Album Review: Rush – Caress Of Steel (1975)

This has always been… an interesting album to say the least. Rush’s third studio album followed up their release from earlier in the year, Fly By Night (1975), and although their tumble into progressive rock was foreshadowed on that album, especially by the mini-epic “By-Tor and the Snow Dog,” Caress of Steel is their first true prog album of their long career. It may represent the start of a new era in Rush’s catalogue, but unfortunately many consider it to be one of their more disappointing albums, to the point that the Caress of Steel tour was nicknamed the “Down the Tubes” tour. Despite these negative reactions, how bad could this album really be?

Well for one thing, the album’s opener, “Bastille Day,” is a guitar heavy rocker that the group often used as their show opener during the seventies, most notably on their first live album All the World’s a Stage (1977). Even after the release of more popular albums throughout the decade, such as 2112 (1975) and A Farewell to Kings (1977), “Bastille Day” remained their opening number for several years, and is still a fan favorite to this day.

The other song on the album that ever gets any radio airplay is the laid-back yet air-drumable “Lakeside Park.” Lyrically, the song is about (you guessed it) Lakeside Park in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, where lyricist and drummer Neil Peart would often spend his childhood days. Overall, “Lakeside Park” is a calm song with some catchy vocals and relaxing guitar work.

The proggy side of the album first comes into play with “The Necromancer,” which is lyrically and length-wise something of a follow up to “By-Tor and the Snow Dog.” It features some great guitar sounds and solos courtesy of Alex Lifeson and could been seen as a precursor to prog metal of the nineties and beyond. The other song dipped in the bucket of liquid prog is the first song Rush ever released that covers a whole side, “The Fountain of Lamneth,” which one could consider something of a baby brother to their 1976 classic “2112.” The first few sections of the song, such as “No One at the Bridge” are the most enjoyable parts of the song, especially “Didacts and Narpets” which is a mini drum solo just thrown in there because… why the hell not? 

The only real downside to the album is how cheesy the lyrics can feel at some points, especially the blues rocker “I Think I’m Going Bald,” which is often considered one of Rush’s lower points in their career by fans. There’s just something about the lines “I lost a few more hairs / I think I’m going bald” that just makes you cringe and wonder how the genius that wrote so many timeless lyrics could have put out something so atrocious. If you ignore that, the song really isn’t bad musically, and the guitar riffs throughout could have fit very well on their debut album with their many other Zeppelin-inspired numbers.

Although often overshadowed by some of Rush’s later work, Caress of Steel holds its own. It has flaws but it also contains many high points that shouldn’t be overlooked. There’s a reason it has remained a fan favorite and often considered their most underrated work.

Overall rating: 8/10

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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