Rush on Family Guy

My Top 40 Rush Songs – Part One

After Neil Peart died in January of 2020, I was unable to listen to Rush – it was just too emotional and listening only brought me sadness. I have never been affected by a celebrity/musician death the way I was by this. Eventually days turned into weeks turned into months and recently I was able to do a deep dive back into their extensive catalog. I also dove into reading all sorts of “Best Rush Songs”, “Worst Rush Songs”, “Every Rush Album Ranked”, etc.

I never come close to agreeing with those lists, but I also do not have any desire to list all 160+ songs and rank them. In honor of Rush being largely ignored by American Top 40, I have compiled my list of the best 40 Rush songs, in reverse order – with explanations. I do not expect anyone to agree with this, even though this is literally the best and most accurate list in the history of the written word.

Rush on Family Guy

Advanced warning – there are many bona fide hits that are not on here; as is the case with this kind of band, their best material was often their deep cuts and commercial failures.

Here’s #40 through #21:

#40 Tom Sawyer (Moving Pictures, 1981)
I was not going to include this song – it is not one of my favorites, but it really was the song that defined them and became their “Stairway-to-Hotel California”. My opinion is colored because you just cannot escape this song on classic rock radio and from my disdain at the throngs of people who can only name this as the song by Rush that they “know”. This kind of hype makes me unfairly dislike the tune. Certainly this song has some brilliance to it – the musicianship is off-the-charts, the lyrics speak to a metaphorical rebellion that any teen in the early 80’s could identify with, and the middle section revolutionized rock-drumming the same way “Eruption” changed rock guitar.

#39 Working Man (Self-titled, 1974)
There was an energy to their debut that ALMOST overcame the lack of Neil Peart. While the rest of the record kind of swims around in Led Zeppelin and Bad Company tributes, this track was an unbelievable standout that features one of the most epic Page/Beck/Clapton inspired marathon guitar breaks in recorded history. Even in 2021 Alex Lifeson’s solo sounds fresh and energized. More importantly, you can hear him smiling through his strings. This song is just pure joy with nothing self-conscious or calculated.

#38 Lakeside Park (Caress of Steel, 1975)
This feels like the first true “tune” from the band. Lyrically wistful and filled with relatable imagery that they really would not use as a staple in their writing until the 80’s. The chorus lifts and is instantly hum-able. The rhythm section is locked and in the pocket. The guitars glide under the vocals in an unpretentious wash. The song is a bright magical moment on an album that is just riddled with weed-induced sonic failures.

#37 Overture/Temples of Syrinx (2112, 1976)
I was hesitant to include any “chapters” from their side-long concept pieces because I do not know if this is cheating, but 2112 was such a definitive rock statement at the beginning of the disco era, that I had to include at least the opening. 2112 is written like rock, but sounds like prog, and moves like punk. While the musicianship does not suffer, it takes a backseat to attitude and the one-two punch of this opening can still give me chills after decades of hearing this.

#36 Circumstances (Hemispheres, 1978)
I’d love to say it is the only song with goddamned French on this list, but alas, it is not. As a kid that loved complicated music, I thought having to look up what words meant in order to understand a song was the coolest thing ever. As an adult songwriter I think it is the stupidest idea on Earth, but there is no denying how much bi-lingual ass this song kicks.

Lyrically they approach the over-worn subject of change and inject new-life into it with insight and relate-ability, a hallmark of what would become the best of Neil’s lyrics. There is also a “sound” here. After all this time, I still can’t quite put my finger on why this song (and album) sound so majestic. The album before it and after it ostensibly use very similar tones and instrumentation, but this one has something so special in the treatment of guitars that the mix is just complete ear-candy.

