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4.40 | 146 ratings | 11 reviews
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Album · 1978

Filed under Hard Rock


1. Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres: I. Prelude / II. Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom / III. Dionysus: Bringer of Love / IV. Armageddon: The Battle of Heart and Mind / V. Cygnus: Bringer of Balance / VI. The Sphere: A Kind of Dream (18:08)
2. Circumstances (3:44)
3. The Trees (4:45)
4. La Villa Strangiato (9:34)

Total Time: 36:12

40th Anniversary Edition CD 2 & Super Deluxe LP 2/3:

Live At Pinkpop Festival, June 4, 1979:
1. A Passage To Bangkok (4:03)
2. Xanadu (12:32)
3. The Trees (5:10)
4. Cygnus X-1 Book Ii: Hemispheres - The Sphere A Kind Of Dream (0:54)
5. Closer To The Heart (3:16)
6. La Villa Strangiato (11:22)
7. In The Mood (2:37)
8. Drum Solo (7:31)
9. Something For Nothing (4:21)
10. 2112 (Live In Arizona, November 20, 1978) (19:46)

40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition BD Bonus videos:

5. Circumstances (1978 Promo Video)
6.The Trees (1978 Promo Video)
7. La Villa Strangiato (1978 Promo Video)
8. La Villa Strangiato (Live at Pink Pop Festival: June 4th, 1979)


- Geddy Lee / Bass guitar, Mini Moog, Oberheim polyphonic, Taurus pedals, vocals
- Alex Lifeson / Six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, classical guitar, Roland guitar synthesizer, Taurus pedals
- Neil Peart / Drums, orchestra bells, bell-tree, tympani, gong, cowbells, temple blocks, wind chimes, crotales

About this release

Studio album
29 October, 1978
Produced by Rush and Terry Brown

Notable reissues:
Remastered by Anthem/Mercury in 1997.
Remastered and reissued with bonus material and new artwork as the 40th Anniversary edition in 2018. Available as a 2CD set and a super deluxe version with 3LP+2CD+BD.

1978 - Anthem(Canada): gatefold + coloured vinyl
1978 - Mercury(US)(Europe): gatefold
1987 - Anthem(Canada) CD
1990 - Mercury(US)(Europe) CD
1997 - Anthem(Canada) CD: remastered
1997 - Mercury(US)(Europe) CD: remastered
2009 - Warner Music(Japan) CD: CD sized album replica, gatefold, remastered, limited edition

Thanks to cannon, Time Signature, Pekka for the updates


More places to buy metal & RUSH music


Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Hemispheres" is the 6th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records (US/Europe)/Anthem Records (Canada) in October 1978. It´s the successor to "A Farewell to Kings" from 1977. Rush completed their 9 months long tour in support of "A Farewell to Kings (1977)" in May 1978, and after a very short break, entered Rockfield Studios in Wales in June 1978 with producer Terry Brown, to begin work on material for "Hemispheres". The band entered the studio with no pre-written material and worked tirelessly to write and record throughout June and July 1978, after which they were finally allowed some time off from recording and touring.

Stylistically the material on "Hemispheres" continue the progressive rock style of the predecessor with some natural development of style and sophistication. "Hemispheres" features four tracks. The 18 minutes long "Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres" filled side 1 of the original vinyl version of the album, while the two shorter rockers "Circumstances" and "The Trees" filled side 2 along with the 9 minutes long instrumental album closer "La Villa Strangiato".

"Hemispheres" is a well produced affair and it´s mostly not audible that the band were rushed into the studio with next to no written ideas for songs. But on the other hand neither "Circumstances" nor "The Trees" are the most remarkable tracks in the band´s discography, so maybe the songwriting was rushed just a little bit. The highlights of the album are definitely the long epic i>"Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres" and the playful instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". Even those two tracks could also have featured a more fluent structure, as they are both obviously created using many shorter compositions/pieces of music. I know that´s how Rush also wrote earlier long epics like "2112" and "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage", but here it just seems more pronounced.

