If you’re a fan of Rush like I am, you probably know them for their hard-hitting, prog masterpieces like “Tom Sawyer,” “The Spirit of Radio” and “Limelight.”
Decidedly electric and undeniably energetic, Rush’s intricate arrangements and complex rhythms characterize their catalog.
But the band also spins out some masterfully created and performed acoustic parts and songs. Alex Lifeson, Rush’s guitarist, is no stranger to the acoustic and has been known to lend his talents to the mandolin, mandola and even the bouzouki when the mood strikes him.
Here are some of our top acoustic moments from the Rush catalog. Check ‘em out. Did we miss any of your favorites?
“Closer to the Heart” — A Farewell to Kings
Perhaps one of the best-known acoustic moments from the band, this lovely picked acoustic intro on “Closer to the Heart” is perhaps one of the most chart-topping of their acoustic contributions. Released in 1977 on A Farewell to Kings, it was the first Rush song to have an external co-writer, namely Peter Talbot, a friend of drummer and lyricist Neil Peart.
“A Farewell to Kings” — A Farewell to Kings
This song exemplifies Rush’s preference for medieval, Renaissance-style music. With a distinctly lute-like feel, “A Farewell to Kings” opens with a sweet, fingerpicked instrumental soliloquy before rolling into their classic rhythmic electric downbeat.
“The Trees” — Hemispheres
Another great acoustic intro, and one of my faves. It’s all about a battle between trees that opens with another lovely fingerpicked performance. Check out the entire song for some awesome synth action too! Lyricist/drummer Neil Peart was asked in the April/May 1980 issue of Modern Drummer if there was a message in the lyrics. He said, "No. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?' So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement."
“Rivendell” — Fly By Night
Here’s a really cool entry. It’s “Rivendell” updated with a Lord of the Rings video. This is a rare all-acoustic song for them, with finger-picked acoustic guitar throughout the entire performance. Poignant and gentle lyrics make this Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson duet calming and delicate. This song originally appeared on their 1975 album, Fly by Night.
“Lessons” — 2112
This song incorporates some strummy steel string fun. Upbeat and seemingly straight ahead, it kicks into high gear as many Rush songs do, dropping the acoustic for an electric interlude.
“Fountain of Lamneth” — Caress of Steel
I’ll admit it, I didn’t know this one. In classic Rush style, it opens with a gentle and heartfelt acoustic intro before rolling into an electric, intense prog section. “The Fountain of Lamneth” is the fifth and final track from Rush's third album, Caress of Steel. The music was written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson and the lyrics were written by Neil Peart. It chronicles a man's journey to find the Fountain of Lamneth. It’s a six-part epic stretching almost 20 minutes. Lots of good stuff in there!
“Resist” — Test For Echo
In 1996 Rush released this song on their Test for Echo album. In the early 2000s, the band introduced an acoustic version of the song as part of their Rush in Rio performance during the Vapor Trails tour. This performance sees Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson on acoustic guitars for a truly inspired performance.
“Tears” — 2112
Here’s a lovely ballad from 2112. This album was recorded and released around the time Geddy married his current wife Nancy, so perhaps she was the inspiration. "What would touch me deeper? Tears that fall from eyes that only cry. Would it touch you deeper than tears that fall from eyes that know why?" Beautifully said. This kinder, gentler Rush is a nice variation from the rest of the album, which is characterized by the epic seven-part title suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson.
“Broon’s Bane” — Exit...Stage Left
Here’s Alex Lifeson treating us to his wonderful acoustic chops. This instrumental is featured on Rush's live album, Exit...Stage Left. It was performed as an extended intro for "The Trees." The song is named after Terry Brown, who produced Exit...Stage Left and 10 other Rush albums. Interestingly, “Broon's Bane” is not heard on any other live or studio recording by Rush.
“Making Memories” — Fly By Night
This spunky strummed song is from their 1975 album, Fly By Night. The striking, rhythmic acoustic strum carries throughout this one. The song talks of good times on the road and spins into a kickin’ electric solo. Yep, “Maybe road life’s not so bad.” You go, Geddy.