Extravagant box sets – many richly done – are the norm for bands celebrating longevity landmarks. Re-worked material, outtakes, rarities, alternate versions, glossy booklets are all par for the course. Often what was released as part of a 20-year celebration gets released at the completion of 25 with a few minor tweaks, betraying the tiredness and ennui of years.
Rush bucked the trend with a low profile but incandescent offering in 2004 when they completed 30 years of producing mostly brilliant music. Instead of an exhibition of self-indulgence, ‘Feedback’ is Rush’s tribute to their early influences. This is a 27 minute riotous, unabashed celebration of their heroes, yet with Rush’s own stamp on these covers.
The EP opens with a dramatic, bombastic start to Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’. This version reminded me of The Who’s Live At Leeds cover of the song, only more rambunctious. ‘Heart Full Of Soul‘ and ‘Shapes Of Things’ are nods to The Yardbirds. Rush’s cover of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth‘ starts on a quiet, innocuous note but soon acquires menace as it morphs into a heavy, sludgy rocker. Geddy Lee is no Roger Daltrey and doesn’t quite summon the sucks-to-you attitude of Daltrey. Yet the band captures the urgency and desolation of The Who’s ‘The Seeker’ exceptionally well. Neil Young’s ‘Mr. Soul’ is a personal favorite and Rush prolong the pleasure with a version longer than the original. One of the surprises for me on this set is the cover of Love’s ‘Seven And Seven Is’. This one goes madly careening at barely under control pace. In their fifties these guys may be, but it doesn’t show at all. They play with the glee and energy of a trio in its prime.
Robert Johnson’s legendary ‘Crossroads’ has become Eric Clapton’s signature and Cream’s version of that blues classic has become the standard. I love what Cream did with Johnson’s baby (or should I say, did to it) and I thought nobody could surpass the supreme musicianship that Cream displayed on that cut while still keeping it so tight. That was till Rush blew me away with their version to close out this set. And it’s only appropriate that it took another power trio to take this song to a higher plane. Alex Lifeson is a god unleashing his might with his guitar. Geddy Lee is not exactly a standout rock vocalist but when it comes to the bass guitar, he’s right up there among the greatest. His playing and Neil Peart’s drumming kick up a rare storm. This is brilliant, brillIANT, BRILLIANT. So much so that I have made an exception to my own rule by embedding this song in its entirety, not just a sample.