Prior to one of Rush's first U.S. tours, original drummer John Rutsey split from the band, since he wasn't prepared to commit to the band's rigorous touring schedule. And it proved to be a blessing in disguise, since his replacement was to become one of the most respected rock drummers of all time, Neil Peart, who would also steer the band towards success with more challenging material -- starting with Fly by Night. While the title track and the album-closing ballad, "In the End," still had Zeppelin roots, the album isn't as straightforward as the debut. Rush's first bona-fide classic, "Anthem," is included, while the over eight-minute "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" helped pave the way for the group's future epics ("2112," "Cygnus X-1," etc.), and introduced the fans to Peart's imaginative lyric writing, often tinged with science-fiction themes. The reflective and melodic "Making Memories" is an underrated early composition, while "Beneath, Between, & Behind" is a furious heavy rocker. Fly by Night may not be one of Rush's finest albums, but it is one of their most important -- it showed that the young band was leaving their Zep-isms behind in favor of a more challenging and original direction.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato