Mercury Records, 1991
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/10/2003
In an age where even the most pathetic band or artist can get a "greatest hits" compilation moments after reaching the top of the charts (and subsequently flaming out), it's almost unbelievable that the Canadian hard-rock trio Rush didn't get a best-of until they changed labels from Mercury to Atlantic in 1989. Of course, now you can't turn a corner without being offered some new variation of a Rush best-of collection, but Chronicles was indeed the first, and in some ways, the best, of the batch.
Now, anyone who has followed Geddy Lee and company for any length of time will undoubtedly find holes with any compilation - even this two-disc set. But if you take an objective look at Chronicles, you'll find that every one of Rush's 15 albums to that point get fair play -- including all three live albums, which get one selection each.
Whoever decided on the selection and running order of this set did two smart things right off of the bat. The first was keeping things running in chronological order - at least, in terms of the order in which the albums were released. By doing this, not only is the listener given a comfort zone to take it all in, they're also allowed a fair opportunity to hear how Rush grew from the opening guitar lines of "Finding My Way" to such complicated masterpieces as "The Big Money" and "Manhattan Project." In a way, it's like listening to a time capsule; each song is a particular item carefully placed inside.
The second smart thing - and, believe me, I'd love to know how they pulled this off - was to include "Show Don't Tell," a song from Rush's then-upcoming album Presto. Amazing… not only were they able to put the first single from the new album on this set, but they were able to do it when the disc was being released on a competitor's label. Who cares if "Show Don't Tell" wasn't one of Rush's strongest songs from around that time?
There really is only one thing lacking on Chronicles -- namely, the element of surprise. People like me would pick up Chronicles because we wanted to own every thing that Rush released, and barring the inclusion of "Show Don't Tell," this package doesn't throw the listener any rarities as a bone. I might have chosen to include the live version of "Vital Signs" which was the b-side of the "New World Man" 45 (remember those, kids?), just to give the diehard fans a reason to part with $25 other than blind loyalty.
And while this set is a great place for someone new to the scene of Rush to start off with, it sometimes does feel a little too familiar. In defense of Rush and the record label, though, that could be blamed on rock radio, which has latched onto many of these songs and played them to death. Exceptions are granted, though, for tracks like "Finding My Way," "Anthem" and "Bastille Day" - three tracks from Rush's first three albums which almost never get heard unless you've got the album cranking full-blast from the turntable.
Yes, diehards like me will look at Chronicles and wonder why tracks like "YYZ" didn't make the cut (never mind the fact that "La Villa Strangiato" represents the instrumental side of Rush quite well, thank you) or why more tracks unknown to the radio waves didn't get dusted off for this set. Still, one really can't point too many fingers at this set, and Chronicles does live up to its name as a true representation of Rush's best work.