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4.28 | 137 ratings | 12 reviews
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Album · 1980

Filed under Hard Rock


1. The Spirit of Radio (4:59)
2. Freewill (5:24)
3. Jacob's Ladder (7:31)
4. Entre Nous (4:38)
5. Different Strings (3:52)
6. Natural Science: I: Tide Pools, II: Hyperspace, III: Permanent Waves (9:16)

Total Time: 35:41


- Geddy Lee / bass guitars, Oberheim 8 Voice Synthesizer; OB-1; Minimoog; and Taurus pedal synthesizers, vocals
- Alex Lifeson / six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus pedals
- Neil Peart - drums, tympani, timbales, orchestra bells, tubular bells, wind chimes, bell tree, triangle, crotales

- Erwig Chuapchuaduah / steel drums
- Hugh Syme / piano on "Different Strings"

About this release

Studio album
January 1, 1980
Produced by Rush and Terry Brown

Remastered CD released on May 6, 1997.

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"Permanent Waves" is the 7th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records (US/Europe)/Anthem Records (Canada) in January 1980. It´s the successor to "Hemispheres" from 1978. After completing the 8 months long tour supporting "Hemispheres (1978)", the band felt worn and took a six weeks break, before uniting again to begin writing material for what would become "Permanent Waves". A short tour followed where Rush would introduce some of the new material, and in September 1979 they entered Le Studio in Quebec with producer Terry Brown, where the already written material were given a final brush and enough additional material were written for a full-length release.

"Permanent Waves" marks a bit of a stylistic chance for Rush. After the arguably most progressive period of their career (1976-1978), the band felt a need for change and most of the tracks on "Permanent Waves" are therefore shorter, more immediately catchy, and less complex in structure than the material on the preceding releases. This should not be understood as if this is not progressive or challenging music though, as there are plenty of adventurous songwriting and technincally skillful playing on the album. The progressive parts are just typically a little more subtle or hidden within the context of the songs, allowing more catchy and melodic moments to stand out.

The album opens with "The Spirit of Radio", which on the surface is an almost mainstream pop/rock oriented song, featuring an energetic and uplifting mood, but when you listen a bit more closely it´s quite the complex and intriguing progressive rock composition, featuring many different parts and time signature changes. "Freewill" follows and it´s another album highlight. It´s a catchy and memorable track, but like the preceding track it´s a more complex composition than it may initially appear. "Jacob's Ladder" is a slow building, atmospheric, and ultimately heavy track. It´s quite an epic track and features a total playing time of 7:31 minutes.

"Entre Nous" opens what was Side B of the original vinyl release, and it´s a melodic rock song. Not the most adventurous moment of the album, but still a decent quality composition. "Different Strings" is the mellow power ballad track of the album. Rush had included tracks like that on previous releases too, so the mainstram oriented nature of the song isn´t a surprise. It´s a decent track but not exactly a highlight of the album. The 9:16 minutes long "Natural Science" closes "Permanent Waves". It´s an epic progressive rock track subdivided into three parts titled "I: Tide Pools", "II: Hyperspace", "III: Permanent Waves". It´s by far the most complex and progressive composition on the album and arguably an album highlight.

Rush are as well playing/singing as ever (Geddy Lee´s high pitched voice and singing style are probably as always a deal breaker for some and a great joy for others) and "Permanent Waves" also features a well sounding production job (co-produced by Rush and Terry Brown), which suits the material perfectly. There´s power and bite here and it´s definitely a case of high quality production values. Upon conclusion "Permanent Waves" reeks high class in all departments, from the high level musical performances, to the above mentioned high quality production values, to the intriguing and varied songwriting. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.
Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album from progressive/hard rock band Rush.

Coming into the 80's after the four-track spacey hard rock behemoth of Hemispheres, Rush must have felt that they had exhausted that sound which I do believe they did. Permanent Waves shows a smooth transition from the epic space hard rock of the past few albums and into a more accessible yet still unique style. Don't worry, this isn't Rush becoming a Foreigner or REO Speedwagon, this is still hard rock/heavy metal with space rock elements and philosophical lyricism.