With that minor complaint out of the way, "Hemispheres" is overall another high quality progressive rock release by Rush, and a natural successor to "A Farewell to Kings (1977)". Rush are incredibly well playing and lead vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee reaches helium heights with his voice here like he would never do again. "Hemispheres" is Rush most progressive hour, and after this album they would tone down the progressive playing style a bit and focus on a more subtle (or at least less focused on technical playing) progressive rock style (with exceptions). A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.
Hemispheres is the sixth studio album from hard rock/progressive rock band Rush.

With 2112 and A Farewell to Kings firmly placing the band in the royal court of spacey heavy rock/metal bands, Hemispheres sees Rush continue in the style of the previous album. This is only fitting, as the grand finale of A Farewell to Kings's "Cygnus X-1" was a bit of a cliffhanger. So here comes Book II of Cygnus X-1.

The "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" suite takes the spot as Rush's third longest song, clocking in at just over eighteen minutes. This title track moves all over the place, with many different riffs and passages. While this worked so well in "Cygnus X-1" and "2112", it honestly doesn't work well here. There's a few cool riffs, especially the sharp metal march at the beginning, but it's overall not as exciting as previous epics and my mind starts to wander after a while. The problem is that there are just too many ideas here, without the time to let it all play out. "2112", while longer, kept things fresh but at the same time kept things going long enough for the listener to enjoy one passage. Here, as soon as I start really getting into a sweet riff, it's gone.

Despite the main event being a bit of a snooze-fest, the three other songs featured are more enjoyable. "Circumstances" is probably my favorite on the album, with killer riffing and showing Peart's lyrics becoming less sci-fi and more philosophical. "The Trees" shows Peart's lyrical genius as well, with some of the greatest metaphorical lyricism I've ever heard. The finale, "La Villa Strangiato" is a bonafide classic and one of the greatest instrumentals of all time. Despite being all over the place like the title track, "La Villa Strangiato" makes it all work. It all flows smoothly together, with rumbling bass, guitar shredding, and crazy drum work. So many musical styles are packed in, ranging from space rock, shredding heavy metal, jazzy swing drum/bass interplay, to serene guitar harmonies reminiscent of Santana in his prime.

If the opening suite, which is half of the album, wasn't so boring this would be a masterpiece. While half of it is boring, the rest of the album is absolutely killer and keeps you at the edge of your seat. The second half of the album is so killer, that it's worth listening. Just don't expect any "2112" with the title track.

Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!
Beyond the black hole

Often referred as one of RUSH's best albums alongside "2112" and "Moving Pictures", "Hemispheres" extends the musical approach and story developed on "A Farewell To Kings". Still consisting in sophisticated changing tracks, uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms with fantasy / sci-fi lyrics, the musicians develop their neo-hard/heavy progressive identity they've been crafting in their two previous opuses. Unlike its 1977 predecessor, there are no filler songs here, the quality and inspiration remain constant this time.

The story of "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" begins where the first book stopped. Initially describing the descent into a black hole, the second book explores what's beyond this spatial singularity and the possible conflicts between the two cerebral hemispheres, by mixing Greek mythology and philosophy. This 20 minutes epic is in the same neo-heavy-prog vein as the suites from RUSH's two previous albums. It alternates soft, calm and rocking passages but is a bit lengthy. Nice, although not as dark and epic as "Book One" or as remarkable as "2112".

"Circumstances" is a powerful heavy rock in the style of "Something for Nothing" from "2112". Geddy Lee even sings a part of the lyrics in French: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". It rocks! "The Trees" is social fable narrating the battle between two tree species, the oaks overshadowing the maples. At the end, Man comes to cut all trees down, making them equal in death. This song includes nature and bird sounds and features acoustic and nervous changing passages. Another very good track. However, the genuine highlight of the record is clearly the great mini-epic "La Villa Strangiato", RUSH's best instrumental with "YYZ". Here, all musicians deploys their talents and personality through multiple soli showing their virtuosity at their respective instruments, supported by complex rhythm structures. The music itself offers a wide range of various ambiances: Spanish, trippy, beautiful, hard rock, heroic, and even prog metal and little jazzy moments. Original and mindblowing, this composition alone justifies the listen!