#35 Something For Nothing (2112, 1976)
In discussions about 2112, side 2 often gets left out of the conversation, which is a shame. For all of the epic-ness on side 1, the whole dystopian, Rand-inspired, pot-fueled 20 minutes is amazing for 1976, but you really have to look past the lyrics to fully embrace it with 2021 ears. Side 2 has aged better. I love “Something For Nothing” and as an added bonus I was told in 1985 by one of my hardcore Christian friends that this song was blasphemous. Read the lyrics and come to your own conclusion, but I think it celebrates not taking life for granted and fighting for a better life. Not sure how that translates to blasphemy.

#34 Cygnus X1: Book1, the Voyage (A Farewell to Kings, 1977)
Overly long title, check.
Multiple suites defined by Roman numerals, check.
An ambiguous ending, check.

This song has nothing going for it in the world of “song”; Easier to think of it as a “piece”, but holy hell is this just some bad-assery from start-to-finish! In addition to having some ridiculous energy, the vocal melodies are catchy, interesting, and hair raising. I feel that they never truly got the credit for their melody construction that they deserved. Maybe because they are arguably the best riff-writers of all time, their melodies just sit in the shadow. This piece also has to be listened to in headphones – no need for a surround-sound mix; this is surround-sound in regular stereo.

#33 Bastille Day (Caress of Steel, 1975)
The opener from their weakest album (until 2001’s Vapor Trails), this song still has me lamenting what could-have-been on this record. This song is a prog-punk bombast with one of the most surprise (and moving) codas I have ever heard. When I was a kid and listening to this, I had to go the library to read about WTF Bastille Day was so that I could understand what was wrong with eating cake instead of bread. I think they probably intended for us to just get high while we spun this record, but I was a strange young man.

#32 Ghost of a Chance (Roll the Bones, 1991)
This album gets a lot of undeserved hate. People are still complaining about the rap on the title track and taking the intent out of the conversation. I won’t write a treatise on this, but Rush mixed in their heavy seriousness with flights-of-fancy all the time, and an experiment into the lyrical world of rap was one of those.

Anyway, this song is beautiful in sentiment, mood, and execution. It was just too “weird” to be a charting hit in ’91-’92, but the chorus wondrously floats above a soundscape of rich synth textures and colorful guitar passages. It was a love song for those of us that can’t relate to syrupy ballads. It is also one of only two songs to ever rhyme “Love” and “Above” that doesn’t make me roll my eyes (or, bones, I guess).

#31 Anthem (Fly By Night, 1975)
The first record with Neil Peart, and ergo, the first proper Rush record. Filled with big ideas, the potential of what they could do was clear in the first 30 seconds of this song. While the album sounds more like a sketch-pad for what they could finally pull off with 2112 and A Farewell to Kings, the energy and drive is undeniable and this song still rocks from front-to-back all these years later.

#30 Vital Signs (Moving Pictures, 1981)
The closing track to their most popular album, this song is the rhythmic blueprint for where they would go from ’82-’84. heavily inspired by punk and ska (and I think most notably Talking Heads and The Police) this song is very interesting. It sounds like Rush, but when you dissect it, you realize it is reggae.

Part of why the albums from ’96, ’01, and ’07 fail is that they stopped being influenced by their contemporaries. At this stage they were still sponges for all that was happening in different musical pockets. Once they started being influenced by themselves instead of the music world around them, they stagnated. This song was pure magic in the left turn it took from their established “sound”.

#29 Entre Nous (Permanent Waves, 1980)
You will not see Freewill or Spirit of Radio on this list, sorry. While those songs really became the catalyst for Rush to reach the mainstream, they are just not part of their very best work. Freewill is relentless, too long, and slightly boring. Spirit of Radio is overplayed and has a melody that sounds similar to something from Reading Rainbow.

This song (more goddamned French not-withstanding) is Peartfection. The lyrics are poignant and conversational. The melody is instantly singable and haunting. The payoff “The spaces in between leave room for you and I to grow” is more brilliant than a rock song has the right to be. There is also a way that they are using the keys and guitar together that belies how long they had been doing this – it sounds 100% correct, which is something they battled for YEARS after this to get right.