Unlike the past several albums, Permanent Waves features no songs longer than ten minutes, with most songs being 4-5 minutes long. The opening two songs, "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill", propelled the band into popularity with the former still getting tons of radio airplay today. The latter is one of the best on the album. Along with being a catchy song with Peart's usual fantastic lyricism, Alex Lifeson's guitar solo here just shreds. It's easily one of my favorite guitar solos of all time.

The two other short songs, "Entre Nous" and "Different Strings", I feel are criminally underrated. The former is a really good hard rocker in the same vein of "Freewill", while the latter takes a much softer melancholy sound before a killer solo at the end. This is one of Rush's most beautiful songs, and one of my favorites. Lifeson's acoustics and quiet electric guitars, Geddy Lee's vocal performance, Peart's steady drums, and the bittersweet piano all work together to create a sublime song.

The two epic tracks are among Rush's best. "Jacob's Ladder" is a dark and brooding with a symphonic atmosphere and marching riffing. "Natural Science" is easily in my top five Rush songs, having everything that makes Rush and this album so damn great: Shredding solos, a dark yet bittersweet tone, thoughtful lyricism, and all musicians in top form. I can't put my love for this song in words, it's something that you have to listen to rather than read about.

Permanent Waves was the start of a new decade for Rush, and I'm glad they took the length down a bit on this album as the title suite from Hemispheres really suffered from too many ideas and not being gripping enough. The band knew they had burnt out their engines for 20-minute suites, but they didn't make a drastic change. They kept their core sound, while being a bit more accessible which isn't always easy to do. If you like spacey heavy/hard rock this is essential listening. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!
A permanent shift towards the radio waves?

Stuck between the great "Hemispheres" and "Moving Pictures", "Permanent Waves" is RUSH's transition album from ambitious epic suites to more accessible songs. Released January 1st, 1980, this seventh studio opus makes the junction between their 70's neo-heavy-prog style and the more radio-friendly and electronic compositions the Canadians will develop in the 80's. Musically speaking, the synthesizers' presence is growing in the band's universe, and the trio slightly starts to incorporate elements from other genres, such as reggae. Furthermore, the lyrics become more oriented towards human nature, society and technology than fantasy and science-fiction. So, has RUSH abruptly left the progressive sphere? Don't worry seventies fans, this a transitional record, so there are still hard/heavy prog rock/metal pieces with complex rhythms structures, uncommon time signatures and changing atmospheres.

The hit single "The Spirit Of Radio" is powerful and evolving. Simply rocks! In the ending section, RUSH even made their first (slight) incursion in the reggae territory, a style that they will further explore in their next three albums. The hard catchy "Freewill" is also quite nice and contains cool spacey guitar soli. However, the highlight of the disc is undoubtedly the somber progressive "Jacob's Ladder". Referring a meteorological phenomena, this track features multiple time signatures, epic riffs, oppressive metal passages and a spacey interlude. Great!

On the contrary, "Entre Nous" ("Between Us" in English) is a much more conventional rock. Average and not very original, this is the weak song of the record. "Different Strings" is a kind of soft and melancholic ballad, with cover art designer Hugh Syme performing a piano solo. Enjoyable. The disc concludes with the 9 minutes "Natural Science", the longest track. Beginning with river and forest sound effects, this hard/heavy prog metal piece has a few futuristic moments. The ending, named "Permanent Waves", is quite heroic. A pleasant but somehow uneven mini-epic.

"Permanent Waves" is definitively a transitional album, as well as a short one. Despite songs not as remarkable as its predecessor's and its successor's, the quality and inspiration are nonetheless overall constant and the trio's hard/heavy prog rock/metal is still efficient. Even if more accessible, the music should please all fans of the late 70's period of RUSH. Once again, the multiple breaks and complex time signatures may have influenced an important number of progressive metal bands.

That's why there is finally no reason not to give it a listen!
siLLy puPPy
RUSH begins the new phase of their career with an in-yer-face advertisement in the form of “Spirit Of Radio” to begin their 7th studio album PERMANENT WAVES. This leading track not only signifies that they are now more radio friendly and ready to acquire a more diverse following in the process but also it incorporates all of the sounds that represent past, present (of the time) and future RUSH. Throughout their career they have always carried the hard rock torch on every album they put out but on this album they are the closest to a progressive metal sound with a heavy addition of synthesizers to add a thick layer of atmosphere. While they have not totally jettisoned their progressive songwriting prowess that reached its apex on the previous album “Hemispheres,” they have toned it down and packaged it into smaller digestible morsels that fit within the context of radio friendly hard rock. They also added newer 80s elements including hints of new wave and the inclusion of the offbeat and staccato reggae chords of Alex Lifeson.

RUSH found enormous success with this album which honed all their talents and synchronized them giving music lovers something easily digestible and yet complex at the same time. A sound that would take them even further on the following release. The huge airplay that this received is one of the reasons I have neglected this album as I have heard songs like “Spirit Of Radio” and “Freewill” enough for a life time despite them both being excellent tracks. Despite the overplayed tracks this album has a few flaws that have always bugged me. One is that “Jacob's Ladder” has recycled parts of “La Villa Strangiato” that are just too obvious for my tastes. There are other less obvious borrowings from previous works as well. For whatever reason I just can't get into “Entre Nous.” I can come up with no reasonable explanation. It just creates a cognitive dissonance that I cannot reconcile. The real gem in my opinion is the final longer track “Natural Science” which like the leading track perfectly exemplifies the triumvirate of sound that RUSH featured on in the different stages of their career. The difference is that while “Spirit Of Radio” focused more on the newer sounds, “Natural Science” is kind of a respectful farewell to the old as not too many more tracks of this length would be included in their albums. An excellent but not outstanding album in my book.
Having mastered the accepted conventions of prog rock on Farewell to Kings and the title track of 2112, and having taken them to excess on Hemispheres, Rush then set about changing the rules to suit their ever-evolving sound. Not a single song on Permanent Waves has a running time of more than ten minutes, but whilst Rush's revised sound is delivered in radio-friendly portions, the content of the songs themselves is as innovative and technically complex as ever.

Musically speaking, this album sees the band sitting on the cusp between metal and hard rock, with hard rock winning out on most tracks but metal still creeping in here and there, usually when Alex Lifeson decides to get a little wild with his guitar (as on Jacob's Ladder). Neil Peart's drumming is, of course, whilst Geddy Lee breaks out some really excellent bass solos. Thematically, the band steer away from fantasy and allegory in favour of a more direct lyrical message - Freewill, for instance, is a song which proves that you don't have to be angry, accusatory, or downbeat to endorse atheism, whilst opening number The Spirit of Radio is a simple song about the love of music.

But the real genius of the album is how all these ingredients, plus Rush's love of complex time signatures and so forth, is broiught together in perfectly formed little songs that are as catchy as hell, without sacrificing any of the complexity. Many other prog rock bands were trying to make their style more accessible at this time, but this was usually at the price of damping down the whole "prog" aspect of their music and leaning more towards a poppy, mainstream style. Rush were one of the few who accomplished a broadening of their appeal without compromising their musical vision, and Permanent Waves is the album they accomplished this on.
Another famous album by Rush and another problems for me!

This time even bigger problems. The sound is uncompleted with some sharply changes in the tempo, some jazz fusion and new wave elements from the 80s and mixture of repetitions and lack of synchronous. The album is like prelude to something that never comes. The lack of ideas is tangible. It's hard for me to listen to the whole album at once.

The first song - Spirit of the Radio - is very interesting song with three elements that followed one to other constantly, but developed poorly. The second song - Freewill - is weak enough to comment it. The third song - Jacob's Ladder - again roaming between the genres without reasonable inception of the action. This is the typical for the album. The fourth song - Entre Nous - full of meaningless solos and folk rock elements. The fifth song - Different Strings - a low quality ballad. The sixth song - Natural Science - another long and decent progressive song.

An album without unexpected and fresh ideas only for the fans of the band. 2 stars
Ok, another masterpiece, even though they were moving into quite damned territories, Rush still were able to do it better than anyone else. The one thing that I loved about this album was that it was just straight to the point, quite short and compactable and easily digestable with some amazing songs. I always find that short albums can either be good or bad, depending on the quality of all the songs as a whole.

Yes, more synths, less guitar and bass, but a very heavy drum sound.

Neal's lyrics were also probabbly the best they have ever been.

1. The Spirit Of Radio - How can you not love this song, it's basically a prog anthem, and a song that most people use to express their freedom and love of the art of music ( I tend just to use the Telletubbies song, to be honest). Yes, with some amazing guitar work, this song is a classic Rush song.

