I can't really say what the last truly great Rush album was since I only own Moving Pictures and 2112. I should see about fixing that. Which Rush albums do you guys recommend?
In terms of their poppier output, I'd point out Presto, Roll The Bones, and Power Windows.
Their last two albums (Snakes & Arrows and Clockwork Angels) are both recommended, and exist somewhere between the two.
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Really interesting replies! It sort of confirms what I suspected from reading fans' album reviews on Amazon and the like....there really is very little consensus amongst fans about Rush' best period - let alone their best album. Sign of a great band, I suppose. I think some of it has to do with when you became a fan. 80s Rush fans tend to like that period best. Older fans like the early stuff etc.
Personally, I like their proggy, earlier stuff. The cut-off point for me is 'Moving pictures' even though I'm not wild about side two, which is a bit turgid and contains echoes of future musical developments along with the cod-reggae 'Vital signs'. After that, for me, Rush become a less remarkable, more mainstream AOR rock band and lose much of their earlier bombast and creative flair. I wouldn't dismiss any of their albums, however. All are made with huge care and effort.
It's interesting, though, that of all bands I know Rush fans are by far the most split on what their best music is.
I haven't listened to anything of their's past 1981 except Counterparts (1992). That said, I haven't listened to all of their 70s stuff either. But I can say this:
Working Man (song from album Rush) is excellent.
Fly By Night (the song, not the album) is excellent. Haven't listened to the rest of the album.
Caress of Steel minus Necromancer is excellent. Lamneth is my 2nd favourite song by them, after 2112. Necromancer is a bit too weird for me.
2112 is my favourite song by them.
Farewell to Kings album is epic, but the Voyage is a strange song that I can't tell if I love/hate it. It's very much not a standalone, and requires much listening to to understand it.
Hemispheres. What can I say? Perfect all round. Hemispheres, Trees, Circumstances, La Villa Strangiato.
Permanent Waves. Can't comment, though Spirit of radio is very good.
Moving Pictures. Hit and miss. I like some of it but sometimes it feels like filler and "samey". Though I do like Tom Sawyer and Limelight.
Finally, Counterparts. Overall a good album, with a few weaker songs. Can't remember off the top of my head, but I know I liked Stick it Out, and Animate and Nobody's Hero are both magnificent!
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Clockwork Angels is the best they've done since Counterparts IMO (which I realize means VERY little), and I enjoyed Counterparts a lot.
I will say, their 90's stuff may not have been up to the par of their earlier albums, but their were still some GREAT songs they put out in that time period.