#28 La Villa Strangiato (Hemispheres, 1978)
The first of several instrumentals to make a “best of songs” list. This thing is ridiculous. Over-the-top in every way; bloated, indulgent, and excessive…yet here we are with a sonic masterpiece that stays interesting and jaw-dropping for decades. Also of note is the mammoth guitar solo that builds from a whisper and turns into a tasteful shred-fest that proves Alex Lifeson is not competing with anyone. It isn’t that nobody is in his league, more that he’s the only one signed up for this sport.

#27 Nobody’s Hero (Counterparts, 1994)
After the almost pop offering of Roll the Bones, this album was a full-force return to rock. Influenced by the raw guitar bands of the time, this album was the closest to actual “Power Trio” since 1980. The album suffers from being a little too long in the middle (starts very strong, ends even stronger but loses its way in the middle act). I had longed for this to be a vinyl release – not because I prefer the sonics (I do not), but because the time constraints of 20 minutes a side would have made this perfect (assuming the dropped the filler and kept the killer).

Anyway, this song is the kind of thing I had hoped they would do for years – a true acoustic-inspired, mid-tempo almost-ballad. The lyrics about loss and regret, the string section, Geddy’s beautiful vocal (yes, his voice is fucking beautiful – quit judging otherwise just because it is different). Pitch-perfect, emotive, and tuneful.

#26 Bravado (Roll the Bones, 1991)
This song took me awhile to “get”. Lyrically it is an instant Peart classic, but musically it just did not seem to have the urgency and contrast I wanted from such a guitar driven song. When i saw it live, the slow-burn of the build hit me in a way that the recorded version hadn’t.

Since that time, I have come to prefer the penultimate album version and the ways this twists and builds onto itself (instead of around itself). The track is subtle and genius by every metric. I performed a solo guitar-vocal version of this as a tribute right after Neil Peart passed and I barely got through it without bawling my eyes out. Tearing the song down to just melody and chords was enlightening to just how perfect this truly is.

#25 YYZ (Moving Pictures, 1981)
Nominated for a Grammy and lost to the Police’s, “Behind my Camel”, which is in the Miriam Webster Dictionary under “Horseshit”, this is one of those rare musical events that has no diminishing returns once you memorize everything that happens. On my 10,000th listen (I guess), I am still moved, blown away, and sad when it is over.

#24 Different Strings (Permanent Waves, 1980)
The lone Geddy Lee lyrical entry onto this list, and a rare “Pure” ballad for Rush. I am guessing he wrote this for/about his wife (they are one of the rare Rock and Roll marriages – going on 45 years) but it has a universality that one can see themselves in this story at any stage in a relationship. It is also filled with tremendous insight that never seems pandering or preachy – “Different eyes see different things, different hearts beat on different strings.” I always felt that this song and Entre Nous were placed back-to-back because they were different sides to the same lyrical coin. I cannot find anything on the interwebs to confirm this, though.

#23 Red Sector A (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)
A lot gets discussed about the haunting lyrics of a concentration camp in WWII, so I won’t go into detail about it except to say that I cannot name any other song that sings about this, especially in such an accessible way. The music often gets overlooked and it is a bombastic mixture of New Wave, New Romantic, Hard Rock, Disco, and Progressive. So minor key and oddly ambivalent in its melodic delivery that it sounds dark and stark, yet the track sparkles with shimmering guitar, and is a thick wash of synthesizer and electronic percussion.

#22 The Wreckers (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
New life was breathed into the band when they were working on (what would be) their final album. The songwriting was stronger than it had been in two decades, and this song has the distinction of having the most proper pop-chorus in the band’s history. The lyric is about pure evil and awfulness, but the chorus pays off in a very satisfying and philosophical way. This song brought me back to Rush after I lost interest in their meandering Snakes and Arrows album from ’07.

#21 Virtuality (Test for Echo, 1996)
This was the first Rush album that did not totally do it for me. Over 20 years later, I have come to appreciate it – the production is edgy, in-your-face, and huge. The band is completely on their game musically, but the vocal melodies and lyrical themes just don’t land the way their previous works did.