2. Freewill - Wow, what an amazing bassist Geddy is. God, his fingers must be bleeding everytime he plays this. Great chorus and some amazing guitar work from Alex.

3. Jacob's Ladder - This is a very underlooked Rush song, for some reason it doesn't get the recognition I feel it deserves. The best bits of this song are the accapella sections where Geddy is only accompanied by moog.

4. Entre Nous - In my opinion, the best chorus of the album. I only just noticed that Entre Noue translates to just between us, haha typical me.

5. Different Strings - The more relaxed moment of the album. Great vocals and the atompshere of te song is amazing.

6. Natural Science - It's obvious where Dream Theater got most of their influence from. Yes this song is much shorter than most Rush epics, being just under 10 minutes, but still pretty much affective. Amazing instrumental work, especially from the moog and synthesizers. Amazing song.

CONCLUSION: Their prog years slowly comes to a hault, but this album seems to do them justice, being one of the greatest albums from the 80's.
Conor Fynes
'Permanent Waves' - Rush (9/10)

'Permanent Waves' represents a new stage in the band's development. Musically, the prog was starting to be melded with a new, more commercial approach. It is through this move that Rush experienced it's most commercially acclaimed period. 'Hemispheres' was obviously going to be a hard effort to top, but Rush was able to put together a record that while not beating it's predecessor, harbours a quality and flavour of it's own.

The record starts with one of Rush's most well-known and radio played pieces, 'The Spirit Of Radio.' The guitar work for the signature riff of this song is intense, and is very hard to play. There is prog to be had here, but unlike 'Hemispheres,' which was content to go on along with it's long song lengths and comparatively uncommercial approach, there's also an optimistic radio-friendly sound on here... An AOR sound that helped Rush to become as popular and influential as they are. While commercialism generally is frowned upon (especially by prog audiences) there's no fault here, and it's done in such a way where it only makes the music more listenable.

'Permanent Waves' is an easier album to simply sit down and enjoy, as opposed to '2112' or 'Hemispheres,' which needs a bit of audience participation and attention to really appreciate. It's music that can be played while driving, or while working out. There's good energy here (for the most part, songs like 'Different Strings' convey a more balladesque style.) The 'epic' 'Natural Science' unfortunately is probably the weakest epic Rush ever composed. Taken into consideration though is the fact that the song was written and arranged in a relatively short time (less than a week.) The production and sound effects on the song are very cool, such as the vocal effects towards the middle of the song. 'Natural Science' also has a strange evocation of progressive metal, despite the fact that the genre itself didn't come into major play until ten years later. The 'intense' part of the song sounds like a very fitting precursor to Dream Theater. If you listen to it, you'll know what I mean.

'Permanent Waves' is worthy of five stars, but not an essential masterpiece of progressive music. Despite some very great songs, it has a comparatively less-strong middle section. A great prequel to the band's masterpiece however, 'Moving Pictures.' This album comes highly recommended, even if it's not as highly recommended as the masterworks.
Permanent Waves is the latest album I have purchased of Rush, due to the fact that with my other Rush Cds I had somehow accumulated all but two tracks from this album, at least live versions and some on compilations. However, I am glad I bit the bullet and got hold of this as its an absolute masterpiece and quintessential Rush. It is become one of the top 5 Cds in my Rush collection. The main reason this album works so well as there are no filler tracks. It is a new style of Rush in comparison to previous efforts but it is surprisingly mainstream yet still keeping the aspects of prog.

The first track, 'The Spirit of Radio' was a massive hit for the band and it is easy to see why. It has some of the most endearing and memorable guitar work from Alex Lifeson. Listen to that phased out lead work in the intro, and the way the time signature instantly changes only to kick into a standard 4/4 riff. Geddy Lee's high soprano vocals have never been better and you have to love the lyrics: "Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion, unobtrusive, plays that song that's so elusive, and the magic music makes your morning mood." This example of crazy alliteration that evokes a quirky sense of humour has defined the Rush sound. The track works effectively as a radio jingle promoting the medium, no wonder it was a top 20 UK hit in 1980, one of the greatest rock singles ever. It even features a startling reggae breakdown towards the end that shouldn't work but Rush makes it work because they are masters of song structure. After the words "Concert hall" we hear a crowd roaring, which really adds to the overall effect of the track. Lifeson's wah wah guitar solo is amazing. A short blast of the opening riff and then it ends abruptly.

