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Rush – Anaheim 1981 Mike Millard 1st Gen (Cygnus 032/033)

Anaheim 1981 Mike Millard 1st Gen (Cygnus 032/033)

Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA, USA – June 12, 1981

Disc 1 (64:47) 2112 (Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx), Freewill, Limelight, Hemispheres (Prelude), Beneath Between and Behind, The Camera Eye, YYZ, Drum Solo / YYZ, Broon’s Bane, Xanadu

Disc 2 (57:40) The Spirit Of Radio, Red Barchetta, Closer To The Heart, Tom Sawyer, Vital Signs, Natural Science, Medley : Working Man / Hemispheres (Armageddon) / By-Tor and the Snow Dog / In The End / In The Mood / 2112 (Grand Finale), La Villa Strangiato

Back in 2014 JEMS began to release a series of torrents on a well known torrent site featuring recordings made by legendary taper Mike Millard. The series focused on some known and some not known Millard recordings direct from verified 1st gen copies, and was dubbed “The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes”. This series thrilled music enthusiasts with recordings from a range of artists like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jethro Tull, The Faces, David Bowie, and Linda Ronstadt. Volume 17 would be an instant download for me as it was the only known time Millard recorded Rush who were at the height of their popularity. Let’s start with a bit of background on this series:

JEMS is thrilled to partner with Barry and Jim R to release more of Millard’s historic recordings and to help set the record straight about the man himself. November 29 marked 25 years since Mike passed away and it seems his legend only continues to grow. I recently heard a fun anecdote from a taper friend who attended a lot of concerts in LA in the ’70s. He reminisced about the time when he came to learn who Mike was, what Mike looked like and that he recorded shows. He remembered the first few times he saw Mike being pushed into a concert in a wheelchair. He and his friend feared something bad had happened to Mike, only to eventually deduce the wheelchair was there for another purpose.

We can’t thank Barry enough for trusting us with his Millard tapes and his own fantastic masters like the recently released Queen Santa Monica ’76. Jim R also continues to be a great new friend and deep well of information not just about Millard but the rock concert culture of ’70s Los Angeles. We look forward to sharing some of the incredible images he took in that era down the road. JEMS COO mjk5510 continues to bring his essential contributions to the Lost and Found series, too, and for that we thank him.

Anaheim Convention Center June 12, 1981 is one of THE significant Rush audience recordings. I’d go so far as to call it their Listen To This Eddie, which is fitting given both shows were recorded by Mike. It is an outstanding capture of the band playing at their peak, and crucially, it captures a period of performance that, in my opinion, is not well served by official live product.

As one of my earliest concerts, I saw the Moving Pictures tour in Seattle back in 1981 (sadly I didn’t record), and the show left a mark on me. I love the studio album, too, but the resulting live document, Exit Stage Left, never sounded right. I auditioned it again last night to see if my memories were accurate and I still feel the same way: Exit has that kind of manufactured/”doctored in the studio” quality so many live albums of that era suffer from. The audience atmosphere in particular doesn’t feel authentic.

Mike made this set of cassettes for Barry G. who loaned them to JEMS for our fresh, verified first-gen transfer. The cassettes were beautifully labeled by Mike and we’ve included those images in this release. To our ears, the quality of the new transfer is richer, sharper and fuller than previous versions. Samples provided. There were a handful of micro dropouts on the first side of the recording and we’ve done our best to fix them. Beyond that, Mike’s Anaheim work is among his very best and a real pleasure to listen to. It also includes several songs not featured on Exit Stage Left including my personal favorite from Moving Pictures, “Limelight.”

Anaheim also shares in common with Listen To This Eddie a long and somewhat murky history of bootlegs. It has been pressed to CD and posted in many forms. The website digitalrushexperience.com lists eight different versions, one of which claims to be off the master tapes. There’s another called The Definitive Edition, only to be usurped by the somehow “more definitive” release, The Definitive Edition Remastered. Various notes on the lineage claim the original recording was on reel to reel. Even attribution of the work to Mike Millard seems a recent and not altogether accepted fact. The date has also been confused, sometimes listed as June 16 instead of the correct June 12.

