Album Review: Rush – A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary

A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary

 

A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary

So sad, the Rush fan.

Getting the band back together nowhere in sight, instead relegated to album anniversary issues as time doesn’t stand still. It’s all we have to look forward to anymore now that retirement seems reality as nary a peep on the home front of anything forth pending. Make that anything new.

Eventually, buying the same record owned now for decades loses its luster even when combined with never before heard concerts, special tokens and would-be collector items.  A Farewell to Kings, the follow-up to 2112 and Rush’s fifth studio album was released on Sept. 1, 1977 and marks the latest treatment from the coin counters to get the 40th anniversary overhaul. The debut album received a well-deserved treatment a few years ago and 2112 of course got the nod last year but didn’t move the excitement meter much.

But dare I say, the A Farewell To Kings 40th Anniversary released on December 1 (finally arrived Dec. 8) is a handsome, well-thought and satisfying package of goodies in a rather large box set bringing some attention to this stuck-in-between of the concept albums 2112 and Hemispheres. (It’s two inches+ deep! In another 10 years I’ll probably have an entire bookshelf comprising Rush box sets.)

YES! I admit it. I bought the SUPER DELUXE of this anniversary package. Always a sap for Rush but it’s becoming exceedingly clear that I’ve experienced for the last time that exciting approach to the merch booth at a Rush concert and perusing over all those tour shirts and memorabilia. So now with the offering of a really cool shirt, a hat (it’s just OK, not like the 1974-2112 hat) and a host of keepsakes, for example…:

  • King’s Ring
  • Velvet pouch and neck chain
  • Two lithographs
  • 12-inch turntable mat
  • Reproduction of the 1978 tour program
  • Really slick pencils (I’ll never use them!)
  • 40th Anniversary tour-style program (CD includes a miniature version)

…it’s the closest thing I’ll get to grabbing that new concert shirt before the lights dim prior to the show. Granted much of the package seems way cooler, like maybe 20 years ago when I was younger, but it’s all collectible so I’ll find a place for it, if not leave it safely in the box and pull out every now and then.

Just some of the stuff included in the A Farewell to Kings Deluxe Edition

The new artwork by Hugh Syme envelopes the velvet-lined collector box and translates to the shirt without screaming “Look at me, I’m 12!” I won’t bother with an album review in terms of the CDs. Enough of the remastering already! It’s not any cleaner than the original vinyl and won’t ever accomplish what the remixed Vapor Trails did for that album.

However, the 180-gram vinyl LPs really stand out and sound exceptional, as always. Well, what do you expect from a record that weighs like a Frisbee? The gatefold record is the gatefold to end all gatefolds – four record slots with vintage photos in between.  A Farewell to Kings is a six song record coming in just under 40 minutes, a far cry from the band’s song-per-album output in recent decades. “Xanadu” stands on its own and is one of the finest rock songs ever recorded. “Closer to the Heart” received multiple live treatments over the years besting the album version but it’s this song that opened the door ever so slightly to the female audience. “Cygnus X-1” helped forever enshrine Rush as the “long form” band but you know what gets totally over looked?

“A Farewell to Kings.” Yes, the title track to this album. It opens the album. It’s named after the album. But how often is “A Farewell to Kings” mentioned in the great inventory of Rush songs? Overlooked, underappreciated and rarely played. Live or radio.

OK, maybe “Xanadu” the 11 minute masterpiece simply takes the cake. “Xanadu” sets the bar pretty high for a rock song. Any song for that matter. Even classical music connoisseurs should appreciate this demonstration. So much going on here and despite its length the song just never lets up. Alex Lifeson’s guitar work is some of his finest.

“Cinderella Man” is another overlooked Rush song that gets even less attention than the title track. Geddy Lee’s bass is up front here but the overall instrumentation demonstrates the capacity of talent on display between Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. “Madrigal” is hardly a Rush heavy weight. It’s a short song, just 2:35 but it’s got a decent melody and not for the casual fan. And, if anyone ever wonders how Rush seems to attract the Dungeons and Dragon type, well, here ya go.

Finally, the other great opus “Cygnus X-1” closes the album and though it’s a bit repetitive at times, “Cygnus X-1” like “Xanadu,” simply gives for the musically inclined but mostly reinforces the band’s strength in creating complex arrangements, intricate melodies and turns rock music into an art.

The vinyl retains the vintage hiss and the 180 gram weight is really something if you haven’t dived into the remastered releases so many bands participate in now with the resurgence of records.

But that’s not all in this 40th anniversary A Farewell to Kings release.

The peddlers of this crafty box set also include what they call the “Holy Grail” of Rush concerts featured for both CD and vinyl – recorded on February 20, 1978 in London at Hammersmith Odeon – you get three more records and two CDs to round out this vast collection. (Notice: The gatefold record fits nicely in the box however the CD package is quite snug  requiring some necessary care to extract.)

Rush claims to have nothing new unreleased on the cutting room floor but that apparently doesn’t translate to live takes. The Hammersmith Odeon recording is raw, Lee’s voice a bit muffled at times by all the other instruments, but other than that sounds just as good as many of their live records, gives you a sampling of how the band sounded 40 years ago and works quite well as a new “live” release from the band. Terrific fun, actually. (Check out Lee’s vocals to start “Cygnus X-1 and, oh boy, does he sing falsetto for 2112.)

Side Eight of the record and the last half of Disc 3 contain covers of “Xanadu,” Closer to the Heart,” Cinderella Man,” “Madrigal,” and “Cygnus X-2” (clever) by Dream Theater and four other bands I’ve never heard of.

A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary is available in an array of choices. You can buy just the records, just the CDs (either way you’re getting the “Holy Grail” concert) grab both in the Deluxe Box Set or head over to the Backstage Club and spend an immense amount of cash like I did and get the Super Deluxe package which includes all of this and more.

Grade: A

A Farewell to Kings 40th Anniversary Track List

Traditional Album

  1. A Farewell to Kings
  2. Xanadu
  3. Closer to the Heart
  4. Cinderella Man
  5. Madrigal
  6. Cygnus X1

Live at Hammersmith Odeon

  1. Bastille Day
  2. Lakeside Park
  3. By-Tor & the Snowdog
  4. Xanadu
  5. A Farewell to Kings
  6. Something for Nothing
  7. Cygnus X-1
  8. Anthem
  9. Closer to the Heart
  10. 2112
  11. Working Man
  12. Fly By Night
  13. In the Mood
  14. Drum Solo
  15. Cinderella Man

Cover Songs

  1. Xanadu – Dream Theater
  2. Closer to the Heart – Big Wreck
  3. Cinderella Man – The Trews
  4. Madrigal – Alain Johannes
  5. Cygnus X-2 – EH

Written By: AndrewT

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3 Comments

  1. Awesome write up!
    I purchased this on iTunes…
    The live show is excellent as its Rush going for the throat back in 77!
    Big Wreck and Trews are Canadian Bands…
    Trews are a pretty good band actually.
    At least when u shell out a ton of cash for something like this they make it worthwhile…

      1. No worries …I haven’t even listened to them yet as the live show is what I wanted to hear …
        But big Wreck and the Trews are good acts so hopefully these are good covers….

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