The next track 'Freewill' is also a terrific prog track with an excellent melody that stays in your head, notably the melodic chorus "you can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." Great stuff and a live favourite.

Another notable track and the main reason for my interest in the album was the standout epic 'Natural Science'. It clocks in at a little over 9 minutes and is a type of multimovement suite with variations of light and shade in three sections. I had heard this on the live "Different Stages" but this, the studio version, way outclasses the live version for production value. Wind chimes, tubular bells, atmospherics, jagged guitar riffs and all manner of instruments merge together on this epic to produce one of the finest recordings of the band.

In conclusion, Permanent Waves is an essential purchase and a good starting point for those interested in Rush.
While sometimes rather straightforward, this is a good Rush release to have. Permanent waves contains pretty much everything in Rush's 'signature sound' of hard rock with prog and will be sure to please the fans, and it contains a few synthesizers in the mix, a sure indicator of what is to come.

As soon as the album kicks off with "The Spirit of Radio", it becomes apparent that this is definetely a more-intelligent-than-average type band. As Alex Lifeson plays a tricky introguitar line to the song Neal Peart and Geddy Lee do some killer bass and drum interplay with complex runs up and down with tricky rhythms clashing with the tempo of the intro. The rest of the song holds little surprises after that, though it's still a fun song.

The rest of the album is similar to the track, though the moods and overal sounds of the songs vary quite a bit. The hard rock sound is by far the most prominent sound on the album, though there is a clear prog influence with some odd times in quite a few songs. However, sometimes the band suffers from using these, like in "Freewill" where it seems that they couldn't come up with a creative vocal line so Lee ended up singing the lyrics note- for-note along with the riff, creating a song which may leave more to be desired than using odd time signatures for the sake of them. However, they make up for this in "Jacob's Ladder", and while using an alternating 5/4 and 6/4 pattern, there are beautiful synths and vocals above the quietly picked guitar.

Of course, the album is still uneven although it does contain a couple standouts. The beginning tracks on side two, "Entre Nous" and "Different Strings", are really not notable softer type songs, sometimes containing more progressive parts, but those parts really don't do anything to bring up the average quality of the songs. Of course, these are followed by "Natural Science", which is a killer track with all the elements that make a great Rush track, with energetic guitar riffs and weird times all over the place, all over a great 9-minute journey. "Natural Science" may possibly be the track that makes the whole album worthwile, along with "Jacob's Ladder"

Overall, it's mostly just a good album. Rush fans will be all over it, and fans of hard rock and prog should enjoy it too.

Members reviews

Permanent Waves is one of the most accessible and commercial records that Rush ever made and I don't mean that in a negative way. The brilliant opening double pack "The Spirit Of Radio" and "Freewill" are catchy and easy to listen to but contain still enough original guitar riffs, rhythm changes and progressive harmonies to satisfy the fans of the last outputs and not only a new target. Those two songs had everything to become two amazing hit singles and are from that point of view probably the two strongest short tracks Rush have ever written in its long and bold career.

The band still proves that they have kept the spirit of their calm and progressive moments with the strong "Jacob's Ladder". Even if one considers the high quality of many epic tracks from the previous records, this song is still a very special gem and has an outstanding atmosphere that makes it stand out and can be considered as a fan favourite on this record. It's a song that grows one you and needs some attention to dig deeper and deeper into its subtle magic.

Just when the band seems to head for a really great album and a top notch rating, something unpredictable happens. There really is a split between the first and the second half of the record. Seen from a purely technical point of view, the following songs are surely well executed and at least interesting to listen to but they sound somewhat cold, intellectual and too technical to me. They simply don't have the magic and warmth of the first three tracks and rate this album way more down than I initially expected.

That's why I feel a little bit weird about this record in the end. It has its great moments and starts very strong but loses my interest towards the end. I would still not consider it as a bad album but one of the good average records in the discography of Rush. It's definitely not the highlight that it could have been in my opinion but it's without the glimpse of a doubt a great record to kick off a wonderful decade of amazing music.

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