Apart from "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" which may be a little repetitive and not as inspired as the other songs, the overall quality of the disc is much more constant than its predecessor's. Unique at the time, the Canadians develop their identity and still manage to bring something new to the progressive world in the late 70's during the punk revolution, when the British elders were rather getting away from it. No other band was offering such neo-heavy-prog at the time. No wonder they strongly influenced DREAM THEATER.

"Hemispheres" is indeed one of RUSH's best albums, maybe the most progressive in terms of structure. Highly recommended!

This sixth studio release is also their last opus to contain 20 minutes suites. The musicians were beginning to find the long epics songwriting too stressful. After this one, the Canadians' music will become a little more accessible, but this does not necessarily means a loss of quality or interest...
siLLy puPPy
HEMISPHERES continues the unique hybrid of hard and progressive rock that RUSH so successfully married together and basically continues where their previous album left off. Literally. I am unaware of any other two-suite composition that ended one album with part one and began the next album with part two. Other than the sci-fi and Greek mythology used to tell the story of how the logical and emotional parts of the human mind are separated into different hemispheres, parts one and two sound very different from one another which makes sense since the different sides of the brain represent two different aspects of human reality. Whereas part one represents the emotional brain and conveys a sense of cohesive flow, part two represents the logical brain and is divided abstractly into several seemingly unrelated parts much as cognitive information tends to be. The results of the second part of “Cygnus X-1” may seem strange at first but I have grown to love it as much as the first part. It's definitely the more demanding listen of the two.

“Circumstances” is a proggy little rocker that is very catchy at the same time. It is basically Neil Peart's introspective take on the time he spent living in the UK which is where both “A Farewell To Kings” and this album were recorded.

“The Trees” remains one of my favorite shorter RUSH tracks which allegorically uses the examples of the different species of trees in competition for the sunlight to represent the trials and tribulations of humanity's own internecine competitive nature to dominate resources for political control. Alex Lifeson just nails it on the beautifully composed classical guitar which belies the hard rockin' tale of the trees that abruptly ends by hatchets, chains and saws.

“La Villa Strangiato” like “Xanadu” is one of my personal all-time musical compositions which has the honor of taking more time to compose and record by itself than most of RUSH's earlier albums. It has also been cited as the straw that broke the camel's back in the tension created by ever upping the progressive ante but what a way for RUSH to end their full-on prog stint. This 9 ½ minute masterpiece is divided into 12 parts which all string together effortlessly. There is even a 20 second part that begins at 5:49 into the song which uses a riff called “Powerhouse” written by cartoon jazz master Raymond Scott.

HEMISPHERES is another huge winner in my book. Unfortunately more albums like this were not to be :(
The followup to Farewell to Kings takes the approach of that album, cranks it up to eleven, and also sees Rush experimenting with an increased presence of synthesisers and keyboards in their work. Whilst these experiments would yield the sound of albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures - foreshadowings of which can be heard here and there on this album - Hemispheres itself is a rather muddled beast.

Side one is dominated by the title track, the sequel to Cygnus X-1 on the previous album - although both thematically and musically, it couldn't be more different. Cygnus X-1 is a spacey number about a guy who deliberately steers his spaceship into a black hole out of his burning curiosity to see what was on the other side. It was tight, cohesive, had different sections seamlessly melded together through tight changes of time signature, and it rocked like you wouldn't believe.

