Hemispheres is the sixth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on October 29, 1978, by Mercury Records in the United States. Its total length is 36:08. The band's lineup included vocalist, bassist, and synths player Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart.
Rush's previous release had a progressive feel throughout the whole album, but Hemispheres takes it to a whole new level with a 18 minute epic and an instrumental that spans almost 10 minutes. Despite only having four tracks Hemispheres manages to stay at a very good length of 36 minutes.
The album was another popular release for the band as it reached #47 on Billboard 200 chart and #14 on the UK 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 heavy progressive style, the great musicianship, the excellent lyrics and themes, and Geddy Lee's continued improvement as a singer. There are no weaknesses on Hemispheres. Here are my thoughts on each track.
1. "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" 18:08 (5/5)
"Hemispheres" is the second part of the epic track from their last album. The track focuses on the story of the battle between the two hemispheres of the brain. The story focuses on the competition between Apollo and Dionysus to determine the fate of man. Apollo brings wisdom, truth, and understanding for men and Dionysus is the bringer of love. There is fighting between men over whether to receive love or wisdom and the earth is divided into hemispheres. Our main character from Book I arrives through the black hole Cygnus x-1 as a disembodied spirit. He begins to feel pain over the battle he sees ensuing from Olympus. The God's feel his pain and make him Cygnus the god of balance. Then he reflects on how people should live with the heart and mind divided into a single perfect sphere.
I. Prelude 4:29
Beginning with synth effects and clashing drums as well as catchy guitar and bass riffs is not a bad start to an album. Then, Alex begins playing one of his more iconic guitar riffs, while Geddy is absolutely jamming on the bass. It is definitely a riff that makes you want to headbang a little bit. Lifeson then begins to play a guitar riff that is just as iconic that would be used later on the song "Red Barcheta." Geddy comes in with his iconic voice and begins to describethe situation human kind is end and the division among them. Neil's drumming is excellent as well throughout the entire prelude.
II. Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom) 2:30
The iconic guitar riff begins again as Geddy sings from the perspective of Apollo who is trying to convince man to accept all of the gifts that come from wisdom. Then, Geddy voices the people's delight in their cities and great things they were able to do with their wisdom, but felt empty without love. Alex plays an absolutely incredible solo to end this movement of the song.
III. Dionysus (Bringer of Love) 2:06
The iconic guitar riff begins again. Geddy sings from the perspective of Dionysus who is trying to give man his gifts of love and ditch the wisdom gifts for they are a prison. The cities are now abandoned and the people moved to the wilderness and were happy. But the elements of nature came and caught the people unprepared as they starved.
IV. Armageddon (The Battle of Heart and Mind) 2:56
Alex Lifeson plays another terrific short solo bit while Neil keeps banging away on the drums. Geddy sings passionately about the world being divided into two hemispheres as man could not decide which route to take between love and wisdom.
V. Cygnus (Bringer of Balance) 5:01
Alex now changes the tone of his guitar that reminds you of Cygnus X-1 Book I, then bits of the last song are faded into the track. Then, our main character from Book I begins to talk about passing through the black hole to Olympus. The eerie synths are played as booming sounds of battle echo. Our main character feels the pain of man's fighting and suddenly the battle stops. Then, Lifeson plays another excellent solo. The gods decide to make Cygnus the god of balance because of his excellent choice to bring the two sides into one balanced sphere.
VI. The Sphere (A Kind of Dream) 1:06
The last minute is Cygnus reflecting on man's balance as an acoustic bit is played in the background. A calming ending to a wonderful song.
2. "Circumstances" 3:42 (4.5/5)
"Circumstances" begins with an awesome guitar riff. Next, Geddy begins singing and playing some amazing bass riffs. Then, the chorus absolutely rocks as Geddy sings passion and Alex plays his guitar with passion. It's so catchy and hard rocking at the same time. A synth interlude is played that is definitely one of the best parts of the entire song. Then the chorus is repeated again and rocks your face off one more time. It's certainly the hard rocker from this album.
3. "The Trees" 4:46 (5/5)
"The Trees" begins with acoustic playing from Lifeson as Geddy sings about the maple trees unhappiness with the oaks and the amount of sunlight they get. The whole band begins to play as Geddy sings about the oaks and maples constant fight as the maples feel oppressed but the oaks want to remain the same. Then a synth interlude is played just before Geddy plays a bass part before Lifeson's excellent solo. I love Neil's drumming throughout the entirety of the song. Next the maples force the oaks to be shortened in order to give the maples equality. The question that it leaves is if it's right to cut down others to raise another group. "The Trees" provides insight to an issue in a song that is fairly silly on the surface.
4. "La Villa Strangiato" 9:35 (5/5)
"La Villa Strangiato" is an instrumental piece that begins with some impressive classical style acoustic guitar playing before Lifeson begins playing an instantly recognizable riff. The synths begin playing, the drums also start, and then the bass. Next, Lifeson plays a powerful guitar riff. I love Lifeson's guitar playing it's absolutely phenomenal. Neil's drumming is powerful, but not overbearing and Geddy provides some really good backing bass. Lifeson then plays his first solo. It has tons of emotion and technical playing throughout. Another solo that definitely has a way of speaking to the listener. Lifeson shows speed and emotion throughout its entirety. To conclude the solo he plays an awesome guitar riff that builds it's volume as he begins to jam out with an extremely catchy riff. Geddy drops an awesome bass line and Neil kills it on the drums. Then Lifeson plays another brilliant solo that is performed with such emotion and precision. A Lifeson solo is always pretty easy to identify because of the uniqueness of his playing. I love the mid-tempo riffing Lifeson performs just after beginning into his faster riff again. This is often times looked at as the best example of Lifeson's prowess on a guitar and for good reason.
Rush improves upon A Farewell to Kings by making an album that contained Rush's progressive peak. Hemispheres demonstrates Rush's great instrumentation, lyricism, and Geddy Lee's terrific vocal delivery. Hemispheres is a progressive rock masterpiece that will impress any listener. Lifeson's guitar work on "La Villa Stangiato" is arguably the highlight of his entire career. Neil's lyrics are so intriguing and fun to listen to. Hemispheres is an album that is the perfect length and is so enjoyable to listen to. It is arguably the peak of Rush's career.