Classic Albums: Rush – Roll The Bones

It is now 10 a.m. on January 11. I have been dealing with, processing, and crying over the fact that Drum God, master lyricist, and musical innovator Neil Peart passed away since I found out.. And let me tell ya, it doesn’t feel good, not at all. I grew up with RUSH on my TV, in my rack system, in my tape decks, and in my phone. To find out that The Professor is no longer with us was and is an absolute gut punch that I am not sure I’ll ever get over. I have had to do way too many of these Classic Albums right after one of my favorite musicians has died, but here we are once again. So without further ado let’s talk about RUSH and one of my favorites in Roll the Bones.

It was a beautiful day at Nassau Community College in 1991 and I was talking to a classmate when he mentioned RUSH. As we talked he says, “Yeah they just released an album, Roll the Bones. Now this was before the internet, and I hadn’t heard anything about this so I was floored. I quickly said goodbye, blew off my next class and high-tailed it to the record store. Ten minutes later a copy was in the tape deck of my ‘88 Sundance and I was in heaven. “Dreamline” is not only the perfect way to start the record, it was also a great opener on several tours I went to. “Bravado” is equal parts majesty and beauty. Once again Neil’s lyrics hit right where it counts, the heart. That drive home had me wide-eyed and wanting more.

Title track “Roll the Bones” is one of those tunes where you can tell the band is having fun with it, especially the spoken word section in the middle. And live this was always a show highlight on the screens. “Face Up” is a track that once again highlights everyone in the band’s immeasurable talents. Alex Lifeson has a sidewinder guitar riff with a hint of blues in it, and Neil and Geddy Lee are screwed in. One thing about RUSH is that their instrumentals always leave everyone’s collective jaws on the floor, and “Where’s My Thing?” is no exception. This is one of my all-time faves and I’ve been lucky enough to see it performed live several times, starting with that very tour. It’s also a fantastic driving song, which made my daily commute so much better.

Side two kicks off with “The Big Wheel”, one of the more straight-ahead rockers in the band’s catalog, with super-cool lyrics to boot. But that’s what Neil Peart always did, write insightful words to go along with the music. “Heresy” has a hauntingly beautiful quality, and has always made me think while sitting in traffic on the Southern State many a night. Stupid 4:00 classes! The closest that RUSH has ever come to a ballad would be “Ghost of a chance”, sounding unlike anything before it. I was glad they did it, because it just showed that they were never afraid to take chances. “Neurotica” always sounded like something that would have fit perfectly on Power Windows, only the guitar is a bit chunkier.

Now we come to closer “You Bet Your Life”, another favorite that sadly I never got to hear live. Everything about this track is perfection, especially the backing vocals during the chorus. Try as I might I could never get through them without messing them up at some point during those car rides. Hell, even now “Be bop or a one-drop or a hip-hop lite pop metalist” is probably the only one I don’t flub! In the fall of 1991 Roll the Bones was, like many other RUSH albums before and since, the soundtrack to my life, which drove my girlfriends nuts. I spent a lot of time alone in thought with this as the backdrop. And I wouldn’t change a minute. 

I still am in utter shock that Neil has left us and I don’t think I will be alright for awhile. So I will spend this weekend blasting the music, watching some live DVDs and basking in the glow of seeing the band seven times from 1990-2015. I am so grateful that I was able to catch the R40 Tour here in Philly with my buddy and A&GS team member Ryan, who flew up from Texas for it. Thank you Russell for fostering my love of this band back in 1989. Thank you to all the friends I have made through this band’s timeless music. Thank you RUSH for the memories, and thank you Neil for your grace and mastery on Roll the Bones. For these reasons and more, it will forever be a Classic Album.    ~dc

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Make each impression a little bit stronger
Freeze this motion a little bit longer

The innocence slips away…

In Loving Memory of Neil Peart, The Professor (September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020)

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