Hemispheres, conversely, is a bit more of a mess. It's a fantasy story about the conflict between the gods of reason and emotion and how eventually they install a mortal to adjudicate the balance between them. So far, so prog. The problem is that it's yet another Rush epic that, like the bad old days of Caress of Steel, just doesn't have sufficient ideas to fill its running time. What's more, the different sections feel hastily pasted together, almost as though they are separate songs that happen to run together. The same was true to an extent of 2112 of course, but 2112 both rocked harder and kept the listerner's interest far more than Hemispheres, and didn't repeat itself nearly so often.

On the second side we have two throwaway tracks - Circumstances, which sounds like a reject from side two of 2112, and the heavy-handed political allegory of The Trees. But at least we also have the album's saving grace - La Villa Strangiato, a 9 minute instrumental track which both acts as the culmination of their prog-above-all period and as the transition to the next phase of their career. Ducking and weaving at a breakneck pace through a range of different moods, juggling time signatures without breaking a sweat with each band member soloing like their lives depend on it, it's everything that the title track should have been but wasn't.

Still, one really awesome track isn't enough to save an album that is otherwise rather inessential. Harsh, maybe, but there's no getting away from the fact that this is a very transitional album which would have got a significantly lower rating were it not for the wonders of La Villa.
Definitely my favourite Rush album; Hemispheres is a superb classic album from the Canadian band and can genuinely described as epic, a word that is often over-used but in this case I feel appropriate.

The album contains the concert classic 'The Trees,' which is a truly fantastic song with intelligent songwriting and memorable melodies. I defy you to listen to it for the first time without singing it in your head for weeks afterward!

As if that wasn't enough, it also contains the diverse instrumental track 'La Villa Strangiato,' which of course is a stone cold classic beloved by all Rush fans; the multi part instrumental influences bands as far as Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Tool and even Mastodon.

The least know song on here, 'Circumstances,' is still great, catchy and memorable, even if at times it seems to be ignored or overlooked.

The reason to buy this album however is for the side-long almost-title track 'Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres,' which in my opinion is one of the greatest songs ever written. Sometimes among Rush fans there is argument as to whether it is better than 'Cygnus X-1, Book 1,' or not, or even whether their other side-long suite '2112,'eclipses it, but I feel it beats both if only by a whisker. (Both are undeniable classics after all.)

The track, representing half an album's worth of music is full of creativity, astounding musicianship and brilliant recurring themes tied together nicely. There is so much to like all packed into the one grand track.

The haunting segment where Geddy sings `I Have memory an awareness but I have no shape or form...I have passed on to Olympus,' often sends a chill down the spine.

The lyrics are fantastic throughout in fact; the music is furious, almost mind bending prog-metal... with heroic sounding guitar solos, great synths and of course one of the world's greatest drummers. To top it all off, Geddy Lee the bassist/singer puts down the performance of his life. As I've already stated, it is simply one of the greatest songs ever written.

To summarise; this is the best Rush album there is in my opinion, which is a big statement considering the wealth of classic albums that Rush have in their catalogue, and I would honestly say that it is possibly one of the greatest albums their is.

Standing proud beside classics like 'Dark Side of the Moon,' 'In The Court Of The Crimson King,' and 'Close To The Edge,' you cant go wrong with Hemispheres.
If you want a good Rush album, Hemispheres is a good choice. Blasting forth with the second Cygnus X-1 track, which is a spectacular song, the album sets out on a great foot. Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres starts out with a nice melody. As the song progresses, the great melodies and part changes don't stop. The mythological allusions are great, as are most of Peart's lyrics. Despite its long length, it flows beautifully and it flies by quite quickly, so don't be discouraged by the fact that it is eighteen minutes long.

Circumstances institutes that great essence of Rush that is progressive yet is so damn catchy. With great lyrics and great melodies and rhythms, this song is a wonderful track; I can see why it was chosen as a single.

The Trees is a great sing not only because of its nice acoustic intro, but also because of those lyrics. Detailing how Canada (the maples) feels that America (the oaks) feels diminished by America's fame and prowess, it presents and very poignant problem, and how we should and shouldn't address it.

