Presto is the thirteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on November 21, 1989 by Atlantic Records. Its total length is 52:11. The band's lineup included vocalist, bassist, and synthesizers player Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart.
Rush's previous two releases Power Windows and Hold Your Fire over used synthesizers and lost the sound that made Rush great. Rush also brings in Rupert Hine to produce the album. Presto really brings back a hard rock sound that had not been heard since their 1981 album Moving Pictures. Although, Presto may not be as great as Rush's releases during their prime, it does somewhat resemble them.
Presto was a popular release as it reached #16 on the Billboard 200 chart and #27 on the UK albums chart. It has since gone Gold in the U.S, Platinum in Canada, as well as Silver in the U.K. The strengths of the album are its simple hard rock sound, Lifeson's increased guitar work from previous albums, and the overall excellent musicianship the entire band demonstrates. The weaknesses of the album include the several points at which the album is very average and the album still doesn't quite sound like the return of hard rock for Rush mostly due to how rusty they are with this style of rock. Here are my thoughts on each track.
1. "Show Don't Tell" 5:01 (5/5)
"Show Don't Tell" is the exact hard rock opening Rush needed to represent their return to a hard rock sound. It begins with Neil's drumming and soon Lifeson's epic guitar riffing joins in. Geddy's bass is very audible and Neil's drumming is impressive. I love Geddy's vocal delivery on this track. The chorus is extremely catchy and works well with the overall feel of the entire song. There is almost an entire abandonment of synths on this track as they are barely used. "Show Don't Tell" is an excellent opener to represent Rush's return to a hard rock sound.
2. "Chain Lightning" 4:33 (4.5/5)
"Chain Lightning" begins with some nice bass playing and some pretty sweet guitar playing as well. I really enjoy Geddy's bass playing during this track. Neil's drumming is also very good. The chorus to the song is extremely catchy and perfectly fits the song surrounding it. The guitar solo is fantastic, as Lifeson brings back all of his signature guitar effects that make his solos great. I really enjoy "Chain Lightning" and I believe it's one of the best songs from the album.
3. "The Pass" 4:52 (5/5)
"The Pass" is a beautiful song that deals with the lyrical theme of teenage isolation. I love the overall feel the song has. Geddy's vocal delivery is perfect on the track and Neil's drumming is executed with precision. Lifeson's guitar work is perfectly simple and fits the track very well. Again, Rush makes another great chorus that is both catchy and powerful. The song's emotion is what makes it so special. The guitar solo is terrific and fits the track perfectly. Alex's solo is based more on emotion and is a great solo for this song. "The Pass" is the strongest track from the entire album.
4. "War Paint" 5:24 (3/5)
"War Paint" begins with a very simple guitar riff from Lifeson. Soon, the listener hears the first very noticeable synths from the entire album. Geddy's bass is very audible as usual and Neil's drumming is terrific. The chorus is catchy and meaningful. The verses is are probably the least enjoyable part of the song as they don't flow as well as the rest of the song. The song somewhat drags after a while, but is picked up by another very good Lifeson guitar solo. "War Paint" is a track that has moments of greatness, but as a whole is a very average track.
5. "Scars" 4:07 (4/5)
"Scars" has an amazing bass line that is just so groovy that starts the song so well. I love Neil's drumming as well, it really adds to the whole atmosphere of the song. Geddy's singing is perfect. I like Alex's subtle, but effective guitar work throughout the whole song. This song will get anyone to start nodding their head, because of its excellent beat. The chorus is one of the catchiest from the album. "Scars" is one of the most unique tracks from the entire album.
6. "Presto" 5:45 (3/5)
"Presto" has a very nice acoustic guitar riff from Lifeson and Geddy's vocal delivery is not my favorite on this track. The chorus is fitting to the song, but lacks the effect many of the others have on the album. Lifeson's guitar solo is terrific and does give the song a much needed climax. "Presto" tends to drag at times and doesn't really offer anything that makes the listener want to listen to the song again.
7. "Superconductor" 4:47 (3.5/5)
"Superconductor" has a very catchy guitar riff that gets you into the song right away. I love Neil's drumming as well, as it perfectly goes along with Lifeson's guitar. I love the chorus of the song. It may be very simple, but I like its simplicity. This song is definitely driven by Lifeson's guitar work though. I really enjoy his playing throughout this entire track. Geddy's bass at times is also impressive. "Superconductor" may be very simple, but it's also pretty effective.
8. "Anagram (for Mongo)" 4:00 (2.5/5)
"Anagram" is definitely one of the strangest songs from the entire album. Lifeson's riffs are fairly heavy at times during this track. The chorus is very catchy and Geddy's vocal delivery is very good on this track. Geddy's bass playing is also solid throughout this track. Synths are used in moderation during the track. "Anagram" is an okay track.
9. "Red Tide" 4:29 (5/5)
"Red Tide" begins with some pretty cool synths and keyboards. Geddy plays piano sounding keys during this track. "Red Tide" contains my favorite chorus from the entire album. Lifeson's guitar work is perfect, Neil's drumming is powerful, and Geddy's bass is very audible. "Red Tide" uses keyboards, pianos, and synthesizers perfectly and Geddy's vocal delivery is as good as it has ever been. Lifeson's guitar solo is just nasty and is so powerful despite its short length. "Red Tide" is one of my favorite tracks from the entire album.
10. "Hand over Fist" 4:11 (3/5)
"Hand over Fist" begins with acoustic guitar playing and some steady synth effects. I actually enjoy Lifeson's riffing during this track. Neil's drumming is very good as well. The chorus is very catchy, but lacks the power of others on the album. Geddy's vocals are very passionate at times during the track. Lifeson gives another powerful guitar solo and a guitar outro as well. "Hand over Fist" is very repetitive, but is a decent track.
11. "Available Light" 5:03 (4/5)
"Available Light" begins with some keyboard playing from Geddy that is very dramatic. Neil's drumming is perfectly paced. The chorus is very beautiful and adds excellent effect to the entire song. Lifeson's guitar riffs are very powerful at times. Geddy's voice is full of emotion and is very powerful. I really like the emotional power the song holds as well as its beauty. Lifeson's guitar solo is excellent and its emotion is very fitting to the song, he plays it in. "Available Light" is a fitting in to a good album.
Rush's Presto puts an end to the synth sound Rush had on it's previous few albums and brings back a more straight forward hard rock sound. Presto may not blow one away upon first listen, but it is definitely nice to hear Rush return to their hard rock roots on the album. Overall, Presto may not be a Rush classic, but it does bring back their hard rock sound.