2112 was the fourth album by Canadian progressive rock trio Rush. Released in 1976, it was the album that saved Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart from possible bankrupcy and established them on the international rock stage. The first, eponimous, album released in 1974 received some favourable reaction from the music press in North America but it was a naive offering with corny lyrics (Neil Peart, drummer & lyricist was not to make his debut until the second album), and despite the much loved "Working Man" it sounded like a record from a bunch of second-rate Led Zeppelin wannabees who were yet to graduate high school. However, better - much better, was to come!
The second LP, "Fly By Night" was a significant progression and hinted at great potential. The compositions were more complex and adventurous. Pearts lyrics also added a new dimension, with science fantasy themes. The songs were also starting to get longer with the longest, "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" clocking in at 8 minutes and 37 seconds. The band was now showing more confidence and starting to forge their own identity. It sold well in North America too. The band now looked to be on the verge of a major breakthrough. However, the next album, "Caress of Steel" was to bomb ...
Launched in Canada & the USA in 1975, Rush's third album "Caress of Steel" continued the new direction the band started with Fly By Night. Peart developed science fantasy themes further with "The Necromancer" and "The Fountain of Lamneth". Lee & Lifeson were in full "prog rock" mode showing the clear influence of British progressive rock bands such as Yes and Genesis on these two ambitious tracks at least. The Necromancer and The Fountain of Lamneth were also the longest compositions the band had produced up to this point at 12:28 and 19:57 minutes respectively. The Fountain of Lamneth took up the whole of side two of the vinyl LP. It seemed that producing radio-friendly tunes was not part of the brief. And why should it be? Afterall, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and others had achieved considerable success and artistic credibility by eschewing 3 minute radio-friendly songs. So, despite what Rush's record company may have thought, the band were not heading in the wrong direction with Caress of Steel. The album was, however, both an artistic and commercial failure. Why? Well the band seemed to have lost a lot of the energy and verve displayed on their previous LPs. Also, the music, while interesting and certainly not without merit failed to gel. The band were clearly still a "work in progress". The record company hated Caress of Steel and following poor sales of the album were reported to be seriously considering dropping the band unless their next album achieved much better sales. The record company executives have been widely reported to have wanted shorter, more "commercially-orientated" songs for the fourth Rush album but Geddy, Alex & Neil had other ideas ...
When Rush entered the Toronto Sound Studios with producer Terry Brown to record 2112 they were a band under pressure. The album had to be a commercial success otherwise they would be dropped by their record company and their career would be over. They had to achieve this without selling out and abandoning their ideals. I have read in interviews with members of the band that there were both angry and fired-up during the making of this album. They were determined not to pander to record company executives and were determined also to take the attitude that they if this was to be their last album then they would go out out with a bang. So, 20 minute songs it was to be then!
That attitude paid off handsomely! 2112 was by far and away the best record of their career up to that point. It received widespread critical acclaim and was a big commercial success. After 2112, the record company left Rush alone to do whatever they wanted. Rush had finally made it!
Opening the album is the title track, running to over 20 minutes. It is split into 7 sub-parts but runs through continuously with no breaks. 2112 (the track) is a hard rock/prog rock tour de force. Right from the start with "Overture" the band make a statement of intent: "we mean business!". The sleeve notes credit Neil Peart for the lyrics "with acknowledgement to the genious of Ayn Rand". Peart is known to be a fan of Rand and a follower of her philosophy of "Objectivism",
"In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. By 2112, the world is controlled by the "Priests of the Temples of Syrinx", who determine the content of all reading matter, songs, pictures - every facet of life.
A man discovers an ancient guitar and learns to play his own music. Thinking he has made a wonderful discovery that will be a boon to humanity, he goes to present the guitar to the priests of the Temples, who angrily destroy it and rebuke him for unearthing one of the "silly whims" that caused of the collapse of the previous civilization. He goes into hiding and dreams of a world before the Solar Federation. Upon awakening he becomes distraught and commits suicide. As he dies, another planetary battle begins resulting in the ambiguous ending "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." (This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson reportedly "messing around with a tape recorder".)
... Rand, a Russian-born Jewish-American novelist and creator of the philosophy of Objectivism, wrote a novella titled Anthem (itself adopted as the title of another Rush song, from the album Fly By Night) from which Peart borrowed the broad strokes of the plot."
2112, like the rest of the album is very focused, unlike Caress of Steel from the year before which meanders and loses it's way from time to time. The band play out of their skins with real verve and energy yet also with restraint when called for.
Side 2 of the vinyl kicks off with another Rush anthem that remains hugely popular in their live shows to this day: "A Passage to Bangkok". As far as I know, this is the only song the band ever wrote about drugs. All the lyrics on the album were written by Peart with the Exception of "Tears" (Lee) and "Lessons" (Lifeson).
Of the six songs on the album there is one lemon, however - "Tears" - just too slushy and sentimental for me. Geddy was never the World's greatest lyricist, Tears and "In The Mood" (from the first album) being cases in point! Thank God for Mr. Peart!
Nevertheless, this is a superb record and every enthusiast of classic rock music should own it - preferably on mint condition original vinyl!
Credit must also be given to the producer. British-born Terry Brown (often affectionally referred to as "Broon" in Rush's sleevenotes) did a great job with the sound on this album. It is very well recorded without gimmicks by a producer from the old school who knows what he is doing. Along with "A farewell To Kings (1977) and "Permanent Waves" (1980), 2112 has the best sound of Rush's catalogue. It is no coincidence that these were all produced by Terry Brown (although he did not quite reach the same standard with "Hemispheres" (1978) or the mega-selling "Moving Pictures" (1981) in my view).
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