La Villa Strangiato is such a spectacular song. Being a drummer myself, I am always awed by Neil Peart's drum work. With this song, I cannot stop whatever I'm doing when listening and wonder at Rush's great musicianship, all of them! With mystic solos by Alex, blistering and complex riffs from Neil and spectacular bass lines, this instrumental is definitely a showcase of the bands great musical talent.

ALBUM OVERALL: Rush's true masterpiece, away from Moving Pictures. With the epic conclusion to Cyngnus X-1, the band really shows off their epic long-song muscles and beats the crap out of you with them. Side B doesn't slow down, with two classic hits and a smashing instrumental that shows the band's amazing instrumental ability. 5+ stars.
THEIR BEST ALBUM! I don't care what anyone says, this is my all time favoruite Rush album and one of my all time favourite albums.

My brother was actually arguing with me, this morning, saying that he found this album to be weak, and I nearly broke my pacifism pledge and just smack him with any thing I could find.

This song has it all really, the best epic they ever made, the 2 best Rush album tracks and their best instrumental (YYZ is nothing compared to La Villa Strangiato.

This was also the last Rush album to be released in the 70's and the slow electronic and pop disease started to take over them, but what a way to go.

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres - Their best epic. This song is amazing in every way, the amazing lyrics based on Greek mythology, along with Neal Peart's amazing imagination. This song, which is mainly based around E, really does take you on an amazing journey. In my opinion, the prologue of this song is better than the Overture on 2112.I love how the Mind & Heart sections have the same occuring themes & similar structure in order to give a sense of balance (the main topic of this song). After a very confusing battle and a nice ambient section in Cygnus, the end follows off with an amazing folk like chord section and some great vocals from Geddy. The pefect way to end the most perfect epic ever made.

2. Circumstances - The more upbeat song of the album. Love the chorus, and the French which give it a French-Canadian added culture. Amazing instrumental section with some great moog playing from Geddy. Amazing vocal performance from Geddy.

3. The Trees - This song always lyrically reminds me of Lord Of The Rings (Ents). The lyrics of this song are very fable and quite Grim Fairytale like. The instrumental sections are amazing and really show what a band Rush are. Amazing song.

4. La Villa Strangiato - Rush's best instrumental. Very lyrical and the occurring themes make the song alo more enjoyable. Flawless.

CONCLUSION: Their best album. That's all I need to say.

Conor Fynes
'Hemispheres' - Rush (7/10)

The concept of 'Hemispheres' can be seen in the album art, read in the title, and heard in the music and lyrics. The concept of 'art versus science' has long been an interesting debate, and Rush address the topic in the best way they know how, through intelligently constructed science fiction lyrics and an epic song length. Wrapping up the story the was started in 'A Farewell To Kings,' 'Cygnus X-2: Hemispheres' has the greatest lyrics Neil Peart has ever written, as well as some great music that feels like Rush's most cohesive epic to date (despite the criticism it's gotten for being a tad repetitive.) I've always liked the first side of this album more, but side two is a fantastic three song arc that is only hindered by the mediocre track 'Circumstances.'

The 'war between heart and mind' borrows lyrical elements from philosophy, classic science fiction, and greek mythology and melds it all together into a massive poem that could easily be the topic of a university paper in terms of it's complexity and deepness. While the music isn't up to par with the ingenuity of the lyrics, the flanger guitar is a very interesting addition to the sonic tapestry, and the vocal performance for the acoustic closing chapter 'The Sphere' is very emotive.

The other highlight of the album is the instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato.' Arguably the band's best instrumental, theres some really great guitar work from Alex Lifeson here, possibly his best. Thrown into the mix as well are some homages to ragtime, which are unexpected and bring something new and refreshing to the table. The guitar solo in 'La Villa Strangiato' is one of the best of all time, and it stands as being a Rush classic.

'The Trees,' while being better than 'Circumstances' sort of feels like an extention to lengthen the gap between the two longer songs. 'The Trees' (as shorter Rush songs go) is really cool, and like 'Cygnus X- 2,' the lyrics are of particular appeal.

