Length: 37:38, 8 tracks
Genre: Hard Rock, Progressive Rock
Label: Anthem Records in Canada, Mercury Records in the US
Producer: Terry Brown
Geddy Lee - vocals, bass, classical guitar
Alex Lifeson - guitars
Neil Peart - drums
Fly by Night is the second studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. Drummer John Rutsey decided to leave the band due to his diabetes and dislike of touring. This probably seemed like a huge loss of one of the band's founding members but in reality, Rutsey's departure led to the hiring of perhaps the greatest drummer of all time. Neil Peart brought a more technically proficient drumming style to the band, but his biggest addition would be his influence on the band's songwriting. He became the band's main lyricist and introduced themes of fantasy and philosophy to the band's music. He clearly had an influence on the musical direction as well due to the immediate inclusion of more progressive arrangements in Rush's music.
Fly by Night differs greatly from the band's first album. It includes much-improved lyrics and more interesting instrumentation and musical arrangements. The songs vary from straightforward hard rockers like "Best I Can" to long epics like "By-Tor and the Snow Dog". While Rush did take a huge step in the right direction they still did not fully dive into the progressive rock direction of later albums and chose to still have several straightforward hard rock songs.
This is how you show off a new drummer and different musical direction! "Anthem" is heavy, catchy and fantastic lyrically. Geddy Lee is fantastic on vocals especially during the chorus, Lifeson utilizes powerful riffing as well as softer playing at times and Neil Peart gives a great performance on drums. The shredding solo is just icing on the cake.
2. "Best I Can"
Rush reverts back to the formula of their first album with this more straightforward hard rocker. It is catchy and has a great solo as well. It feels out of place on this album though. Geddy Lee wrote the lyrics to this song and it is painfully obvious. The lyrics are about just doing the best you can in the rock scene and while they are not terrible they are simplistic and out of place on this record.
3. "Beneath, Between and Behind"
Neil Peart is a complex man and for this song, he employs many metaphors that tell the story of America. If the listener simply listened to these lyrics without reading up on them it would make them wonder what the heck was Rush talking about. That is the beauty and main attraction of the song though because of the way that it makes the listener think and investigate into the meaning of the music. Instrumentally, the track is pretty straightforward and catchy.
4. "By-Tor and the Snow Dog"
The band's first epic is certainly their weakest epic, but it still stands out as one of the best songs on the album. Lyrically, it speaks about the battle between the evil prince By-Tor and the Snow Dog. The long instrumental section that makes up most of this track's runtime represents the great battle between the two foes. Lifeson's unorthodox and chaotic playing in this section matches the story perfectly. Lifeson also plays a fantastic solo near the end of this section that is his standout moment on this album. "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" is a lot to take in upon first listen, but it gets better after multiple listens.
5. "Fly by Night"
Now comes the very popular single that is definitely the album's catchiest song. It has a very memorable chorus, a great guitar solo, and a fun and upbeat feel throughout the entire track. I do think this is probably the band's most overrated song, but that does not change the fact that it is a very enjoyable listen.
6. "Making Memories"
"Making Memories" is an enjoyable track with great acoustic guitar work, but Geddy Lee and Neil Peart do not stand out enough during the track's runtime. Geddy's vocals are decent, but not powerful and Neil's lyricism is somewhat forgettable. With that being said it is still a very pleasant listening experience.
The track begins with a relaxing acoustic guitar and softer vocals from Geddy Lee that are actually pretty great. Sadly, this song seemingly never changes its extremely slow pace and acoustic guitar part throughout the entirety of this five-minute track! If this song was two minutes long, I would not mind it, but seriously this is one of the most boring songs I have ever heard. It is also terribly out of place on the album. This is a skip every time.
8. "In the End"
This is probably the biggest grower on the entire album. It begins with another softer guitar opening that leads right into the much bigger sounding main riff in the track. Although this song does have a repetitive feel to it, I really enjoy it. The guitar parts are well executed and Geddy's vocal performance is full of energy and is the best part of the entire track. This song definitely removes the bad taste that "Rivendell" leaves in the listener's mouth.
The songwriting is definitely a huge improvement from the band's last album. The more progressive musical direction of the band makes each track stand out more and makes the album a more enjoyable listen.
The performances are great. Neil Peart is definitely a big improvement over Rutsey thanks to his more technically proficient drumming and influence on the band's sound. Lifeson gives a good, but not great performance. His playing is no longer the centerpiece of the band and so he simply does not stand out as much on this album. Geddy Lee gives another great performance thanks to his distinctive personality that can be heard in both his vocals and his bass playing.
The band's creativity is no longer a weakness on this album. They have a distinctive sound and have combined elements of both progressive and hard rock to create an album that stands out from both genres.
The production is good on the album. The drums are clearly heard on every track now, which was really the last album's only weakness when it came to sound quality. Geddy's vocal volume is well balanced in comparison to the volume of the instruments.
I am not a big fan of how this album is structured for its second half. The use of three acoustic led tracks in a row to end the album was a poor decision on the band's part. Also, "Rivendell" should have been either replaced or made much shorter. This flaw makes the first half of the album easily more enjoyable than the second half despite the fact that I really enjoy three of the four songs that make up the second half of the album.
The lyrics of this album are definitely a big improvement over the last album, but they are still somewhat lacking and inconsistent. Even though I love the lyrics on tracks like "Beneath, Between and Behind" and "Anthem", I cannot get into them on "Best I Can" and "In the End".
4/10: Below Average
6/10: Above Average
Fly by Night is an improvement over its predecessor when it comes to songwriting, but due to the band's transition to a more progressive sound the album can sound a bit disjointed at times.