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Rush album Hemispheres: In your collection?


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This is my first post I am going to make about Rush, who are probably the greatest rock band to have ever emerged from Canada. Actually, I should also mention that Bryan Adams is another one of my favorite Canadian acts, and that my mother is from Canada.


Released in October of 1978, Hemispheres became the seventh album Rush put out, preceded by last year's A Farewell To Kings, as well as live album All The World's A Stage, and Rush Archives, a compilation of their first 3 albums. Like A Farewell To Kings, Hemispheres was cut at Rockfield Studios in Wales, where the group had decided to record for tax reasons. Although the overdubs, mixing and mastering were all done at Trident Studios in London. It eventually received platinum certification in the late Eighties.


The album opens up with side 1, and the 18:07 long track Cygnus X-1: Book 2: Hemispheres. Wait, what?


Alright, alright. If you have ever owned A Farewell To Kings, you might remember that album closed with the track Cygnus X-1: Book 1: The Voyage, featuring a spoken prologue by Rush's producer Terry Brown. 


"In the constellation of Cygnus
There lurks a mysterious, invisible force
The Black Hole of Cygnus X-1

Six stars of the northern cross
In mourning for their sister's loss
In a final flash of glory
Nevermore to grace the night."


Side 1 continues with the narrator's spaceship, Rocinante, being sucked into the black hole of Cygnus X-1 (which was, in fact, a real black hole). Opening with great drumming from Neil Peart, the ringing EDS 1275 double neck of Alex Lifeson, and crashing Rickenbacker flair of Geddy Lee, he sings "As a disembodied spirit I am dead and yet unborn." I often wonder if the lyrics of Neil Peart were an influence on such authors as JK Rowling and Christopher Paolini. You know he was. 


If Hemispheres had been entirely instrumental, it would be really surreal sounding. Not that I have anything against Geddy--he is a great vocalist and bass player. I have nothing against him singing about Cygnus, the God of Balance. 

There are also LOTS of Oberheim and Moog synthesizers on this record, a sure sign of what Rush would sound like by the time they put out Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures in the Eighties.


Side 2 opens with Circumstances, which was released as a single. I often see it as a companion piece to Madrigal from A Farewell To Kings, in that both songs have a similar melody and lyric structure, and have a less lengthy runtime than most Rush songs.

However, Alex Lifeson did not like the song Entre Nous, from Permanent Waves, so it was never played live, despite being released as a single.

The Circumstances lyrics are sung in French--"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" translates to "The more that things change, the more they stay the same." It has some very nice acoustic work from Alex Lifeson. The Trees also became a staple of Rush's concert setlist, and is one of those Rush songs that true Rush fans know by heart. It did spark controversy, however, when Neil Peart, who supported the Democratic Party and became a US citizen just a few years before he died, wrote a formal complaint to Rand Paul, politely asking him to stop quoting The Trees in his campaign speeches.


And then the other centerpiece of this album. You know the one...




One of the best Rush instrumentals (along with YYZ and Where's My Thing? from Roll The Bones), it starts off with Alex Lifeson playing some wonderfully multitracked notes on his Roland guitar synth. Then the drums overdub, and you start to think to yourself--Wow! This doesn't sound ANYTHING like Rush!

Lots of phase shifting on this song, and a lot of good percussion from Peart. Allegedly this song was recorded over the course of 3 days, and when Rush got to mixing the album, they spliced all the tapes together. Now you know.


Hemispheres is a classic album, but of course I say that about every album I own. As a matter of fact, I can see Rush being an influence on stuff like Radiohead (of whom Alex Lifeson was a fan), Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Creed.


A little off topic here, but I must also show some hands (pun intended) for Rush's original drummer, John Rutsey, whose drumming on their first album (especially on In The Mood and Working Man) left just as much an impression on drummers as Neil Peart did. Shame Rutsey left after their first album (I believe because he had diabetes).


However, in a 2015 interview, Geddy claimed that the production of Hemispheres was rushed by Mercury (no pun intended), and that the Rush members wrote and recorded all of the songs without realizing it was hard for Geddy to sing over, eventually claiming "It was just the two worst weeks of my life recording vocals."


It is a great album, and I need to find it and A Farewell To Kings on CD.

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