Rush - Fly By Night
Mercury Records
Classic Rock
8 songs (37:28)
Release year: 1974
Rush, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Rush’s second album is the point where most fans get serious about them. Although the basic musical template is still the Classic Rock of the previous year’s self-titled debut, it’s clear that the band’s skill has increased since then, the riffing becoming ever-so slightly more technical, the drumming becoming more complex. Of course, this was the first album that Neil Peart played on, and although at this early stage the difference between him and previous sticksman John Rutsey isn’t immediately obvious, there’s clearly something special taking shape and his performance here is little short of brilliant. There’s a change in the lyrics too; going from the clichéd Zeppelin-aping of Rush to more personal and fantastical topics.

Opening song Anthem lives up to its name, switching between technical riffs and Geddy’s helium-laced vocals seamlessly to form a sing-along classic. Alex’s guitar playing and solo are as excellent as we’ve come to expect from him, yet when placed against the other songs on the album Anthem seems slightly weaker to me. I’ve always loved Rush’s Classic Rock songs, and Fly By Night is full of them, Best I Can even featuring one of Peart’s now signature drum rolls for the first time.

As much as I dislike track-by-track reviews, it’s hard not to do one here, as each song deserves its own paragraph. The likes of Beneath, Between & Behind are at least as good if not better than most of Rush’s later hit songs, and still hold up over thirty years later. Everyone will have their own favourites, but I personally prefer the expansive Rock of the title track to the acoustic burblings of Rivendell. Making Memories is a great use of acoustic guitars, fitting in well with the more electric Rock songs, but not only does Rivendell sound like a rubbish copy of Selling England-era Genesis, it’s a song about Lord Of The Rings, the one aspect of Prog which the detractors are correct to criticise. Don’t get me wrong; Tolkien was a masterly writer, and the films were some of the best things to come from Hollywood in the last ten years, but if there’s anything that raises the hackles it’s this kind of hippy pretentiousness, especially since Rush were about as far from hippies as you can get. Some may point out that a song about a magical land of elves fits perfectly alongside tributes to Randian nonsense like Anthem – and they’re right – but above all else the song simply fails to fit in, and whilst I can occasionally survive a listen, more often than not the skip button is bought in to play.

Rivendell is ultimately the reason that I haven’t accorded Fly By Night with Classic status. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum to that is a song that truly deserves such status: the band’s first epic, By-Tor & The Snow Dog. Although it’s not Prog in the usual sense, the strange effects and ambient section clearly mark it out as something new for the band, and indeed you can trace the start of many a modern Prog Metal band to here, especially Dream Theater. Despite running for over eight minutes it feels like less than half of that, and has been a mainstay in Rush concerts for years.

Fly By Night as a second album is little short of brilliant, showing Rush’s progression clearly and containing only one poor track, making it a quality purchase for those interested in the band’s history. If you prefer the synthesized sound of the eighties however, this is an album that you can safely skip.

Killing Songs :
Anthem, Best I Can, Beneath Between & Behind, By-Tor & The Snow Dog, Fly By Night, Making Memories
Goat quoted 83 / 100
Aleksie quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Rush that we have reviewed:
Rush - Clockwork Angels reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Rush - Test For Echo reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Counterparts reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Roll The Bones reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 26 reviews click here
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