A Review of Contents Under Pressure

Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and AwayContents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away by Martin Popoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this authorized biography of Rush, as would any fan I think. Even people who aren’t big Rush fans might find it an interesting read. The book starts from the first album, Rush, back in the early 1970s. This book celebrates 30 years of Rush, and it covers every album — including live ones — all the way up through 2002’s Vapor Trails. The book equally covers each album — and each song on each album — and the accompanying tour that went with it, starting from Rush opening for KISS to headlining major festivals around the world. I already knew quite a bit about the band, but this book really filled in some gaps for me and added some personality with all of the quotes from Geddy, Alex, and Neil. It was pretty good stuff! I enjoyed reading about what their favorite songs were, as well as albums, particularly the lesser known later albums, which I’ve developed a late appreciation for over time. I only have two areas of disappointment, one of which couldn’t be helped. First, the book was published in 2004, so it couldn’t cover the very good Snakes & Arrows album from 2007 and it obviously couldn’t cover this year’s masterful Clockwork Angels. I would have liked to read what the band had to say about that one. Thus the one “real” area of disappointment with the book is the fact that the band’s always original album art is rarely discussed and I would have loved to know how the covers for Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, and A Farewell to Kings came about. What was the thinking behind them? How were they produced? It does touch briefly on the Moving Pictures shoot, but really, there’s not much there on the album cover art. The book does delve deeply into the song writing process, and I found that interesting because I had always heard Neil did all the writing, but apparently all three do, Geddy more so than Alex, with Neil carrying the bulk of it. But Geddy’s got to be able to sing his songs with conviction, so there’s real collaboration. That was interesting. I also found it interesting to note how different they are from so many other bands, for one thing, in wanting to stick to studio-style songs in their concerts rather than improvising. They want their performances to mirror the mastery of their albums, which they put a lot into. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I guess I can respect that. The book briefly covers Neil’s tragedy of losing his wife and daughter to death in the same year and how the band didn’t know if they’d ever play again. Vapor Trails was their first album back together again after four years apart and it’s a surprisingly strong album. I like it very much, and they do too. Though I think they view Moving Pictures — with the song, “Tom Sawyer,” — as their true defining moment. It’s what separated their past prog rock clubs and small arenas popularity to their later huge arena-filling popularity. That’s the album that got me listening to Rush way back when. It was a defining album for me too.

This fall, I’ve read a decent book on Journey and now on Rush. Next I have one on Queen lined up, and it’s huge! It covers every album and every song Queen ever did, in greater detail than this Rush book does. This book was hugely enjoyable and while I feel it could have been three times longer with much more material, I do feel it captured the essence of the band fairly well and even though I would rarely give a band bio five stars, I’m doing so this time because my complaints are minimal and my enjoyment was great. Recommended.

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