For help understanding the extant morass of Anaheim editions, JEMS turned to a Rush expert who sent the following immensely helpful notes on the history of this recording:

In March 2001, AnalogKidAudioVideo mastered “The Definitive Edition” version of Mike Millard’s Rush Anaheim ’81 recording. The source tapes used for “The Definitive Edition” were analog cassettes loaned by a collector near Atlanta. Although the exact lineage of those cassettes is not certain, they were most likely copied from a first-generation HiFi VHS videotape recorded directly from Millard’s masters. Listen closely to “By-Tor,” “In the Mood” and “Grand Finale” using headphones and you will hear brief VHS tracking noises. Thus, “The Definitive Edition” is a second-generation source at best (Master > HiFi VHS > Analog Cassette) despite many fans’ misguided belief over the years claiming it to be first-generation.

Another version called “Anaheim 1981 Master” appeared a few years later, circa 2003. The title implied Millard’s masters were the source for the release, which was a complete fraud. If you load “Anaheim 1981 Master” into a digital audio workstation and sync it to “The Definitive Edition,” you will see “The Definitive Edition” was in fact the source for “Anaheim 1981 Master.” The same fades and nip/tuck edits created specifically for “The Definitive Edition” are on “Anaheim 1981 Master.” The playback speed of “Anaheim 1981 Master” CD 1 is virtually identical to “The Definitive Edition” CD 1. There is only one explanation for such precise similarities: “Anaheim 1981 Master” is a bootlegger’s reworking of “The Definitive Edition.” “Anaheim 1981 Master” simply has extra processing (excessive limiting, noise reduction and EQ) which puts more lipstick on the pig, but ultimately “Anaheim 1981 Master” is no closer to the master and offers no greater audio fidelity than “The Definitive Edition.”

“The Definitive Edition” set the benchmark for this recording back in 2001. All other versions since then appear to be Frankenstein monsters of “The Definitive Edition.” Finally, in 2019 a true first-generation source has emerged. The long wait for an upgrade is now over! Many thanks to the good folks at JEMS for making it happen, and very special thanks to the one and only Mike the Mic for all the joy he has brought with this fabulous capture. Cheers to the late, great Mike the MICrophone and to finding more lost tapes. May he rest in peace. BK for JEMS

To my knowledge this is the first silver release of this concert although there are many fan made titles circulating. Interesting to read how many of these old sources claim to be from master tapes, only to be higher generation copies. The recording here is of excellent quality, an excellent upgrade to Caught In The Camera Eye in not only clarity but much wider frequency range, another old CD-r title to pitch. This is the best recording to surface from the Moving Pictures tour unless a soundboard is released. The closest another recording comes is the Chicago date found on Definitive Chicago 1981 (Cygnus 014/015). Millard’s tape was done closer to the stage and while it has more audience noise, the fidelity is simply much better. It has a nice warm analog feel with a wonderful frequency range with very little distortion, Chicago has a rather cold feel to it. Millard was obviously close to the stage and captures a phenomenal show in front of a packed house full of lunatics who are desperately there to pay homage to Rush. The sound does slightly fluctuate during the first few songs, one could imagine Mike trying to steady his microphone, like a Master Jedi wielding his saber among the chaos surrounding him. This recording has a wonderful ambiance that gives the listener the experience of being there and is effortless listening.

Can one imagine the beginning of a concert being any more exciting? The venue goes dark, matches and lighters give a glow as the audience roars in anticipation as the swirling intro to 2112 is played over the PA. The band is onstage doing a final instrument check and BAM, they launch into 2112 Overture. This is the band’s first tour minus the side long epics of 2112 and Hemispheres, musical precision and passion in shorter form feed the masses. Overture is made frantic by the audience, you can feel the excitement and chaos as several shouts of “Sit Down” can be heard, Mike stands his ground. The surge continues as the band pound out The Temples Of Syrinx and it seems like things have finally settled a bit. Freewill is superb, this is when the tape really shines in the quality we think of with Millard recordings, crystal clear warm powerful eargasm goodness. The crowd is excited for the middle break of the song started by almost funky bass lines from Gedd and finishing with Alex’s precision solo and gets a great ovation from the hordes.

