To honor the 40th anniversary of Rush’s Hemispheres, the Super Deluxe Edition brings all the best gifts to the birthday party. The album itself was the Canadian trio’s sixth studio effort and part of an early transitional phase that added synthesizers to their hard rock sound. While not often remembered as iconic an album as ones that both preceded and followed it, the celebration of its 40th is nevertheless equal in stature to those other masterworks.
Hemispheres essentially is a record marked by two sides of the band’s personality. Side one is a conceptual suite, “Cygnus X-1 Book II,” acting as a continuum of the previous album’s closing track, “Cygnus X-1,” from the epic A Farewell to Kings. The side-long centerpiece furthers the progressive ambitions and mythology of the band, giving fans plenty new to contemplate both lyrically and musically. Side two consists of three mostly proper Rush songs, including one of the group’s signature instrumentals, “La Villa Strangiato,” that evolved quickly into a perennial concert highlight. Taken as a whole, it’s but four songs on its face yet a massive amount of information that served notice of the consistently intrepid writing, arrangement, and performance talents of guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist Geddy Lee, and drummer Neil Peart.
As with any commemorative set, it’s the additional material that makes it super deluxe, and this a gift box full. A second CD (and also on 180-gram black vinyl) draws from a 1979 concert appearance at the Pinkpop Festival and the “2112” opus excerpted from a late ’78 stop in Arizona. It’s well recorded and indicative of the sheer ferocity the band possessed in a live setting, tackling challenging extended compositions such as “Xanadu” and “2112” as confidently as radio hit “Closer to the Heart.” There is a dizzying Peart drum solo, always a treat, and a dip back to their formative blues-rock days on “In the Mood,” as well. If nothing else, the concert tracks make the case that however high the group set the bar in the studio, on the stage they raised it.
The third disc is a Blu-ray in 5.1 surround sound audio featuring a newly mixed version of the album taken from the original’s multitracks, and four bonus videos: three shot in 1978 as promos, and “La Villa Strangiato,” with newly restored stereo audio, from Pinkpop. The trove of treasures also includes a 40-page hardcover book with unreleased photos and new artwork by original album designer Hugh Syme; a replica of the band’s rare 1979 UK tour program; a wall poster of newly created Syme art; a Pinkpop Festival replica ticket; a Pinkpop Festival replica cloth VIP sticky pass; and a replica 1978 “Rush” Hemispheres iron-on patch.
In a sense, this collection does for the album four decades later what Hemispheres did for Rush at the time. By taking an appreciation of the record and expanding it to an encompassing overview of the moment in the band’s history, it parallels the group’s artistic growth and popularity, a then-contemporary embrace of synthesizers, and their indulgence in long, conceptual pieces. In doing so, the Super Deluxe Edition provides a fully immersive revisit into the Rush kingdom of 1978 and present- day reappraisal of its reign.