Despite being only four songs long, Rush has made a prog classic here, and while it's not their most consistent, it's a great addition to their discography. Well done, Rush. My hat is off to you.
THE prog metal masterpiece of 1978; Rush present the most stunning music on the planet.

"Hemispheres" is a classic album from Rush that featured one huge epic track on side 1 of the vinyl and 3 fantastic shorter tracks on side 2. The album is primarily celebrated for the awesome instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato', which may be the best instrumental ever. Both this track and 'The Trees' were featured on "Rush: Gold" a compilation I purchased to taste what this band everyone is talking about actually sounds like. Of course, I ended up getting the entire Rush catalogue, but these two tracks intrigued me enough on first listen to warrant grabbing this album eventually, one of the last Rush purchases in fact for me. I was unaware of how extraordinary the other 2 tracks were so this sealed the deal for me; this album is an astonishing masterpiece.

It starts with the 18 minute multi movement suite 'Cygnus X-1 Book II the sequel to the track on "A Farewell to Kings". I enjoyed the first part to this, with it's spacey resonance and conceptual framework so I hoped this second part would justify its existence. I was not disappointed. It begins with the crunching chords and odd time sig of Lifeson and Peart. Lee's vocals soon enter the fray and the song sets sail for one of the best epics I have heard. Rush know how to structure an epic, '2112' is a prime example, but this epic has an incredible melody, crystalline vocals and very tight musicianship throughout. The lyrics of 'Prelude' are fantastic; "when our weary world was young, the struggle of the Ancients first began, The gods of love and reason, Sought alone to rule the fate of man."

There is a break at 4:30 to herald the next section 'Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom'. Lee's voice is strong as he belts out the new melody, "I bring truth and understanding, I bring wit and wisdom fair, Precious gifts beyond compare, We can build a world of wonder, I can make you all aware, I will find you food and shelter, Show you fire to keep you warm, Through the endless winter storm, You can live in grace and comfort, In the world that you transform." The track has a strong melody that always gives me the chills. When the chorus builds up to a crescendo another melody begins that is perhaps the best section on the entire epic. Lee has an amazing voice and his high vocals are incomparable as he sings with passion and conviction, "The people were delighted, Coming forth to claim their prize, They ran to build their cities, And converse among the wise, But one day the streets fell silent, Yet they knew not what was wrong, The urge to build these fine things, Seemed not to be so strong, The wise men were consulted, And the Bridge of Death was crossed." The thematic content is all based of course on the Greek god mythology and each god addresses what they can bring to the protagonist who searches for meaning. At 6:50 'Dionysus Bringer of Love' begins, the same melody as previous though more subdued with some beautiful guitar picking. It builds to the riff and Lee returns to the chorus section; "the cities were abandoned, and the forests echoed song, They danced and lived as brothers, They knew love could not be wrong, Food and wine they had aplenty, And they slept beneath the stars...".

'Armageddon The Battle of Heart and Mind' section 4 begins at 9:08; a new time sig change entirely, though the same chords are heard. The awesome lead break is a real feature that is phased out and spacey. On this new ascending and descending riff Lee's vocals are more aggressive with a delay effect, "The universe divided, As the heart and mind collided, With the people left unguided, For so many troubled years, In a cloud of doubts and fears, Their world was torn asunder into hollow Hemispheres." The poetic pentameter works perfectly and there is a powerful effect on the sense as we are treated to one riff after another.

At 12:08 the music settles and there is an ethereal ambience when the keyboard pads begin, and the next section is titled 'Cygnus, Bringer of Balance'. It is reminiscent of the spaceyness of the prequel to this track. The atmosphere is definitely one of melancholy tranquillity but the lyrics are unsettling in this section speaking of "a disembodied spirit, I am dead and yet unborn..." It builds and Lee's voice becomes higher and more forceful on; "Then all at once the chaos ceased, A stillness fell, a sudden peace, The warriors felt my silent cry, And stayed their struggle, mystified." This is followed by some divine passages of guitar and then a very soft, gentle calmness is created with minimalist guitar, effectively massaging the senses after the onslaught of power riffing.

