Hemispheres, Rush’s last album featuring a sidelong title track, is the latest to receive Audio Fidelity’s remastered touch on the SACD format. It was originally scheduled for release in August but got it’s due last week, not to coincidentally when Vapor Trails received new life with a complete remix overhaul.
Hemispheres, released in 1978, in many respects represents the final sound of what would define 1970s Rush. The album represented the third and last of the band’s concept albums that included one song divided into sections. (Rush took another 34 years to release a concept album, Clockwork Angels, but without the side long title track.)
Additionally on Hemispheres, Geddy Lee’s voice not only dropped several octaves but the raw bite that likely led Globe & Mail to describe his vocals as “the damned howling in Hades” disappeared with 1980’s Permanent Waves. A rather harsh critique of a voice that served the band well, however, the move to a lower register certainly gets credit for the band’s continued existence and exceptional play today.
Hemispheres on SACD does not have the golden moments that come with the remastered version of Vapor Trails, however as with all of Audio Fidelity’s remastered albums whether on gold disc or the SACD format, the nuances exist.
The best way to describe experiencing an Audio Fidelity remastered album is like looking through a window and not noticing the accumulated film until someone cleans it. Lee’s bass thumps a little brighter, Alex Lifeson’s guitar solos sound a bit cleaner and Neil Peart’s cymbals and high hats come across crisp and sharp. But really you’d never know unless both albums were compared side-by-side.
During the beginning jam of “Cygnus X-1 Book II” there’s a subtle cymbal crash that sounds like slightly shaken keys that may go unnoticed on the original disk but once you hear it through the SACD version, it’s not lost anymore. The same can be said for the birds chirping on “The Trees.” It’s these peculiarities that emerge on the remastered version that often get overlooked on the original recording. However, with today’s modern equalizers you can easily tweak the bass and treble and other frequencies to produce the more ethereal sounds hiding thanks to the inferior recording capabilities of the past.
Hemispheres on SACD is numbered and like all of Audio Fidelity’s Rush releases will sell out. It is the third straight Rush album reproduced in the SACD format and second one this year – Counterparts was released in March. The gold-plated remastered CDs must be too expensive as the last gold Rush album was Signals in 2007.
The Audio Fidelity album is more of a collectible thanks to the limited edition nature and any Hemispheres fan should be happy with the original. Regardless, expect more, if not eventually, all Rush albums to find their way on the SACD format or whatever else Audio Fidelity dreams up next.
Rush Hemispheres Tracks:
1. Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres
e. The Sphere
3. The Trees
4. La Villa Strangiato