Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rush - Grace Under Pressure

Today (April 12th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Grace Under Pressure, the tenth studio album from Canadian rockers Rush. The 1984 release went to number 43 in Germany, number 27 in the Netherlands, number 18 in Sweden, number 14 in Finland, number 5 in the UK and number 1 in Canada. Here in the US, it spent twenty-seven weeks on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 10.

The band has stated that a number of current event stories found in the Toronto Globe & Mail at the time helped to inspire them to write the songs for this album. There is an overall theme of pressure and how people react under different kinds of pressure.

Side one starts with "Distant Early Warning"; it went to number 3 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The song is about recognizing early signs of trouble ("...the tip of the iceberg...") and helping a person before things get too far out of hand. Having grown up close to the Canadian border, we heard a lot of Rush on the Buffalo and Rochester rock stations. As a result, I remember the musical hooks of this one quite well.

"Afterimage" looks at how one copes when a loved one passes on. I like the somber undertones musically on this, particularly on the bridge near the end.

"Red Sector A" charted at number 21 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The detailed and dramatic lyrics were inspired by the stories of Geddy Lee's mother who was a World War II Holocaust survivor.

"The Enemy Within" features a heart-pounding drumbeat by Neil Peart to mirror what one feels during a tense, dangerous situation.

Side two begins with "The Body Electric", where they dabble into the world of science fiction and technology with a chorus made up of a binary code. The geek in me whole-heartedly approves. This single went to number 105 on the US Billboard chart, number 86 in Canada, number 56 in the UK, and number 23 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.

Next up, "Kid Gloves" reminds us that some situations need to be handled very delicately.

"Red Lenses" explores the color symbolism shared between love and hate. It also has a Cold War element to it as the Russians were often referred to as "the Reds" in western journalism at the time.

The album ends with "Between the Wheels", another tense track.

As I noted above, I had a lot of exposure to Rush thanks to geographic proximity of where I grew up and went to college. As such, it was easy to become a fan of their music. I knew a good bit of Grace Under Pressure just from the album-oriented rock radio station airplay at the time. With more life experience under my belt, I can definitely appreciate this album more today than I might have three decades ago when I was only nineteen. There are a few tracks I want to add to my library after this listen.

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