Rush Album Covers ranked best to least

Rush Album Covers Ranked Worst to First

It wasn’t just the music of Rush that intrigued fans but also the album covers.

What will they come up with this time? But wait, it wasn’t they as in Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart the centerpiece of the band. The music they delivered, but the album artwork mostly came from Hugh Syme.

Mostly, because Peart was more than happy to assist as he developed the idea for his debut album with Rush. Thus, he and Syme visualized the cover art for all the albums except two. Some resembled an expensive painting one might stare upon for hours at a national gallery, others intrigued, and a few, perhaps, crinkled the eyebrow for a sec before the ear candy was eaten.

Unlike some rock bands, Rush never featured a guitar or themselves on the front cover. The album art stood alone, instead perhaps, functioning as a visual accent to the music. Maybe an Easter egg or two, a term I don’t think a part of the vernacular in the band’s first few decades. So, most certainly some hidden gems and meanings that required a longer stare.

Unlike a fan’s favorite record, in terms of the music – in which many factors play a part – like the album that served as the introduction to Rush or a moment in time, the cover art truly belongs to the eye of the beholder. Therefore, I factor in little else than straight visual appeal, maybe a touch of nostalgia, while foregoing any interpretations behind the art or complex ideas mulled to mold the image. Only after jotting down my thoughts did I select and include a comment about the album cover taken from The Art of Rush by Hugh Syme.

Last place was easy, but the Top 10 could be written on a piece of paper, thrown in a box and randomly drawn to finalize the list.

Rush Album Covers Ranked

20. Counterparts

The second-best Rush album in terms of music ranks last when it comes to the album art. A bolt and screw? That’s it. An “image” I routinely find in my garage.  One of my favorite concert shirts comes from this tour. Too bad the hare sitting atop a turtle didn’t make the cover.

Cover art for Rush Counterparts album

From the book: “Ps and Qs. Heads and Tails. Sun and Moons. Walk and Don’t Walk. Many of these might have been conceived of as the album cover at one stage,” says Neil. After a process of serve and volley, give and take, Peart and Syme settled on the diagram of a nut and bolt for the cover.

19. Feedback

The “covers” album. A 60s motif incorporated on the album cover to Feedback which simply shows the track list. Hmmm, maybe this one should rank where it did on the albums list though honestly it looks pretty cool.

Cover art for Rush Feedback album

From the book: Specifically, Hugh sought to emulate the style of concert poster that originated at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco … between 1966 and 1972. A Listing of band names on the concert bill was typically illustrated inside amoeba-shaped c ells of fluorescent day-glo inks.

18. Snakes & Arrows

I never cared much for this album cover mostly because it feels off, not off-centered but off, with the title written horizontally on the side. Some snakes, some arrows. A ghostly figure and a really weird frame. As it turns out, not a lot of effort put into the Snakes & Arrows album cover art and I much prefer the album cover to Snakes & Arrows Live. (I was happy to learn I am not alone in that opinion.)

Rush Snakes and Arrows Album Cover

From the book: The cover artwork, a board game titled The Leela of Self-Knowledge, is a painting by Hinu scholar Harish Johari that Neil Peart chose. Hugh’s proposed cover shows up on the CD booklet inside packaging.

17. Vapor Trails

A bleeding fireball, more like a comet, graces the album for Vapor Trails. Not much more to it.

Cover art for Rush Vapor Trails album

From the book: The Rushian colors of red, black and white were an appropriate fit, The fireball is far from spent, but small parts of its core have already been extinguished. It’s an echo of a line in “Vapor Trails” about the sun turning black.

16. Rush

The only album both Peart and Syme did not have a hand in. Simple and straight forward. A perfect album cover for the eponymous debut album and a Rush font that lasted throughout the band’s career.

Cover art for Rush first album

From the book: “The first album cover was very commercial with its bright explosion and the logo,” recalls Rush bassist Geddy Lee. “You could tell that the record company was already thinking about a logo.”

