The Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, USA – August 26, 1974
Disc 1 (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 You’re Doing, Garden Road
In my hopes of finding a silver release of the complete first Agora show in 74, I bought this title. Well this is an exact copy of Cleveland 1974 Pre FM Master Remaster Edition (Cygnus 018), CD length, track times, and sound all the same. Had it been this recording as a single disc I would have passed, but the label decided to make this a two CD release.
Paramount Theater, Seattle, Washington, USA – November 19, 1974
Disc 2 (54:03) Intro, Finding My Way, What You’re Doing, In The Mood, Here Again, Fancy Dancer, Bad Boy, Working Man, Drum Solo, Anthem
The second disc is the star of this release, the first ever pressing of this classic concert taken from the tail end of the tour to support their debut record, aptly titled “RUSH”. This concert was unearthed back in 2002 when the taper found it in the back of a closet, and what a find. Originally recorded on a Sony TC-155 cassette recorder with a Sony EMC-22 microphone, the recording is very good, clear and atmospheric with all instruments and vocals clearly heard. The bass frequencies get a bit boomy at times and the recording is a bit distant yet is the best of the audience sources from 1974, do not hesitate to turn this up loud and prepare to have your socks blown off!
There is a weird intro music played just prior to the band taking the stage, Finding My Way is the first song and is a notch below in sound quality, after that the quality evens out nicely. What You’re Doing is played early in the set, power riff to extreme and combined with super tight playing make for an excellent version. Here Again features excellent playing from Alex, he seems to wring every bit of blues tinged rock from his fret board making for one of the best versions of the song I have heard, Geddy pours his heart out and sings a quite emotional version….superb.
Geddy introduces Fancy Dancer as possibly being on the next album, more than curious as it was played on the 1974 tour yet when you look at what made Fly By Night, it does not fit with the progressive feel of the record. I have often wondered if the song was recorded in the studio. The song rocks, the lyrics are throw away but musically it is really good. Neil punctuates the song with his precision playing, about 2:30 in you can hear the beginnings of parts of By-Tor and The Snow Dog. Their version of Larry Williams’ Bad Boy sounds nothing like The Beatles, they beef up the riff in typical rock fashion and the second half has them speeding up the tempo leading into an excellent Alex solo. The band give Working Man an extensive work out, Geddy and Neil lay the foundation and Alex improvises over it, they seem to lead him and do not let him get too far off course. Neil gets his solo spot during the song, this is an excellent recording to hear the incredible early power and force of his talent. There is a cut do to tape flip at the :26 second mark with an unknown amount missing. The band were an opening act on this evening (guessing Rory Gallagher) yet their performance earns them an encore, a song the Geddy tells them will be on the next record, Anthem. I am sure the band were recording the Fly By Night record around this time as Anthem sounds very much like the official version. Great concert, the energy is at an extremely high level and the playing is superb and all captured on tape.
The packaging is a digi pack style fold open with a cover taken from the fan produced title of the same name. The back cover is from the first Rush album and the interior pictures are from Hemispheres and Moving Pictures era, but who gives a crap, I bought this title for a very reasonable price and coming from a label who seem to copy mostly specialty Japanese titles, I cannot complain. For the Rush collector this is an excellent title to own just for the Seattle concert alone, it also should appeal to the casual collector who does not own the Cleveland Pre FM and wants to hear the early live fury of Rush.