"Grace Under Pressure" is the tenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on April 12, 1984, by Mercury Records in the United States. Its total length is 39:23. The band's lineup included vocalist, bassist, and synthesizers player Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart.
Rush's previous release "Signals" marked a shift musically by using more synthesizers. "Grace Under Pressure" continues that trend with more synthesizers than ever, but unlike on "Signals" the band uses more guitar to balance out the synth sound. Rush had switched to a different producer for this album, and the listener can immediately tell the difference, as Rush's sound is crisper and simply better than their previous album. "Grace Under Pressure" is an album that improves upon "Signals" by using guitar and synthesizer that is perfectly blended together.
"Grace Under Pressure" was another popular release as it reached #10 on the Billboard 200 chart, #5 on the UK Albums chart, and #4 on the Canadian Albums chart. It has since gone Platinum in the U.S and Canada, as well as Silver in the U.K. The strengths of this album are the progressive, but radio-friendly style, the great musicianship, the excellent lyrics and themes, and the amazing blend of synths and guitars. There are no glaring weaknesses on "Grace Under Pressure". Here are my thoughts on each track.
1. "Distant Early Warning" 4:56 (5/5)
"Distant Early Warning" begins with an epic synth line, some epic bass work, and a guitar sound that is completely new territory for Rush. Neil's drumming is also very good. Geddy's vocal delivery sounds as good as ever. The epic combination of guitar and synths blended together makes a powerful, new, and fresh sound for the band.
The chorus is maybe Rush's catchiest ever. Right away Lifeson's guitar work has been increased from the last album where he was underused. Geddy's bass playing is at it's best, and the synths in this song are amazing and simply add to the overall effect the song has. Lifeson's guitar solo is distorted and full of energy and I immediately have fallen in love with this new guitar sound. "Distant Early Warning" is an impressive opener and represents Rush's new sound.
2. "Afterimage" 5:04 (5/5)
"Afterimage" begins with some impressive combination of synths, guitar, and drums. I love the upbeat nature of the song as it is somewhat of a headbanger. The guitar effects during this song are phenomenal. Neil's lyrics are outstanding and Lifeson's guitar playing is excellent. Geddy Lee has an impressive vocal delivery throughout this track and sings the lyrics passionately.
The synths sound perfect during the entirety of the track and add excellent effect. Lifeson's guitar solo is outstanding and fits the song perfectly. I simply love the amazing new guitar sound Rush has discovered, it's unlike anything the band has ever done. "Afterimage" is one of the more impressive tracks from the album and is another one of Rush's best tracks in their catalog.
3. "Red Sector A" 5:10 (5/5)
"Red Sector A" is about concentration camps during the Holocaust and is dedicated to his parents who survived the awful ordeal. The synths are terrific and I love Lifeson's guitar work during this track's entirety. Neil's drumming is fantastic and his lyrics are very powerful. Geddy Lee sings with such passion throughout the track and is definitely one of his iconic tracks as a singer. The guitar solo is fantastic and again perfectly fits with the track. It sounds technologically advanced and is played with such a beautiful tone. It is a somewhat upbeat song, but the lyrics are very powerful and the synths add that uneasy effect to the entire track.
4. "The Enemy Within" 4:33 (5/5)
"The Enemy Within" is the third song in the fear series. I love the drumming at the beginning of this track, as soon the band goes into their reggae sound again. Geddy Lee's bass work is great on this upbeat and speedy track. Lifeson's guitar work is great on this song as he keeps pace with everything else perfectly.
The synths are used more for effect on this track instead of being at the forefront of the track. Geddy Lee's vocal delivery is iconic and fits the track perfectly. The overall feel of this track is somewhat upbeat for a song dealing with phobias, but I do not mind, as it is another very strong track from this album.
5. "The Body Electric" 5:00 (4.5/5)
"The Body Electric" is about a robot on the run in the future. I love the drumming right from the start. Geddy's bass playing is fantastic as well right from the beginning. The synths sound straight out of a science fiction movie. Lifeson's guitar playing is perfect as he allows Neil's drums to sound great during the song.
"The Body Electric" is probably the most hook oriented song from the album as it as one of the most sing-along like choruses in the Rush catalog. The guitar solo is awesome and incorporates some very excellent effects and certainly stands out as one of the best parts of the song. Neil's drumming is probably the best thing in the song though. Overall, a great song.
6. "Kid Gloves" 4:18 (4.5/5)
"Kid Gloves" begins with a very cool guitar riff and Neil's drumming is great from the start. Geddy's bass playing is very good as well. I love Geddy's vocals during this song. This is really one of Lifeson's highlight songs from the album as he is used a lot throughout the track's entirety. The synths are used in a limited amount in comparison to the rest of the album. They are definitely used for extra effect rather than a main instrument. The guitar solo may be Alex's finest from the entire album, and is very unique in comparison to the rest of the solos. "Kid Gloves" is another impressive showing from the album.
7. "Red Lenses" 4:42 (4/5)
"Red Lenses" is a different track from the rest of the album and is definitely the experimental track. Geddy's bass playing is phenomenal during this track's entirety and Neil's drumming is at the forefront. Lifeson's guitar playing reminds me a little bit of a style used in U2 songs. As a matter of fact, this entire song sounds like a U2 track.
Geddy's vocals are also very good. The synths are again somewhat backed off at times on this track. But, then they are at the forefront during an instrumental breakdown. Neil's drumming during this section is marvelous and really demonstrates the drummer god he is. "Red Lenses" is my least favorite from the album, but it has grown on me over the years and is still a good song.
8. "Between the Wheels" 5:44 (5/5)
"Between the Wheels" begins with a unsettling synth from the start. Neil's drumming is powerful from the start. Lifeson's guitar is outstanding and full of life from the beginning. Geddy's vocal delivery is outstanding as he sings with that personality and passion that makes him great. During the chorus the band plays very fast and Lifeson jams on guitar. I love the synths during this track, they add excellent effect and add to an already great song.
Lyrically the song is fantastic and continues with the dystopian feel this entire album has. It is so catchy during parts, but has complete mood changes to a much more unsettling sound during other parts. The guitar solo is excellent and has terrific emotion and shows Lifeson's guitar chops again. It is definitely one of the strongest on the album. "Between the Wheels" is a strong closer to an excellent album.
Rush definitely made strides to use more technology like synthesizers on this release. "Grace Under Pressure" has both a mainstream and a progressive sound that uses an abundance of synths, but unlike on "Signals" the synths add more appeal to this album. Rush sounds excellent on this release and due to their experimentation, "Grace Under Pressure" sounds new, fresh, and unlike any other album in Rush's entire catalog. I love "Grace Under Pressure" and I consider it to be a classic Rush album that I would put in the same tier as their best work from the 70's and early 80's.