It would be too easy to say “Hemispheres by Rush is 2 long songs, 2 short songs, go buy it now” but as this is my favourite Rush album ever then it deserves more attention! On buying it at the age of 15 I was so struck by the music that I embroidered the band logo onto my denim jacket. Originally released on October 29th 1978, Hemispheres was Rush’s 5th studio album and was to be their last to feature such long songs due to the stress of recording sessions. The Permanent Waves album was to follow, leading to major commercial success.
Hemispheres has been re-issued on 180gm vinyl via Universal Music as part of their ’12 months of Rush’ celebrations. At the moment Rush are undertaking a North American tour that ends on August 1st 2015. The album begins with ‘Cygnus X – 1 Book II : Hemispheres’ which concludes ‘Book I’ that closed previous album A Farewell To Kings. At 18 minutes long it demands repeated plays to appreciate the complexity on display here, especially the mesmerising drum patterns from Neil Peart. Basically it is a Greek tragedy that tells the tale of the battle of the 2 Gods Dionysus and Apollo.
Geddy Lee’s inimitable vocals appear after the opening 3 minute instrumental bombast. A quiet interlude comes in at the 12 minute mark as distorted vocals over synths give way to heavier passages portraying the battle between the Gods in an adrenaline rush (pardon the pun) as it ends on a wistful vocal backed by Alex Lifeson’s acoustic guitar lines. ‘Circumstances’, the first of the 2 short songs rides along on a big, rolling main riff. Lyrically it is supposed to be based on Neil Peart’s struggle to make a living as a musician in London. Geddy’s vocals shift from mid range to his trademark yelps.
Second short song ‘The Trees’ is one of Rush’s finest songs to this day. It’s almost Medieval sounding acoustic guitar intro precedes a massive riff as the lyrics portray a power struggle between oak and maple trees in their forest. A lengthy synth led mid-section paves the way for a biting guitar solo. Album closer ‘La Villa Strangiato’, Rush’s first instrumental is a master class in heavy, progressive rock. It really has it all signed, sealed and delivered in 8 glorious minutes. The flamenco like acoustic intro is followed by striding guitar lines as precise picking comes in backed by sparse drums and synths. Geddy’s bass then rears its head as the main riff brings the album to a close.
Hemispheres still sounds as vital now as it did 37 years ago.
Rush band line up :-
Geddy Lee – Vocals/bass guitar/synths.
Alex Lifeson – Guitars.
Neil Peart – Drums/percussion.
Album track listing : –
Cygnus X – 1 Book II Hemispheres.
La Villa Strangiato.