Rush Vapor Trails

The 17th studio release from the venerable Canadian power-prog-trio finds the band with a spontaneous energy untapped since 1979's Permanent Waves and a complimentary renewed sense of purpose. Apparently the six years since Test for Echo - the result of an unplanned hiatus to allow drummer Neil Peart to deal with the unrelated deaths of his wife and daughter - have given them the opportunity to rethink their musical direction. Vapor Trials finds the band stripped down to its rawest elements: no keyboards, no epic prog-rock posing and complicated time signatures, just three guys and their instruments jamming and having fun. Long-time fans (of which I am undeniably and eternally one) may be thrown by the simplicity of the music, but will appreciate the spontaneity of the spirit. Where records like Roll the Bones and Hold Your Fire were mired in pomposity and overwrought studio sheen, Vapor Trails captures the essential rock spirit that we've only seen brief glimpses of in the past half-dozen records. I'm a fan of their longer pieces, and I also like when they use keyboards (the synth-soaked Power Windows and Signals being among my favourite Rush albums), but this disc's enthusiasm and lack of pretence more than makes up for the missing elements. (Anthem)