Rush - Presto
"This album was a real reaction against technology in a sense. I was getting sick and tired of working with computers and synthesizers." - Geddy Lee, on Presto.
Fans far and wide consider Presto to be the beginning of a new era for Rush, a transistioning back to the more natural songwriting of their earlier years, if not a full return to the same hard rocking sounds. No, what the band had experienced throughout the 80's would remain engraved in their creative spirit, a pop orientation that had gained them both a wider audience and a wider catalog of material to sift through. It's true enough that listening to a 70's, 80's and 90's Rush album makes for markedly different experiences each time. Presto, however, was the beginning of an awesome run of albums that kept the band fresh where many others may have faltered. The foundation of the 70's made this possible, but pure talent made it happen.
"Show Don't Tell" was a successful solo in it's day and stands the test of time, sounding fresh and rejuvinated through the context of the material the band was mustering up prrior. A return to the core ideals of three people writing songs made it so that Alex Lifeson, the oft-forgotten guitarist who languished in occasional oblivion throughout the Era of the Synths, drives this track and many others along with crisp runs and solid riffs. "Hand Over Fist" is a little lacking, which could be said for much of this album. The real kicker about Presto and the thing that I think keeps it from truly shining as a whole is the weak production. The bass lacks it's typical punch (both a product of the production and the choice of bass guitars Geddy Lee went with for the album) and the percussion is really flat, lessening one of Rush's most prominent and impressive elements. Despite all this, the quality of songwriting shines through on tracks like "The Pass", an emotional ballad that also did well as a single, "Scars" and Neil's utilizing of both electric and acoustic drums to formulate an African-styled melody of beats, the melodic and vocally potent title track, and the up-tempo "Superconductor", a fan favorite that gets little acclaim for how well written it is.
An album of hit-and-miss that mostly hits, Presto would have benefited from tighter production and a little more time to flesh out certain compositions. While I'm certainly not one to nitpick, my favorite band has a track record of excellence in both production and song value and, when they don't hit on all cylinders, it's noticable. The great thing is, however, that I personally never am fully disappointed even when not fully satisfied. They always seem to manage to overcome the limitations of (rare) bad studio choices and experimentation through skill and experience. Presto was a huge step forward towards bigger and better things that held enough substance to make it worth going back to for another spin.
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