Top 10 Underrated Rush Songs
Rush is underrated, period – so a list of Underrated Rush Songs takes the term to a whole new level. You can’t survive as a band for four decades without dogged determination, and the trio (bassist-frontman Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neil Peart) have evolved organically, outlasting trends in production and technology and culture. Along the way, Rush have amassed their fair share of universal classics, but there are plenty of under-appreciated treasures strewn throughout their catalog. Whether it’s glossy synth-rock or lavish prog suite, our list of The Top 10 Underrated Rush Songs has something for everyone.
‘Before and After’
Rush’s self-titled 1974 debut is rightfully overshadowed by what came after. It’s the band’s only LP to feature original drummer John Rutsey, who had the misfortune of preceding Percussion God Neil Peart – and the songs rely more heavily on straightforward hard-rock and blues-rock influences, foreshadowing little of the prog majesty to follow. Nonetheless, tracks like “Before and After” prove that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson had plenty of exciting ideas, even at this formative stage. The track opens with a wash of acoustic serenity before launching into a full-throttle riff – peaking with Lifeson’s thunderous, Jimmy Page-esque solo.
Those opening tom rolls! That lava-like guitar solo! Lee’s hilarious yet dreamy vibrato on the word “breeze”! Unlike many entries on our list of the Top 10 Underrated Rush Songs, “Lakeside Park” is a clear fan favorite – capturing the band at their most melodic and accessible. But critics haven’t been kind to the track over the years, and neither has Lee. “As weird as my voice sounds when I listen back, I certainly dig some of the arrangements,” the frontman told RAW Magazine in 1993. “I can’t go back beyond 2112 really, because that starts to get a bit hairy for me, and if I hear ‘Lakeside Park’ on the radio, I cringe. What a lousy song! Still, I don’t regret anything that I’ve done!”
What happened to Rush in the 1980s? Depending on who you ask, they either sold out to New Wave or reached the summit of Mount Prog-Pop. Yes, the band recorded some spectacularly bad songs late in the decade, but they were riding one massive hot streak by the release of 1985’s Power Windows. The glossy, propulsive “Manhattan Project” was a minor hit, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard rock charts. But it should have been much bigger. Lee’s voice has never sounded more expressive, and those infamous synth pads finally sounded like a seamless extension of Rush’s style.
First things first: That’s one bananas guitar solo – an effects-driven barrage of ska-styled rhythmic thrust and whammy bar wackiness. Then there’s the proper song, a blend of infectious hooks and chiming 5/4 riffs. “Kid Gloves” is easily the best track on Grace Under Pressure, an underrated album in itself. How it wasn’t released as a single is anyone’s guess.
Signals is arguably Rush’s most accessible and streamlined LP, so maybe it’s inevitable that the moody “Losing It” got lost in the shuffle. But what a shame. The band navigates a cyclical 5/4 riff, joined by the shadowy violin of Ben Mink (a member of fellow Canadian prog-rock band FM). And the effect is spellbinding. The only buzzkill is the early fade-out – a painful anti-climax after such a captivating build.
‘A Farewell to Kings’
In his short and sour review of 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, famed rock critic Robert Christgau described Rush as “a power-trio Uriah Heep, with vocals revved up an octave. Or two.” The title-track probably gave him nightmares. Here, Lee ascends to the polarizing heights of his speaker-busting shriek, as the arrangement veers from classical guitar fingerpicking to colossal, heavy riffs. With “A Farewell to Kings,” Rush seamlessly weaved about eight songs into one.
Rush are known as thinking man’s rock stars – lovers of sci-fi concept albums and hair-raising solos. But they can also write from the heart, as they proved with “The Pass.” Musically, it’s one of the band’s simplest arrangements – a soft-rock hook built on an emphatically plucked bass riff. And Peart’s lyrics, ruminating on the tragic allure of teen suicide, cut through with surprising emotional clarity. The band really loves this song: On the Rush In Rio DVD, Lee introduces “The Pass” as “one of our very favorites.”
Rush are famous for their affable temperament. But they did manage to piss off their longtime producer Terry Brown with 1982’s “Digital Man.” Irritated by its reggae-ska feel, Brown initially refused to record the song – and, though the band won that battle, the two parties never worked together again. To each his own: “Digital Man” makes our list of the Top 10 Underrated Rush Songs based on muscle alone. From the elastically funky bassline to the robotic bridge breakdown, this one’s a master-class.
With 1978’s Hemispheres, Rush delivered a prog-rock masterpiece from front-to-back. The 18-minute epic “Cygnus X-1 Book II,” environmentally conscious ballad “The Trees,” instrumental showcase “La Villa Strangiato” – these are some of the most well-loved numbers in the band’s discography. But “Circumstances” rarely gets enough love, despite its pummeling riffs and spacey synthesizer interludes. The dynamic build from 2:12 onward is pure prog magic.
“Vital Signs,” the pinnacle on our list of The 10 Most Underrated Rush Songs, brings a dazzling close to the band’s most commercially successful LP, 1981’s Moving Pictures. But when’s the last time you heard this one on classic rock radio? “Vital Signs” doesn’t have the melodic heft of “Limelight” or the brute force of “YYZ,” but its alluring energy and eclectic arrangement (drawing from both reggae and electronica) make it equally distinctive. A sadly overlooked gem – and a top-tier Rush track.