After several delays, Audio Fidelity finally released Rush’s 1993 Counterparts, the band’s 15th studio album, on the remastered SACD format on March 5. It is the sixth Rush studio album tackled by the reproduction company and the first not released in the 24K Gold format. SACD, a super audio CD, is a high resolution, read-only optical audio disc.
Counterparts almost gave Rush their first #1 album if not for that decade’s overhyped grunge movement propelling Pearl Jam’s Vs. to the top. It seems to be an overlooked album not just by fans but the band too. Rush did play two tracks from the album during the 2010 Time Machine tour after more or less dismissing the album since its original release. Strangely, Counterparts feels as though it’s fallen through the cracks much like Vapor Trails.
Let it be said, Counterparts is one of Rush’s finest efforts.
Listening to the 11-track album again for the first time, on the SACD format, felt crisp and unhindered. Whether or not the placebo effect is at play here is anyone’s guess but Neil Peart’s snare and high-hat seemed accentuated more so than the initial release. Kevin “Caveman” Shirley conducted the original recording and made a distinct effort to locate the microphones around Peart’s drum kit for maximum effect. This was evident 20 years ago when Rush fans first heard “Animate.”
Geddy Lee’s voice sounds sharp, is sometimes delicate, and other times refreshingly biting (check out the intro to “Double Agent”). The singing is reminiscent of Lee’s vocals on 1991’s Roll the Bones – perhaps Lee’s finest vocal hour especially when listened to with headphones. On RTB, producer Rupert Hine noted he did not want Lee sounding “shrill” and encouraged him to sing an octave lower. Lee seems to retain much of that lower register on Counterparts but his high notes are masterful particularly on “Everyday Glory.”
Alex Lifeson’s guitar work, especially on the acoustic, tends to stand out a bit better too. Background strumming is a little more clear for instance on “Nobody’s Hero” and his staccato rhythms are notable throughout. “Between Sun and Moon” is a solid performance.
Again, it’s anyone’s guess if the remastered edition does indeed fully transcend the limitations of the original recording however listening to the album in an enclosed space such as a car with a quality audio system does seem to reveal these subtleties. Transferring back and forth between the original and the remastered version is a little useless once your ears have listened to the SACD and you know what to listen for.
However, the re-release of Counterparts hopefully brings backs attention to the album. It is a prog rock masterpiece and features some of Rush hardest and edgiest music from their 90’s catalog with “Animate” and “Stick It Out” and two of the bands most emotionally expressive songs, “Everyday Glory” and “Nobody’s Hero.” The latter saw live action but “Everyday Glory” has yet to be played from the stage.
An album’s final track is often a throwaway for many bands and the final track on the album “Everyday Glory” might be considered banal by some, however we’re talking about Rush (though even the most ardent fan has to admit the band has at least one) and fillers never served a purpose. “Everyday Glory” is one of the band’s best songs. Ever. Peart’s lyrics, Lifeson’s melody and that guitar solo(!), and Lee’s vocals combine to create a harmonious, emotionally filled and intensely uplifting song that I’ll take over “Tom Sawyer” any day of the week.
So is it worth the extra money? The packaging is a step down from the 24k releases. Avid Rush fans pre-ordered the album so unless you fit in that category or consider yourself an audiophile and/or musician who appreciates classic rock performances then you’d be OK with the original recording. Just remember, these CDs are numbered and limited edition, and all of Rush’s other Audio Fidelity releases sold out.
Audio Fidelity’s aim is to reproduce the sound of albums without the irregular plated surfaces of standard aluminum discs. Original mixes played back on a specially constructed playback deck get used in the remastering.
Rush Counterparts Track List:
- Stick It Out
- Cut To The Chase
- Nobody’s Hero
- Between Sun and Moon
- Alien Shore
- The Speed of Love
- Double Agent
- Leave That Thing Alone
- Cold Fire
- Everyday Glory