Getting “your own sound” is something you always hear in regards to the music business. No matter how good the songs you make are, critics (both professionals and keyboard heroes) will rip you apart if you can’t achieve a certain level of individuality.
Rush has had several different of their “own sounds” (plus a pinch or two of Zeppelin early on) throughout the past several decades, and right up to the end. They’ve had the heavy blues rock debut, the ballsy drift into progressive music, the keyboard years, the too-much-keyboard years, the alternative side, and the prog-metal conclusion.
Only a madman would decide to actually compare all these different sounds…
A very nerdy, geeky, Rush-fan-y madman…
That being said, on with the show!
Honorable Mention. Feedback (2004)
I can’t include this in the official rankings — it’s an EP. That being said, if I could rank it, it would end up right at the bottom anyway. That isn’t to say the cover songs are bad or it isn’t performed well, but it just isn’t Rush. Still though, Feedback is a fun little side project from the group, paying homage to their influences, and so here we are.
Now, on to the real list…
19. Vapor Trails (2002)
“One Little Victory” opens the album on a fairly high note, but other than the lyrically reflective “Ghost Rider,” the album doesn’t have a ton to offer. Although it’s Rush’s “comeback album” after their hiatus, they much better showcase their talent in their other two 21st century albums.
Highlight Tracks: “Ghost Rider,” “One Little Victory,” “Ceiling Unlimited,”
18. Test For Echo (1996)
A couple of rockers in “Driven” and “Resist,” but that’s about it. It’s a good thing this wasn’t the group’s final album, as it could’ve been due to the hiatus — “The Garden” is a much better swan song than “Carve Away The Stone.”
Highlight Tracks: “Driven,” “Resist,” “Test For Echo,”
17. Hold Your Fire (1987)
Legend has it Alex Lifeson still has nightmares about the synthesizers. There are some great songs on Hold Your Fire, but they are unfortunately outweighed by the songs over-rich with keys.
Highlight tracks: “Time Stand Still,” “Force Ten,” “Turn The Page,”
16. Presto (1989)
Not as bad as everyone says it is, but still not great. There really aren’t any bad songs, but there are a few mediocre ones. I wouldn’t call it a comeback from Hold Your Fire, but it definitely backs up with the synthesizers a bit.
Highlight Tracks: “Show Don’t Tell,” “The Pass,” “Chain Lightning,”
15. Rush (1974)
Ah yes, the humble beginnings. before that Peart kid started banging away at the back of the stage. Some great rocking songs, even if they were quite similar to Led Zeppelin. Several tracks remain fan favorites, especially the live versions.
Highlight tracks: “Working Man,” “Finding My Way,” “Before And After,”
14. Roll The Bones (1991)
Roll The Bones and its follow-up (1993’s Counterparts) were part of an tiny little peak in the band’s career, as the guitars started to take center stage once again. Plenty of great songs, and a few hidden gems as well. Overall, it’s a good, fun album.
Highlight tracks: “Dreamline,” “Bravado,” “Roll The Bones,”
13. Caress Of Steel (1975)
Come on people… this is seriously underrated. Two great epics, two awesome radio-friendly tunes, and… if you ignore the lyrics on “I Think I’m Going Bald,” it’s not too bad. Check out a bit more of an in-depth review here.
Highlight tracks: “Bastille Day,” “The Necromancer,” “Lakeside Park,”
12. Snakes & Arrows (2007)
Higher than expected? Possibly… but it was a big step up from Vapor Trails. The group really started to find their footing again after the hiatus. Plenty of memorable tracks, great lyricism, and more instrumentals than any other Rush album.
Highlight tracks: “Far Cry,” “Workin’ Them Angels,” “Faithless,”
11. Fly By Night (1975)
That one album that fans all agree is great, but still wasn’t enough to get the group their lucky break back in ’75. The band started to experiment a bit more with lengthier and more progressive songs, as well as delivering the title track — one of their more accessible songs.
