Okay, so we all know “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of Radio,” but the real genius of Rush lies not just in the deep cuts but in the awesome parts buried within every song. Even the lamest Rush misfire offers morsels of supreme (usually instrumental) righteousness, and every Rush fan has his or her — oh, who are we kidding, “his” — favorites. Here are eight of the best, in no particular order, with timings so you can skip the boring parts and go straight to the awesomeness.
ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE (1976): “BY-TOR AND THE SNOW DOG” (4:21-9:05) | Here’s the real deal: live, without a net, they go careering off from the studio version and, suddenly, you have it all: drum fills within drum fills, bludgeoning syncopated runs, zany guitar solos ending in psychotic pick slides, and several minutes of æthereal vastness and eeriness that is, I suppose, the part where By-Tor is crossing the tundra at night during a blizzard or something. Play this to your 10-year old and he’ll be digging around for Amon Düül II vinyl within the year. Did I mention flanged drums?
CARESS OF STEEL (1975): “THE FOUNTAIN OF LAMNETH PT II: DIDACTS & NARPETS” (4:15-5:17) | Inexplicably buried within an otherwise lackluster six-part side-long epic, what we have here is Neil Peart with a studio drum solo the way it should be: a minute long and ending with an unintelligible backwards shout.
PERMANENT WAVES (1980): “NATURAL SCIENCE” (2:20-2:55) | Your standard Rush Mr. Wizard epic gets hijacked at the two-minute mark by a bizarre oscillation that propels the tune into Hawkwind-on-steroids.
VAPOR TRAILS (2002): “CEILING UNLIMITED” (3:30-4:08) | A sudden shift from anthemic U2 bluster into full-throttle riffola ensues, and Geddy Lee’s bass overpowers in a way that you seldom hear from him. This is Rush at their most face-melting and pulverizing.
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE (1984): “KID GLOVES” (2:30-3:00) | Even as guitarist Alex Lifeson was shedding his bell-bottomed ’70s overblown style for a blazer-with-shoulder-pads ’80s effect-laden thing, he still displayed bursts of gonzo enthusiasm as he does here, in a passage that suggests a particularly rambunctious Andy Gill ditching Gang of Four to jam with the Police.
RUSH IN RIO (2003): “YYZ” (0:15-0:40) | Did I say that Rush have a rabid fan base? Exhibit A is this 35-second live snippet, wherein you hear an entire fútbol stadium singing (or humming?) along in unison — to an instrumental. In a tricky time signature.
HOLD YOUR FIRE (1987): “TAI SHAN” (2:30-2:57) | Geddy Lee tends to get a bad rap as a vocalist, but for every moment of screeching bird-of-prey skronk in the Rush catalogue, you can find some beautiful double-tracked choruses like this one, where typical late-’80s echo-drenched production is actually suitable and appropriate.
RUSH (1973): “WORKING MAN” (6:38-7:10) | Coming at the culmination of this pile-on of crude Zeppisms on Rush’s pre-Peart debut, Lifeson’s frantic string bending kicks into overdrive, and you have what is probably the most conventionally rocktastically satisfying ending of a song in the whole Rush catalogue.