Geddy Lee Reveals The Worst Rush Album
via Jeff Lee / YouTube
Geddy Lee, the frontman and bassist of prog rock legends Rush, has consistently been perceived as one of the most candid figures in the world of rock music. Throughout his career, Lee has openly shared a range of opinions about his work, spanning from insightful reflections to critical assessments.
This straightforwardness can be attributed in part to Rush’s fluctuating career, during which they solidified themselves as a leading progressive rock band while also releasing some notable missteps.
Probably one of their most memorable “blunders” – if you could call one of the best songs Rush ever did a blunder – was the open ridicule they faced for one of their songs, “Xanadu”, an 11-minute epic featured on the 1977 album A Farewell to Kings.
Although Lee and his bandmates were made fun of for the lyrics and the extravagance of their songs and their live performances (fans were still laughing at “I have dined on honeydew”), the bassist still cite their oft-hated Caress of Steel as their shoddiest work.
Caress of Steel gave way to the iconic 2112
Although the record represented a turning point in their sound, shifting from a more basic form of blues-based hard rock to a more progressive direction, its darker sound and unconventional songs failed to resonate with audiences. Sales were so poor that their record label, Mercury, contemplated dropping the group entirely.
In a 1980 interview with Guitar Player, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson looked back on that pivotal period and revealed that it was the only time he had considered leaving the band. Thankfully, he did not.
Recognizing the complex role of the record in their journey, he remarked, “Without Caress Of Steel, we couldn’t ever have done 2112. And the latter, for us, was like coming back with a vengeance”.
Lifeson added that, after Caress, they had a choice to conform and give in or just do whatever they wanted and erect a monumental middle finger to all the naysayers. The latter was what Rush did, “and we came back punching with 2112. That album still feels like that to me when I listen to it today – I can feel the hostility hanging out.”
“The songwriting was a little flat”
Despite Caress of Steel also marking the beginning of one of Rush’s most productive phases, in a 2020 interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Lifeson affirmed Geddy’s thoughts and labeled it as the worst record ever made when asked.
He remarked, “Immediately Caress Of Steel comes to mind. But I’ve met so many fans who love that record. And I think Presto disappointed a lot of fans. The songwriting was a little flat.”
Typically, many fans followed what their idols said, and started hating the record, although Rush still had worse albums that were flawed additions to their otherwise legendary career (looking at you, Snakes & Arrows).
And probably another reason why fans did not like the album was the fact that their more superior work – the ones that catapulted them to superstar status – was made after Caress of Steel, which made it all the more weak.
Rush’s daring conceptual leap
Caress of Steel, the third studio album by the Canadian prog legends, was released on September 24, 1975, under the Mercury Records label. This album represented a significant evolution in the band’s musical style, as it transitioned from the blues-based hard rock of their debut towards a more progressive rock sound.
However, this shift proved to be a low point in Rush’s career both in terms of commercial success and critical reception. The album’s darker tone and imaginative compositions initially failed to resonate with audiences and left some of the band’s contemporaries perplexed.
These, plus poor album sales, were the reasons why Mercury nearly dropped the band. Although the album is now viewed more positively by the band’s fans in hindsight, it is still often referred to as the “black sheep” of their discography.
Despite the label’s pressure and Caress of Steel’s poor reception, Rush defied their record label’s advice and vowed to “fight or fall”.
They continued towards their progressive path of rock magic and would go on to release the album “2112” the following year, which would ultimately pave the way for their enduring commercial success, even dishing out a 20-and-a-half-minute conceptual title track as the opener.