Power Windows (album)

Last updated
Power Windows
Rush Power Windows.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 29, 1985 (1985-10-29)
RecordedApril–August 1985
Studio
Genre
Length44:44
Label Anthem
Producer
Rush chronology
Grace Under Pressure
(1984)
Power Windows
(1985)
Hold Your Fire
(1987)
Singles from Power Windows
  1. "The Big Money"
    Released: September 26, 1985
  2. "Mystic Rhythms"
    Released: January 1986

Power Windows is the eleventh studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on October 29, 1985 by Anthem Records. After touring in support of their previous album, Grace Under Pressure (1984), the band took a break and reconvened in early 1985 to begin work on a follow-up. The material continued to display the band's exploration of synthesizer-oriented music, this time with the addition of sampling, electronic drums, a string section, and choir, with power being a running lyrical theme. Power Windows was recorded in Montserrat and England with Peter Collins as co-producer and Andy Richards on additional keyboards.

Contents

The album reached No. 2 in Canada, No. 9 in the United Kingdom, and No. 10 in the United States. In January 1986, the album reached platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for one million copies sold in the United States. Rush released two singles from the album, "The Big Money" and "Mystic Rhythms". The band supported the album with their 1985–1986 tour.

Background and writing

In November 1984, the band ended their concert tour in support of their previous album, Grace Under Pressure (1984). After a short respite, the group started work for a follow-up album in early 1985. Guitarist Alex Lifeson looked back at this period, and noted their conscious effort in taking the strongest elements of their previous two records, Signals (1982) and Grace Under Pressure and capitalising on them for Power Windows. To Lifeson, this resulted in a more cohesive and satisfying album. [1]

In February 1985, Rush had relocated to Elora Sound Studios in Elora, Ontario to write and rehearse new songs. Drummer Neil Peart would write a set of lyrics from the studio's farmhouse while Lifeson and frontman Geddy Lee worked on music to fit Peart's words in the adjacent barn which housed a 24-track recording studio. Peart worked on a small desk in his room, "about the right size for a five-year-old". [2] During this time, Peart researched the Manhattan Project to write lyrics for the same-titled song. He also had a head start, having written outline lyrics for "The Big Money", "Mystic Rhythms", and "Marathon" before these sessions had begun. [2] Lee and Lifeson sorted through jams recorded at soundchecks on tour and Lifeson's own tapes of ideas to assemble music for the three tracks, with each song taking up to a week. [2] They then began on "Middletown Dreams", "Marathon" once again, and then "Grand Designs". Having worked out some material, Rush underwent a five-day warm-up tour in Florida in March 1985 to sharpen their performance and to test the new songs on stage prior to recording. [2] Peart continued to work on lyrics in his hotel room in Miami. [2]

Following their warm-up gigs, the band returned to Elora and continued working on their new songs, their break away being a positive impact on their work upon returning. Peart had initially struggled to finish "Territories" and "Manhattan Project", "but now they just fell together". [2] On their first day back at Elora, Peart began work on lyrics for "Emotion Detector" as the group had discussed the possibility of recording a ballad for their new album. Upon presenting his words to Lee and Lifeson, his lyrics fit to the piece of music that his bandmates were working on at the time. [2] This was followed by Rush arranging the music for "Emotion Detector" and "Territories", after which they had assembled a demo tape of seven new songs ready to present to Collins for recording. [2]

Later in 1985, Peart told an interviewer that Rush's sound "is changing from having been progressive to not being progressive". [3] He noted that though the album might "seem simpler", it was just as difficult to compose and perform. [3] Lifeson expressed some resistance to the emphasis on keyboards during this period of their history. He noted the trend began on Signals which pushed his guitar parts too far into the background as a result. However, he thought Rush achieved a much greater balance of the two instruments on Power Windows, which he thought Moving Pictures (1981) successfully had done. [1]

Production

Recording

Rush recorded Power Windows from April to August 1985 in five different recording studios. The group recorded Power Windows with a new producer, Peter Collins. [1] During their warm-up gigs in Florida, the band first met Australian engineer James "Jimbo" Barton who Collins had recommended. They accepted, and Peart later praised Barton's contributions and suggestions to the band, considering his small recommendations to improve a song, which he referred to as "events", was "just what we were looking for". [2] Lifeson compared the experience of recording Power Windows as more pleasant and fun than Grace Under Pressure, which presented various problems for the band. He added that the album contained elements that Rush had not incorporated before and broke several boundaries that had existed with previous albums. [1] Lee supported this view and said the group decided "not to hold anything back" and make the album first and focus later on the music's onstage presentation. [4]

Rush relocated to AIR Studios in Montserrat, the ruins of which are pictured here in 2013, to record guitar overdubs. AIR Studio ruins Montserrat May 2013.jpg
Rush relocated to AIR Studios in Montserrat, the ruins of which are pictured here in 2013, to record guitar overdubs.

Recording began at The Manor Studios in Oxfordshire, England, where the basic rhythm, keyboards, and bass tracks were recorded more quickly than usual, in the span of five weeks, to capture more spontaneous performances ready for overdubs. [4] [2] Here, the music was recorded using two Studer A800 24-track tape machines with an SSL console. [4] It was during sessions at The Manor where Rush brought in musician Andy Richards to play additional synthesizers and assist in their programming. His rig consisted of a PPG Wave 2.3 synthesizer connected to a Roland Super Jupiter module through a MIDI system, a Yamaha QX-1 digital sequencer, and a Roland Jupiter-8 and Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. [4] In one instance, Peart's drum technician Larry Allen drove with him to London to collect a set of African and Indian drums to use on "Mystic Rhythms", and bongos for "Territories". [2]

In May 1985, the band had relocated to AIR Studios in the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. They had discussed recording at the studio for several years and booked the facility for three weeks for Lifeson to record guitar overdubs. [2] The tracks were put down using two Studer tape recorders with a Neve console. Collins recalled this period of recording as painstaking work due to the various combination of microphone and amplifier set-ups that were experimented. [4] This was followed by a return to England in June to record in London, firstly at SARM East Studios. The band chose to live together in a single apartment rather than separate hotel rooms. At SARM East, the guitar solos and Lee's vocals were put down. [2]

Mixing began in July after the band took a one-week break from the material, which coincided with decisions on the final running order, artwork, credits, and photos. [2] In August, the string section was recorded which featured a 30-piece orchestra in studio 1 at Abbey Road Studios. Rush wanted musician and arranger Anne Dudley to complete the string arrangements, which she agreed to do, [5] and the group was conducted by Andrew Pryce Jackman. A 25-piece choir was recorded at Angel Recording Studios for the ending of "Marathon". [2] [5] The album completed, Lee oversaw the mastering in New York City in September, and proofs were approved for the album cover. [2]

Songs

Power Windows lyrics are focused primarily on various manifestations of power. For example, "Territories" comments on nationalism around the world. Like "Subdivisions" from Signals , "Middletown Dreams" explores suburban monotony and the average person's attempts to temporarily escape it. [6] "Grand Designs" was partly written to criticise mainstream music which the group believed was too superficial. The song also echoes individualistic themes such as non-conformism. [7]

"The Big Money" features the sampling of Peart's voice using an AMS[ jargon ] and triggered through his Simmons drum kit. [5]

"Manhattan Project" explores the development and explosion of the first nuclear weapon at the Manhattan Project. The track was difficult for the band to put together, partly due to Peart's difficulty in writing lyrics from an objective point of view, rather than as an observer of the event. Lifeson recalled that Peart had "thoroughly" researched on the topic beforehand. [1]

"Territories" was another difficult track for Rush to complete. After Peart had written some lyrical ideas he went through them with Lee, who noticed it was telling a story and found them difficult to sing once he and Lifeson had developed music for them. Peart then rewrote them in a more direct way which suited Lee better. [1]

"Middletown Dreams" involved several rewrites before the band reached a working arrangement. After the album was completed, Lifeson expressed some dissatisfaction with the guitar parts, but it grew to become a "very satisfying" track for him. [1]

"Marathon" was anticipated by Lifeson to be difficult to arrange and record, but it turned out to be one of the easiest songs on the album to complete. [1] It contains various samples, the fewest recorded overdubs, and incorporates the string section and choir recorded in London. Collins had the idea of using a choir and the band, upon witnessing the recording, saw the humour in having "pregnant women and old men sing our song". [5] Lifeson considered the song to be close to Peart as he had taken up cycling during days off on the Grace Under Pressure tour, riding 100 miles each time. [1]

"Emotion Detector" was initially anticipated to be easy to complete, but was actually difficult. [1]

"Mystic Rhythms", as described by Lee, is "the most synthetic track on the record" with each instrument being fed through "a synthesized something". [5] It features Lifeson playing an acoustic Ovation guitar which generated a synthesizer-like sound once fed through amplification. [5]

"Territories" features the lyric "Better beer", which is an inside joke. Peart played his drum kit without a snare drum, and the middle section features a sample of Lee's voice saying the phrase "Round and round". [5]

Sleeve design

The pictures on the front and back covers were painted by Hugh Syme, from reference photos taken by photographer Dimo Safari, and the model is Neill Cunningham from Toronto. [8] [9]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [10]
Kerrang! Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [11]
Rock Hard 9/10 [12]
Rolling Stone (favourable) [13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [14]

Power Windows has been met with mostly positive reviews from music critics. AllMusic's Eduardo Rivadavia retrospectively described the album as Rush's coldest album, citing the sparse, horn-like guitar playing of Lifeson, the prominent synthesizer of Lee and Peart's crisp, clinical percussion and stark lyrical themes. However, he also described the album as one that rewards patience and repeated listens. [15] Rolling Stone magazine, in a positive review of the album, highlighted a number of bands that seemingly influenced Power Windows, such as The Police, U2, Genesis, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The review concludes that Power Windows may be the missing link between Yes and the Sex Pistols. [13] In 2005, the album was ranked number 382 in Rock Hard magazine's book The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. [16]

Power Windows introduced more synthesizers into the band's sound. During the period when the album was produced, the band were expanding into new directions from their progressive rock base, [17] having "tightened up their sidelong suites and rhythmic abstractions into balled-up song fists, art-pop blasts of angular, slashing guitar, spatial keyboards and hyperpercussion, all resolved with forthright melodic sense". [18]

Reissues

Although the original recording had a SPARS code of DDD and was considered to be of good quality, a remastered edition was issued in 1997. The remastered edition follows the industry's more recent trend of the loudness war, as it is considerably louder. [19]

Power Windows was remastered again in 2011 by Andy VanDette for the "Sector" box sets, which re-released all of Rush's Mercury-era albums. Power Windows is included in the Sector 3 set. [20]

Power Windows was remastered for vinyl in 2015 as a part of the official "12 Months of Rush" promotion. [21] The high definition master prepared for this release was also made available for purchase in a 24-bit/48 kHz digital format at several high-resolution audio online music stores. These remasters have significantly less dynamic range compression than the 1997 remasters and the "Sector" remasters by Andy VanDette. Sean Magee remastered the audio from an analog copy of the original digital master, using a 192 kHz sample rate. But since Power Windows was originally mixed on digital equipment at 16-bit/44.1 kHz, no audio above 22 kHz exists in the original digital master or any of the remasters, which is why many digital music stores are only selling the album at a maximum sample rate of 48 kHz. [22]

Track listing

All lyrics are written by Neil Peart; all music is composed by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee.

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."The Big Money"5:36
2."Grand Designs"5:07
3."Manhattan Project"5:09
4."Marathon"6:11
Side two
No.TitleLength
5."Territories"6:20
6."Middletown Dreams"5:19
7."Emotion Detector"5:11
8."Mystic Rhythms"5:54

Personnel

Rush

Additional personnel

Production

Charts

Chart (1985)Peak
position
Canadian RPM100 Albums [23] 2
Dutch Albums Chart [24] 44
Swedish Albums Chart [25] 26
UK Album Chart [26] 9
US Billboard 200 [27] 10

