As the super deluxe anniversary editions of classic Rush albums mount towards the arguable peak of the band’s prowess- 1981’s Moving Pictures– this year brings the 40th birthday of Permanent Waves and what could just as easily be heard as the challenger to that summit. Following the learning curve transition of the preceding Hemispheres– incorporating synths as an additional and prominent element for the Canadian rock trio- this time Rush not only utilized the new wave’s signature instrument more judiciously, the group also achieved a ubiquitous charting single, and added a few soon-to-be staples to the live repertoire.
The proper album harnessed less of the fantastical imagery of the long conceptual prog-rock pieces that dominated 2112 and its successors, as well. Instead, while still as cerebral as lyricist and drummer Neal Peart’s mind would allow, suddenly Rush was a band capable of a genuinely accessible, hook-filled hit. “The Spirit of Radio,” revolving on an Alex Lifeson guitar riff that launched a thousand imitators, Geddy Lee’s soaring vocal, the hip incorporation of reggae, and produced with sonic clarity and precision by longtime collaborator Terry Brown, was a certifiable winner.
It continued with another gemstone, “Freewill,” with Lifeson as guitar hero layering dense riffs, flying leads, and skilled arpeggios into another AOR-friendly cut. There is the ominous martial march of “Jacob’s Ladder,” and the quieter “Different Strings” that fades with a brooding outro. And for those wanting the extended piece, there is the multi-part, closing composition “Natural Science.”
As a super deluxe edition, with both CD and 180-gram vinyl options, it follows the priors with continued superior quality and fan-friendly extras. First, there are previously unreleased live tracks from the supporting 1980 tour of the UK, compiled onto a single disc or double-album vinyl. This is Rush as a performing beast, playing with knife-edge exactitude and unrelenting energy. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart sound as potent and authoritative as, if not more than, any of their arena-rock counterparts; a golden moment in the trio’s concert history. Included, too, is a striking 40-page booklet with superb essays and photos, replica tour books, handwritten Peart lyrics, and even replica tour passes and studio notepad.
No one knew, even Rush, that Moving Pictures was looming, and would become “the one” that defined the band from that point forward. This super deluxe edition of Permanent Waves is a stellar set for any fan for just that reason: the music alone- without the hindsight of knowing what would follow- reminds the ardent followers and the casual alike that Permanent Waves deserves its own peak as a Rush masterwork.