Rush, week 13: A Farewell to Kings

The next installment in our #RushForCraig listen through all the albums is A Farewell to Kings. This album is from 1977, and is their fifth album.

This particular album was difficult for me to get to, because after my ear surgery, all music was an auditory assault, and it took me several weeks before I could even listen to any. But I finally got around to it.

It’s only got six tracks, with two of them being over 10 minutes. Unlike some of their later works, I really cannot say that there’s any unifying theme, or style. There’s some great tracks on it, but as an *album* it doesn’t really hold together for me.

And yet …

Although I’ve been listening to this record for more than 40 years, there’s a couple of tracks on here that I really wasn’t very familiar with. One in particular stands out – Madrigal. Madrigal is just so beautiful. It’s one of Rush’s very few love songs, but as it is with Rush’s love songs, it’s not a traditional one in any sense.

It’s a beautiful poem, and has a number of phrases that are echoed in later songs, some of them repeatedly over the years – slaying dragons, and “a distant pair of eyes”, in particular.

I read somewhere that Geddy wrote the lyrics Madrigal, but apparently that was wrong. This led me down the rabbit hole of figuring out what songs he did write. I am sure there’s a definitive list somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.

Another significant track on this album is Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage. This is a 20+ minute saga about something or other, that lots of hard-core Rush fans insist is the best thing Rush ever did. And I just … don’t get it. But what’s significant about it for me is that it’s the main reason I ever listened to Rush in the first place. This is because after we left Tallahassee and moved back to Nairobi in 1983, my friend Kristina sent me a mix tape which included this track, and a glowing letter about how amazing it was, and I had to listen to it. And that’s what started it all.

Of course, Xanadu is just amazing, but everyone already knows that.

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