Retrospective, Vol. 3

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Few bands warrant, let alone deserve, a three-volume retrospective. Rush, however, make the case. As a concern, Rush are still going strong -- perhaps stronger than ever as a live attraction -- and their studio albums in the 21st century have been as heavy as anything they've ever cut, and very consistent in terms of quality. Rush have issued many compilations, but this makes three that bear the title Retrospective. The first volume covered the years 1974-1980, which addressed the period between their self-titled debut long-player and Permanent Waves; the second covered 1981-1987, bookmarked by the recordings Moving Pictures and Hold Your Fire; and this set covering 1989-2007 tracks the full-lengths Presto through Snakes & Arrows. Taken as a whole, these three CDs provide an excellent overview of a band that has continued to develop its sound, push its own boundaries, and remain timeless without concessions to trends or music biz nonsense. This third volume is on its surface the most unspectacular of the three, but appearances -- in this case at least -- prove deceptive. Arranged aesthetically rather than chronologically, Retrospective, Vol. 3 has been assembled to play through as an album. There are two tracks from each of the seven albums documented here, including "One Little Victory" and "Earthshine," both from the acclaimed return to hard-edged rock of Vapor Trails in 2002. In addition, there is a live version of "Ghost of a Chance," from 1991's controversial but underrated Roll the Bones. But what really transpires through this listen is the feeling that Rush are still very much a band; they reached the end of a lull only to get hungry again, reached for a new zenith, and shook off the complacency of their position as a ponderous and progressive veteran stadium juggernaut. In turn, they became a taut, wily rock & roll band again, putting on epic shows and creating thought-provoking, ass-shaking hard rock records. This is the latest evidence. Here's hoping there is a Retrospective, Vol. 4.

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