I just received Exit Stage Right, a string quartet tribute to Rush. I’ll try to say nice things about it, but I was really disappointed. They picked, mostly songs that rely pretty heavily on Neil’s drums, and, as such, missed the opportunity to really shine with strings.
There are two kinds of pieces on the CD. There are those where they are merely playing an existing score, transposing the voices to strings. And there are those where they actually try to interpret a piece into a classical style. The former are largely failures, and the latter are great.
YYZ, in particular, was amazingly well done. I can’t quite put my finger on what they did, but it reminded me of the Hungarian-inspired stuff by Bartok and Brahms. Really great stuff. And I think it’s because they went a little beyond the score and tried to adapt it to their instruments, finding stuff in there that perhaps Rush wasn’t even aware of.
I suspect that a tribute album is most satisfying to the original artists when it finds nuances in the music that they didn’t know where there, rather than tributes that are simply covers of the songs trying to sound like the originals. The latter is shallow praise, the former is deep praise.
Xanadu was pretty good. Several other pieces had really good moments, but mostly just seemed to be elevatorized versions. If a piece relies pretty heavily on the drums, then they needed to fill in that space with something else. Mostly, they failed to do that.