This song was the lone exception – I could listen to it on infinite repeat. The main riff is heavy and contagious. The lyrics were ahead of their time lamenting on-line surfing vs real-world interaction – with the idea of the internet being a vast sea, although the hook “net boy, net girl” has not aged well, in fact, even then it did not have the metaphorical panache of Peart’s best lines.

The song construction is brilliant and it moves through each section without effort. The sing-ability of the chorus will rival any Mariah Carey hit, and the way the acoustic guitar jangles in the chorus is as close to musical perfection as has ever been achieved.

I hope you enjoyed Part One of my countdown. Part Two will be following next week!

So You Think There Is A Conspiracy…

Mob storming U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (image courtesy of The Guardian).

Today saw thousands of the president’s supporters violently storm the U.S. Capitol Building, vandalizing and looting the building. They did this after the president appeared at their rally and urged them to march on the Capitol to protest the election being “stolen” from him. Clearly, a lot of people believe these election fraud lies. If you believe there was a conspiracy to steal the election from the president, here are the things that you must believe.

  1.  That there is evidence to support the allegations of election fraud, something which EVERY court to consider the issue has found to be false.  EVERY judge who has ruled on one of the administration’s 60+ lawsuits, including many judges appointed by this president, has found there to be no actual evidence of election fraud.  In fact, the administration’s lawyers often did not even allege fraud in the cases they filed because they knew they could not prove it.  Besides the trial court judges, every appellate court and the Supreme Court, again containing many judges appointed by this president, also ruled against the president’s spurious election fraud claims.  So in your conspiracy belief, all judges, including Republican-appointed judges, must be in on it.
  2. That the people conducting the initial counts and recounts in each of the swing states were cheating to favor Biden.  This would include the elections in states being run by Republicans like Arizona and Georgia.  The Republican election director in Georgia has made a point-by-point denunciation of the election fraud claims in his state.  So in your conspiracy belief, Republican state officials must be in on it.
  3. That the FBI/Justice Department investigation of the election was whitewashed to favor Biden.  William Barr, this administration’s own Attorney General, publicly declared that his department’s investigation found no widespread voter fraud.  Barr has been one of this president’s most willing supporters, but even he could not ignore the lack of evidence of fraud.  So in your conspiracy belief, the administration’s own attorney general must be in on it.
  4. That the administration’s own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ignored evidence of election fraud.  This agency took extraordinary measures to make sure the 2020 election was secure.  Afterwards it declared that these efforts had resulted in the most secure election in this nation’s history.  Because this contradicted the administration’s election fraud claims, the head of this agency was fired.  So in your conspiracy belief, the administration’s own election security experts must be in on it.
  5. That top Republican officials in Congress who have accepted the results of this election are looking to rid the party of this president.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has publicly stated that Biden won the election.  Mitt Romney, Utah Senator and former Republican candidate for president, has accepted the results of this election.  Numerous other Republican members of Congress have stated that the people have spoken and congratulated Biden.  So in your conspiracy belief, many Republican members of Congress must be in on it.
  6. That every living, former Secretary of Defense, including Republicans like Dick Cheney, Mark Esper, Donald Rumsfeld, William Cohen, Chuck Hagel, and Robert Gates, all declaring that the election is over wanted to get rid of this president.  This group of people all ran the Defense Department, effectively running this country’s military.  So in your conspiracy belief, every living person who previously headed the Department of Defense, Republicans who ran the military are in on it.
  7. That Mike Pence’s refusal to deny electors from disputed states while certifying the vote today was intended to begin distancing himself from this president.  Even before today’s Congressional count of electors, Pence released a statement stating that he would follow the Constitution and accept the certified electoral vote of each state.  This came despite several recent demands from the president that the Pence do what is necessary to throw the electoral vote to him.  So in your conspiracy belief, Vice President Pence must be in on it.

