Tag Archive: alex lifeson


Rush Cover (in progress) 2 - Copy (2)Writing The Rush Chronology is a bit like archaeology. You go in with a good amount of information and end up discovering things you had no idea were hidden in the past. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have all been involved in other artists’ projects at different points in their careers and these are some of those extra-curricular appearances beyond the Mackenzie Bros.’ “Take Off” and Max Webster’s “Battle Scar.”

“Even Now” 6:44
Written by Matt Scannell & Neil Peart
Appears on: Burning The Days (2009)
Neil being good friends with Matt Scannell, it’s not surprising that he appears on three tracks on Vertical Horizon’s Burning The Days), “Save Me From Myself,” “Welcome To The Bottom” and this one.
You’ll immediately notice this song is wordier than the other tracks on this album, which is likely Neil’s contribution. It’s fascinating to hear someone else sing his words besides Geddy (or even going back to the JR Flood days). The drum work is heavy and intense, suiting the song, and demonstrating how this track is truly a collaboration, rather than simply a guest appearance.

“Hey Bop A-Rebop” 5:45
Written by Curley Hamney & Lionel Hampton
Appears on: Side Two (2003)
The Stickmen are behind this funk rock cover of the old jazz standard by Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra. The track is a lot of fun and Alex Lifeson gets into the groove with some panache. Recommended!

“Everybody’s Broken” 3:30
Written by John Kastner
Appears on: Have You Seen Lucky (2006)
This is an upbeat little modern rock number by John Kastner, with dependable guitar work from Alex (not flashy or getting in the way of the song).
Alex also appears on the track “Testify All Over Me” from the same album.

“The Road” 6:20
Written by Ken Ramm & Geddy Lee
Appears on: Euphoria (2000)
The piece starts with rambling guitar work (strangely, only in the left channel at first), before the music rolls in with an organic, trance-y flavour which really does evoke an unhurried journey down a country road, before picking up the pace a little bit. The acoustic guitar and rhythmic harmonicas decorate the light keyboards (by Geddy) that underscore the entire piece. Geddy’s bass is also noticeable throughout. This is really a wonderful piece with lots of subtle shades and upfront, colourful performances.

“Good For Sule” 5:35
Written by I Mother Earth (Jagori Tanna & Christian Tanna)
Appears on: Blue Green Orange (2000)
It’s interesting that both this and the Euphoria Geddy Lee guest appearances were released on the same day, because despite being otherwise unrelated tracks, both share certain spirit in their gently arranged reflection (or maybe it’s just me). This track is definitely an alt-rock acoustic number, moody, but not weighed down too much by its own introspection. This is also a bit different I Mother Earth from the days Alex recorded with them and with Edwin on Victor. By now, Edwin has been replaced by Brian Byrne and this album, the successor to Scenery And Fish, has been described as more mellow than the earlier album was. This is a good song and Geddy’s bass stands out nicely.

“Marabi” 5:34
Written by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley
Appears on: Champion (1985)
Jeff Berlin & Vox Humana deliver an excellent fusion rendition of the Cannonball Adderley number from his 1968 album Accent On Africa. Neil’s drum parts come in on the “chorus” sections, beefing up the Steve Smith’s drum parts and adding a lot of power. Highly recommended! Smith would also later participate in Peart’s Burning For Buddy tribute.

“Champion (Of The World)” 4:37
Written by Jeff Berlin
Appears on: Champion (1985)
A great jazz-fusion track here that really let’s Neil shine in a genre that he would later explore in more detail via Burning For Buddy. There are plenty of signature drum fills, but he doesn’t overdue it and lets the song stay airy and light. Also highly recommended!

“24 Star (No Apologies)” 3:00
Written by Katie B, Philip Caivano & Dave Olgilvie
Appears on: Born 4 (2003)
Jakalope’s music is an interesting mix of pop and industrial, which you’d expect from the production work of Dave “Rave” Olgivie and Trent Reznor. This song is a good example of their work. Alex’s guitar work is heavy and grinding, but not overly distinctive (which isn’t bad, as it works for the song, but unless you knew it was him, you may not be able to tell from the song alone).

