Sound: First off, why am I the first to review PW?! This 1985 masterpiece should be on here by now! After Signals, where Geddy went mad with his synths, it became clear that fans weren't expecting the instant switch of guitar and synth roles. Subsequent albums brought guitar and synth into more of a balance, and PW's where they got it just right.
Musically, the songs are very rich, with many layers of instruments. Yes, it's the 80s, so synths dominate, but Alex's guitar is highly audible, working with the keyboards on most tracks instead of against them like Signals. Some of the songs, like The Big Money, Mystic Rythms and Marathon have that certain 'epic' quality to them that just seems to translate the song straight to a concert hall, if you know what I mean. Others wind things down and couple well with the lyrics. Then there's Emotion Detector; probably my favourite 80s song now, it was quite accurately summed up as 'hauntingly beautiful' and I can't do better than that. The synth riffs are perfect, and Alex's backing riffs build to an awesome guitar solo. Mystic Rhythms features a great drum track by Neil, accompanied by synth with guitar being slightly pushed back.
Alex's guitar sound is the best on this album - he uses a Fender Strat with a Floyd and bridge 'bucker, which gives a really good sound both for riffs and clean. Neil's drums are excellent - clear, well defined and as ever, the God of Rock Drums is spot on. Geddy's synth sounds are also brilliant, with a lot of power behind the notes, but I'm not taken by his bass sound - doesn't seem as strong as earlier/later bass tones; I think he was using Steinbergers at this point, might be cos of that. // 8
Lyrics: Neil Peart isn't just a drumming God; his lyrics add a whole new dimension to the already-complex songs. Throughout the album, Neil describes different aspects of civilisation, centering around power in different forms. Thus, the album's title means 'windows into power.' The Big Money describes how power can be used and abused in business, Manhattan Project is about how America instated itself as a superpower by harnessing the atom, Territories is about how, in an ever-more connected world, we can't help feeling distanced from other countries, Middletown Dreams deals with the emptiness of living in busy cities, Emotion Detector so beautifully describes how we as humans hide our emotions and true feelings to feel secure about ourselves and how that doesn't always work. And the simple lyrics of Mystic Rhythms go well with the song; a bit of an oddball on the album, I felt, but nonetheless welcome.
Oh, and Geddy's delivery is spot on as always. He always puts his own spin on Peart's lyrics, and it shows as you can hear the emotion behind his vocals. It's not one man singing another's lyrics, it's a band working as one to deliver the final song, each contributing to the whole. // 9
Overall Impression: Versus Signals (I don't have Grace Under Pressure), I think Rush came into a great balance of synths and guitars. The lyrical content is still awesome (Signals had great lyrics), but now features a more fluid pairing of synths and guitars, with the band working as one again.
Emotion Detector is an 80s staple of sorts; haunting synth riffs, great guitar solo and excellent lyrics. As of now, it's my favourite Rush song (and I have many! ). Also, Peart's complex drum beat on Mystic Rhythms stands out, even though I think it doesn't really fit the rest of the album. Manhattan Project has really poetic lyrics and Neil cleverly shifts perspectives as the song progresses; it's not an outsider's view of the topic, it's written from the POV of those involved.
I'm not too taken with Territories or The Big Money more for my own reasons; there's nothing wrong with the tracks, just not my preferences. There's nothing to hate about a Rush album; it's another great addition to my collection. So far, I have 9 of their albums from 2112 to Snakes and Arrows, with more planned. I love the 80s sound of this album, and the godly musicianship of the group.
I always rip CDs and use digital or copies so the originals last; if someone stole my originals, I'd have the copies, so I woulnd't need to buy the CD again. I downloaded this album from Amazon anyway; I didn't get the booklet etc. If it came down to it, I would actually buy the full copy of this album, as it's sitting beside Presto as my overall favourite album. // 8