Fly By Night
Mercury Records, 1975
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/12/2001
Chances are, if you're a casual Rush fan, the only thing you know about their 1975 release Fly By Night is the title track. What you might not know is that this was the first disc to feature drummer Neil Peart (who replaced John Rutsey), or that this was the first Rush album to feature a story told in different musical parts... or that this would be the second Rush album released in a 13-month period.
But, you don't really need to know all of that trivia. All you need to know about Fly By Night is that it took the lessons learned from Rush and built upon them. The trio of Peart, bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson was clicking well, and, for the most part, firing on all cylinders.
Interestingly enough, while Fly By Night might be one of the least-known of Rush's albums, it is also one which features the band taking some real chances. Where else will you hear Lee put down the bass and show off his guitar skills, as he does on "Rivendell"? (It's also one of the first Rush songs which doesn't feature Lee's vocals in banshee-wail mode.) And while I honestly don't count "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" as one of my favorite Rush tracks over the years, one does have to admire the band for taking on an obscure story line like is featured in this song and crafting some challenging music to go with it. (This doesn't mean you'll understand what's going on in the story itself; I've owned this particular record for about 12 years now, and I still don't quite grasp it.)
Fly By Night features a little of the straight-forward rock that was the bulk of Rush; "Beneath, Between And Behind" is one such example - and if you know your Rush, you might hear the beginnings of "Lakeside Park" (from their next album Caress Of Steel floating in this one). Likewise, "Making Memories" and "Best I Can" feature the boys crafting their chops, even if they weren't 100 percent sure which direction they wanted to take them.
The only awkward moment I can pick up on Fly By Night is on the otherwise beautiful "In The End" - where, if you pay attention just after the intro, you can hear the tape being sped up to the "D" chord that this track is best known for. Admittedly, I had forgotten that this song opened in the chord of "C", and I wouldn't necessarily have minded a natural shift in chords - done right, it could have marked a transition point in the song. But on my ancient vinyl copy of this record, it's pretty clear to hear the pitch change. Who knows, maybe this was fixed on one of the CD remasters of this album - maybe it's time I start looking at updating my Rush collection to CD.
Many of Rush's early albums are the ones which the fans might not know a lot about - and Fly By Night proves that there is a lot to learn about the band within its eight tracks. Count this release as one of Rush's "closet classics" - only don't leave it there. Dust it off, put it on the old turntable, and crank it up.
|and this one BETTER than fragile! for sure!|