The album Born 4 was released on October 3, 2003, the same day as Edwin’s album Better Days, featuring Alex on the tracks “Light Reflects” and “Eyes Of A Child,” and the same day as the Trailer Park Boys: The Movie soundtrack album. a good day for Rush-related song

“I Fought The Law” 3:51
Written by Sonny Curtis
Appears on: Trailer Park Boys: The Movie Soundtrack
This is Alex and Geddy as members of the Big Dirty Band and their cover of “I Fought The Law” This version starts with a quiet refrain of the title chorus before exploding into a modern hard rock cover of the classic song. The outro guitar is vintage Alex. Definitely seek this one out! The video was directed by long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan and features the Trailer Park Boys, Geddy, Alex and the rest of The Big Dirty Band.
Alex also appears on Bubble’s track “Liquor & Whores.”

“Anesthesize” 17:43
Written by Steven Wilson
Appears on: Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Porcupine Tree’s album Fear Of A Blank Planet is composed in the vein of ‘70s prog-rock concept albums and takes its inspiration from the Bret Easton Ellis book Lunar Park and deals with themes of alienation, social disconnection and the modern world. At nearly 18 minutes, this track changes styles fluidly, drifting between Pink Floyd-like ethereal soundscapes, nigh-Industrial distorted guitars and various other moods. Its easy to see why Alex was drawn to the band’s works and while his contribution to this track is short (his solo comes in around the 4 minute mark), it adds to the over texture of the piece.

“Instamatic” 4:46
Written by Matt Scannell (2013)
Appears on: Echoes From The Underground
Neil’s drums are hard hitting and punctuate this mid-tempo alt-rocker, his forth with Vertical Horizon. He also appears on the song “Instamatic” on this album.

“Sacred & Mundane” 5:26
Written by Tiles
Appears on: Fly Paper (2008)
A solid rocker by the band Tile, with some different textures and movements, this song has some great guitar work by Alex.

“Shift” 4:20
Written by The Wilderness Of Manitoba
Appears on: Between Colours (2011)
Canadian indie folk rock at it’s finest (emphasis on rock on this one), this is Wilderness’s fourth album. The track pounds along and doesn’t let up for a moment and Alex’s guitar solo soars through it. Get this one!

“When I Close My Eyes” 4:49
Written by The Black Sea Station
Appears on: Transylvania Avenue (2011)
Klezmer is basically Eastern European Jewish folk music, with all the rich cultural flavour you’d expect. Geddy previously dabbled in klezmer by way of his Finjan collaboration (From Ship To Shore, also done through Ben Mink). This Black Sea Station instrumental is haunting, beautiful and evocative of a small country village and its inhabitants. Geddy’s bass work keeps the lower end nice and solid.

“Guns” 1:50
Written by Dave Clark, arr. by Neil Peart
Appears on: Whale Music (1992)
Rheostatics were among the wave of quirky alternative bands coming out in the ‘90s, along side such artists as Barenaked Ladies (who also appear on the album). We close out the discussion with this spoken word piece, done over Neil’s drumming, which rips into a great solo at the end. Short, but sweet!

The Rush Chronology book details the recording and release history of the band, as well as their live career, solo project and guest appearances. You can pick up your copy here:http://www.lulu.com/shop/patrick-lemieux/the-rush-chronology/paperback/product-22362187.html

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The Lost Christmas Songs

The winter wonderland in my head every December, even if reality disagrees.

I’m Canadian.

You may not have known that about me.

I mention this because in Canada, by the end of October, we’ve scratched both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en off our lists and the next major holiday for many is Christmas. Of course, many others don’t celebrate Christmas as such, not being of a Christian faith. It can get into sticky political correctness territory here, so all I’ll say is this: come December, do what makes you happy! I’m doing the Christmas thing!

