Cleveland 1974 Pre FM Master Remastered Edition (Cygnus 018)
Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, USA – August 26, 1974
(57:08) Intro, Finding My Way, Best I Can, Need Some Love, In The End, Fancy Dancer, In The Mood, Bad Boy, Here Again, Working Man, Drum Solo, What Your Doing, Garden Road
It is most appropriate that while Rush is out on the road celebrating 40 years as a band that they are getting a little love in the collectors market, the folks at the Cygnus label have a few new releases that have certainly caught my eye. First off, if you are a Rush fan you have seen the set list they are doing on the R40 tour, they use a reverse chronological premise that finds them exploring their rich and illustrious back catalog with many jems thrown in. The staging and presentation are incredible, having caught the band twice I can only say, even for a casual fan, do not miss this concert! I guess that makes this release relevant since it takes us back, 41 years to the band’s first set of dates in America.
In early 74 Rush were beginning to get some notoriety in the home country of Canada, their first record, self titled, was released on their self financed label Moon Records and while the pressing was limited to 3,500 copies one made its way to Cleveland rock station WMMS and one Donna Halper who started playing Working Man on her shift. The song was well received as it is hard rocking and has blue collar themes, Mid West rock fans ate it up. There was some internal business that had to be dealt with prior to coming to America, drummer John Rutsy was the issue. While his drumming was great, he was very skilled and hard hitting, just listen to the first record. He had health problems, he had diabetes, like to drink and was more into classic rock like Bad Company verses Alex and Geddy who were already pushing more progressive themes into their music. This was not a one way street, it was a unanimous decision for him to leave the band and the cut was made. After many auditions of various players the band found Neil Peart, a drummer who’s style could be described as a controlled Keith Moon, and the trinity had been sealed. With American dates pending, Neil made his stage debut with Rush at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh as opener for Uriah Heep just a week before this concert in Cleveland.
Rush’s historic first show in Cleveland would also be their first Radio Broadcast, many radio stations in America would feature live shows, WMMS would be on the most fruitful as many live recordings circulate from a variety of artists, the sound men who did the recording were skilled and most are all well balanced, excellent recordings. The concert has circulated in trading circles for some time, all culled from broadcast versions, Live From Electric Lady Studios 1974 (Klondyke Records KR 016), Fly By Cleveland (Elements Of Crime 24), and Return To Cleveland (Gypsy Eye 185/186) are a few titles. In 2000 while promoting his solo record My Favorite Headache, Geddy did an interview for WMMS and they replayed two concerts, the one featured here as well as the December 74 show at the same venue. Needless to say soon after pre FM versions for both shows started appearing in trading circles, the best of them was titled Fifth Order Of Angles (Sirius Records SR 0490). This new release from the folks at Cygnus has the Rush specific label taking a stab at this very famous concert.
First off the recording is excellent, well balanced and powerful sounding show, hiss free and simply an incredible show to hear a young and aggressive Rush playing to an extremely receptive Cleveland audience. When comparing the sound of Fifth Order to this new version, Cygnus has done very careful mastering of the source, a bit louder with slightly more punch to it but not overdone by any means. What they have done is cut out some bits and pieces between songs, for what I do not know. The first 22 seconds of the introduction is missing, and there are small cuts between most of the songs not found on Fifth Order, while no music is lost one has to ask why? There is plenty of room for time on the CD, the Fifth Order clocks in at 59:32 and while it may sound as if I am complaining about nothing, I just do not see the need for careless editing.
The concert begins with a furious Finding My Way, Neil is playing full throttle from the first beat and the song serves as a perfect opening song and mission statement, to kick our ass! What is nice about this recording are the “previews and novelties” of it, first off we get early versions of songs that would be on Fly By Night, Best I Can and In The End, the latter having a slightly faster tempo than the studio version. The first of the novelties is Fancy Dancer, very much a rocker in the style of the first record but does contain a snippet of By-Tor & The Snowdog. One can even argue the song is as strong as any of the songs found on the first record. In The Mood is played by itself, somewhat of a rarity as it would usually be found as part of an encore medley, of course Alex does his backing vocals to help fill the chorus. The next novelty is a version of Bad Boy, the old Larry Williams song that was covered by the Beatles get the hard rock treatment by Rush. The song would be a staple of the band’s set during 1974 and there are many great recordings of this song available.
Next up is an incredible version of the deep cut from the first record, Here Again. While the lyrics are just average, the music is pure English electric blues filled drama unlike anything you will ever hear. Alex plays a great solo and wrings the hell out of it, goose bumps for sure, couple that with Neil’s steady beat and Geddy laying down some incredible bass lines make for the finest 8 minutes of the disc. First of the Rush classics finish the main set, Working Man deserves a part in every Rush concert, even in some of the latter abridged versions. Sporting a killer Zeppelinesqe riff it simply smokes, the first Alex solo sounds almost a bit like Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold, it has that vibe but his second solo washes all memories of it away as Alex takes the listener on an extended trip to guitar heaven and the rest of the band supply the foundation in superb fashion. The song is also a vehicle for “new guy” Neil Peart’s drum solo, shorter and more intense that future solos, his playing is a joy to listen to. The first encore is the brilliant What Your Doing, the band are playing this song on the R40 tour and was certainly a highlight for me, like Working Man it has a Zep influenced riff to end all but with a killer groove to it. Neil’s playing can only be described as manic and the song just smokes from start to finish. The last song of the show is another novelty, a mega rare version of Garden Road, this is the only known version of the song! It sports a killer riff and one can only wonder if there is a studio version of the song. The song must be of certain importance to Rush as the snippet of the song is played by the band on the current R40 tour, in fact it is this riff that ends the show!
The packaging is great, the cover is a homage to the band’s classic debut record with some great live shots on the back tray and inner cover. The CD has a picture on it as well as the collectable sticker. This is a great version of this tape and is an upgrade to all previous silver versions of this show, if they would have not edited the between song material out, it would have been the definitive version of the show, for now it is just the best version. This is a concert everyone needs in the collection, it appeals to general and hardcore collectors and is a killer slab of Rush history.