WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
Oh, sorry. That was for my other blog.
Ok, just kidding. But seeing as I was to see classic rockers Kansas (for the first time!) on Friday for their Point of No Return tour at the elegant Elsinore Theatre in Salem, OR only to have it postponed until Nov. 30, thanks to the coronavirus, I have nothing new. In fact, the concert calendar remains bare until the end of May and if this pandemic rages on then expect more and more cancellations.
Therefore, because the search engines see an idle blog as a dying blog I think I’ll try my (writing) hand at some album reviews with maybe a focus on the more obscure. We’ll see. So let’s get started with Alex Lifeson’s lone solo project Victor released Jan. 9, 1996 to little fanfare outside Rushdom.
Alex Lifeson – Victor Album Review
Lifeson, guitarist extraordinaire for Rush, left the guys at work completely off this album and brought in Edwin from I Mother Earth to help out on vocals, Les Claypool from Primus played bass on a song and various other fellow Canadians. For his part, Lifeson of course played guitar, as well as keyboards, bass, mandola and some vocal work.
Whereas Geddy Lee’s solo album My Favorite Headache, could totally work as a Rush album Lifeson went way outside the box for Victor which sounds nothing like Rush. However, Lifeson’s personal guitar tone remains alive and well.
Looking back, Victor came on the heels of the grunge movement a pretty clear influence on the album. Lifeson has his hand and pen in every song and lays down some pretty heavy guitar licks at times but never falters in delivering the usual Lifeson moving melodies. Let’s go track by track:
- Don’t Care – Heavy and hard, Lifeson opens up the strings on this with aggressive singing from Edwin. “Don’t Care” totally fits in with 90s grunge or alternative rock.
- Promise – Edwin tones the gnarling vocals back with a smoother approach as Lifeson steals it on guitar. The opening melody rocks then nearly midway through Lifeson goes on a tear. Woo hoo!
- Start Today – So you can hear a little bit of Rush in Victor! Lifeson sounds like the Lifeson Rush fans all know and his choice of Dalbello with an octave that competes with 70s Geddy Lee takes the album into an entirely different direction.
- Mr. X – One of three instrumentals, I’m wondering why I don’t see Howard Jones anywhere in the credit. But outside of the funky opening keyboards Lifeson takes the reigns on his guitar and pretty much solos for two minutes.
- At the End – In collaboration with his son Adrian, “At the End” (not to be confused with “In the End”) feels more like new age muzak at a day spa. Lifeson provides spoken vocals rather than singing. It’s hardly a favorite and you have to sit through some tediousness to find the cool guitars but the last few minutes opens nicely and reminds me of Depeche Mode.
- Sending Out a Warning – Edwin returns to the mic as Lifeson gets a co-guitarist in Bill Bell. It bounces back and forth from a quirky pop song to heavy, almost industrial rock.
- Shut Up Shuttin’ Up – The second instrumental and one of my favorites. Lifeson puts some awesome guitar work to his wife Charlene and her friend complaining about their husbands. If you ever thought Lifeson was simply a guitarist in a band let “Shut Up Shuttin’ Up” lay to bed any notion of that. It’s funny, clever, self-effacing and Lifeson somehow talks back using his fretboard. SHUUUT UUUP!
- Strip and Go Naked – The last of the instrumentals and probably the best song on the album. Lifeson gets help again from Bell but he totally rules on guitar. Give me a full instrumental album like this from Lifeson and all will be right in the world. Think “The Main Monkey Business.”
- The Big Dance – Lifeson again brings his son onboard who carries that 80s influence over. Edwin also returns for vocals as “The Big Dance” could easily come from the catalog of Nine Inch Nails.
- Victor – The longest track, Lifeson speaks the poem “Victor” by W.H. Auden. Lots of synthesizers, no guitars. It actually grows on you but the length, and strengths of the other better songs on the album usher you along.
- I Am the Spirit – Another solid rock song with Edwin on vocals. By now you get the idea that if Rush had called it quits so many years ago, Lifeson would have ventured on with some harder edged music and likely would have emerged from the heap of 90s alternate rock that dominated the decade.
I had not listened to Victor in quite some time before this review. My initial memory was a somewhat disjointed album sounding like the fun-loving Lifeson more or less screwing around and sprinkling his record with a few prominent songs.
Well was I wrong. Victor is a complete album of songs and fully satisfies. You can hear an eagerness to think outside the box, try new things (even if they don’t work as well as others) and separate himself entirely from Rush. Alex Lifeson has always maintained a specific timbre that helped shape Rush, which you can hear on Victor, but all of the other influences combined pull this album away from prog rock and the sound of Geddy, Alex and Neil to make it Victor by Alex Lifeson.
Alex Lifeson Victor Songs:
1. Don’t care
3. Start Today
4. Mr. X
5. At the End
6. Sending Out a Warning
7. Shut Up Shuttin’ Up
8. Strip and Go Naked
9. The Big Dance
11. I Am the Spirit