After passing themselves off as a sort of working class Led Zeppelin on their nondescript first album, Rush got a new drummer who brought along a lot of the elements that would make them one of Rock’s most worshiped bands. Not all of these things were great. Neil Peart’s obsession with Ayn Rand politicized the band in all the wrong ways and his obsession with Tolkien contributed to the cliché that prog is strictly for Dungeons & Dragons geeks. Still, the guy could play a set of drums. Plus, as hit-or-miss as his lyrics could be, they displayed a level of literacy and originality sorely lacking in the beer and partying belches of Rush’s first record.
Fly by Night is a transitional album, which is also why a lot of it sounds particularly fresh. While most of the lyrics are less dumb than the ones on Rush, there’s still a really basic Rock & Roll drive to this record over which the grand epics and high concepts would soon take precedence. The title track is a power-pop masterpiece, and Alex Lifeson’s Who-circa-1966 chords are what won me over after years of resisting those epic concepts and Geddy Lee’s banshee screech no matter how much my Rush-crazed friends worked to convert me. “Making Memories” is the kind of breezy folk-rock Rush bashers would never expect the group could pull off. “Beneath, Between, Behind” hits nearly as hard as “Best I Can” (one of two songs with Geddy Lee lyrics), which could almost pass for an AC/DC single. Some of the stuff doesn’t land as well—“Anthem” suffers from some particularly ugly Rand-inspired lyrics and an amorphous tune, “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” is Rush’s goofy first pass at a conceptual epic, “Rivendell” is strictly for elves—but Fly by Night is Rush’s first album to really sound like Rush, and that should please people who like Rush. Plus, I should repeat, the new drummer really is quite good.
So is UMe’s new edition of Fly by Night bashed onto 200g vinyl via the analogue Direct Metal Mastering method. What is DMM? Eh, you can look that up for yourself. All I can do is rave about the extreme quietness of the spaces between tracks and the extreme depth and volume of the tracks themselves. This record sounds fucking great; its big bottom compensating for the fact that Rush is a mere three-piece band averse to excessive overdubbing with a bass player who tends to keep his tone extremely bright. Fly by Night (download code included) re-launches the reissue campaign that began last spring with a box set devoted to Rush’s debut. The wait for new releases won’t be as long this time around with new installments in the pipeline every month. Get this one on Amazon.com here: