Time is right for in-depth look back at Rush’s self-titled 1974 debut

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It may be hard to believe that Rush’s debut album is 40 years old this year, but it’s also sometimes kind of hard to believe it’s really Rush on this album.

Rush’s self-titled 1974 studio effort was packed to the gills with the same Zeppelin-derived riffing that would mark their early handful of albums, but it’s also the only album whose lyrics are penned entirely by singing bassist Geddy Lee. (1976’s “Tears” from 2112, and 1977’s “Cinderella Man” from A Farewell To Kings are some of his other notable lyrical contributions.) Lyrical drummer Neil Peart would join the band by the recording of Rush’s next album. John Rutsey holds down the back line here with a solid, if unnoteworthy, contribution on drums.

The contrast between Lee’s lyrics and Peart’s is pretty stark. Rush is filled with songs about the beer-drinkin’ life of blue-collar types (“Working Man”), returning to loved ones (“Finding My Way”), and gettin’ busy, possibly with whomever you “found your way” back to (“In The Mood”), and, you know, just being friends (“Take A Friend”). They’re lyrically pretty thin, but three of those (sans “Friend”) are legitimate Rush staples, popping up frequently in concert. Why? Because they rock your socks off, that’s why.

Being the 40th anniversary, and being crafty record label exec types that they are, Universal Music is going to concoct a special edition of the album to mark the album’s birthday. While the sources are quiet on additional material to make this truly special, I can speculate on a couple of things: First, following the trend set first by the Sector box sets, and the deluxe editions of Moving Pictures and 2112, I’d be shocked if there isn’t a surround-sound and high-resolution DVD/Blu-ray accompanying the album. But even at that, it’s a pretty minor anniversary edition.

What Rush fans really want are legitimate, bonafide official releases of the first Rush single, now extremely rare, consisting of a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and backed with “You Can’t Fight It,” originally released on Moon records in 1973. Where else could this possibly fit? But there’s more that fans really want from this period — “Garden Road” and “Fancy Dancer,” two reportedly recorded but never released outtakes from the Rutsey period, along with others like “Bad Boy,” “Slaughterhouse” and “Run Willie Run.”

Peart has responded to questions about the first two unreleased songs: “Two original songs written before I joined the band? Well, why do you think we never recorded them?” Sure, this isn’t a great in-the-Rush-canon moment, but if they’re going to do it, the time is now to do it right.

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