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Various Artists

Subdivisions - A Tribute To Rush

Review by Gary Hill

Subdivisions is a new Tribute album devoted to the music of Rush from Magna Carta Records. Those paying close attention and with a good memory, may be saying now; "didn't they do one before?" The answer is "yes", but surely a group with as rich a history and as many releases as Rush can warrant more than one album of covers of their songs. This time around the central musicians enlisted to create the tracks are Vinnie Moore, Stu Hamm, Mike Mangini, Robert Berry, Jeff Feldman and Trent Gardner. Featured artists (soloists and vocalists) on the project include the aforementioned Berry, Hamm, Mangini and Moore, Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Dave Brooks (Slammin' Gladys), Dominic Cifarelli (Pulse Ultra), Jeff Feldman (Pulse Ultra), Daniel J. (Solo Artist, Jordan Rudess), Randy Jackson (Zebra), Andreas Kisser (Sepultura), Jani Lane (Warrant); Alex Skolnick (Solo Artist, Testament, Tran Siberian Orchestra, Attention Deficit); Jeff Stinco (Simple Plan) and Kip Winger (Winger).

While like any project of this nature some of the material doesn't hold up as well as others, I feel that this one is superior to their first Rush tribute "Working Man". Where it works best is on the song sections that are played nearly flawlessly like the original, or when the musicians move it in new directions. The performances that are the weakest are those that try to come very close to the original, but don't pull it off. Also, I have a bit of a problem regarding the song "Didacts and Narpets" being included at all. Still, this collection should be of great interest to Rush fans, and fans of any of the artists who contributed.

Now that Magna Carta has released another tribute album, let's hope it's the first of another run of them. I'd love to see another Yes one, and there are a whole host of bands (Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Happy The Man, Kansas and Nektar are the first ones that come to mind) that would seem obvious choices.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Distant Early Warning
This one is so close to the original that if you don't listen too closely you'd swear it was actually Rush. They do manage to bring in some newness in the inspired and extremely energized instrumental break, though, sort of blasting a Rush on steroids sound. Zebra's Randy Jackson sounds so much like Geddy Lee on this that at times it's uncanny. The outro is awesome.
Lakeside Park
With a modern rock intro added, this one kicks off the familiar melody. Sebastian Bach's vocals don't quite cut it for me, but the keyboards added to the track are a nice touch. Musically this one might be a good representation of the song might have sounding like if the band had done it during their A Farewell To Kings era. A major variation for them original, a full on prog rock jam forms a centerpiece to the track, and the band explodes out into fusionish fury after this excursion. They really turn this into a total prog instrumental jam for a while, but put it back to its roots eventually. The jazzy tones return to take it to its keyboard outro.
Limelight
This is a lively and potent rendition with some intriguing new prog segments. Kip Winger's vocals work pretty well here, but sound very little like Lee's. There are some very unusual and interesting changes to the musical arrangement at times. These guys throw a lot of curves in to the mix and musical quotes from other Rush songs. They add a cool little keyboard and percussion part to the outro, too.
Subdivisions
Always an underrated modern Rush song, this is given a lush take on the intro here. As the band launch into the song proper it's pretty true to the original. Randy Jackson again lends vocals that are amazingly like Lee's. The keys are very inspired on this one, and the musicians also include some intriguing new prog sections. The cool process "subdivisions" bit is left off of this take, though, and I always liked that part a lot.
Different Strings
This prog ballad version of the piece is simply incredible. I've always liked this track a lot, and I think I like this version better than the original. While Robert Berry's vocals are very different than Lee's, they work quite well here.
Tom Sawyer
While there are a few differences in the arrangement, this one is played fairly faithfully. Again Sebastian Bach's vocals just don't quite cut it.
Bastille Day
Although all the original segments of this cut are intact, there is a lot of new material added in here. It works very well to breathe new life into this Rush classic.
A Farewell to Kings
The keyboard oriented intro section is expanded here. As the hard rocking section cuts in, though it rocks out quite faithfully. Randy Jackson again proves himself very capable of pulling off an impressive Geddy Lee impression. This is definitely a smoker. They add in a new, almost funky, prog segment in the mid section In my opinion this takes a little bit away from it, as does the Nugent like guitar solo. Still, this one is quite strong.
Spirit of Radio
With a bit of a different texture Kip Winger again provides strong vocals, while not copying Lee's sound. This is a strong one, but not a standout. It does feature some very potent instrumental work, and rocks out quite hard, too.
Didacts and Narpets
While obviously a collection like this makes it pretty impossible to do a full epic like "The Fountain of Lamneth", the inclusion of this short segment seems a bit odd. It's done quite faithfully - I'm just not sure if it should have been done at all.
2112 Overture / Temples of Syrinx
Other than some different keyboard textures, this starts off pretty close to the original. The vocals on this one only work so well, but the instrumental performance is awesome. A rather cool keyboard outro is a nice addition.
 
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