Singles and chart positions

Information
"The Big Money"
  • Released: September 26, 1985
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Peter Collins and Rush
  • Chart positions: No. 45 US Hot 100; No. 4 US Mainstream Rock; [28] No. 46 UK [29]
"Territories"
  • Released: 1985
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Peter Collins and Rush
  • Chart positions: No. 30 US Mainstream Rock [28]
"Mystic Rhythms"
  • Released: 1986
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Peter Collins and Rush
  • Chart positions: No. 21 US Mainstream Rock [28]
"Manhattan Project"
  • Released: 1985
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Peter Collins and Rush
  • Chart positions: No. 10 US Mainstream Rock [28]
"Marathon"
  • Released: 1986
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Peter Collins and Rush
  • Chart positions: No. 6 US Mainstream Rock [28]

Certifications

CountryOrganizationSales
U.S. RIAA Platinum (1,000,000) [30]
Canada CRIA Platinum (100,000) [31]
UK BPI Silver (60,000) [32]

Related Research Articles

Rush (band) Canadian rock band

Rush was a Canadian rock band formed in Toronto in 1968, consisting of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart. After its formation in 1968, the band went through several configurations before arriving at its classic power trio lineup with the addition of Peart in 1974, who replaced original drummer John Rutsey right after the release of their self-titled debut album, which contained their first radio hit, "Working Man". This lineup remained intact for the duration of the band's career.

<i>Signals</i> (Rush album) 1982 studio album by Rush

Signals is the ninth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on September 9, 1982 by Anthem Records. After the release of their previous album, Moving Pictures, the band started to prepare material for a follow-up during soundchecks on their 1981 concert tour and during the mixing of their subsequent live album Exit...Stage Left. Signals demonstrates the group's continuing use of synthesizers, sequencers, and other electronic instrumentation. It is the last album produced by their longtime associate Terry Brown, who had worked with them since 1974.

<i>Hemispheres</i> (Rush album) album by Canadian rock band Rush

Hemispheres is the sixth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in October 1978 by Anthem Records. After touring to support the band's previous release, A Farewell to Kings, during which the group gained popularity in the UK, Rush started work on their next album. As with the band's previous studio album, Hemispheres was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire and Trident Studios in London with longtime engineer and arranger, Terry Brown. Rush continued its progressive rock sound with the side-long "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" and the nine-minute instrumental "La Villa Strangiato".

<i>A Farewell to Kings</i> 1977 studio album by Rush

A Farewell to Kings is the fifth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in September 1977 by Anthem Records. After touring their previous album 2112 (1976), which saw the group reach a new critical and commercial peak, they started work on a follow-up. They decided to record at Rockfield Studios in Wales, the first time Rush recorded an album outside of Toronto. The band expanded their sound with each member playing new instruments that they had not previously used, and recorded a mix of concise and long songs.

<i>Rush</i> (Rush album) 1974 studio album by Rush

Rush is the debut studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was released on March 1, 1974 in Canada by Moon Records, the group's own label, before it was released internationally by Mercury Records later that year. Recorded five years after the band's formation, this first release shows much of the hard rock sound typical of many of the popular rock bands emerging earlier in the decade. Rush were fans of such bands as Led Zeppelin and Cream, and these influences can be heard in most of the songs on the album.

<i>Fly by Night</i> (album) 1975 studio album by Rush

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<i>Caress of Steel</i> 1975 studio album by Rush

Caress of Steel is the third studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on September 24, 1975 on Mercury Records. It marked a development in the group's sound, moving from the blues-based hard rock style of their debut towards progressive rock.

<i>Vapor Trails</i> 2002 studio album by Rush

Vapor Trails is the seventeenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was released on May 14, 2002, on Anthem Records, and was their first studio release since Test for Echo (1996), the longest gap between two Rush albums. After the Test For Echo tour finished in July 1997, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart suffered the loss of his daughter and then his wife in separate tragedies. As a result, the group entered an extended hiatus during which it was not certain they would continue. They eventually reunited in January 2001 to rehearse material for a new album, recording for which lasted until November. For the first and only time since Caress of Steel (1975), the group did not use any keyboards or synthesizers in their music, incorporating many layers of guitar, bass and drums instead.

<i>Roll the Bones</i> 1991 studio album by Rush

Roll the Bones is the fourteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released September 3, 1991 on Anthem Records. The band began working on Roll the Bones after a brief creative hiatus following the tour promoting their previous release, Presto.