Highlight tracks: “By-Tor & The Snow Dog,” “Anthem,” “Beneath, Between, & Behind,”
10. Counterparts (1993)
The band’s last great album before the hiatus hit, Counterparts brought about even less synthesizers, even more guitar, and a great album that fit in with nineties music while still retaining that unique Rush feel.
Highlight tracks: “Leave That Thing Alone,” “Animate,” “Between Sun & Moon,”
9. Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Quite a unique selection in Rush’s discography, but also a major fan-favorite. The follow-up to 1982’s Signals incorporated some more intense lyricism and instrumentation, especially on songs like “Afterimage” and “Red Sector A.” Although the keyboards are very prominent, they are still well balanced with the guitars.
Highlight tracks: “Distant Early Warning,” “Red Sector A,” “Between The Wheels,”
8. Clockwork Angels (2012)
The final studio album of Rush’s really delivers and sends the group out on a high note. The only true concept album the band ever did, nearly every song is fantastic. While leaning very heavily into progressive metal, it also brings the ballad “The Garden,” one of the most beautiful songs of their whole career, right at the end of their studio career.
Highlight tracks: “The Anarchist,” “Headlong Flight,” “The Garden,”
7. Power Windows (1985)
Despite foreshadowing Rush’s over-reliance on synthesizers, Power Windows contains some of the group’s best work coming together in a fun mid-eighties album. Effectively balancing the usage of keyboards and guitar, every song is fantastic.
Highlight tracks: “Marathon,” “Territories,” “The Big Money,”
6. Signals (1982)
“New World Man” was Rush’s first #1 hit single on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart, but Signals has so much more to offer. “Subdivisions” is easily one of the group’s best songs ever, while “Losing It” ventures into relatively uncharted waters and brings in Ben Mink on electric violin — the solo sends chills up your spine every time. Signals is also the first album since Rush’s debut not to contain any long epics, yet it executes the transition flawlessly.
Highlight tracks: “Subdivisions,” “Losing It,” “New World Man,”
5. A Farewell To Kings (1977)
The follow-up to Rush’s breakthrough with 2112 (1976) delivers on several levels. The ballady “Closer to the Heart” is a rock radio classic, “Xanadu” is one of the best prog epics ever, and “Cygnus X-1” is the first half of a conceptual fan-favorite series. The album further proved to the label and the critics that Rush could succeed at making their own music.
Highlight tracks: “Xanadu,” “Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Journey,” “Closer To The Heart,”
4. 2112 (1976)
The band’s break-through album is most notable for it’s side-long epic title track, which is still considered one of the best progressive rock songs of all time. Aside from that, the B-side contains some great gems, such as the proto-prog-metal rocker “Something For Nothing” and the fan-favorite “A Passage To Bangkok” (“I hope they play Bangkok… nah, they never play Bangkok”).
Highlight tracks: “2112,” “Something For Nothing,” “A Passage To Bangkok,”
3. Permanent Waves (1980)
The latest album to receive a 40th anniversary reissue, Permanent Waves flawlessly builds the bridge between the seventies and the eighties for the group. “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill” are both staples on classic rock radio, and the group still has some mini-prog-epic-writing juice left in them to deliver a duo of fan-faves in “Natural Science” and “Jacob’s Ladder.”
Highlight tracks: “The Spirit of Radio,” “Natural Science,” “Freewill,”
2. Moving Pictures (1981)
What can really be said about it? It’s the group’s bestselling, and most well known album. It has plenty of radio hits, fan favorites, and everything in between. Moving Pictures has plenty of the band’s signature tracks, all put together into one of their more accessible albums.
Highlight tracks: “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ,” “The Camera Eye,”
1. Hemispheres (1978)
This album masterfully encapsulates Rush as a band. You have the side-long epic, the early prog-metal track, the mainstream (but still filled with odd time signatures) song, and the beautifully played instrumental. It came right at the most experimental point in the group’s career, and the experiments sure paid off.
Highlight tracks: “La Villa Strangiato,” “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres,” “The Trees,”