At 16:54 the new section begins, a much more moderate Lee with acoustic guitar and sustained keyboard pads. The lyrics are reflective on the chaos that has gone on before on The Sphere: A Kind Of Dream; "We can walk our road together, If our goals are all the same, We can run alone and free, If we pursue a different aim, Let the truth of love be lighted, Let the love of truth shine clear, Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty, With the heart and mind united in a single Perfect Sphere." The ending is abrupt and tends to leave the track up in the air, though there was no sequel to this. I think this track is a bonafide masterpiece.

'Circumstances' has a great chorus with a strong melody and very high vocals; "all the same we take our chances, Laughed at by time, tricked by circumstances, Plus ca change, Plus c'est la meme chose, The more that things change, The more they stay the same..." The chord progression is heavy and the time sig is unusual at times. This track really kicks hard and the live performances I have heard or seen lift the crowd every time. It is genuinely uplifting music with a simplified straight forward power riff. The lead break seems to blend in rather than become a showcase for Lifeson. Another excellent track due to the memorable melody and killer riffs.

I was never a fan of 'The Trees' on the compilation that was sandwiched between two classic tracks, but it tends to work better on this album as it allows breathing space between the hard rocking content of the other tracks. The trees could be an anthem for Greenpeace or other conservationist groups as it really hammers the message about saving the trees from their point of view, if you don't mind. The lyrics are very strange; "So the maples formed a union, And demanded equal rights, 'The oaks are just too greedy, We will make them give us light', Now there's no more oak oppression, For they passed a noble law, And the trees are all kept equal, By hatchet, axe and saw." It may be an allegory for civil war but more likely this is a message from rush to look after the planet, a similar stance to the music of Yes in this regard. The track begins slowly with a sad atmosphere and it eventually builds to a dynamic instrumental break, with innovative riffing and time sigs. The melody is once again endearing and grows on you on each listen. This is the weakest track on the album but is not enough to detract it as it still has some great moments on it. The film clip on the latest Rush DVD is very good too by the way featuring a humorous look at trees versus man; ironic and wonderful.

The last track is the incredible instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' that begins with Spanish flavoured acoustic and then a synthesizer booms in and soon it locks into the fabulous 5 chord synth riff that every Rush fan knows. I saw this on the "Live in Rio" and every one in the crowd was roaring the tune out as the band played in perfect sync. The instrumental is a definitive masterpiece with so much to recommend it. The bassline is wonderful that keeps up with the loud guitar of Lifeson. His lead motifs on this are well executed and stay in the memory long after the music is over. Rather than a filler, this instrumental becomes the highlight of the album and this is unusual. The violining that is heard is dreamy and haunting, and then an absolutely soaring lead solo follows, one of Lifeson's best. He rips it out with fret melting elegance, and then an enchanting riff locks in while a two chord synth progression is layered underneath. The time sig then changes with a passage of lead and then bass solos. There are fantastic drum fills in this too with a lot of jazzy cymbal work. The time sig returns to the original though it is fractured as Lifeson blasts out another brilliant lead solo. Then a back breaking chord structure is crunched out, the bassline is divine here, and it settles into a slow paced bluesy metrical pattern. The main lead motif returns and then the intro section is reprised with the same finesses as heard earlier. After 9 and a half minutes it draws to a close. What an amazing piece of music; stunning virtuoso excellence.

How does one conclude after hearing 4 incredible tracks. This is a masterpiece of heavy prog. Perhaps the best prog album of 1978. Rush refused to sell out to mainstream commercialism in the late 70s, and in fact their music was more progressive than ever on this release. You have to give them credit for that and you have to identify a masterpiece when you hear it, and this is it.

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