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Hard Rock & Metal and Rock album by Rush

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Rush Gives Some Feedback to Their Influences

  • Mar 24, 2005
Pros: Very close covers featuring Rush's unique sound

Cons: For what it's Worth should NEVER be covered. Paying full price for eight songs

The Bottom Line: GET it. Don't BUY it. 17 bucks for eight songs? That's just greedy.

Don’t ask me what the point was, because I have no idea. It’s really not a point worth pondering anyway. I have to admit, though, that it does cause big fans of Rush like myself to wonder: 30 years of original music and fantastic lyrics, 30 years of being renowned as the love-them-or-hate-them thinking man’s rock band, and 30 years of having a strict no-covers policy. What would suddenly cause Rush to abandon all that on a whim and record an entire CD - or more of an extended single, really - comprised entirely of old songs which were NOT written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart?

With the release of Feedback, it would seem that Hell froze over. (Again. Hell seems to be freezing over a lot these days. I didn’t think the Red Sox would win the World Series either. Or that George W. Bush would win the popular vote.) But it actually makes sense, in a weird way of its own. One thing I’ve always admired about Rush is their willingness to boldly tread where few musicians dare - into the realm of possible fan alienation in the name of their art. In that way, Feedback could be considered normal.

Enough chat - time to tell you if Feedback is worth the dough. Ultimately, the answer is yes and no. Yes because the band delivers re-interpretations of great classic songs piece by piece but with their own unique spin, and no because they’re asking full price for eight songs which clock in at just over a half hour.

Feedback kicks off with one of the great immortal pop singles - Summertime Blues. The beginning chord sounds like something out of a Nirvana song, but after a few seconds, Alex kicks in with his clean flight-of-the-bumblebee style. The way Summertime Blues is performed sounds every bit as ruffian as the original version. The difference is that the band that performed the original version sounded untamed in many respects. While Rush doesn’t sound untamed, they do an outstanding job of pretending. The result is a more techno-sounding style to the song, and the song on Feedback that arguably sounds closest to its parent.

The second song on Feedback is called Heart Full of Soul, and I’ve never heard the original version of it. The Rush version contains a very hard quality which will remind fans of their very first single, Working Man. Geddy takes the opportunity to use his full vocal range, and Alex doesn’t concentrate on guitar flash so much as adding substance to the song. Heart Full of Soul is the best song on Feedback in my opinion.

The best song on Feedback is immediately followed by the worst. Rush makes a big mistake by attempting to cover the classic protest song For what it’s Worth. The problem with For what it’s Worth is that the original version of the song had an atmosphere to it which really caught the atmosphere of a protest. It was the atmosphere which really made it the classic that it is. Rush makes the mistake of cleaning the roughness out of it, and so the song loses its atmosphere and, as a corollary, its impact. This is actually a problem that runs rampantly throughout Feedback. Rush cleans a lot of the songs, and they lose something in translation. But while they usually add enough Rush to get away with it, that’s simply impossible on For what it’s Worth. It’s just one of those songs that just wasn’t meant to be covered.

The classic Who song The Seeker is next, and excessive cleaning again rears its head. Those familiar with the original version of The Seeker know just how wildly Roger Daltry sang in The Who’s version. Geddy Lee sounds a lot more restrained, even at the end of the final chorus when Daltry yelled out with everything he had. The result, however, is a sound that’s more sincere than the original version. Whether or not it’s better than the original is debatable, but the restraint Rush shows makes it much more introspective. (Which makes me think The Seeker’s inclusion was lyricist Neil Peart’s idea, Peart being known for writing such spiritually questioning lyrics.)

Mr. Soul has a soul-sounding quality to it. I’ve never heard the original version. The version Rush presents us with has a heavy bass and drum sound, with Alex just providing some background noise with his guitar until about halfway through the song. Once Alex really begins to kick in, however, he still avoids intruding on the bass and drums. Geddy’s vocals are again restrained and they have an echo sound at certain points. The echo isn’t as heavy as it was on Rush’s last studio effort, Vapor Trails, but it’s there. Mr. Soul is probably the most restrained song on Feedback besides For what it’s Worth.

Neil’s time to shine is on Seven and Seven is. Throughout the song, he pounds out a very fast drum cadence which, alone, would sound like the Vapor Trails song One Little Victory. While light in atmosphere, Seven and Seven is sounds closest to a Vapor Trails song speaking strictly from a technical standpoint. The drums, Geddy’s restrained voice, and the echo effect dominate the song. If not for Alex playing a much wilder guitar, you could place this song on Vapor Trails and no one would notice.

There’s a bouncy sound to Shapes of Things. The drum beats are more spaced out from each other than on any other song, and a bit louder. Alex’s guitar strums are also on the light side, and spaced for a good chunk of the song. Geddy still carries a restraint, but it sounds like it belongs there.

Feedback closes with a Rush spin of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads. For a cover of a song by a guitar legend like Clapton, it’s odd that Alex would choose this time on Feedback to restrain himself. But the original Crossroads has a blues sound, so restraint on Alex’s part would be expected. As a band, Alex, Geddy, and Neil all play equal parts in creating the sound for Crossroads, and the result is an outstanding cover which ties with Summertime Blues as the best cover on Feedback. Alex does get a chance to wail on his guitar during the solo, but once the solo is over, Rush goes right back to performing as a band. Rush succeeded in creating an accurate cover while putting their typical Rush sound into Crossroads.

Rush has created an excellent album of cover songs, but the lack of material (just those eight songs) and the awful cover of For what it’s Worth will result in my docking it a full star. Feedback is good, but whether or not you’re willing to pay 17 bucks for eight songs is up to you.


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More Feedback reviews
review by . September 19, 2004
posted in Music Matters
I've been a huge Rush fan since the early 80's. The guys were GREAT on their 30th Anniversary Tour (I saw them in Pittsburgh); it was an amazing experience! They played 3 of the songs from the CD "Feedback", and I have to admit, other than Summertime Blues, I had never heard of the others.    So I eventually got the Feedback CD in June, and was pleasantly surprised! Like I said, all of the songs save one were unfamiliar to me, so I had nothing to compare them to. A few of the …
review by . June 30, 2004
I'm so pleased Rush made this album. As they hit the road for their 30th Anniverssary Tour, I think this new collection of songs gives them breath of fresh air. They get to sing some new stuff, just for fun, without the pressure of writing new material. For me, each number is fun, but I do have some favorites. THE SEEKER, for me, is one of the best half dozen or so WHO songs, but it never gets played anymore. Rush (and particularly Geddy on vocals) cover it brilliantly and faithfully. CROSSROADS …
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As they celebrate a thirty-year career of filling arenas, selling tens of millions of albums and playing songs with which a generation of rock fans came of age, visionary rock legends Rush decided to have a little fun with the music they grew up with. Featuring covers of songs by The Who, The Yardbirds, Love, Cream, Buffalo Springfield and more, the trio’s new EP Feedback is a rocking good time for anyone who loves Rush or just classic rock & roll. Drummer Neil Peart, in the album’s liner notes, explains, "It was April of 2004, but Geddy, Alex, and I were channeling back to 1966 and 1967, when we were thirteen- and fourteen-year-old beginners. We thought it would be a fitting symbol to commemorate our thirty years together if we returned to our roots and paid tribute to those we had learned from and were inspired by. We thought we might record some of the songs we used to listen to, the ones we painstakingly learned the chords, notes, and drum parts for, and even played in our earliest bands. The tracks on this collection are songs we liked from the era that we thought we could ‘cover’ effectively (meaning not too many backing vocals), and have some fun with. The music celebrates a good time in our lives, and we had a good time celebrating it."
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Label: Atlantic , Wea
Artist: Rush
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock & Metal
Release Date: June 29, 2004
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