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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Rush - 1980 Permanent Waves
Rush - 1980 Permanent Waves

ALBUM: Permanent Waves
LABEL: Mercury
SERIAL: SRM 1-4001
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1997, Anthem (Canada), ANMD 1081 * 1997, Mercury (USA), 314 534 630-2


LINEUP: Geddy Lee - vocals, bass, taurus pedals, keyboards * Alex Lifeson - guitars * Neil Peart - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Spirit Of Radio * 02 Freewill * 03 Jacob's Ladder * 04 Entre Nous * 05 Between Us * 06 Natural Science


I have great memories of this album. Not many tracks on-board, just the six, but it was a change of fortune for this great Canadian band. Up until this point, Rush had dazzled audiences with their brand of science fiction oriented music. A mixed bag compromising part pomp, part prog, but mostly hard rock. Their two prior albums 'A Farewell To Kings' and 'Hemispheres' saw them move toward commercial territory though the band were still out on a limb for many. Obtuse lyrics, and of course the vocals of Geddy Lee, once described as a singer that was permanently on 'laughing gas' being two of the main reasons. All jokes aside, the bands live performances were a must-see event, and only a guy like Frank Marino and his band Mahogany Rush conveyed more power from a trio during that same era. By the time 1980 came around, Rush had slimmed down their sound: modern, clean, crisp, made for radio songs and less of the fantasy styled lyrics we saw previously. In a nutshell, 'Permanent Waves' was one of the great success stories of 1980.

The Songs
Filling the airwaves across radio during 1980 was the album opener 'The Spirit Of Radio' The unforgettable guitar lead-in by Lifeson (anyone who hears the intro will know this is a Rush song), plus the hard driving energetic beat makes this one a fan favourite. The change-up moment through the middle is the reggae flavoured bridge, but it allows Lifeson to exit the song with a flurry of furious guitar assaults. Equally enthralling is second-up effort 'Freewill' - another radio staple. The star of the show here is Neil Peart who's fluid percussion lines are a stand-out, the song typifying the Rush experience in the space of five and half glorious minutes. 'Jacobs Ladder' is a brooding affair, the few lyrics available are offset by a music master class by all three members. On this track I guess they are talking about the weather (read the lyrics). Beats the lousy weather presenter on TV huh? Side two kicks offs with the merry 'Entre Nous', perhaps the 1980 equivalent of 'Closer To The Heart'? 'Different Strings' follows, a mellower piece with some interesting features, including Hugh Syme's piano contribution, Lifeson's frequent use of guitar tap harmonics, and of course that brief but smoking guitar solo at the end. We couldn't end the album without having a stab at 'epic' rock, and though 'Natural Science' is not 'Cygnus X1' revisited, it follows in its warpdrive engine contrails admirably. This three-part epic comes alive on Part Two 'Hyperspace' after a restrained introduction. The band segue through all three phases without stopping for breath, and by the time the band drops anchor by songs end, the sound of the ocean waves provides the backdrop for the outtro.

In Summary
All I can say is that they certainly don't make albums like this anymore. 'Permanent Waves' for me was a transition point or way-station between the flighty affair that was 'Hemispheres' and the more structured approach of future efforts 'Moving Pictures' and 'Signals'. It has its critics naturally, but by and large, it has more fans than detractors. At this point in their career, Rush had pushed through one previously unattainable boundary.. and that was radio. With songs like 'The Spirit Of Radio' and 'Freewill' riding the airwaves and being more radio friendly than ever, the band would use this album as a springboard to go on to greater things.

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#1 | jeffduran on July 15 2008 04:58:43
Good record but not my favorite from them. Rush review fills in cue.
#2 | dangerzone on July 15 2008 08:03:48
This is one of those bands I have never bothered with or gotten into, despite their fanatical following. Something about Rush has always bored me senseless.
#3 | thejbl on November 16 2009 09:53:37
I suppose they are basically the marmite of the music world
#4 | super80boy on August 01 2015 15:45:09
This was the first Rush album that I gravitated toward due to their more commercial approach, although we all know what they did next…Permanent Waves was a great precursor, with two outstanding lead out tracks. I only wish it had been a song or two more.
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