What is more likely?  That all these Republican judges, state officials, Congress members, Attorney General, election security chief, former Defense Department chiefs, and Vice President were all part of a conspiracy to ensure that Biden won the election or that maybe, just maybe, Biden actually won the election?  That was a rhetorical question in case you were actually considering which was more likely.

So why do so many nonetheless believe in such a spurious conspiracy theory?  In a word, racism.  Don’t believe me?  This happened today in the U.S. Capitol.

Man carrying confederate flag in U.S. Capitol Building after domestic terrorists stormed and occupied the building on January 6, 2021 (image courtesy of Slate Magazine)

Think about all the racist hypocrisy that has occurred over the last four years.  Black Lives Matters protestors march and the president and his supporters attack them as violent agitators even though, by and large, violence at their rallies was caused by white instigators.  Meanwhile, white supremacists caused violence and mayhem in Charlottesville, Virginia and the president says there were very fine people on both sides.  During the presidential debates, the president was asked to denounce white supremacists like the Proud Boys.  Instead he told them to “stand back and stand by.”

Think about Kyle Rittenhouse.  During the Kenosha, Wisconsin protests over another cop killing of a black man, the 17-year-old Rittenhouse traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin, with a semi-automatic rifle that he was too young to legally own, to “protect” Kenosha businesses from marchers protesting in the wake of Jacob Blake’s death.  He ended up killing two people and injuring a third.  The president’s supporters have praised Rittenhouse’s actions and raised millions of dollars for his legal defense.  Let me take a page from the movie, “A Time To Kill.”  Imagine if you will that African-American supporters of Biden showed up today armed and ready to protect the U.S. Capitol from the violent mobs and killed several people marching upon the Capitol?  Would you feel the same about these hypothetical black shooters as you do about Rittenhouse?  Would you raise money for the legal defense of these hypothetical black shooters because they were defending property from violent protestors?

Think about how the president responded during Black Lives Matters protests in Portland, Oregon.  Don’t remember?  Here’s the tweet:

President’s tweet about Portland protestors.

That tweet was in response to vandalism of Portland’s federal building during the protests.  Today, the president, after earlier urging people to march on the Capitol, tepidly told the mob who stormed the building to go home because peace was needed.  He also called the violent mob “very special” people.  The president made no threats to prosecute these people who vandalized and damaged the Capitol.  The only difference between the people who may have damaged a federal building in Portland and the people who may have damaged a federal building in Washington, D.C. is the color of the skin of many of them.

The president has a long history of racism.  This dates back to the U.S. Dept. of Justice suing Trump in the 1970’s for housing discrimination that was settled by Trump having to take specific actions to show they would accept black applicants for rentals.  This racism continued through Trump seeking the execution of the Central Park Five, African-American and Hispanic youths accused of a rape, and continuing to insist upon their guilt even after they were completely exonerated.  During his campaign and presidency, the president has called Mexicans “rapists and murderers,” African countries “shithole countries,” and people seeking to immigrate into the U.S. to escape oppression in their countries “animals.”  White supremacists openly support the president and he refuses to denounce them.

If you support this president, do you do so in spite of this racism or because of this racism?  I don’t speak for all liberals, but if a liberal politician made such such openly racist statements, that would be a deal-breaker for me.  I don’t care how much I supported such a politician’s policies.  If they were racist, I could not support them.  All people, regardless of political affiliation, should feel the same.  So if you think you support this president and his conspiracy theories despite of his clear racism, perhaps it is not in spite of, but because of his racism.

Sacramento Republic Roster for 2021 (Updated)

Sacramento Republic GM Todd Dunivant and Head Coach Mark Briggs made their first roster moves this week in preparation for the 2021 season. Their 2020 campaign was cruelly ended when they were punched out of the USL Championship playoff quarter-final by eventual finalists, Phoenix Rising.