15. Clockwork Angels

What a timepiece! A clock seemingly suspended in midair uses alchemic symbols for the hour marks and the time set to 9:12 which in the evening, military time, is 21:12. The red backdrop reminds of another red album as hell fire like storm clouds swirl clockwise. You know what would have been really cool, had they made this clock holographic.

Cover art for Rush Clockwork Angels album

From the book: Hugh duly set about creating the most Rushian cover of them all: a red, black, and white image of a clock whose hands are frozen at 21:12. (Given the parallels between the stories of “2112” and Clockwork Angels, it’s a fitting wink.”

14. 2112

Arguably the band’s official brand. The red pentagram symbolizing the priests of the Temples of Syrinx. Hardly blasé as the outer space backdrop and the rippling water offers some color but not a whole lot to write home about.

Cover art for Rush 2112 album

From the book: The cover of 2112 appears scalding to the touch. The Star is searing red like a stove top or a branding iron and the fact that it’s submerged under the water makes it shimmer like a heat haze.

13. Caress of Steel

Now I know why Rush attracted so many Dungeon and Dragons fans. I am pretty sure the cover for Caress of Steel resembled one of the D&D booklets I owned. I played but mostly invented my own rules and never associated the role-playing game with the band from Lakeside Park.

Cover art for Rush Caress of Steel album

From the book: Hugh used a pencil to draw a Necromancer with vulpine features. The figure stands atop a spiraling stone staircase. He’s encompassed by a voluptuous mist. A human skull peaks out from the folds of his robe testament to his dark magic.

12. Roll the Bones

The water feature on the cover for Roll the Bones adds a bit of mystery, if not substance, but I never cared for “rush” in lower case font because the lower case “u” and “s” look uppercase which throws off the parity of the lowercase “r” and lowercase “h.” “Rush” should be all uppercase or in proper form as “Rush.”

Cover art for Rush Roll the Bones album

From the book: The cover art was inspired by the so-called vanitas artworks produced in the Netherlands during the `6th and 17th centuries. The paintings included symbols of death and decomposition to remind viewers of materiality and the transience of life.

11. Hold Your Fire

A stunning red background with three off-colored red balls perhaps depicting the trio. A spectacular painting or simple art? You make the call.

Cover art for Rush Hold Your Fire album

From the book: For all its simplicity, the album cover’s creation was anything but simple.

10. Test for Echo

The album time and (most) fans forgot. Not a favorite album musically for the faithful but the snowy background with a large inuksuk resembles a striking photograph. Look closely and you will see three rock climbers. Hmm, I wonder who they could be?

Cover art for Rush Test for Echo album

From the book: It was the first time I had seen the Inuksuk, which literally means “in the shape of a man,” says Neil. I was seeing them around the Arctic, and I knew they were used as finding points for people. So I thought, “It’s an echo of humanity.”

9. Signals

Naming any of my pets after the bandmembers would be tantamount to an unhealthy obsession with the band. But if I had a dalmatian, I’d seriously consider the name “Signals.” A somewhat humorous photo of a dalmatian sniffing a fire hydrant, the only drawback being the larger than necessary border.

Cover art for Rush Signals album

From the book: This cover concept didn’t reveal itself to me as readily as so many others had before,” admits Hugh. “We labored and fretted for 6 to 8 weeks over which visual premise would best convey this album’s theme. We went down a lot of dead-end streets trying to find an idea for artwork. It was the longest period of time and the most frustrating.

8. Permanent Waves

A most controversial album cover arrived in Permanent Waves. The original (preferred) cover art shows the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper headline erroneously reported by the Chicago Tribune. They balked at the last minute. So that’s it. See anything else? Oh! If you look closely, some signs way in the back advertise Lee, Lifeson, Peart.