I love the lights, the tacky, bright decorations, Santa Claus at the mall and I love a lot of the music I hear in stores. Some songs I really don’t like, but they get played anyway. Over the years, though, I’ve built up a mental list of Christmas and related songs I almost never hear during the holidays unless I play them myself. These are what I call The Lost Christmas Songs.

In no particular order…

01) Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

A non-album track from 1984. The guys who gave us Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions made one shot at an exclusively Christmas single and it was actually a hit (#21 in the UK) that year. It has all the Queen trademarks of lush harmonies and production and has aged reasonably well considering it comes from the ’80s.

02) Cashing In On Christmas – Bad News

Funny Christmas songs are as much a part of the holidays as the straightforward classics, but many are just parodies of existing songs, changing the words. Not this 1987 track, from comedic rockers Bad News. It’s its own song and a very good one too (though it borrows its intro from the Troika written for “Lieutenant Kije”). It pokes fun at the many (many!) artists who record Christmas albums just to cash in on the season, rather than those artists having a legitimate artistic expression about this time of year. And it’s a catchy tune!

03) Silent Night – Mike Oldfield

“Silent Night” is hardly a lost Christmas song, for sure, but this performance, the B-side of his 1992 “Tattoo” CD single, is a beautiful instrumental version. Sit by the window and watch it snow while listening to it and you’re imagination will be transported somewhere magical.

04) Nut Rocker – B. Bumble And The Stingers

A rock and roll suite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s  The Nutcracker and it’s just as much fun as you’d imagine. This 1962 single was later covered live by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who released it as a single, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did a version on their album Night Castle.

05) Little Drummer Boy – Alex Lifeson

From the collection Merry Axe-mas, this track sees the guitarist from the prog-rock band Rush performing a gentle acoustic rendition that will warm your heart.

06) Christmas At Ground Zero – “Weird Al” Yankovic

This is a tough one and I almost didn’t include it out of deference to my US readers. The horror of 9/11 has made the term “ground zero” almost exclusively linked to New York City and the World Trade Center twin towers. What “ground zero” actually always refers to is the point of impact of an explosion on the ground. In 1986, when the song was written and released, it referred to a nuclear explosion. The song humorously describes the holiday aftermath. Not a parody, as Al is famous for, but an original song that sounds like an early-’60s Wall-Of-Sound number. The world lost much on 9/11, but it’s time to take this song back!

07) I Dream Of Christmas – Anita Dobson (with Brian May & John Deacon)

Written by Queen’s guitarist at the same time as “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Queen chose the one track to record, so Brian brought the other to Anita as he was producing her first solo album. A sweet little track, maybe a bit sacchrine for some, but it comes by it honestly.

08) Troika (Lieutenant Kije) – Prokofiev

I mentioned this piece earlier and I can guarantee you’ve heard part of it. It’s been co-opted for the backing of numerous Christmas songs, like “I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake and Helen Love’s “Happiest Time Of The Year.” Well, here’s your chance to get to know the original and if you’re like me, once Prokofiev’s original sleigh ride music grabs you, you won’t care for the pieces that stand on its shoulders.

09) Christmas In Heaven – Monty Python

The closing number from their film The Meaning Of Life. Python humour is an acquired taste, but this calypso-themed celebration of everything great in Heaven (where it’s Christmas all the time!) is no less silly than what you hear on the radio all December long.

10) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Not specifically a Christmas track, but it certainly fits the season. A single in 1995 from their album Made In Heaven, it was a #6 hit in the UK and is a gentle reflection on winter.

11) What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Has A Comb)? – Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

This single, from the album Christmas In The Stars, reach #69 on the Billboard charts in 1980. I freely admit, it’s utter cheese, but so what?! I’ll take it over lame-as-all-fuck “Christmas Shoes” any day. With Disney buying Lucasfilm, don’t be surprised if this album gets re-issued. And no, this album has no connection to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.

12) Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya

A Gaelic rendition of “Silent Night” that loses none of its power in the translation and arguably gains a good deal more elegance sung by Enya. Those put off by the religious tone of the English-language version can enjoy this recording for the music, melody and vocals without the words getting in their way. This version appears on her 1994 single and her 2006 Sounds Of The Season EP.

13) In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

This is a very old Christmas piece with a long and varied history dating back to the  Middle Ages. Oldfield’s instrumental hit (#4 in the UK) version is based on Pearsall’s adaptation. It’s a jaunty, lighthearted folk arrangement that will put a spring in your step. More recently, Mike played part of this at the Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Olympics, so we may hear it get a resurgence in popularity in North America.

14) The Night Santa Went Crazy – “Weird Al” Yankovic

If you can’t bring yourself to play “Christmas At Ground Zero,” at least there’s this track to fall back on. Another original composition, a  rocker this time, comes from his album Bad Hair Day. Santa loses it and goes on a killing spree at the workshop. Play it loud!

15) Christmas Time (Oh Yeah) – Barenaked Ladies

The Ladies recorded a full Christmas album (Barenaked For The Holidays) and re-recorded this song for it. “Elf’s Lament,” the radio favourite from the album, overshadows this track, which is also an original composition and dates back years earlier. The first recording appears on the 1995 collection Cool Christmas, has more energy to it. (The video linked isn’t the 1995 recording, but a live version, because the 1995 is no where to be found. It retains the punchiness of the original, though.)

16) A Tale For A Winter’s Evening – Joseph Suk

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker gets most of the love when it comes to seasonal classical music when it’s not sharing it with Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” which is a shame because there are other great pieces dedicated to winter. If you find yourself growing weary of the modern pop Christmas standards and want something different, Joseph Suk’s Opus 9 “A Tale For A Winter’s Evening” (also known as “A Winter’s Tale” on some recordings, such as the excellent Naxos label release) is a great place to start.

17) The Four Seasons: Winter – Vivaldi

Not heard nearly as often in commercials, TV shows and movies, Vivaldi’s Winter should sound unsullied in the imagination. You’ll recognize Vivaldi’s string sound as it relates to the more well-known “Spring” and “Summer,” but it will take you somewhere bright and new if you’re not as familiar with this piece (and I’m betting you’re not, unless you’re into classical music).

18) Winter Legends – Arnold Bax

Bax himself described Winter Legends as “a northern nature piece full of sea and pine forests and dark legends.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Winter Legends is sort of a power ballad of classical music, intense and full of energy long before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked Christmas. It may be a bit dark for some, but it’ll balance out the sweet cheeriness of holiday music when it gets to be too much unbridled joy for one person.

19) Father Christmas – The Kinks
(Reader Suggestion) A tongue-in-cheek track about what kids really want for Christmas: money! Edgier than most humorous holiday songs, but that’s what The Kinks do best. This 1977 punk-rock single was later included on re-issues of their album Misfits. Thanks for the suggestion, Brian Pat!

I’ve heard people lament that every Christmas it’s the same old thing. The same songs are re-recorded over and over, they say, and they’re mostly right. It’s hard to write either a brand new Christmas song or even an original take on an existing song. My list above has some of both. There’s no reason I can fathom that in the sea of  versions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)*,” songs like “Thank God It’s Christmas” get overlooked by radio programmers looking for something else to liven things up. Maybe all the songs listed aren’t quite fit for the mainstream airwaves, but load these onto your MP3 player and fire them up at the next Christmas party. The other people in the room probably haven’t heard most of these.

If you have Lost Christmas favourites, let me know and I’ll add them to the list**.

Merry Christmas!

That’s what I’m talking about.

* Darlene Love’s original recording of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” kicks so much ass no one ever need bother trying to top it. That means you, Bono!

**Unless I know the song and hate it, then it’s not making the list. 😉