With the club’s entry into Major League Soccer pushed back to the 2023 season, management seems to be looking for youth in hopes of developing players for MLS duty. We will be updating this page through the off-season as changes happen.

January 2021 Update:

  • Goalkeeper Tomas Gomez joins the club from Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The 27-year-old Mexican native has five seasons of experience.
  • Irish youth international defender, Dan Casey, joins from Irish League runners-up Bohemians.
  • Matt Glaeser was hired as an assistant coach for 2021, after a season with the MLS Real Salt Lake organization. He previously worked with Head Coach Mark Briggs in Wilmington.
  • 24-year-old attacking midfielder Tucker Bone joins Republic FC following a season with Reno 1868 FC. He attended Jesuit High School in Carmichael and played for local area youth clubs, Placer United and Sacramento United.
  • Defensive midfielder Luis Felipe joins Republic FC following three seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes. He also has played for Reno 1868 FC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL.

December 17th 2020 Update:

  • The club’s leading goalscorer in 2020, Polish attacking midfielder Dariusz Formella signed a new contract for 2021.
  • After a season with San Antonio, defender Mitch Taintor has returned to Sacramento.
  • Forward Kharlton Belmar has signed a new contract for 2021.

December 10th 2020 Update:

  • Finnish veteran midfielder Petteri Pennanen signed with the Republic, pending Federation and visa approval. Pennanen was voted “Midfielder of the Year” in 2018 and 2019 by his fellow Finnish league players.
  • New Jersey native Markhus ‘Duke’ Lacroix joined the club from USL Eastern Conference side Charlotte Independence. The defender had previously played for Reno 1868 FC.
  • Jamaican international midfielder Maalique Foster signed a contract with Sacramento after a season in the Israeli Premier League.

November 30th 2020 Update:

  • Sacramento native and Academy product Rafael Jauregui signed a professional contract

November 17th 2020 Update:

  • Young Player of the Year Finalist Hayden Sargis and fellow Republic FC Academy product Mario Penagos as well as club captain Cameron Iwasa are already under multiyear contracts.
  • Contract extensions have been exercised on Rafael Diaz, Shannon Gomez, Jordan McCrary, Jaime Villarreal, and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu.
  • Contract negotiations continue with Kharlton Belmar and Dariusz Formella.
  • Contract extensions were not offered to Ashkanov Apollon, Villyan Bijev, Adam Grinwis, Rodrigo Lopez and Drew Skundrich.
  • Contracts with Juan Barahona and Matt Mahoney will expire at the end of the league year.
  • On loan players Brady Scott and Frank Lopez will return to their respective clubs.
  • Sam Werner and Tomas Hilliard-Arce have retired from professional soccer.

Here’s what the roster now looks like:

No. Position Player
18Goalkeeper Rafael Díaz (DOM)
27GoalkeeperTomás Gómez (MEX)
49Goalkeeper Diego Ramos (USA) Academy Player
2 Defender Shannon Gomez (TTO)
3 Defender Hayden Sargis (USA)
4Defender Mitch Taintor (USA)
5DefenderDan Casey (IRL)
14DefenderMarkhus “Duke” Lacroix (USA)
15Defender Juan Barahona (SLV)
21Defender Dekel Keinan (ISR)
30Defender Jordan McCrary (USA)
7MidfielderTucker Bone (USA)
8Midfielder Petteri “Pete” Pennanen (FIN)
10 Midfielder Dariusz Formella (POL)
22Midfielder Julian Chavez (USA) Academy Contract
23Midfielder Mario Penagos (USA)
24Midfielder Jaime Villarreal (USA)
28Midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu (USA)
34Midfielder Rafael Jauregui (USA)
96Midfielder Luis Felipe (USA)
99MidfielderMaalique Foster (JAM)
7Forward Frank Lopez (CUB)
9 Forward Kharlton Benmar (USA)
31 Forward Cameron Iwasa (USA) [CAPTAIN]

BOLD = Signed for 2021 season
“Academy Contract” = Retains NCAA Amateur Status