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Vapor Trails

Atlantic / Wea - 2002

Artist: Rush

Produced by Rush and Paul Northfield

Rating: stars

I must admit, when I first saw the cover art it wasn't at all what I had expected when I heard of the official CD title before it's release. I was envisioning more clean, blue sky art similar to Test for Echo, because when I think of Vapor Trails I picture white contrails in a clear blue sky.

I wasn't dissapointed though, the cover art is unique and clever as all Rush fans have come to expect. The music it contained is another story. The only thing Rush fans have come to expect from each new Rush release is that it won't be the same as the last, and this is no exception.

It took a little longer to grow on me than previous releases though. Just me getting older I guess. I certainly didn't expect the music to be so heavy, but that's not a bad thing.

My fondest memory of listening to this CD is during a flight from New Jersey to North Carolina. I sat looking out the window, headphones blaring to cover the sound of the cabin noise and drone of the engines. The songs shared their secrets then, and I grew to love each and every track for their own merit.

I connect with the song Ghost Rider on a deeper level because I had the opportunity to read Neil Peart's book of the same name some time before the release of Vapor Trails. The stories and visuals he shares in the book help to illustrate passages in the song. Though the song works on its own, the listener will have greater appreciation after reading of his plight, and such a great rediscovery of life.

Other songs contain hints of concern for terrorism, peace, and the tragedy that befell the United States on September 11, 2001. Especially in the track Peaceable Kingdom, though I seem to recall an interview where Neil mentions that he didn't set out to deliberately write a song about the event.

Overall I do like the song material, it is quite different from their past work. Geddy is experimenting with layered vocals in lieu of keyboards, an effect that creates an ambient, atmospheric quality. Alex forgoes traditional lead breaks and seems to play more aggressively, shredding and crunching along instead of creating his typical melodic riffs. Neil bangs away dilligently, but strays a bit from his usual syncopation, tending instead to keep some straighforward hard rock beats, with more emphasis on feel than coloration.

I read that during initial meetings Rush decided to record this album from a more personally emotional perspective with less concentration on technique and perfection. Many songs were recorded in very few takes, and there was little editing compared to previous works.

Vapor Trails will please any true Rush fan, and it does take a few listens to become familiar with it. The only bad thing I can say about the CD has nothing to do with the band, but the mastering.

My issue with the mastering: The final mixes were pushed way too far; compressed and limited to the max. The final result is a very loud, very flat, and very abrasive wall of sound. Many nuances and subtleties were lost in the attempt to maximize the audio signal, and some clipping of the audio is evident as well.

Aside from that Vapor Trails has a lot to offer, and I do recommend that Rush lovers add it to their collection.

Update: They have released a Re-Mixed version which is not as balls-to-the-wall as the original release. I'll hope to get my hands on that soon to comment on the difference.

Last Update: 29 Apr, 2019

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