre, and although I loved 2112, and large parts of Caress of Steel aren’t far away from it stylistically, it just didn’t connect. “Bastille Day” was a banger of a song, of course, but “The Necromancer” seemed muddy and unintelligible, and “I Think I’m Going Bald” and “Lakeside Park” seemed like throwaways that just weren’t very good.
Then, 12 years later, I busted out the CD just out of curiosity, put it on the crappy little stereo system in my office at work, and it started to take root and grow on me. I enjoy the heck out of the whole album now, even the “throwaway” stuff.
“The Fountain of Lamneth” — a big, 20-minute progressive-rock epic in several parts — is one of my favorite songs from the entire Rush catalog. Part III, “No One at the Bridge,” and Part V, “Bacchus Plateau,” are wonderfully crafted musical vignettes in the midst of the bigger composition, with the power to take me to another plane of existence. It’s music I want to live in.
And although I hadn’t come around to appreciating the rest of the album at that point, I felt pretty cool when my band learned Bastille Day AND pulled it off live back in the day (which for me was not the 70s, but the 90s). Never felt like I was much of a bass player, but I must’ve been at least okay if I could handle that song. Should’ve given myself more credit. 🙂
Go to Alex’s blog and read the whole Caress of Steel review. And then give that weird old album a listen. You’ll be glad you did.