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Rush - Exit...Stage Right

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Album Review

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Exit Stage Right: A String Quartet Tribute to Rush - Classic Rock Goes Classical...

Pros: Beautiful classical renditions of early Rush classics.

Cons: Only pre 1981 songs appear.

The Bottom Line: Classical Music married with Rush? Believe it. Experience it. Absorb it. You'll love it.
As a devout fan of the musical genius of Rush, the Canadian trio of rockers who have been producing music since the late sixties through today, I've often been perplexed by the continuing paradox that exists between the admiration this band receives from fans and musicians alike, while receiving primarily scorn from the critics.

The fan base of Rush is world renowned for their continuing expansion and dedication of the band. World-class musicians have often cited Rush as a primary influence in their own drive towards musical expression.

So what is it that the legions of fans and musicians alike see (or hear) that the critics, the so-called experts in the music field, do not?

Good question.

Perhaps if the critics spent more time absorbing the music of Rush which, admittedly, they have been doing more of recently, then maybe they too would begin to realize that musically and lyrically, Rush offers a tremendous, multi-faceted experience through their music. Their complex and precise arrangements have kept a generation of fans dumbfounded and delighted for years.

And now, with the release of a new tribute album to Rush, one can see just how far-reaching the music of Rush can be. How diverse it is. How melodic, energetic and emotional it is at its core.

Exit Stage Right: The String Quartet Tribute to Rush takes a classical look at some of Rush's more intriguing and popular songs. Other tributes to Rush were based on variations on a rock theme. That is to say that the music is reproduced by other rock bands who give their take on Rush. One such tribute album, Working Man, does a moderately good job of this while another tribute album, Red Star: Tribute to Rush, does an absolutely horrid job.

But with Exit Stage Right, we are treated to a completely new and different interpretation of Rush - one performed and visualized by a string quartet. It's classical Rush that sounds surprisingly rich, full of emotions and extremely inspirational.

When I first heard of this effort, which was arranged, produced, mixed and mastered by long time Rush fan Todd Rubenstein, I was cautiously optimistic. There was no question in my mind that a lot of the music of Rush would translate well in a classical forum, but I wondered how they would replace Neil Peart's driving percussions, and what would they do to replace Geddy Lee's vocals?

And since this wasn't an orchestra reproducing the music of Rush, but simply a string quartet, that made the effort that much more challenging - and rewarding, as it turned out, in the end.

The musicians that play on this tribute album are:

Todd Rubenstein - cello and bass
Paul Tobias - violin and viola
Patricia Tobias - violin and viola
Andre Janovich - cello
Barry Sines - violin
Dan Furmanik - violin
Thomas Sauders - bass

None of them may be a household name, but all of them clearly have a passion for what they do as witnessed in every performance on this CD.

The selection of songs, interestingly, mirrors Rush's second live CD called 'Exit...Stage Left', hence the humorous title of this tribute album. Each song on ESL, save for the last, complicated instrumental La Villa Strangiato appears on ESR, including the short classical guitar turned violin introduction to The Trees called Broon's Bane.

Some of the highlights on this tribute include Closer to the Heart, which absolutely shines, the aforementioned Broon's Bane and its counterpart The Trees. Also, the take on Xanadu is really mystical.

All the tracks, however, have their merit. Some clearly flow far better than others, but within each, you're treated to nuances that you might otherwise not have realized existed in the original Rush rock treatings.

Interestingly enough, some of Rush's more recent material is probably better suited for classical interpretation. So while the treatment here truly is inspiring, one would hope that this is but the first in a line of classical musings on the collective works of Rush.

All in all, this is a tribute album worthy of the Rush name. If you are a Rush fan, you should certainly buy this CD. If not, but you enjoy classical music, especially string quartets, then a listen may surprise you.

In either case, those who do listen, absorb and experience Exit Stage Right will certainly appreciate it.

Below is a complete track listing. Thanks, as always, for reading.


Track Listing

1. The Spirit Of Radio
2. Red Barchetta
3. YYZ
4. A Passage To Bangkok
5. Closer To The Heart
6. Beneath, Between, & Behind
7. Jacob's Ladder
8. Broon's Bane
9. The Trees
10. Xanadu
11. Freewill
12. Tom Sawyer
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