Album art for 40th anniversary release of Hemispheres

Album Review: Rush – Hemispheres 40th Anniversary

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I should take my own advice but when it comes to Rush I tend to hear the voice of reason against the howling mob.

Do I really need another Hemispheres album? No. In fact, I think I have more copies of Hemispheres on vinyl than any other Rush album. Of course, no longer purchasing all these reissues of albums and (hopefully) convincing others to do the same certainly offers one opportunity to get Rush or at least two-thirds of Rush back in the studio for new music. (Clockwork Angels ruled and showed a lot left in the tank.) When the money dries up…

But after reading blogger friend Deke’s review and already expecting to nudge my wife for at least one Rush Christmas present I went ahead and bought the 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe version of Hemispheres.

Sadly, I’m a collector and a sucker and though I “hear the clock ticking” if you will and have started reducing rather than accumulating, Rush stands still and the test of time thus I continue to act like the first time I stood in front of the merch booth at a Rush concert when something new, even quasi new, becomes available. Take my money!

The Backstage Club offers an exclusive Hemispheres 48-page notebook and with the discount the price of shipping costs just a buck more than Amazon. (But, if choose to decide on the deluxe version via Amazon or any version for that matter as you can grab just the CDs or just the vinyl you help me earn on qualifying purchases.)

The Deluxe version actually presents quite handsomely. You get a 40-page hardcover book filled with photos and a history of Hemispheres that holds the CDs, vinyl records of Hemispheres and a live recording of the band’s performance at the June 1979 Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands and a November 1978 performance of “2112” in Tucson, AZ. . Also included with the Deluxe is a reproduction of the Hemispheres tour book, that exclusive 48-page notebook (like I’ll ever use it), a Rush iron on patch (for that jean jacket, eh!) and a guest pass and faux ticket from the Pinkpop show. A Blu-ray 5.1 digital reproduction of Hemispheres includes promo videos for “Circumstances,” The Trees” and “La Villa Strangiato” shot at Senaca College in Toronto.

All the materials – the hardcover book, the records and an envelope sleeve that holds the replica Hemispheres tour book, the patch and Pinkpop merch, fits rather tight in the box. I actually had a hard time getting them back inside once removed especially the sleeve holding the tour book. Be careful, the edges like to fray. If the record jacket for the Pinkpop vinyl spills out first don’t be surprised by the Pepto-Bismol pink cover filled in with what looks like intestines. Actually, if you have any squeamishness involving internal organs the highly detailed brains featured throughout the packaging might give you pause. Fully exquisite artistically not so much aesthetically.

Items in the 40th anniversary deluxe issue of Hemispheres
The 40-page book and records in the 40th anniversary reissue of Hemispheres

I won’t bother with reviewing the Hemispheres album. It sounds great and you probably won’t hear anything different than you have already heard a thousand times before (unless you listen closely for the ghosting of the original guitar solo on “La Villa Strangiato”). And, don’t think I exaggerate using the 1000 times numbers as I am sure many Rush fans can attest.

Rush always manages to produce fine live recordings and the Pinkpop Festival set doesn’t disappoint. Alex Lifeson’s guitar really beefs up this live performance and Geddy Lee’s vocals sound crisp and confident. A glimpse into the Rush of yesteryear for those who came into the fold late, weren’t around then or too young to care. You don’t get much from Hemispheres even though the Pinkpop festival closed their extensive tour in support of the album but “Xanadu,” “La Villa Strangiato” and “In the Mood” standout. Neil Peart’s drum solo sounds familiar (think Exit … Stage Left) and comes across like a work in progress. The abbreviated setlist includes:

  1. A Passage To Bangkok
  2. Xanadu
  3. The Trees
  4. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres – The Sphere A Kind Of Dream
  5. Closer To The Heart
  6. La Villa Strangiato
  7. In The Mood
  8. Drum Solo
  9. Something For Nothing

The “2112” recording doesn’t sound as polished as the Pinkpop show, feels quite raw and has some cool moments as the band clearly toyed and tinkered with some sound effects. But overall a bit of a letdown.

The 40-page hardcover book contains a rather extensive re-telling of the Hemispheres recording process featuring quotes from old interviews with the band as well as new commentary. Lifeson insists “La Villa Strangiato” was recorded in one take!

The synopsis also contains comprehensive details of the various instruments played most gear geeks would certainly enjoy reading but details the casual fan probably glosses over. However, reading through some of the trials and tribulations as well as the interesting breakdown of each song off Hemispheres presents a never seen before look (or is that listen) into the album which offers a chance to hear it again for the first time.

Altogether, the 40th Anniversary Deluxe release of Hemispheres provides the rabid fan another mantel item for their Rush cave (I’m running out of room) but a solid history for the music buff of one of the band’s seminal albums (they have a lot, don’t they?) and most challenging and demanding record they ever made. And you will know why. If you get into all the fun details.

Otherwise ask a Rush fan.

So now we wait – two more years for the next release.

Grade: B+

 

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