“Presto,” the 17th album by the Canadian power trio, Rush, marks a turning point in the band’s musical direction. The album opens with “Show Don’t Tell,” a return to the band’s hard rock roots. After a primal percussion intro, the song rips into the complex chord-bashing that Rush fans have grown to love. After four years of pastel washes of guitar and synthesizer textures, it is a welcome return to form. This is the album’s first single, and has received well deserved airplay on local rock stations. Another standout track on this album is “The Pass,” a moving plea for hopefulness amidst despair. The song is centered on teenage suicide and features the best vocal work that singer/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee has ever exhibited. The musical basis of the track is bass chords played expertly by Lee. The lyrics are startling and direct and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart has never penned a more accessible piece.

As the centerpiece of the album, the title track, “Presto,” is one of their few principally acoustic works, and one of the most melodic they’ve ever done. It seems Peart finally knows exactly what he wants to say, and he expresses it beautifully. We sympathize with his pensive loneliness when he writes, “The evening plane rises up from the runway, over constellations of light, I look down over a million houses, and wonder what you’re doing tonight.”

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The album has a more stripped down feel, and the keyboards, which were so overwhelming on their last two studio albums, “Hold Your Fire” and “Power Windows” are kept to a critical mass on “Presto” giving the album a directness and feel that was lacking on the ultra-polished albums. After disappointing sales for their last live double LP, “A Show Of Hands,” “Presto” is selling very well.

Rush is composed of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart, and, anyone who knows will be quick to tell you that these are three of the most accomplished musicians in the history of rock music. It is fair to say that Neil Peart is simply the premier drummer in music today and has been for the last several years. The percussion on the songs “Scars,” “Superconductor,” and “Available Light” are simply fantastic, and one doesn’t need to be a drummer to appreciate his agility, speed, and thoughtful drum patterns. Neil Peart is simply the percussion messiah. Alex Lifeson is a master of the guitar as his final track on “Presto” is jazzy and slick. The song, “Available Light” is one of the better tracks lyrically, with Peart’s search to see the light. “Run to light from shadow, sun gives me no rest, promise offered in the east, broken in the west, chase the sun around the world, I want to look at life , in the available light.” “Available Light” has a brief but brilliant solo delivered dexterously by Lifeson that inspires all potential guitarists to rethink their approach to their instrument. Geddy Lee proves himself deft and skillful on the tracks “War Paint” and “Hand Over Fist.” He also blazes through an amazing bass solo on “Show Don’t Tell.”

“Presto” is a marvelous album, easily the band’s best since 1981’s “Moving Pictures.” For those seeking the most creative, innovative, and progressive hard rock of the year one should definitely try “Presto.” Don’t settle for cheap imitations; it’s the one with the rabbits on the cover.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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