In the winter of 1976, Rush recorded what was to become their defining moment, their ultimate tour de force. For many it's their signature album, and it's impossible to overstate its importance in the band's canon.
The piece which comprises the first side of this remarkable album, 2112 itself, is nothing less than a meisterwerk. Lyrically, it's the tale of a young man who discovers a guitar in a cave, in a bleak totalitarian future where authoritarian priests control every aspect of daily life, inspired apparently by Ayn Rand's Anthem. Like The Fountain Of Lamneth from the band's previous album, it's a sidelong 'epic' piece. But where its predecessor was, in truth, really a set of standalone songs united by a single concept, 2112 is a single piece in several parts, all in all a more direct, accomplished work. It's a very, very dynamic piece too, performed with a purposeful, passionate intensity that commands attention; pregnant passages of exquisite, delicate beauty give birth to moments of dizzying, almost orchestral power, driven home by Lifeson's gripping, soaring, spine-tingling, emotive guitar, all polished to a dazzling presence by Terry Brown's exquisite production.
Side Two, as we used to call it in the days when music was made available to the masses in the form of 12-inch diameter black vinyl discs, does not disappoint either. It's often overlooked due to the iconic status of the title piece, yet there are some great tunes here too, performed and produced with consummate taste, flair and style. Something For Nothing and A Passage to Bangkok are classic hard-hitting, stylish Rush tunes, Tears is an extraordinarily mature ballad with a remarkable lush, atmospheric production. And perhaps remarkably, it's Side Two where the guitar work really shines - witness the delicate, perfect, crisp rhythm work on Twilight Zone and the magnificent, intense lead guitar which graces Something For Nothing.
Rush would go from here to expand their musical boundaries and deliver music of ever greater sophistication, at least until 1987. They would never have been capable of a La Villa Strangiato, a YYZ or a Subdivisions in the winter of 1976; yet they would never again catch the magical combination of sheer passion, intensity and above all, drama of the epic piece which gave this album its title. This was their extraordinary moment in time, lightning captured in a bottle, the album they were born to create. A staggering achievement; truly a musical work of towering stature.