Cover art for Rush Permanent Waves album

From the book: As the drummer and art director discussed the album title, their conceptual ideas became increasingly fanciful and playful. Hugh dreamed up an elaborate visual pun that included a woman from the 1950s blithely strolling away from a tidal wave.

7. Moving Pictures

Stop moving pitchers! If you ever saw Rush in concert you may have noticed a bunch of people wearing red overalls. Now you know why. The religious imagery comes across a little too Ozzy Osbourne for me, but the cover for Moving Pictures certainly focuses in on the camera eye.

Cover art for Rush Moving Pictures album

From the book: Once Hugh and I found our stride and trust level, immediately the puns started to come up,” says Neil. “Moving Pictures is nothing but pun on pun on pun. They have to be a little subtle like that because the design and the image have to come first, more than the joke.

6. Fly By Night

Love the owl, the snowy backdrop and the overall dead of winter gloom. I remember that Christmas morning I got the gift certificate to Tower Records I used to buy Fly By Night on vinyl which finally completed my Rush discography collection (at the time).

Cover art for Rush Fly By Night album

From the book: My first album with the guys was Fly By Night,” says Neil. I had a vision of a picture I had seen as a young bird lover of a snowy oil in flight, approaching predatory-like.

5. Presto

An explosion of cute and cuddly rabbits. An album cover you want to hug or at least want to come alive.

Cover art for Rush Presto album

From the book: “We had wrangler handling the rabbits because they could get feisty,” says Hugh. “They weren’t trained rabbits. They always wanted food as a reward. Their bowl movements and their micturition were prolific. The whole studio was a sea of turds and puddles of urine.”

4. Hemispheres

A naked man standing on top of a brain points to a well-dressed man wearing a top hat. This looks like a scene out of one of those weird independent films that gains a cult following only a few appreciate.

Cover art for Rush Hemispheres album

From the book: Hugh’s surrealist concept was inspired by the images of Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Hipgnosis (the British art design group who’d created album covers for the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin). All he needed was to get hold of a brain to anchor the illustration.

3. A Farewell to Kings

A post-apocalyptic background features a king looking more like a court jester attached to marionette strings sitting imbecilically in a kings chair, crown at his feet, and subtly hidden by a bombed-out building. I think in many ways an underappreciated album cover and not by fans.

Cover art for Rush A Farewell to Kings album

From the book: The album artwork was inspired by the title track. Neil Peart’s lyric describes the gradual disintegration of a society’s moral and social fabric. In this dystopia, the multitude has followed the path of least resistance and lost its ability to tell right from wrong.

2. Power Windows

Though the term “A picture is worth a thousand words” did not originate from the album cover to Power Windows this one certainly demonstrates the implication.

Cover art for RDush Power Windows album

From the book: Neil Peart remembers getting chills when Hugh Syme described the visual concept for Power Windows over the phone. You, too, may feel a tingle at the nape of your neck when you gaze at the finished artwork.

Best Rush Album Cover

1. Grace Under Pressure

The masterpiece.

Cover art for Rush Grace Under Pressure album

From the book: The focal point of the painting is a series of three sharp, jagged shards falling from the sky into the calm waters. It’s far from apparent what the rusty, fractured blade-like elements are. A newspaper writer once conjectured that they represented razor blades and claimed that Hugh had created the painting under the influence of cocaine. It’s a notion Hugh is quick to scotch.

I think I’ve just about exhausted writing relevant Top 10 and ranking lists for Rush. I have one more in mind, perhaps some day, but the collection below:


5 thoughts on “Rush Album Covers Ranked Worst to First

  1. Can’t believe Neil has been gone 3 years already! This was a great read and a huge undertaking. I totally agree with your Top 2 picks. I always liked Signals cover as well.
    Great stuff Andrew!

    1. Thanks for reading! I had all the album covers leftover from last year’s album ranking so thought this would be a good one to use them again.

    1. thank you sir. I wasn’t too sure about this one but after several months of back and forth on doing it, I finally got it done

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