We were drifting with the motor off in the Salish Sea, sipping Bloody Marys on a perfect Thursday morning when the subject of RUSH’s worst song came up. Do they even have a worst? Can they?

I asked Bret if he was familiar with Rivendell. He wasn’t. We dialed it up. Minutes later Rivendell was still playing. “Wow, this is bad,” Bret observed. At that moment the project struck me: I should rank RUSH’s songs; all 165 of them, go deep, listen to them all again, some for the 300th time, some for maybe just the 4th or 5th.

I knew what #1 was for me, and I had a strong inclination that Rivendell would be #165. Beyond that, I didn’t know where the rest would fall, and this is where the fun lay. I began with a printed list of songs, by album, and looked for titles with which I was unfamiliar. From this motley group I worked, going from worst to first.

There were surprises all along the way, songs that refused to stick on my worst-to-first list, but rather kept getting moved up with each repeated listening. The more I listened, the more I liked them. This illustrated one of the many biases of the list, like older songs getting ranked higher simply because I’ve heard them more, or newer songs sounding better because the recording technology is better.

But who really cares anyway? While I tried to evaluate the quality of songs, what I really ranked was my favorite songs. It’s my damn list, after all. Beyond about the bottom 25, I like them all, it’s just a question of where they categorize; like, love, or life-changing.

Whether or not you scoff at my choices, I hope you all get a chuckle, at least, and maybe discover or re-discover a song that brings you joy. Because damn, dude, it’s RUSH!

1 – The Spirit of Radio – Permanent Waves – Like Springsteen’s Born to Run, this song starts at full throttle and never lets up.

2 – 2112 – 2112 – Their Opus

3 – La Villa Strangiato – Hemispheres – Listening to this is an exercise in mental gymnastics.

4 – Freewill – Permanent Waves – Crazy instrumentation. And sing-able chorus lyrics.

5 – YYZ – Moving Pictures – I’d already been a RUSH fan for a couple years when I first heard this. Blew me away.

6 – Xanadu – A Farewell to Kings – Maybe the most intricate 11 minutes of music they ever made

7 – The Enemy Within – Grace Under Pressure – “Experience to extremes,” Lisa said as we unwisely paddled toward the glacier. God I love her.

8 – Limelight – Moving Pictures – Shakespeare, honesty, guitar solos, in the pocket throughout—this song has it all.

9 – Vital Signs – Moving Pictures – So…fucking…tight!

10 – Headlong Flight – Clockwork Angels – Perhaps the most heart-felt delivery they ever produced

11 – The Trees – Hemispheres – In Arizona, the maples are actually happy in the shade.

12 – Working Man – RUSH – The song that started it all for the men of Willowdale

13 – Fly by Night – Fly by Night – I’m all-in at the first chord

14 – Tom Sawyer – Moving Pictures – RUSH fans like to loathe this popular song sometimes. But damn it’s good.

15 – Red Barchetta – Moving Pictures – Can’t help but play the air bass on the fade out

16 – Anthem – Fly by Night – This song is the first time early RUSH fans ever heard Peart’s drums, in 1975. Can you imagine?

17 – Natural Science – Permanent Waves – Time after time we will flow and recede, leaving life to go on as it was.

18 – The Analog Kid – Signals – Want to get your heart rate up? Listen to this one.

19 – The Camera Eye – Moving Pictures – So epic, Colbert would say that the end of the song was influenced by an earlier part of the song.

20 – A Farewell to Kings – A Farewell to Kings – Mr. Alex Zivojinovic on the classical guitar

21 – Subdivisions – Signals – Hope for a generation of misfits

22 – Distant Early Warning – Grace Under Pressure – Great vocals. This one gets to 10 mid-song…and stays there.

23 – The Way the Wind Blows – Snakes and Arrows – Kick-Ass blues. Another wise message. Remember the W years?

24 – A Passage to Bangkok – 2112 – Smoke some weeeeeed bro.

25 – Bastille Day – Caress of Steel – Best finishing drum roll of all time?

26 – Kid Gloves – Grace Under Pressure – An understated guitar solo, and one of my favorites as well

27 – Closer to the Heart – A Farewell to Kings – I like the part where a young Geddy goes, “Whoah-oh!”

28 – Hemispheres – Hemispheres – Six songs. Last of the sci-fi 20-minute tales

29 – The Big Money – Power Windows – Big money got no soul

30 – Show Don’t Tell – Presto – Play da funk

31 – Time Stand Still – Hold Your Fire – Our wedding song!

