Monday, January 13, 2020

Celebrate Neil Peart's legacy via stellar titles

Neil Peart of Rush performs on a rotating drum kit at Honda Center in
Anaheim, CA on Nov. 17, 2012. Photo courtesy of Rod Veal
The classic rock world was shocked and saddened last week with the announcement that Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart had died on Jan. 7, 2020, in Santa Monica, CA. He was only 67. Peart passed away after a three-and-a-half year battle with Glioblastoma, the same aggressive form of brain cancer that killed senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy. Along with singer-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, Peart created an incredible legacy that included Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. In this column I feature several far-flung titles that provide a deeper look at Peart's unique talents as both virtuoso drummer and gifted writer.

Title: Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road
Author: Neil Peart
Publisher: ECW Press
Hardcover: 460 pages
Tell me more: News of Neil Peart's passing hit me hard; I was a long-time fan of Rush and had seen the Canadian trio a number of times in concert dating back to the mid-1980s. Yet, I had never read any of Peart's acclaimed books until this past weekend when I immersed myself in Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road. The compelling book chronicles Peart's 55,000-mile solo motorcycle ride following the death of his 19-year-old daughter Selena Taylor in August 1997 and common-law wife of 23 years, Jacqueline Taylor in June 1998. Peart stepped away from Rush to take the 14-month solo ride and subsequently wrote the book chronicling his marathon journey that took him from Quebec to Alaska, then down the Canadian and American coasts and south to Belize before he returned to his home in Canada. Peart, notoriously shy throughout his career, opens up about loss and his life throughout the fast-moving travelogue. I found myself gaining a far greater appreciation of Peart the person, and was fully moved by his ambitious journey that ultimately led him to return to Rush in 2001 despite the immense sense of grief that fueled his odyssey. Those moved by Peart's literate lyrics featured on countless Rush masterworks will want to read this captivating book first published on July 5, 2002. Information:

Artist: Rush
Title: R40 Live (Rounder)

Tell me more: Released via several different configurations in November 2015, R40 is an audio-visual keepsake of the highest order. The collection (I have the version that includes three audio CDs and one DVD) is truly a celebration of more than 40 years of top-tier progressive rock. With the 2015 R40 Tour marking the Canadian band's farewell tour, R40 is an excellent showcase for a troupe captured while still at the top of their game. The centerpiece is how the stage is given the "de-evolution" treatment as the band performs their most recent material on a more dazzling set; as the band performs increasingly-older songs, the stage is stripped down courtesy of stagehands who recast Rush's surroundings artfully during the performance.  What's more, the audio and video quality across the audio/video discs is amazing. Recorded over two nights in the hometown of Lee, Lifeson and Peart, the concert film was captured via 14 cameras and really immerses the viewer in the moment. Peart shines across the performance, and his drum solo is outstanding. Information:

Artist: Rush
Title: Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner Records)

Tell me more: While many classic rock fans have to be content with their heroes touring courtesy of nostalgia alone, Rush continued to challenge themselves and their listeners with sharp and searing prog rock until the end. Clockwork Angels, the band's final studio album, was released in June 2012 and is a concept album about a young man’s search to follow his dreams. It doesn't hurt that the probing tale was supported by one of the trio’s most accessible and compelling collections since the 1976 album release 2112. Information:

Artist: Rush
Title: Feedback (Atlantic Records)

Tell me more: A fun detour in the history of Rush was 2004's Feedback, an eight-track EP of rock 'n' roll classics that Rush covered with obvious zeal. In the album's liner notes, Peart notes: "It was April of 2004, but Geddy, Alex, and I were channeling back to 1966 and 1967, when we were thirteen- and fourteen-year-old beginners. We thought it would be a fitting symbol to commemorate our thirty years together if we returned to our roots and paid tribute to those we had learned from and were inspired by...The music celebrates a good time in our lives, and we had a good time celebrating it." Indeed, the songs here explode anew in the capable hands of Rush. "Summertime Blues" kicks off the exciting set, with Rush offering up a shimmering remake of Blue Cheer's hard rock cover (the song was written by Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart in 1958). Other notable offerings include fiery takes on The Who's "The Seeker," Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" and Cream's blues rocker "Crossroads." The nuanced take on Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" also amazes. This is truly a side of Rush never heard before. Information:

Neil Peart / Photo courtesy of Drum Workshop Inc.

You can read my review of Rush's concert staged at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA on Nov. 17, 2012 here. You can read my review of Rush's July 31, 2015 performance at Irvine Meadows here.

Robert Kinsler

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