Photo of The Art of Rush book by Hugh Syme

Book Review: The Art of Rush – Hugh Syme

Finally open.

Somehow, I have three of them. Two I have had for some time. Both of those signed by the four. I hesitated to open either choosing to keep both as true collectible keepsakes.

But with the second-edition release of Hugh Syme’s The Art of Rush: Serving A Life Sentence earlier this month (now available Oct. 12) updated to include the 40th Anniversary album releases, the mystery of all contained inside finally ended. The expanded version of The Art of Rush coffee table book reaches 292 pages detailing the career spanning relationship between Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart with Syme, the band’s artist and illustrator.

The second edition has a new cover from the previous version, adds 20 pages and contains all the original illustrations, paintings, photography, and stories behind each album Syme designed with Rush since 1975. The forward written by Peart remains.

The original release of The Art of Rush included a regular hardcover version like the second-edition as well as limited editions signed by Lifeson, Lee, Peart and Syme. At the time, my Rush collection included at least one Rush related item signed by Lee or Peart but I had nothing with Lifeson’s signature. I was also in a more collectible state-of-mind. Therefore, I have the United States release limited to 250 copies as well as an Artist’s Proof release of The Art of Rush limited to 40 copies. A European version exists as well, limited to 350 copies. With Peart’s death last year, I have to assume the second-edition of The Art of Rush will simply be a regular issue. My copy came with a bundle pack of record flats.

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The Art of Rush: Serving a Life Sentence Review

OK wait, there’s a Snakes & Arrows Live in Holland? One of a handful of bits of information that popped out on an initial quick page flip through this very heavy, somewhat delicate book that measures the size of a traditional gatefold record. Be careful if you hate ripped covers and smushed ends. It’s an impressive book with heavy stock glossy paper but a even a minor drop or careless grab could result in a sore thumb (figuratively).

As it turns out the Snakes & Arrows Live CD comes from Rush’s performance in the Netherlands but the DVD holds the Live in Holland title which I had never seen before. The artwork for this video release appears in the book proving not only the breadth of material in The Art of Rush but how much involvement and work Syme had with the band.

Did you know Syme played drums in his first band? He also played keyboards for the Ian Thomas Band and contributed album artwork for their album Delights which caught the eye of Peart. The rest is history. Syme also looked for a real brain at the University of Toronto for the artwork on Hemispheres. Rush fans will notice some familiar artwork used during the live show like the military image displayed during “Workin’ Them Angels” or designs seen on concert shirts (if you remember) for an entry in the Roll the Bones section.

An inside look at The Art of Rush

I had always been intrigued by Grace Under Pressure, a favorite album cover. Turns out what appears on the album was not to Syme’s approval as his original painting featured different hues of lavender and darker clouds which you can see in the book. Syme does not remember where he got the inspiration for the three falling shards, but it possibly came from the downing of Korean Air Flight 007 by a Soviet fighter plane in 1983, one of several incidences during the Cold War era that helped influence’s Peart’s lyrics for the album. The bird’s eye is not a nod towards Fly By Night, either, as I suspected. By the way, Rush’s second album was almost called Aurora Borealis.

Expect little and big morsels like this throughout the book.

Each serves as a chapter more or less with a lengthy introductory written by Stephen Humphries that offers more than a glimpse into Syme’s methodology (or madness!) on his creations.

The Art of Rush offers a concise history and all the artwork for every album cover (and sometimes a quick recap of where the band was at musically, at the time) Syme worked on with Rush from Caress of Steel forward, including all the live albums and then some. Each album serves as a chapter more or less starting with a lengthy journalistic style introduction written by Stephen Humphries featuring quotes and comments from Syme and the band members that offer more than a glimpse into Syme’s methodology (or madness!) on his creations.

The Art of Rush covers the studio albums first, then a quick rundown of the live albums and an even quicker view for the compilation albums, a section of quotes from various musicians and celebrities on their favorite Rush album cover before closing with the current crop of 40th anniversary re-issues.

It will take hours to read and browse through The Art of Rush so best to take your time, one album at a time, just as you would listening.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Art of Rush – Hugh Syme

      1. LOL! A pretty awesome few months.

        This is a good example of why we need book stores. All the ones near me are closed. If I was walking in a book store browsing, I could have seen this.

  1. Very Cool. Like the backstory of the cover of “GUP”. Gary Moore back in 83-84 wrote a tune called ‘Murder In The Skies” about that Korean flight as well.
    I know what you mean by taking your time flipping through a book as I’m still getting through ‘Wandering The Face of the Earth” book and I have had it for almost 2 years! That is a great RUSH book as well…

    1. thanks for reading pal. there’s a lot of great Rush ones out there. I have an old one I might re-read and review now thinking about it. it’s an obscure one I believe.

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