32 – The Pass – Presto – Final crescendo gets me every time

33 – Main Monkey Business – Snakes and Arrows – Best instrumental in 25 years

34 – Dreamline – Roll the Bones – Mandatory start-of-a-road-trip tune

35 – Force Ten – Hold Your Fire – Lisa named a rapid “Force Ten.”

36 – Cygnus X-1 – A Farewell to Kings – Primus covered the entire album in concert, mainly due to this song’s impact.

37 – Digital Man – Signals – Lovin’ da reggae!

38 – Totem – Test for Echo – Vishnu, Gaia, Aztec, Maya…you kidding me? This song is so fun!

39 – Lakeside Park – Caress of Steel – Takes me right back to the mixed cassette—that Lisa made from brother Matt—that hooked me.

40 – Mission – Hold Your Fire – Inspiring every time I hear it

41 – We Hold On – Snakes and Arrows – This song is my mantra of late. And probably will remain so.

42 – Ghost of a Chance – Roll the Bones – First love song they really nailed

43 – Red Sector A – Grace Under Pressure – I like how the keyboards conjure the military confinement portrayed here.

44 – Circumstances – Hemispheres – No really, that is indeed French he’s singing in that one part.

45 – Hope – Snakes and Arrows – So beautiful I usually tear up during this track

46 – Jacobs Ladder – Permanent Waves – Simply mesmerizing

47 – Entre Nous – Permanent Waves – Neil was an introvert. I get it.

48 – Animate – Counterparts – Seems like they played this at every show I saw, but it was actually only in four tours.

49 – Roll the Bones – Roll the Bones – RUSH rap

50 – New World Man – Signals – Their highest chart ranking song

51 – The Necromancer – Caress of Steel – Three songs. Under the Shadow is the most head-banging shit they ever did.

52 – Afterimage – Grace Under Pressure – I quoted this one in Whitewater Classics

53 – Peaceable Kingdom – Vapor Trails – Heaviest riff Alex laid down since Moving Pictures

54 – BU2B – Clockwork Angels – Prog metal all the way through

55 – Bravado – Roll the Bones – Alex has said this is one of his favorite solos. Not super complex, but emotive.

56 – The Weapon – Signals – Trippy bridge

57 – Presto – Presto – The acoustic guitar and tempo-change in this song are so uplifting to me.

58 – Working Them Angels – Snakes and Arrows – A song for gratefulness. Cool mandolin too.

59 – By-tor and the Snowdog – Fly By Night – Their first attempt at the art rock thing?

60 – Between the Wheels – Grace Under Pressure – Never gave this song much attention until they brought it back for a tour

61 – Cinderella Man – A Farewell to Kings – Hell of a lot of music in a four minute song

62 – Alien Shore – Counterparts – Coral reef metaphors. A typically awesome RUSH song. Great bass album.

63 – Fountain of Lamneth – Caress of Steel – Six songs. How bout those skins on Didacts? I wanna go to the Bacchus Plateau!

64 – Clockwork Angels – Clockwork Angels – One of Neil’s several commentaries on religion

65 – The Stars Look Down – Vapor Trails – Laugh, cry, and fist-pump all in four minutes

66 – Ceiling Unlimited – Vapor Trails – “Winding like and ancient river, the time is now again.”

67 – Coldfire – Counterparts – This is a friggin’ great song. I can’t believe there are 66 songs ranked higher!

68 – Secret Touch – Vapor Trails – “The way out is in” -Thich Nhat Hanh

69 – Leave That Thing Alone – Counterparts – Spacey instrumental

70 – Test for Echo – Test for Echo – Heard this for the first time on the radio, with my friend Ken Webb on Butler Ave.

71 – The Anarchist – Clockwork Angels – Epic life. Epic song.

72 – Between Sun & Moon – Counterparts – Neil is spectacular per usual. Alex is quite raunchy.

73 – Manhattan Project – Power Windows – My old man flew in not long after the shock wave in those August days.

74 – Malignant Narcissism – Snakes and Arrows – Here’s to narcissism

75 – One Little Victory – Vapor Trails – “One little victory”—applicable on a daily basis. Hopefully.

76 – How it Is – Vapor Trails – Upbeat music juxtaposed to dour lyrics

77 – Resist – Test for Echo – A folk tune

78 – Driven – Test for Echo – The live version REALLY kicks ass.