<i>Moving Pictures</i> (Rush album) 1981 studio album by Rush

Moving Pictures is the eighth studio album by Canadian progressive rock band Rush, released on February 12, 1981, through Anthem Records. After touring to support their previous album, Permanent Waves (1980), the band started to write and record new material in August 1980 with co-producer Terry Brown. They continued to write songs with a more radio-friendly format, featuring tighter song structures and songs of shorter length compared to their early albums.

<i>Permanent Waves</i> 1980 studio album by Rush

Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on Jan. 14, 1980, through Anthem Records. After touring to support their previous album, Hemispheres (1978), the band began working on new material for a follow-up album in July 1979. This material showed a shift in the group's sound towards more concise arrangements and radio friendly songs, though their progressive rock blueprint is still evident with "Jacob's Ladder" and the more than nine-minute closer "Natural Science." Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee also employed a more restrained vocal delivery compared to previous albums. Permanent Waves was recorded in 1979 at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec with production handled by the group and Terry Brown.

<i>Grace Under Pressure</i> (Rush album) 1984 album by Rush

Grace Under Pressure is the tenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released April 12, 1984 on Anthem Records. After touring for the band's previous album, Signals (1982), came to an end in mid-1983, Rush started work on a follow-up in August. The band had decided to not work with longtime producer Terry Brown, who had collaborated with Rush since 1974. The new material accentuated the group's change in direction towards a synthesizer-oriented sound like its previous album. After some difficulty finding a suitable producer who could commit, the album was recorded with Peter Henderson.

<i>Exit... Stage Left</i> 1981 live album by Rush

Exit... Stage Left is the second live album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released as a double album in October 1981 by Anthem Records. After touring in support of their eighth studio album Moving Pictures (1981), the band gathered recordings made over the previous two years and constructed a live release from them with producer Terry Brown. The album features recordings from June 1980 on their Permanent Waves (1980) tour, and from March 1981 on their Moving Pictures tour.

<i>Hold Your Fire</i> 1987 studio album by Rush

Hold Your Fire is the twelfth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on September 8, 1987. It was recorded at The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, Ridge Farm Studio in Surrey, Air Studios in Montserrat and McClear Place in Toronto. Hold Your Fire was the last Rush studio album released outside Canada by PolyGram/Mercury. 'Til Tuesday bassist and vocalist Aimee Mann contributed vocals to "Time Stand Still" and appeared in the Zbigniew Rybczyński-directed video.

<i>A Show of Hands</i> 1989 live album by Rush

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<i>Presto</i> (album) 1989 studio album by Rush

Presto is the thirteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was released November 21, 1989 by Anthem Records and was the band's first album released internationally by Atlantic Records following the group's departure from Mercury. After the Hold Your Fire (1987) tour ended in 1988, the group members reconvened in December to decide their next step and agreed to take six months off before starting on a new album. Presto marked another change in Rush's sound, with guitar taking a more dominant role in the writing and a reduction in synthesizers and a return towards more guitar-driven arrangements.

<i>Counterparts</i> (album) 1993 studio album by Rush

Counterparts is the fifteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released October 19, 1993 on Anthem Records. After the band finished touring its previous album Roll the Bones (1991) in mid-1992, the members took a break before starting work on a follow-up.

<i>Test for Echo</i> 1996 studio album by Rush

Test for Echo is the sixteenth studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released on 10 September 1996 on Anthem Records. It is the final Rush work before the tragic events in Neil Peart's life that put the band on hiatus until the recording of Vapor Trails in January 2001. It is also the final Rush album co-produced by Peter Collins.

<i>Snakes & Arrows</i> 2007 studio album by Rush

Snakes & Arrows is the eighteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on May 1, 2007 by Anthem Records. After their R30: 30th Anniversary Tour ended in October 2004 the band took a one-year break, during which they agreed to start work on a follow-up in January 2006. The album was recorded in five weeks with co-producer Nick Raskulinecz, a fan of the group who was praised by each member for his approach and technique. It contains three instrumental tracks, the most of any Rush album.

"Marathon" is the fourth track on Canadian rock band Rush's 1985 album Power Windows.

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