I love the sound of Rush during this period, Moving Pictures and Exit…Stage Left (Lp and VHS), just perfection in musicality and playing, so strong and confident, Limelight is a perfect example. It gives one the feeling of nostalgia and appreciation, I could have only dreamed of seeing them during this time. The idea not to get bogged down with the side long epics give Rush the ability to pick the strongest parts, example being the Prelude section of Hemishperes, I was lucky to hear a piece of this on the R40 tour and it was fantastic. The song transitions perfectly into the Fly By Night chestnut Beneath, Between & Behind, certainly one of Neil’s early lyrical highlights, musically it has the feeling of controlled movement, like a dance of sorts. The longest track on Moving Pictures is The Camera Eye, live versions retain is power, culled from a fat riff from Alex and the perfect blend of keyboards from Geddy. The lyrics paint a picture of flashes and images…moving pictures.

YYZ is the first instrumental of the evening and contains the Neil Peart drum solo, he is fueled by the screaming hordes screaming in adulation for him and is a thing of beauty, when have you heard a bad Neil solo? Broon’s Bane is a melodic and brooding acoustic instrumental by Alex, first heard on the Exit…Stage Left record, Broon was the nickname of Rush producer Terry Brown. It segues into The Trees wonderfully both giving the feeling of untouched nature that is in itself a perfect segue into the only epic of the set Xanadu. Versions during this time are incredible, the small nuances are at their peak, a bit more guitar, tons of percussion and deeper keys make a good thing even better. My love for this song runs deep and to be able to listen to a recording that picks up all the small details in an ambient setting is why I collect bootlegs.

The one thing I appreciate about listening to Live Rush is the pacing, especially Neil’s playing. There is no standing around, there is very little in the form of between song breaks, just one after another. From Xanadu into The Spirit Of Radio Gedd says thanks then intros Radio then they’re off again. Funny when listening to Radio, the crowd is silent in anticipation and when Gedd sings “concert Hall” they give out a huge cheer! They go on a short run of the “hits”, Radio, Red Barchetta, Closer To The Heart, and the Big one Tom Sawyer that are big crowd (and listener) favorites before going a bit deep. I have always loved Vital Signs since seeing the video back in ‘81, the record closing final track with its bubbling synthesizer and throbbing bass is equally as striking live…deviate from the norm. Perhaps not as epic as Xanadu, but certainly better for complexity, is Natural Science, a wonderful deep cut from Permanent Waves. Back in the early days of boot CD’s I bought my first Rush bootleg, La Villa Strangiato (Seagull Records SEA 040) the St Louis soundboard specifically as it contained a live version of Natural Science. To listen to this song live it incredible, the precision playing from the three master musicians in mind blowing, The Professor nails this song, every night, is incredible to consider. The song is not without emotion, the band weave melody in and emotion for the microscopic creatures of tidal pools from which we all have come from. I might point out that my air guitar chops are still fine tuned as well.

The closing medley is great, they start off with Working Man with its Police inspired Reggae version of the song and quickly move into the Armageddon portion of Hemispheres, flexing their muscles a bit. By-Tor lets us know that the fray has begun and we get a nice piece of the song, cool how the Battle section goes into In The End, the Fly By Night classics work in perfect unison. No concert is complete without In The Mood and the medley is ended with the 2112 Grand Finale in incredible fashion. The encore is the brilliant La Villa Strangiato, hard to imagine there is anything left yet the band play a stunning version. I love Alex’s solo on this song, it builds to an intense level that is unmatched. What a concert and in such sound quality, not surprising this has been in steady rotation for the past few weeks. The packaging is typical for Cygnus, the inserts feature live shots of the band all very colorful and cool. Sure we get pictures on the CD’s and a numbered sticker but this is the one area which really is a complete letdown. Included in the original torrent, which they obviously downloaded, are pictures of Millard’s ticket stub and of the cassettes and J-cards used for this release, why Cygnus chose not to use the images is beyond me. All these companies have to do is download and press, not a lot else. Like Cygnus’ releases from the 1984 Grace tour, the inserts follow a theme with the 1981 Chicago and Long Beach (review coming soon) releases. This recording will certainly be upgraded in the future as JEMS has recently made a direct transfer from Mike’s original cassettes, there is no time frame given and it could take some time. Until then it is nice to bask in this one’s glow.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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