79 – Limbo – Test for Echo – A weird, slower instrumental

80 – Marathon – Power Windows – Another great bass riff from Power Windows. This album conflicts me.

81 – The Body Electric – Grace Under Pressure – One zero zero one…what the?

82 – Where’s My Thing? – Roll the Bones – Wish they’d done another instrumental, maybe during the Grace era.

83 – Mystic Rhythms – Power Windows – The lyrics carry this song for me, although the vibe is different and interesting also.

84 – Half the World – Test for Echo – Brilliant lyrics

85 – Earthshine – Vapor Trails – A very RUSH song, albeit simpler than most. I quote it once a month, with the crescent moon.

86 – Seven Cities of Gold – Clockwork Angels – Great intro. How many rock tunes focus on the Colorado Plateau?

87 – The Larger Bowl – Snakes and Arrows – Kind of a RUSH Pop tune

88 – Different Strings – Permanent Waves – Salt Lake’s Minister of Meat played this around the campfire for me once in Grand Canyon.

89 – Scars – Presto – Please give us more African drums, Mr. Professor

90 – Beneath, Between, Behind – Fly by Night – Finding their sound. What the hell is Geddy saying?

91 – I think I’m Going Bald – Caress of Steel – Should probably be ranked lower but I love it. Neil was 23 when he wrote this!

92 – Far Cry – Snakes and Arrows – A hard driving album opener

93 – Territories – Power Windows – Classic bass riff

94 – Stick it Out – Counterparts – I recall Geddy introducing this song once as “A song from a heavier time.”

95 – Finding My Way – RUSH – Brings me right back to the road trip East and mixed cassette that got me and Lisa into RUSH.

96 – Witch Hunt – Moving Pictures – During this song in concert, I got kinda aggro toward a guy wearing an anti-immigration t-shirt.

97 – Armor and Sword – Snakes and Arrows – Philosophy

98 – Nobody’s Hero – Counterparts – A sing-along

99 – Vapor Trail – Vapor Trails – A simpler title track

100 – Everyday Glory – Counterparts – Rhyme that shit Neil

101 – Something for Nothing – 2112 – Screamin times

102 – What You’re Doing – RUSH – Maybe Rutsey’s best?

103 – Dog Years – Test for Echo – Surprisingly catchy

104 – Out of the Cradle – Vapor Trails – “Endlessly rocking” A nice album finisher

105 – Here Again – RUSH – Blues! Not bad pre-Neil lyrics either.

106 – Cut to the Chase – Counterparts – A rock-n-roll tune from a rock-n-roll album

107 – Best I Can – Fly by Night – Love the Enthusiasm!

108 – Middletown Dreams – Power Windows – Super solid with hints of bad things to come

109 – Double Agent – Counterparts – Experimental

110 – Caravan – Clockwork Angels – Is that jazz they’re playing?

111 – Ghost Rider – Vapor Trails – No doubt Mr. Peart and I have shared many a wilderness road

112 – Sweet Miracle – Vapor Trails – Baddass intro

113 – Lock and Key – Hold Your Fire – Drama!

114 – The Speed of Love – Counterparts – Bass riffin. Fizzles at the end.

115 – Lessons – 2112 – An Alex song

116 – The Wreckers – Clockwork Angels – I’d listen to this just to hear how the story ends.

117 – Need Some Love – RUSH – Goin for that Zep sound

118 – Making Memories – Fly by Night – A fun road tune

119 – Bravest Face – Snakes and Arrows – Still an original sound, even after 17 albums

120 – Take a Friend – RUSH – 1974 recording technology. Kinda cute.

121 – Heresy – Roll the Bones – Too much of the late 80s sound in this one

122 – Wish Them Well – Clockwork Angels – Wise message

123 – Faithless – Snakes and Arrows – A Neil introspective, “I will quietly resist.”

124 – Nocturne – Vapor Trails – A little too weird for me

125 – Carve Away the Stone – Test for Echo – This song comes to mind often for me. Must be that catchy wisdom again.

126 – The Garden – Clockwork Angels – Neil’s goodbye message

127 – Before and After – RUSH – Classic early Alex

128 – Carnies – Clockwork Angels – Too much story to fit in this song

129 – The Big Wheel – Roll the Bones – Parts of this song are super clever. Could be a minute or two shorter.

