Atlantic Records, 2004
REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/27/2005
After 30 years, even an above-average band is typically clinging to the shreds of past glory, playing smaller and smaller venues and releasing yet another "Best Of" album. Even the iconic legends like the Stones and the Who, still touring to large crowds, are mainly rehashing their past ad-nauseum, launching yet another "farewell tour" and releasing an overpriced (and uninspired) box set.
For their 30th anniversary, Rush (Geddy Lee - bass & vocals, Alex Lifeson - guitars, Neil Peart - drums) dug deeply back to their roots and recorded an EP of covers of the songs they loved and played in their formative years. The result is a loving homage to the songs and artists that inspired one of the most consistently successful acts in music history. Feedback is refreshing blast of classic rock that never falls into nostalgia. Some of these songs are rarely if ever played today -- their appearance here is likely the only play they'll get in our era, and they are very welcome here. The more familiar songs are reworked with Rush's consummate skill, given a slick polish and the unique Rush signature without ever sacrificing the spirit of the originals. Their meticulous studio work is legendary, and you can always count on superb production and sound. Feedback is no exception.
"Summertime Blues" opens the disc, and is essentially a cover of a cover (Blues Cheer's heavy metal remake of the Eddie Cochran rockabilly classic) with a slight nod to The Who's version. Rush plays this one close to the belt, staying pretty close to the Blue Cheer arrangement right down to the instrumental responses to the verses. Next up is the first of two Yardbirds covers, a mellowed down but powerful version of "Heart Full Of Soul." Lee's vocal lacks the lonesome growl of Keith Relf's original, but still, it's a great rendition of this classic. The other Yardbirds track "Shapes Of Things" packs more punch with a lean, stripped-down sound, eschewing the echo-chamber sound of the original, so it truly sounds like I imagine it must have back then, three guys wailing away in a garage.
They dip into the fertile pool of California folk-rock with two tracks from Buffalo Springfield. Stephen Stills' haunting "For What It's Worth" seems to pop up in every movie ever made about the hippie generation, but it sounds great coming from these guys, even if it's basically a note-for-note rendition. The other Buffalo Springfield track, the Neil Young-penned "Mr. Soul," is my favorite track on the album. Young's stoner stream-of-consciousness could be a soundtrack of the era Lee, Lifeson and Peart are celebrating. Lifeson's guitar work is an impeccable homage to Young, and he even manages to give a tip of the hat to the "other" So.Cal folk-rock giants, throwing in a riff from The Byrds' "Eight Miles High."
A faithful rendition of The Who's "The Seeker" is another standout track, as is their revved up version of "Seven And Seven Is" by the sadly overlooked L.A. band Love. My guess is most of Rush's fans, and few people under the age of 50, have even heard this song, or know of the band that wrote it. Hopefully its inclusion will inspire a few people to check out the legacy of this outstanding band. Closing out the disc, the boys pay reverential respect to Cream's version of "Crossroads" -- dishing out three and a half minutes of breakneck virtuoso jamming by three of music's finest players.
Rush fans and classic rock fans alike will find something to enjoy in this sonic tour of one of rock's most fertile time periods. My only beef was that, at around 30 minutes, Feedback is too damn short.