130 – Red Lenses – Grace Under Pressure – Only miss on the album

131 – The Color of Right – Test for Echo – Meh

132 – Face Up – Roll the Bones – A catchy hook

133 – Available Light – Presto – You go Ged

134 – In the Mood – RUSH – Such nice guys they couldn’t really write a pick-up song

135 – Time and Motion – Test for Echo – Great lyrics. Drab music.

136 – Turn the Page – Hold Your Fire – Some great musicianship but the keyboard fills kill it for me

137 – Good News First – Snakes & Arrows – Parts of this song are great, but not all parts

138 – Virtuality – Test for Echo – Is this intentionally repetitive?

139 – In the End – Fly by Night – One of their simplest songs

140 – Halo Effect – Clockwork Angels – A bridge song for the album

141 – Freeze – Vapor Trails – No harmony. Lisa ranks it 30 spots higher.

142 – Chemistry – Signals – Love their sound from this era but this one falls a little short

143 – Spindrift – Snakes & Arrows – Another relationship song that struggles

144 – Losing It – Signals – What’s with the Hearts of Space part at the end?

145 – Emotion Detector – Power Windows – Tai Shan #1

146 – Twilight Zone – 2112 – Fun song, but an afterthought following their Opus

147 – Grand Designs – Power Windows – A decent song killed by overwrought keyboards

148 – Hand Over Fist – Presto – Not that bad…for Presto

149 – Open Secrets – Hold Your Fire – Until Ghost of a Chance, few of their relationship songs ever worked well

150 – You Bet Your Life – Roll the Bones – Gimmicky

151 – Second Nature – Hold Your Fire – Unabashed keyboards

152 – Madrigal – A Farewell to Kings – At least it’s a short song

153 – Red Tide – Presto – Was Yanni a guest artist on this?

154 – Prime Mover – Hold Your Fire – Moments of RUSH destroyed by high pitched keyboards

155 – Countdown – Signals – They actually played this in concert one tour.

156 – BU2B – Clockwork Angels – I’d actually rather listen to this 1:28 album bridge than any of the songs below.

157 – Chain Lightning – Presto – Cheesy

158 – Anagram – Presto – A good effort, but it’s tough to follow Superconductor

159 – High Water – Hold Your Fire – A nice opening killed by the Windham Hill sound

160 – Tears – 2112 – A Geddy love song.

161 – Neurotica – Roll the Bones – Lives up to its title.

162 – Tai Shan – Hold Your Fire – Flute opening? No one cares about your China vacation, Neil.

163 – War Paint – Presto – Wow. A real contender in the race for worst.

164 – Superconductor – Presto – If this is a parody of a bad pop song, they crushed it.

165 – Rivendell – Fly By Night – Not sure why they ever recorded this. And it just keeps going.

 

After viewing my song list, a few folks asked for an album ranking. One might think this would be an easy task to achieve. Simply take the song ranks, average them by album, and get an answer. But some albums have 4 songs and others have 13—a statistical anomaly difficult to square. Besides, my affinity for a particular album doesn’t directly correlate with it’s overall song rankings. An album is an entire entity in its own right. So, correlated to my song list or not, here are my album rankings. Sorry Presto fans.

  1. Permanent Waves: Perhaps Moving Pictures was their peak, but I’m a fan of the 70s sound.
  2. Moving Pictures: Greatest progressive rock album of all time
  3. Grace Under Pressure: Technically a big part of their keyboard era, but 7 of 8 are great songs
  4. A Farewell to Kings: Might be ranked #3 if it weren’t for Madrigal
  5. Hemispheres: Not a bad song, or even part of a song that is bad, on this album
  6. Signals: Love the reggae vibe
  7. Snakes and Arrows: Didn’t know how much I liked this album until doing the list
  8. Counterparts: Highest ranked song is #48, but it’s simply strong throughout
  9. Fly by Night: Despite Rivendell, this is one great album
  10. 2112: A couple so-so songs, but if you’re on a deserted island you gotta have it
  11. Caress of Steel: Say what you will, but this is head-banging fun
  12. Vapor Trails: Much-maligned, but this album just rolls for me
  13. Clockwork Angels: So well crafted, this album will likely be ranked higher in a few years
  14. Test for Echo: Only ranked this ahead of Power Windows because it has more songs
  15. Power Windows: I have a love-hate relationship with this album
  16. Roll the Bones: Some really great songs, and some not so great
  17. RUSH: So fun, so good, just a little too raw to be ranked higher
  18. Hold Your Fire: Three good songs
  19. Presto: I thought Hold Your Fire was my least favorite, until revisiting Presto